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As our local high schools are winding up their year and our seniors are readying for prom, senior weeks, finals, and graduation I wanted to impart some wisdom and advice as you begin to make your way into the world.

Be great and be true to yourself. Our world is chock full of opportunities and everyone has the right to choose those opportunities that speak to their heart and our world needs the diversity of these choices.

Do not let fear stop you from moving forward. Fear is not new to you, you’ve been afraid before. Remember that first day of kindergarten? Or the first time you had to speak in front of class? Use the energy of that fear to push you forward, beyond the bounds of what you thought were possible.

When my daughter was making her post-high school decisions, there was a level of worry…”What if I hate where I go to college?”. It happens, all the time…but I told her that you are not bound to finish where you start. You can choose to transfer to a different school and start a different path toward your future. And this is important to remember, you may start your journey toward a future you planned and take several detours or even change the ultimate destination. This is the freedom that you have in your life and you should not fear these changes or opportunities.

John Krasinski, Jim from The Office, gave a speech last month to the graduates of his alma mater, Brown University. His speech recounted the time he spent at Brown and how much of his learning occurred outside the classroom and how he had to learn to embrace his fears to move forward. It’s an important realization and lesson…fear is not the enemy, instead it can be a great motivator.

Many of you will hear, “the future is yours” and not know what the heck you are supposed to do with that. For me, it means that you need to embrace your future and work to create a world that you fit in, one where you feel a sense of community and ownership. We do not expect that you will be changing the world immediately, but ask that you not lose the bright-eyed optimism of youth as you carve your way in this world.

Too often our youth believe that they have to have everything figured out at 18, this is far from the truth. Who you are at 18 is very different than who you will be at 21, 28, 35, etc. Your life will ebb and flow and as a result you may find yourself in an unexpected but ultimately logical place.

There will be people that may not understand or appreciate your journey, but do not let this deter you from becoming you who need to become. Find your pack, those that are willing and capable of supporting you and believing in your future. And you in turn offer this same support and understanding to those that choose you to be in their lives.

Our world needs the diversity that you will be achieving as you all start your independent futures. We need college graduates, skilled trade school graduates, military personnel and dreamers who take a little extra time to craft their future.

So as you cross that stage to receive your diploma, embrace the past for the lessons you have learned, appreciate and be present in the now and look forward to the future that you will create. Congratulations to the Class of 2019, go be great!

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