On Baccalaureate Sunday, I had the privilege of delivering the message “Building a Firm Foundation for the Path Ahead” at Journey Church. It was a deeply enriching experience to engage with the bright, upcoming graduates, their families, and the church community. Here is the message:


A Principal’s Reflection

As a High School Principal, one of my favorite days of the school year was graduation day! I love the buzz of excitement in the air. After watching my students mature over the course of four years, celebrating their transition into adulthood is very special.

I remember my first graduation as the Principal. I was standing on the stage rehearsing my speech when one of my students approached me with tears in their eyes. I asked the student what was wrong? They said, “I am going to miss you, my friends, and school.”

Over the next five minutes, we discussed the student’s plans after graduation. When we finished chatting, I walked the student to their place in line. When the student’s name was called, they walked across the stage confidently, ready to step into the next chapter of their life.

Graduation is the pinnacle of achievement for students. It is one of a student’s most exciting and enjoyable events. Why? Because it is the completion of hard work. It is also the beginning of the next chapter for students.

Graduation is a significant milestone in your life graduates. It marks the end of one journey and the beginning of another. As you don your caps and gowns, you stand on the brink of a future filled with endless possibilities.

While we celebrate your success and wonder about your endless possibilities, I have two questions for you. I want to be honest in your response.

  1. Who is responsible for your success?
  2. Who is responsible for your endless possibilities?

Now, I know some of you may have answered the first question with parents, teachers, or me. How about the second question? Be honest, was your first thought “me.”

You see, when I was your age, my answer was me! I am intelligent and work hard; therefore, I was responsible for my success. However, I want to challenge you on your answer. Yes, you, your parents, and your teachers played a significant role in your success. But I think we are forgetting someone.

So, let’s look at what God’s word tells us.

  • Jeremiah 1:5  says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart: I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (NIV)
  • Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” (NLT)
  • Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)

God created each of you for a purpose. Yes, you must work hard and do the right things; however, never forget “whose you are” and “who is responsible for your success.”

Let us reflect on this promise as we consider your paths forward.

To ensure students have a plan for life after high school, throughout their time in high school, their counselor partnered with the student to develop a plan. During their meetings, counselors encourage students to select one of the 3Es.

What are the 3Es? The three “Es” are enrolling in college, Enlisting in the military, and obtaining employment. Each pathway presents distinct avenues, each with benefits for students post-high school.

So, let’s explore the opportunities and advantages these paths offer high school graduates.

The Three E’s: Enroll, Enlist, Employment

1. Enroll in College: Cultivating Knowledge and Opportunities

Recently, a former student messaged me to update me on their status after high school. He was graduating from college. As I reflected on his picture, I remembered how excited the student was to begin the next chapter of his journey and to pledge his dream fraternity. In his picture, he was in his graduation regalia with his dream fraternity sach around his neck. Gazing at his photo warmed my heart to know I played a small role in his success, but I also know God is directing his path.

Proverbs 3:5-6 advises, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

There are many advantages to attending college. Choosing to enroll in college opens up a world of educational and personal growth. Let me give you some examples:

  • Broadened Horizons: College exposes you to diverse subjects, helping you discover your passions and interests. This exploration can lead to a more informed career choice down the road.
  • Specialized Knowledge: College programs provide in-depth knowledge in your chosen field, equipping you with the skills and expertise necessary to excel in your career.
  • Networking: College is a hub of connections. You’ll have the chance to interact with fellow students, professors, and industry professionals, building a valuable network that can prove instrumental in your future endeavors.
  • Critical Thinking: Higher education fosters critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills. These skills are not only essential in your career but also in navigating life’s challenges.

2. Enlist in the Military: Discipline, Service, and Skills

Another one of my awesome students decided to enlist after high school. He is currently a Specialist in the US Army. Before he joined the Army, the student dreamed of traveling abroad. However, he had never traveled outside the United States or even Florida. So, he was concerned about leaving the country when his Unit was stationed in Romania for nine months. However, during his time in Europe, he had the opportunity to overcome his fears, expand his horizons, and achieve his dream of traveling abroad.

Joshua 1:9 reminds us, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

For those seeking a service-oriented path, enlisting in the military offers unparalleled experiences:

  • Discipline: The military instills discipline, structure, and a strong work ethic. These qualities can translate into success in any career pursued afterward.
  • Skill Acquisition: Military training imparts many skills, from leadership and teamwork to technical expertise. These skills are highly transferable and can open doors in various industries.
  • Patriotic Service: Enlisting in the military allows you to serve your country and make a meaningful impact on a global scale. The sense of purpose and fulfillment derived from such service is genuinely unique.
  • Financial Support: Military service often comes with financial support for education, which can help further education after service commitment.

