Ben 1st & Last Day of SchoolThis week starts high school graduation season for the Class of 2013, and before month’s end, some of my dearest friends and I will have the honor of watching our firstborns march proudly, capped-and-gowned, in the crowning act of their high school careers. I’m not a crier, but even thinking about the culmination of my son’s primary and secondary education —16 years that passed in the blink of an eye—makes me well up. Now accepting all recommendations for good waterproof mascara for June 21st!

But enough about weepy mamas. Let’s talk about the real stars of the month: graduating seniors who have relentlessly invested immeasurable time and energy, endless drive, resolute commitment and dedication, critical thinking, boundless creativity, remarkable resilience, respectable integrity, exhausted tears, anxieties, and dreams into their educations and their aspirations for the future. It’s hard to fathom all the triumphs, successes, struggles and misadventures that end up being symbolized by that elegantly calligraphed certificate.

Some students, however, have unknowingly gone through high school with a distinct edge over their peers: kids who have gratitude. Grateful teens…sounds like an oxymoron, right? Well, contrary to pervasive opinion—and what you may experience every day under your own roof—there is such a thing. A study presented at last year’s annual meeting of the American Psychological Association shows that grateful teens are more likely than their less grateful classmates to be happy, hopeful, well-behaved at school and less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. These findings support a previous Hofstra University study that concluded that the most grateful teens had more friends, higher grades and less envy than their less grateful peers. (Gratitude in a teen was defined as having a positive outlook on his or her life.)

I was curious whether my own senior and some of his friends felt grateful as they graduate a couple of weeks from now, and if so, would they be willing to share their thoughts. Their responses were enthusiastic and poignantly heartfelt, and I extend my thanks to each of these awesome, generous kids who were kind enough to send back comments almost instantly. Take heart, parents, educators and mentors who have endured lengthy temperamental lapses: You were noticed and appreciated more than you know, all along.

To the Class of 2013: Congratulations! Now good luck, and go get ’em!

To the parents of the graduates: High five! Nice job. And remember to stash a big wad of Kleenex in your purse or pocket for the graduation ceremony.

To anyone who knows a soon-to-be-grad: If you think of it, ask what they’re grateful for as they leave high school and move on. It’ll give them an opportunity to reflect a bit, and their answer might surprise you.

. . .

“The incredible opportunities provided by the community at large. I’m grateful for the fact that I have people in my life who are willing to get up and do things.” – Jake

“The extraordinary opportunities I have been afforded. I can truly say Staples (High School) has been an amazing school to attend. As we enter into the world and travel to our respective universities, only then will we be truly aware of the phenomenal resources that have been made available to us throughout our tenure in Westport Schools. Programs we consider to be standard are rarities in other schools, and having teachers that are actually passionate about their subjects and that care for the students they teacher have been vital in providing exceptional opportunities that have helped me excel for the past four years.” – Jamie

“The memories I’ve made with friends and teachers. I’m so lucky to have gone to school with both an excellent teaching staff and student body as well.” – Gaïane

“My friends and family who have supported me through this very confusing time in my life. They’ve truly made me see my potential and have faith in me all along to see me succeed.” – Francesca

“All of my friends, all of my teachers, and especially my parents, who supported and helped me along the way.” – Lea

“My teachers—educators inspired to be inspiring. Day after day, lesson after lesson, these men and women shaped my four years. They taught me how to think critically. They taught me how to learn. They taught me how to love to learn. And in the end, that’s what high school is all about.” – Rachel

“Motivators—people who told me time and again, no matter how hard things got, that I could do it. These people include parents, brothers, friends, teachers, mentors and more. I’m forever indebted to each and every one.” – Ben

“The incredibly supportive teachers and mentors I’ve had throughout my four years. Without them, I wouldn’t have the drive that I have today.” – Jacqueline

“My appreciation for all types of art. I’ve put my skills to the ultimate test on the stage in theatre and in music—that’s made me an incredibly brave person when it comes to letting my true colors shine through. I no longer hide behind a timid shell; I’m open with myself and others, and that’s allowed me to grow and mature much more than the typical high schooler. Also without music, I wouldn’t have the creative avenue to express my affirmation for life, and I wouldn’t be happily willing to cross over into the next chapter at college.” – Liana

“My parents for pushing me to work hard toward my dream, and (as corny as it sounds) believing in me. I wouldn’t have gotten through the college application process without them constantly telling me I could do it and that whatever I did or where I ended up, I would be great.” – Kate

“The huge amount of support I’ve gotten from my friends, family and the Staples faculty. I’ll go ahead, be cliché, and say that I really couldn’t have been so successful without these incredible people.” – Kelly


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