Graduates, teachers the pride of Eudora
Graduation for the class of 2004, the first to graduate from Eudora's new high school, has come and gone. As I watched each of the graduates walk across the stage and receive his or her diploma, I wanted to reach out and give each a hug, and then realized that I would also like to give the entire class a collective hug.
Bursting with energy and enthusiasm for their future, the graduates are leaving the secure environment of teachers and school that have nourished and protected many of them for 13 years. Now they are entering another world -- the real world. It is a world full of choices, but also one where life can be threatening and much too real.
All parents and grandparents wish on days like graduation that we could make the world a perfect place in which these young people can live out their lives with nothing worse than a hang nail.
However, as most of us know many of life's best lessons come with and in the school of hard knocks, and even though we would protect them from life's learning experiences, we also know that their response to adversity will mold and create their own character and individual futures.
This is when we cease the words of advice that come so easily to our lips and instead take a deep breath and pray that when life's bumps and the slippery slopes arrive they won't be too large or too slick for them to handle.
To some in this graduating class, life has already presented difficult challenges. Knowing that each has a story, perhaps some were symbolized in that of Cassie Woosley, who was the subject of an article by Erinn Barcomb in last week's Eudora News. Reading Cassie's story not only brought a tear to the eye, but also made my heart swell with pride for a young woman who has encountered so many obstacles in life at such an early age.
My heart went out to her as I read about her boarding the school bus for her first day of school as a high school sophomore with only a fifth- or sixth-grade reading level, knowing full well the difficulties that lay ahead. Facing a first job, or even jumping from a plane for the first time, could not be more terrifying.
Yet her need to learn surpassed her difficult past and with the help of counselor Brian Kraus and teachers Justin Mayer and Ty Pattison, Cassie took her place proudly along with her classmates on graduation day. Now she continues her education at Haskell.
Few of us have had such lessons of adversity to overcome, and many of us take for granted what Cassie had to seek often on her own as a child. So in this column, in this hometown paper, I salute her for a job well done -- even wishing I could hire a sky writer to wish her well. She deserves it all.
Another group of people who deserve special kudos are Cassie's teachers. Mentioned above they along with another member of their group, Kevin Wade, work with the students who for whatever reason -- a delayed education or a learning or development disability -- work much harder to achieve that which comes easier to their classmates. Although we applaud the achievements of all of those students listed in last week's paper who received awards and scholarships, let us also remember there are those who without the hard and often exasperating work done by these special teachers would not be in this graduating class.
Another moment of reflection is deserved for two of our long time teachers who are departing the scene this year. At a recent West Elementary School music concert, both retiring third-grade teacher Ruth Hughs and fourth-grade teacher Sue Coon were the subjects of a final tribute given by members of the staff and students.
Once again tears slid unashamedly down cheeks as we wished these dedicated women well as they depart the scene. That will not be far for Ruth, as I understand she will still be working in some capacity within the school system.
Both my children and now my grandchildren have been fortunate enough to have had both of these ladies as teachers. Looking back through the years, Ruth and I have exchanged notes on various occasions and each of us keeps one of those notes locked away in a treasure chest to recall at moments of fond reminiscing.
We in our community have much to be proud of this 27th day of May 2004. A graduating class from a new high school, special teachers who give time and talent to support those who might otherwise be left behind, as well as paying tribute to two teachers who have given so much to so many for combined teaching careers of 78 years.