End of school year observations abound

Commentary

The region’s final graduation ceremonies are taking place this week, with all of the pomp and pageantry, tears and cheers we’ve come to expect from the traditional, transitional ceremonies.

Called “Commencement,” for many high schools and colleges, meaning “a beginning or start,” it often feels much more like the end of an era.

As high school students make the walk across stages in auditoriums, gymnasiums or football fields, emotions abound: joy, relief, sadness, regret, nostalgia and gratitude for the years gone by; excitement, expectation, and anxiety for the years to come.

For the graduates who have participated in athletics, or other group activities, like band, chorus, robotics, etc. the tool belt of life has a few extra gizmos.

Lessons learned from setting goals and working toward them in conjunction with others; being part of something bigger than themselves; celebrating accomplishments; overcoming setbacks; and doing it all with integrity and sportsmanship: these experiences prepare young people for life beyond the athletic arena, the music stage or the science fair and set them up for success in life.

n This time of year is marked by the Scripps Spelling Bee, which for the first time ever, ended with eight champions.

I love that the finals are covered by ESPN, and I loved watching the reactions of the middle-schoolers who seemed to grow closer to each other with every round.

As noted by one commentator, they were, as in golf, not really competing against each other, but against the course (or the word list.) They appeared to become an ad hoc team, celebrating individually, but also together as they defeated the Diction­ary, each earning the full prize of $50,000 and a place in spelling history.

n This week marks the biggest event of the year as athletes bound for Happy Valley and the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Summer Games.

The athletes are supported in amazing ways: the Sheetz Family’s unmatched financial commitment to the program as well as the award that bears their name; the Law Enforcement Torch Run bringing the flame across the state and into Thursday evening’s opening ceremonies; the hundreds of volunteers including Sue Paterno herself, who handle every detail of the competition, as well as housing, meals, and the overall athlete experience; and the coaches, families and communities who bolster SOPA and its local chapters all year long.

The 2019 competition, which runs through Saturday, should be on your summer bucket list, as Special Olympics celebrates its 50th PA Summer Games.

Inspiring displays of courage, commitment and sportsmanship will be on display as the athletes support one another, celebrate together win or lose, and exhibit an unbridled joy for the opportunity to compete.

Smiles, handshakes, hugs and high-fives abound in this incredible display of inclusion. Special Olympics prides itself on providing the opportunity for the “sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship.”

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