Nelson Mandela once said, "Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world."
Yes, it's graduation season. This is a tradition that will never be obsolete for as long as schools exist as fountains of knowledge and education, catalysts of changes and reforms for a society, such as ours, that is constantly evolving and transforming.
The time has finally come for you, graduates, to don that cap and gown and receive your diploma with congratulatory handshakes from school officials and commencement speakers while the solemn, classical tune of 'pomp and Circumstance" is being played.
At long last, dear graduates, you finally made it! You made it to the Class of 2017! It's worth all the efforts, struggles and the sacrifices.
You deserve all the recognition, because you have overcome the rigors of school life. You have succeeded in overcoming challenges and pressures and stresses in all aspects of school life---academics, athletics and other extracurricular activities.
And, despite all that's going on around your country and the world, you remained steadfast and focused on your foal---to finish school and graduate.
Dear graduates, you have all the reasons to relax now, take it easy, and celebrate your achievements with your family, friends, teachers and those who have inspired and helped you through the years while in school.
Seize the moment, for it will become a 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 acknowledge their mere presence. Enjoy the rest of the day partying responsibly and lawfully. Indeed, you deserve to celebrate your scholarly achievement.
To all the parents and teachers of graduating Class of 2017, I thank you for being there with your students---loving and caring for them and guiding them, no matter what their circumstances. Likewise, my sincere gratitude to our school administrators, staff and volunteers who shared their time, talents and treasures with our students.
Graduation Day is a milestone in a student's life. However, it is just a start, the beginning of a more complex, challenging life, whether you graduated from elementary, secondary, collegiate or post graduate education.
For both students and teachers, it may mean the culmination of your school activities for the school year and the start of a month or two of summer vacation.
But what now? What's next for you? Gainful employment? A military service commitment? Looking forward to the next ladder of continuing or higher education? A sabbatical from schoolwork? a paid apprenticeship or internship in a private or public establishment?
Whatever plans you have for your future, dear graduates, continue to work for it. remember that no one can stop you now from pursuing your dreams. Be optimistic and hopeful at all times. Cheers and smile! You can always make your life and others' better.
Your future is in your hands, dear graduates, because life is what you make it.
Again, congratulations and best wishes, Class of 2017!
-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, Tuesday, June 13, 2017. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.