03/06/10 — Finding courage to truly succeed: The greatest gift a student can be given is the chance to persevere

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Finding courage to truly succeed: The greatest gift a student can be given is the chance to persevere

Life is not easy.

They do not tell you that when you are in high school. Nobody shares with you that no one is going to care about your upbringing, your struggles or the challenges you go home to at night when you work for a living.

In the real world, what matters is what you do with what you have -- how hard you work, how determined you are and how often you are able to turn promises into results, lemons into lemonade.

That is the nature of the working world -- survival of the fittest -- or at least the hardest worker.

It does not matter if you are a plumber, a doctor, a garbage collector, a factory worker or a superstar athlete. If you do not have a work ethic or you are not producing, you will be out and someone else will have your chance to succeed.

There will be times when life will not be fair either. There are people on unemployment lines right now who were the victims of circumstance -- whose jobs were eliminated because of cutbacks, not performance.

But what happens to them next, how they meet this challenge and move on to the next phase of their lives, that is the real determination of who they are and what they are made of.

They are not victims unless they choose to be.

Too many times, we do not prepare young adults for this reality of life. We allow them to wallow in "it's not fair" and "people are saying bad things about us." We do not challenge them to see that there are bad apples in every bushel and that what matters is not the rest of those they go to school with, but what they do with the chance they are given.

We do not hold them accountable enough for the part they play in their own education, in their futures.

We allow them to believe that it is perception, not statistics that label their school, and that somehow they are victims because of that.

What would be a better lesson is that there is good news coming out of their school -- students who are achieving great things, who are moving on to lives of success in a variety of careers and academic pursuits.

But that along with the good news are some challenges -- a low graduation rate, fewer students going on to college, young people facing the challenge of less-than-supportive homes and the inability to capture the skills they need to find a career and a future.

The only way to find the mental toughness to succeed is to realize that coddling gets you nowhere, that hearing a watered-down version of the truth makes you weaker, not stronger.

We don't need to sugarcoat anything that is said to any student. They have to learn that they will face those who see the negative before they see the positive. It will always be what is inside them that matters.

Goldsboro High School is not a lost cause. It is not a place full of cast-offs with no future, no hope.

It is a school that has big challenges to overcome and concerns that move beyond just grades and positive public relations.

The students should expect more for themselves than that. They should know there are challenges and that there are problems that need to be fixed. They should know that while they might be succeeding and preparing themselves for the next step in their lives, there are others who aren't -- and that their setbacks have to be addressed.

But more importantly, we should teach Goldsboro High students that they do not need to be coddled and shielded from the challenges their school faces. We need to teach them that shuffling around students in the district is not the solution to making their school stronger -- that they, themselves, have the tools to turn around low test scores and to conquer low graduation rates.

We need to emphasize that they have the means for success inside them -- and that they do not have to let what anyone thinks about them limit their potential for greatness.

We have to teach them not to be victims, but to stand tall and to do the best they can every day.

Because, in the end, that is what it will take when they are no longer high school students -- and when no one is around to protect them and when they have to find their way in the world for themselves.

That is the true measure of courage, honor and success -- and that is a lesson that we should be teaching every last member of the Class of 2010 at every Wayne County school.

Published in Editorials on March 6, 2010 11:35 PM