I routinely subject you, the best-informed Fredericktonians (and beyond) to my odd ranting on the political scene.
Today, Iím a bit more introspective, and Iíd like to share with you the feelings of a father, more specifically, the father of a high school senior.
My daughter, Cassie, finishes another chapter in the book of her life tonight at Mount Saint Maryís Knott Arena. She and a little over 200 of her classmates will receive the formal acknowledgment of the completion of the standards required by the State of Maryland to graduate from our public school system.
I know almost all of the Class of 2003 at Brunswick High, both through my public service dealings with their parents, and through my fairly outgoing middle daughter. I have an advantage in getting to know my fellow parents. I wandered all over the high school feeder pattern chasing votes over the last year!
This isnít my first experience with graduation. Our eldest daughter graduated in 2000. This one feels very different, and Iím not sure why.
Graduation week at Brunswick is a whirlwind, both for the seniors and the Moms and Dads. Principal Buzz Whitfield and his staff do a great job with a series of activities designed to maximize the experience, including a Senior/Parents Breakfast, the Senior Assembly, and culminating in the ceremony at the Mount.
Tuesday night, Amy and I attended the Senior Assembly. Again, this wasnít the first time, but it was a completely different experience. When Cassie walked to the top of the aisle, and turned to head towards the stage, I attempted to take her picture.
She was resplendent in her gold cap and gown, glowing like an angel as she rounded the corner. My photography skills are already suspect, but I had trouble with the focus through the tears of joy at that vision.
The evening was a celebration of academic achievement, with BHS seniors receiving over $700,000 in scholarships, grants, and aid (including several House of Delegates scholarships).
I sat there in awe of these young adults, amazed at their hard work, commitment to success, and love of their school. Watching the faces of their principal and guidance department head, I know that they share this sense of wonder.
I donít write this to merely celebrate the achievements of the BHS Class of 2003, although I am very proud. The most amazing aspect of this celebration is that it is being repeated throughout Frederick County. Every afternoon and evening this week, each of our high schools will produce a pool of talented, energetic, and well-educated graduates, yearning to find their place in our world.
Thousands of parents will experience the same range of emotions weíre feeling, and just as many tears will be shed. I know that Cassie is facing her future with a sense of nervous optimism, and sheíll take advantage of the nurturing educational environment at Frederick Community College (plus sheíll still live at home, a plus for Mom & Dad).
I want to add a voice on behalf of the other parents of graduating seniors through this column. I want to thank our county commissioners (one of whom also has a graduating senior) for their careful and thoughtful stewardship of the resources necessary to fund our public education system.
I want to thank our Board of Education for the time, energy, and effort that they put into directing the policy and programs.
I want to thank Dr. Jack Dale and the staff of the administrative office at Frederick County Public Schools. Balancing the needs of one of our largest employers with the delivery of high quality public education is a constant challenge.
I want to thank all of our school administrators. Our schools are a safe, caring, and productive learning environment. Our administrators are the ones who insure that we can send our kids off with peace of mind.
I want to thank all of the teachers, the unsung heroes, front line warriors in the battle for the attention of our students. The more I learn about education, the more I respect our teachers. It is one of the most difficult, under-appreciated professions, yet these wonderful people do this work with passion and dedication.
I also want to thank our school services workers. We would all be home schoolers if it werenít for our support services workers. Maintenance, cafeteria, and facilities workers may not have the most high-profile system jobs, but Iíd argue that they are some of our most important public servants.
So, Iíll go to the Mount tonight, and Iíll choke back the tears when I see that angel in gold. Iíll shake hands with Buzz, Tom Friedman, the teachers, the guidance folks, and anyone else who played an important role in passing the keys of knowledge to my daughter.
Mostly, Iíll just be thankful that under those garnet and gold caps, the hopes and dreams of the Brunswick High School Class of 2003 are one step closer to becoming reality.