Aim high, 2005 graduates

As June begins, high school graduation ceremonies will soon be the norm.
So I dedicate this column to all black and Hispanic high school graduates. Remember that the best is yet to come.
Dear Graduate:
Congratulations on obtaining one of the major milestones of your life. You have completed the necessary requirements to obtain your high school diploma.
I know some of you personally and have seen you grow from gangling youngsters to handsome young men and beautiful young women. I once towered over you, and I used to pick you up easily. Now, especially for the young men, I'm looking up at you.
Your high school years are usually the most formative of your life. Those years provide the foundation for what you hopefully will accomplish as you get older. Yes, I use the word older, and, my prayer is that you also will grow wiser.
For some of you, achieving your diploma has been a tribute to your perseverance. Some of you have had to take care of younger brothers and sisters and still keep up with your studies. Some of you have had to take care of your own children while still going to school. Some of you have had to balance work with school to help out financially at home.
Some of you have had to leave home because of overwhelmingly complicated scenarios to live with friends or other family members to achieve your goal of graduation.
You've overcome some challenges that some in my baby boomer generation never faced.
Most of us didn't have to pass a high school proficiency test as a requirement for getting our diploma. For those of us who attended inner-city schools, we didn't have to worry about passing through metal detectors, entering or leaving school through one doorway, or having our lockers searched for illegal drugs. I don't recall anyone having to cope with bulimia, anorexia and severe teen depression.
Growing peer pressurein the 21st century
Oh we had peer pressure, and there was always a struggle to fit in somewhere and some way. But the pressures of the 21st century you have faced and overcome, my friends, must be lauded.
As I said earlier, high school graduation is just the first part of a lifelong journey of self-discovery. Not all of you will go on to college. Some of you will serve our country proudly in the armed forces. Some of you still haven't decided what you want to do.
Whatever you do, set high goals for yourself and don't be afraid to fail. There is no shame in failure if you learn from that experience and learn the necessary lessons to become a success.
The U.S. Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics says that eight of the 10 fastest-growing occupations from 2000-2010 are in the computer field.
But blacks and Latinos are still underrepresented in just about every field, from truck drivers, to diesel mechanics, to lawyers, to journalists.
Remember that many people will still judge you by the color of your skin, or by the way you speak, instead of taking the time to find out about your character and your unique qualities. Don't hold that against them. Pray for them.
I recently received an e-mail that also had some pretty good advice as you make this transition in your lives. If I sound like your parents, well, I'm a parent, so I don't apologize. But at least take the time to look them over.
Never laugh at anyone's dreams. People who don't have dreams don't have much.
Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.
Talk slowly but think quickly.
Remember the two R's: respect for self and others and responsibility for all your actions.
When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
Keep God in the center of your lives and talk with him frequently.
Thanks for taking the time to read this letter. Enjoy your graduation parties, enjoy the hugs and tears from friends you may never see again, and always remember to walk proudly with your heads held high.

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