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Dear Class of 2019,

Words cannot describe the joy and sense of excitement I feel as I look at these young, incredible humans ready to start their journeys into adulthood. There is nothing quite as defining in one’s life as placing your hand on a diploma. YOUR diploma. For better or for worse, you are a high school graduate. No one can take it away from you, you cannot misplace it, and even the dog eating it cannot change this truth. You are forever graduated. Each senior, along with approximately 3.6 million seniors across America all beginning this new chapter on the same foundation, as equals. You have earned this right of passage but what you do from here, from this moment, is up to you.

I want to tell you briefly, my story.

22 years ago, my graduating class of 1997 consisted of 1. Myself. 5 years earlier, my mother made the very difficult decision to pull my siblings and I from our public school system and homeschool us. In a small, Montana farming community of 300, homeschooling proved to be quite the scandal!! We did not have any of the resources that we have today. There was no incredible support from a charter schools, no resource teachers, curriculum specialists, lending libraries, or vendors, no homeschooling peers…she was on her own. My mother endured countless trials and grief for her decision, including my rebellious moving in with a friend until she changed her mind and gave into my demands, but she stayed the course. In contrast to my defiance and harsh words like, “I will never have children and if I do, I will die before I torture them with homeschooling.” I was a bit dramatic. Through blood, sweat, tears, immeasurable fear, and loneliness, she stayed the course because she believed we were capable of greatness but also knew that some greatness took a more custom approach. She believed in me the way we believe in each of you.

That is why there is something special about our gathering here today. Not a one of you have a similar story to tell. Each of you came to this place by different means. Different approaches…flavors such as Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Unschooling, Road-schooling, Online curriculums, maybe even Mickey Mouse. Parents and guardians who have cradled you, fed you, read you bedtime stories, kissed your boo-boos, taught you, cheered you on, disciplined and encouraged you…believed in you and put you in the way of those who could breath greatness into you. Sacrifices have been made for you to be here today. As Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”

You stand on the shoulders of giants.

We all do.

This diploma is a symbol of your efforts yes, but even more-so, it is a symbol of a great deal of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice made for your education over the course of your childhood by your people. Your giants.

This day is a recognition of your tribe. Your village. Those who have poured into you, served you, cared for you, and inspired you to greatness. The shoulders that you stand on.

It may not seem so very important in this moment. It is hard to see past the excitement of beginning this new adventure and remember all that brought you here. The story, YOUR story, that defines who you are today, as a high school graduate.

I didn’t see it. After the initial shock of my mom’s decision to homeschool wore off, I moved back in with my family, and what started as homework drudgery grew into a love of learning. Her belief in me began to rub off. At the ripe old age 17, in our little Montana home, my mom presented me with a cap and a diploma. Feeling empowered as a homeschooled, high school graduate, I spread my wings and headed off to sunny San Francisco. All I could see was a bright future. The sky was the limit and the world…my oyster.

Life is full of monotony. Goethe says, “Learn to love what must be done.” And this is true!! Bills need to be paid, laundry washed, commitments, and jobs. I learned this quickly while on my own…welcome to adulthood. However, if life is laced with your passions, the things you love and believe in, you become unstoppable.

My mom understood this and groomed me for it. To do what I love. To work hard and pursue my passions.

They say that hindsight is 20/20.

22 years from that day in our Montana home, where my mother presented me with a graduation cap and diploma, she came to visit us here in California. My husband, myself, and our 7 children…all of which we are homeschooling. (One already graduated, one sitting here in the audience waiting to walk on this very stage today.) She got to witness me doing what I am so very passionate about…evidences of her blood, sweat, and tears. With home education, so many opportunities are at our fingertips. Incredibly thankful for an outlet like Outsiders Adventure Community where I get to do what I am passionate about alongside others equally as passionate. I am so humbled to have been given the opportunity to challenge my own children and even some of you here today in ways my mother prayed for. My story, all that my mother did so long ago, led me to a place where I am doing what I was created for. 22 years later, she gets to see fruits of her labor. And also enjoyed my eating a little crow…I regretted all that I had said so long ago (words I wished I could take back because now I am doing what I said I would NEVER do) however they became a part of my story.

From one homeschooler to another, I need you to know that you were born for greatness. You are not just one of 3.6 million other seniors. You are unique and different. Born with interests, gifts, and passions all your own. One day, 22 years from now, how will you have used them? Where will you be? I hope you remember this monumental day. The day that you began your future.

What brought you here today, those who have poured into you and believed in you, the shoulders that you stand on, and what you do from this point on will be a part of your story forever. Don’t forget that.

Pursue your passions and your interests. Use your gifts and talents. Serve and pour into others. Do hard things. Be mindful of your days. Choose your steps wisely but don’t be afraid to jump when the opportunity presents itself. Education is a way of life and it doesn’t stop here. Don’t be the big fish in a little pond and cause yourself to believe you have arrived and know it all. Be the little fish in a big pond with lots of room to grow!! Surround yourself with those who are better than you and learn from them. Thank your teachers, mentors, peers, parents and all of those who have invested in you…represent them well. Learn to love what must be done. Be brave and purpose to make a difference.

Tell your story because one day, you will be the shoulders our future will need to stand on.

On behalf of all of your giants, I want to say we are profoundly proud of you. This is an incredible achievement and you have earned it.

Congratulations Class of 2019!!

We believe in you.

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