When my niece graduated from 8th grade in the Spring of 2011, with much enthusiasm I wanted to know if she was excited about her upcoming graduation party. She was quick to say “no”. Of course I had to take a few minutes to lecture my niece about the impact of her graduation on not only herself, but her younger siblings (she’s the oldest of 3 girls and of all 6 of my nieces).
It may seem common place for children to graduate 8th grade, but more and more, I hear stories of students dropping out before they reach this milestone. Moreover, many students that complete 8th grade are vulnerable to life elements that lead to dropping out of high school. By celebrating her 8th grade graduation it is my hope that she will look forward to many more.
I want my niece to understand that the graduation itself was a stepping stone for the rest of her life and that what we were really celebrating was her future. The graduation party and the “fuss” that so annoyed her, was the only way to spotlight this achievement for her siblings, to give them something to strive toward. With her rank in the family, she was now the accessible trailblazer for the younger girls to follow.
Of course I threw in a bit of talk about how our ancestors were beat and died fighting for educational freedom and equality, but I knew that too much of that would surely go over her head.
So, I stayed focused on the celebratory aspect of her accomplishment. Think about what takes place at celebrations- food, loved ones, gifts (monetary, material, words of wisdom), laughter, etc. Celebrations are a chance for one to realize how connected we are to those that love and support us. Celebrations take away the feeling of isolation that lead our youth to gangs, drugs, and violence. Celebrations help outline the bigger picture and force the accomplished individual or group to embrace accountability.
I wanted my niece to know that people were invested in her next steps AND there to support her and serve as a resource.
She listened and said, “okay Aunite Ashley”, then went on to play with her friends. I prayed that she understood, or that it would all make sense sooner than later. I realize that I too probably expressed the same sentiment on my accomplishments as did my niece, until I saw my little sister (now 16.5) walk across the stage at her 8th grade graduation.
Its Heavy! The fact that we don’t always know how important what we are doing really is; When we don’t know that an action or a decision we make today will possibly change something. Change what? Who knows. We may think we know, but we don’t always know or the change is different from what we expected.
What is important to know is that we must celebrate the achievements of our young people in a way that they may not understand now, but will one day appreciate.
How do you celebrate the achievements of those that you cherish and/or yourself?
Below is an article about celebrating achievements. Enjoy!