Fourth Quarter – 2017
The end of this year will represent the end of middle school for many of you. The years between elementary school and high school can be some of the most difficult. This is not merely anecdotally true, but statistically validated. Several years ago, researchers looking for a way to predict who would excel at college and university culled through data trying to determine whether there was any single indicator. The obvious choices were high school GPA and various standardized test scores. What they ultimately settled on was a student’s performance in eighth grade, and as unorthodox an indicator as this might seem, I think that it actually makes fairly good sense.
The students who excel in university are not always the smartest people. I used to tell a story to my students about people being divided into gazelles and lions. Gazelles can find food virtually anywhere; they do not have to work hard for it. The lion does. It is always competing for its survival, and it must always work hard. There are some students for whom traditional academic subjects come quite easy. They glide from one success to the next. They may work longer hours, but those hours do not feel long because they enjoy what they are doing; and frequently, they enjoy it because they are already good at it. For other students, the time passes more slowly, the work is more difficult, it is a chore. However, because one student learns to push through, when it is not clear that there is anything truly riding on it, one habituates themselves to hard work. These people learn the value of persistence, which is something that will serve them more frequently than perfect grammar or algebra. It is almost an Americanism to want to cheer on the underdog and see them challenge the meritocracy that they are told exists.
In a quotation that is popularly attributed to Calvin Coolidge, someone wrote that, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
If the work has seemed difficult at times, or the subjects not to your taste, know that as long you as you are striving, you are acquiring the habit of persistence, which will serve you well in life. Now, the opposite of persistence is simply quitting. In life, as in all hard things that you attempt, there will be those who quit. I was fortunate this week to get to visit with one of our alumni who is currently training for a very elite unit within the Marine Corps. He noted that his group started with ninety men, and is currently down to just twenty-one. Now, the twenty-one remaining men have a choice: they can knuckle-down and commit themselves to finishing the course, or they can emulate those who are leaving and quit as well. Quitting, compared to trying, tends to look easy, but one has to live with it for much longer. There will be those who leave. Be polite, be civil, have a due regard for them, but do not emulate them. Be a finisher, not a quitter.
There is also much that warrants staying. There is comradery, there are trips, there is academic excellence, there are winning teams, a legacy of successful students, students who have come before you and attended prestigious universities and collected fantastic scholarships. The work is tough, but it is not too tough, and there are people who care to know you, to help you, to see you succeed here. But, the days in which you may depend upon your parents for your initiative are coming to a close. Those who will be successful are those who want to be successful. Do not ask others to care more for you than you care for yourself.
Today we celebrate not only those who will be called to the stage, but all those who have dared continue along this path. Who have committed to doing something difficult under their own initiative, and who have chosen to emulate the finishers rather than the quitters. At the head of this group are our students of the quarter. Our final student of the quarter this year is a young lady who is well-read and always polite. She is a hard worker who understands the value of persistence and perseverance. She has taken seriously the challenge Ridgeview poses to all of its students, whether by virtue of its academic rigor or the moral challenge posed by living up to its character pillars. She takes herself seriously, and she thinks seriously about others. It is my pleasure to announce Anne Rutherford as our student of the quarter.
At the end of each year, we like to acknowledge two students for their outstanding character. We obviously do this in part to encourage good character, but also to remind ourselves that we should not prize intellectual or academic achievement above character. The latter matters more, and as a faculty, we should always bear it in mind.
Our first character award goes to a young lady who has proven herself at Ridgeview in a fairly short span of time. She has been a Student Ambassador, an athlete, and a very strong student in the classroom. She has taken her subjects seriously, and she has taken her fellows seriously. She has helped where she can, served her school through the Ambassadors, and has the sort of initiative I discussed earlier. Please congratulate Hannah Harling.
Our second character award goes to a young man who many have perceived as somewhat bashful, but also as someone who is always polite, always attentive to what he ought to be doing, and a young man in the process of becoming a very good man. He studies hard, is willing to share his experiences with his friends and peers, gives every appearance of believing that his studies are worth his time and curiosity. Next year, he will serve his school as a Student Ambassador. Please congratulate Josiah Durrell.