Schools build the future

Susie Kaeser

Strike up the band. Bring on the fireworks. Shout from the rooftops: They did it! We did it!

June 1 was graduation day for Cleveland Heights High School’s Class of 2015. Another cadre of young people just took the next step into adulthood. This month marks their transition out of the protective, demanding, encouraging and at times difficult environment of school into the bigger world.

We can all celebrate. As the owners of our public schools, we have provided these young people the opportunity to flourish. By investing in their education we have expressed our confidence in them and communicated the value of staying the course. They took advantage of this opportunity. They did it! We did it! Hurrah!

Graduation from high school means something. It is the key credential affirming that a young person has the ability to follow through, engage, think, create, cooperate, make good decisions and defer gratification. Children from varied backgrounds, with differing goals, obstacles and opportunities, all made it to the finish line. They demonstrated the determination and put forth the effort required to complete the elementary-secondary education process. Graduation is the hard evidence that they have the foundation on which to build adult lives. They are ready to assume their places in sustaining our civic society, our culture, our economy and our community.

Bravo for them!

Bravo to our educators, the students’ families and the village who worked with them and challenged, guided and inspired them. You did it!

We are interrelated. All of us benefit from the success of our youth, and all of us have some ownership in their future. Each cohort of graduates is part of the national resource we rely on to sustain our society and our democracy. Our community sacrifices in order to provide opportunities for our youth. In that way we take ownership for other people’s children. All of our children deserve satisfying lives and fulfilled dreams, and we depend on their intellectual, emotional and social development to make our lives better, too. We provided that opportunity. We all benefit. Let’s celebrate!

Among this year’s graduates are some especially determined individuals who overcame the odds—some of their own making and some over which they had no control—to cross the stage with their peers. More than 40 participants in the Options Program took advantage of this second chance to succeed. Students who had fallen so far behind that graduation seemed an unreachable dream took responsibility for their lives, made positive decisions, dug in and climbed out of deep, hopeless holes. Some made it in four years, and others made it in five or six. They discovered that their decisions gave them control over their futures. Their persistence is reason for joy and celebration and deep respect. They stayed the course, overcame overwhelming odds, righted their own ships, and are now ready to sail.

One size does not fit all. As we raise more and more barriers to students finding success, let’s applaud those who keep climbing and pushing.

If there is anything we should focus on in shaping education policy at every level, it is finding the best ways to make sure all of our children reach the finish line. How can we help all of them earn that moment of recognition that they completed a long-term educational journey that makes them ready to step into the world on their own strength?

I graduated from high school 50 years ago. It was the only graduation out of four degrees that I have earned that meant much to me. I didn’t bother to attend the ceremonies for my two graduate degrees. Perhaps more than any rite of passage in our society, a high school diploma is about transformation.  

Let us take heart from the Class of 2015 and remember that our community has invested a lot in these young people, and the result is wonderful! It’s too bad the State Theatre cannot hold the whole community, because they are our children and they are our future. The returns of the investment will be more and more visible as they find success in this ever-changing and ever-shrinking world.

Congratulations! We know the journey is just beginning, but you have skills and experiences and a village to draw on as you keep finding your way on the path to a satisfying life.

You are our young adults and we want the best for you!


Susie Kaeser

Susie Kaeser is a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights and the former director of Reaching Heights. She serves on the national board of Parents for Public Schools.

Read More on The Common Good
Volume 8, Issue 6, Posted 1:54 PM, 05.29.2015