Congratulations, Class of 2016! Best wishes to all of you, especially to my daughter, Christine, who just graduated (May 22) from The University of Virginia's Curry School of Education degree in counseling education. We're so proud of you.
For the Class of 2016, the time has finally come to don that cap and grown and receive their diplomas and congratulatory handshakes from school officials, while the solemn, classical "Pomp and Circumstance" is being played.
You finally made it, graduates. It's worth all the efforts, struggles and the sacrifices. You deserve recognition, because you have overcome the rigors of school life. You've succeeded in overcoming challenges and pressures and stresses in academics, athletics and other extracurricular activities.
Dear graduates, you have reason to relax now, take it easy and celebrate your achievements with your family, friends, teachers, and those who inspired and helped you through the years while in school.
Seize the moment for it will become a nostalgic, happy memory to cherish. Take souvenir pictures. Capture those moments spent with your classmates, dear teachers, guests and visitors. Cherish their hugs and kisses and their simple presence.
Enjoy your day. You deserve to celebrate your achievement.
I appreciate and thank the parents and educators of the Class of 2016 for being there with our students---loving and caring for them, teaching and guiding them. Likewise, my sincere thanks to our school administrators, staff-personnel, and volunteers who shared their time and talents.
After having successfully completed the requirements for their degrees, graduates are now ready to embark on another chapter in their life. It is a time to rejoice with and be grateful for all the factors involved in their success.
Likewise, Graduation Day is the beginning of a more complex, challenging life, whether the student is graduating from elementary, secondary, collegiate or post-graduate education.
What now? What's next? Gainful employment? Military service? The next rung on the ladder of higher education? A sabbatical from schoolwork? A paid apprenticeship or internship in a private or public establishment?
Whatever goals or plans you have, continue to work for them. Keep it up and let the momentum help you realize your dreams. No one can stop you from pursuing your dreams.
Your confidence and determination can help you beat the odds. Be optimistic. Look at the brighter side of life. And smile! You can always make your life and others' better. Your future is in your hands, graduates, because life is what you make it.
Once again, congratulations and best wishes, Class of 2016! Have a safe and wonderful summer, too.
-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Friday, June 3, 2016. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherad.com.