Last Friday evening was quite an occasion.
Lorenzo Walker Technical High School in East Naples, in its third year, inducted its first members into the National Honor Society.
I got my guest speaker honorarium in advance — a tour of the campus by principal Jeanette Johnson, who knows what she is doing and why. She is focused and dedicated.
I told the dozen inductees, who earn As and Bs to qualify, they already knew what most guest speakers would tell them.
They know the importance of a solid education, especially in today’s world.
They know the importance of having families and teachers who care.
They know the importance of continuing to choose to do the right thing and avoid drugs and violence.
These kids already get it.
So what was left for me?
To extend hearty congratulations all around, of course. They had made the choice to make the most of their talents and opportunities. I told them I knew the late Lorenzo Walker, and he would be proud.
Then, I challenged them.
The cafeteria got very quiet. My only competition for attention was the aroma of the snacks and cakes made by students and waiting off to the side.
I challenged them to:
Read to a child — and always with the knowledge and guidance of a teacher or other adult.
Keep in touch with their teachers after they leave high school. The teachers will appreciate that more than those students can ever imagine.
Not be led by bad people.
Enjoy good music — as each of you may define good.
Go to baseball games whenever possible.
Expose yourselves to different points of view — even if they make you mad.
Always remember it’s cool to be smart.
Follow your bliss — choose work that is not a chore.
Treat this as a beginning.
And consider the words of Thomas Jefferson: “Whenever you do a thing, act as if the whole world were watching.”
So how did I do? What would you have added? What would you have left out? Let me know.
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One more thing: We sang. I brought along copies of the words to “America The Beautiful” for everyone. You can’t have a ceremony of such importance without music.
Seeing and hearing this particular group sing that song was doubly special. Their names are a rainbow: Veronica Lopez, Eboli Gonzalez, Bailey Baumann, Lezly Camacho, Samantha Kenworthy, Olivia Pierre, Jeanette Potter, Lina Rivera, Carly Sharbaugh, Julianie Beauplan, Paula Medina and Tamara Tuckey.
Which reminds me of another challenge I left with them — to reach out to someone following them up the ladder. Maybe they could get a boy to apply for the Honor Society next year. Another first.
Thanks for the opportunity, Lorenzo Walker Technical High School. Thanks for the education.
On the way home I stopped at McDonald’s. I paid special attention to the hard-working, earnest crew.
It struck me that the girls at Lorenzo Walker High School would not have to go there — unless they were customers.
Even then, with so many of them studying culinary arts and health, probably not very often.
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We all know of memos or directives that seem to make a little too much out of nothing — like banning Frisbees on the beach.
This Hodges University staff e-mail ranks right up there: “This week we had an incident where burning popcorn led to the fire alarm being activated, the arrival of the fire department and the evacuation of our Naples campus. This morning I was informed that last night at our Fort Myers campus several students were popping popcorn.
“Microwaving popcorn is forbidden at Hodges.”