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Graduation Season Hits Home

Graduation Season Hits Home
JohnEric Advento

As we approach the end of the school year, we enter into the season of stepping up, from Kindergarten to Grade 1, from Grade 5 to Middle School, from Grade 8 to Upper School or like my son, Simon, from 12th grade to higher education or the work force. 

It’s hard to believe that my oldest child is now 18 years old, finishing up his senior year in high school. We are already celebrating and lamenting a bunch of lasts:

·      His last week of high school.

·      The last week that I am tasked with making him lunches – a ham and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread. 

·      His last AP Calculus class - something he is not upset about.

·      His last time competing in the Monmouth County Championships for outdoor track and field.

·      His last High School Band Concert - full disclosure, he encouraged his parents not to attend.

As parents, both my wife, Christina, and I did our best to guide our son to find, seek out and create the right path for himself. We set the conditions for a proper college search, made limitations based on his pre-requisites and also backed off the process when it meant he had to figure out if it was a true match for the team or not with his coaches and teammates. This process took a lot of discipline and restraint on our part and I am grateful for all his coaches, teachers and college counselor that supported him along the way.

Parents typically feel very nostalgic at this time of year watching their children graduate to the next level of education and chapter of life. Our W+H students will be participating in graduation ceremonies during the first week of June and I know our families, teachers and even some students will get emotional.  

Below I’d like to share a letter to my son leaving for college:

Dear Son,

As I sit down to write this letter to you, my mind is flooded with emotions. It seems like only yesterday you were a little boy, running around the garden villa in Hong Kong, full of energy and wonder. After your first five years there, we moved to Singapore where you attended Singapore American School. Where once you used to marvel at watching a troupe of Macaque monkeys roll past your bedroom window while we built Legos, to the moment you found them to be just another ordinary group of animals in your 6-year-old life. Just monkeys and lizards in the backyard –  boring, really? 

Those were amazing years we spent in Asia. We then found ourselves in the United Arab Emirates where you spent Grade 2 to Grade 8 in Dubai. In Elementary School, I noticed a special quality that you have in setting audacious goals for yourself, and going after them with discipline and grit. You really wanted to earn a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. 

In Middle School, you set a goal of auditioning for the International Honor Band. You had a laser-like focus in practicing your trombone. You refined your sound and earned an opportunity to participate in a select ensemble at the American School of Paris to perform. While in Middle School, you also honed your skills in gaming, became our family “tech guy” and discovered cross country and your love of running. 

And now, here you are, in high school in New Jersey, after four wonderful years at a school that supported your growth, as well as finding a tribe of young men and women that will continue to be your friends for life. It is here in high school that I witnessed you set another goal: getting accepted to a good college and also earning a roster spot on the track and field team for an NCAA Division 1 school. And you did it! One of my proudest moments for you was your announcement and commitment for the next 4 years.

You have worked hard to get to this point, and you have shown such dedication and commitment to your studies and athletics. I know that you will be successful in college and beyond as you continue to set big, hairy audacious goals for yourself.

As you embark on this new journey, I want to remind you of a few things. First and foremost, always remember who you are and where you come from. You are a strong, intelligent, and compassionate young man with an incredible sense of humor. You have been blessed with many gifts and talents. Use them wisely, and always remember to give back to others – contribute and serve where you are needed.

Secondly, don't be afraid to take risks and try new things. College is a time of exploration and discovery, and I encourage you to embrace this fully. Yes, that means keep eating those vegetables! Meet new people, take challenging classes, and get involved in activities that interest you. Also, look to learn from others, engage in debate, offer respectful discourse and continue to think critically. This is your chance to discover your passions and talents, and to set yourself on a path to a fulfilling and rewarding life. I am excited to hear about the new tribe that you form.

Finally, always remember that your family loves you and supports you. We are here for you, no matter what. Whether you need advice, a listening ear, or just a hug, we are always just a phone call or Metro North Train ride away.

As you leave for college, I want you to know that you are not just my son, but my guy, my confidant and my B. You have made me a better man, and I am honored to be your father.

So go out there and make yourself and your family proud. Follow your dreams, set your goals, work hard, and never forget where you came from. We will be here cheering you on every step of the way. Keep reaching for those new heights!