3. Obtain Employment: Early Entry into the Workforce

Last year, I participated in the graduation of one of the High schools I supervised. As the Principal highlighted multiple student accomplishments, one student stood out to me. The student was starting his new job one day after graduation. Can you imagine graduating high school at 18 and earning $80,000/year?

Philippians 4:13 encourages us, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Entering the workforce straight out of high school offers its own set of advantages:

  • Financial Independence: Employment provides immediate financial stability, allowing one to start supporting oneself and even saving for future goals.
  • Practical Experience: Early employment allows one to gain hands-on experience and build practical skills in a real-world setting. This experience can set you apart from other job seekers later on.
  • Career Progression: Starting a career earlier means a head start on climbing the professional ladder. One can achieve significant career growth over time with dedication and hard work.
  • Exploration: Entry-level jobs can allow one to explore various industries and roles, helping identify strengths and interests before committing to a long-term career path.

Embracing the Journey

Choosing between college, military service, or employment depends on individual aspirations, values, and circumstances. Each path has its benefits and challenges, and no one-size-fits-all answer exists. Let us delve deeper into what it means to embrace this journey.

Trust in God’s Plan

Jeremiah 29:11 reassures us that God has a unique plan for each of us. Trusting in God’s plan means having faith that He will guide you through every step of your journey. When you work God’s word, God’s word will work. Applying this truth means seeking God’s guidance in all decisions, big or small. When faced with uncertainty, remember that if God brought you to it, He will see you through it. This journey is not one you undertake alone; God is with you every step of the way.

Relying on Christ

Philippians 4:13 emphasizes that no matter the path you choose, you are equipped with the strength of Christ. When Jesus is all that you have, Jesus is all that you need. In moments of doubt or weakness, rely on Him for strength and guidance. Your abilities and talents are gifts from God, but remember, when your faith is only in your abilities, your foundation is only as strong as you are. By placing your faith in Christ, your foundation becomes unshakeable because it is built on His eternal strength.

Although I am using high school experiences as my example, the 3Es apply to life after college. For college graduates, the majority will join the workforce or the military. Others may decide to pursue advanced degrees. The principles we discussed still apply to you.

Build a Firm Foundation

To achieve success in your chosen pathway, you need a firm foundation. Why? Because you will encounter many distractions and trials. As Psalm 34:19 reminds us, “The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.”

The importance of a good foundation cannot be overstated. Be reminded of the promises of God so that you won’t abandon the process of God. When your faith is only in your abilities, your foundation is only as strong as you are.

Matthew 7:24-27 reminds us, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

For many of you, your faith has been your parents’ faith. But now it is time to stand on your faith. Will you build your house on Instagram, your friends, your past accomplishments, or the rock? Building your life on the solid foundation of God’s word will give you the strength to withstand life’s challenges.

Closing

So, whichever path you choose, approach it with dedication, enthusiasm, and a commitment to personal growth.

Remember, You are God’s masterpiece. He has blessed you with endless possibilities. However, you have a choice. You can trust His plan, rely on Him, and build a firm foundation for your future.

Remember what Proverbs 3:5-7 says, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” (NLT)

Trust in the Lord, commit your plans to Him, build your path on firm ground, and He will guide your steps.

Congratulations, Class of 2024! We are proud of your accomplishments and celebrate your success. May your futures be bright and your paths be blessed.

Amen.


This opportunity to speak on such a significant occasion—marking both a culmination and a new beginning for these young individuals—reinforces my commitment to lifelong learning and leadership development. As we celebrate these milestones, we also set the groundwork for future achievements.

Thank you to Pastor Ashford and Journey Church for the warm welcome and to all the graduates for your energy and enthusiasm. Here’s to building strong foundations and aspiring towards greatness!

View the entire message at https://youtu.be/C2RXLSvTLhU

#EducationalLeader,

Kim

“When students are led well, they learn well.”


The views shared in the Educational Leadership Moment are solely mine and do not reflect the positions of my employer or any entity within the local, state, or federal government sectors.

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About the author

I'm Kim, your Educational Leadership Guide. I equip educational leaders with research-based and experientially learned educational leadership principles and best practices to promote student success.


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