Letter to My Graduates: Johnson Middle School Class of 2016

To the Class of 2016

Dear graduates,

Today is the big day. Today is your day.

All the days that came before this one look a little different now, safe in the knowledge that the moment you might have thought about, hoped for, dreamed of is finally here.

It was real. And you made it.

This morning, I almost don’t need to congratulate you for the work and dedication you’ve shown over the past four years. The fact that you’re reading this letter now is testament enough to it. You know exactly how hard you worked for this. What you’ve done to get here – no one can ever take it away from you.

For one brief year, four years ago, I had the chance to take up a seat in your class every day. I saw a lot of things that year – the highest highs, the lowest lows. No one forced you to do it, but you accepted me into your academic life. I hope that I helped you, at least a little bit, to understand not only the work that was before you but also the tremendous gifts you possess.

That was my City Year, and it was a privilege to spend it alongside all of you. No doubt the circumstances of it were a little odd. Often, it seemed like we were from two different worlds, and there seemed to be so much that was unfamiliar and unknown between us. But in many ways, we were the same. We were both trying to figure out where we fit in. And so, for one brief moment in space and time, we shared a common purpose, a common cause. Even if it wasn’t always easy or fun, I hope that today you understand what it was all for.

Johnson Middle School is far behind you now. Many of those experiences have faded; some remain fresh as if they were yesterday. Either way, I hope that what you take away from that year is the heart you all showed, the dedication and perseverance in spite of any circumstance. Keep that and take that with you forever. You’ll never regret it.

For my part, I’m so incredibly proud of everything you’ve done. Wherever life takes you next, I know you have what it takes to succeed. But even when you were in eighth grade, you never needed me to tell you that.

Matthew Repka


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