This coming weekend, seniors at Montezuma and BGM will graduate. Grinnell High School graduation will follow on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.
I direct this column to all the graduating seniors.
Congrats on reaching this milestone, one of many that you will encounter in life.
Some graduates will enter the workforce. Others will spend their summers working, saving money and preparing to enter a two- or four-year college in the fall. Others will serve our country in the military. Some may opt to enter a trades program such as welding, pipefitting, diesel mechanic or becoming an electrician.
Growing up, I had no desire to attend college after high school. I was in a vocational program in high school where I learned the printing trade. The last half of my senior year, I attended English in the morning and then spent the rest of the day at work.
I worked for a short time my senior year for a company in Tulsa that made wire line used in the printing industry to cut perforations in paper like checks or bills. My second job was at a check printing business where I ran a press that used lead type and printed three-to-a-page business checks.
I then went on to work as a custodian at a 24-7 large grocery/drug store. I worked at a factory for a short period of time and then in the circulation department at the Tulsa newspapers in the 1980s. I sold furniture for a couple years and ran a lawn mowing service.
Thanks to a weight loss bet with a co-worker at my newspaper job, I not only lost weight, I won a camera in the bet.
That led me to return to a community college at age 27 to study photography. I went on to earn an AAS degree and then a BS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia at age 38. At MU, I started as a part-time student then switched to full-time two years later. I worked at the U.S. Post Office as a casual temp for a short time then at the MU campus as a custodian for several years while attending classes.
Leaving my hometown of Tulsa and going back to school was a great experience. I wouldn’t change a thing.
I got through the challenges of school and work by listening to Bible tapes at night while I cleaned toilets and mopped floors. I always said I swept and mopped my way through journalism school.
Following graduation, I moved to Iowa where I continue working part-time in community journalism. I met my wife, bought a house, published books here in Iowa and life is good.
This is my advice for all graduating seniors.
If you want to be a success, spend time around people who believe in you and will help you obtain success. They are around. You are probably not going to find them on social media.
While at MU, I met a man who was referred to as Mr. C. His last name was Campbell, but the nickname fit him better.
I was sitting in his office one day in the registrar’s office at the university talking about my struggles with algebra. I had dropped the course twice and was trying again and wasn’t doing so good
I told Mr. C that I seemed to be scoring just under average on my assignments.
Mr. C, who was originally from Tennessee, wrote 26 on a piece of paper. Do you know what this number means, he asked? I said, no. He said the average ACT score at MU was 26. He said, if you are scoring just under average, then you are in some pretty tall corn.
Those words of encouragement, my stubborn persistence, lots of tutoring and a touch of favor helped me pass the course with a C.
Life is full of well-meaning rocks and trees. You will run into them every day in the form of people who have opinions and advice about who you are and what they think you should be doing with your life.
Don’t be distracted or let what others say keep you from reaching your goals in life. They are not in charge.
When faced with a rock or tree, listen then go around like water does when it hits a rock in a stream. Keep walking and keep believing. Your future is bright and your goals are obtainable.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is not a weakness, but a strength.
Whatever you do in life, give it your best. Show up at work on time. If you are going to be late, call or text and let the boss know. Stay busy, find jobs do, get involved in work committees and take part in volunteer opportunities.
Give to others and support causes that build communities and people’s lives. That works in small towns and big cities.
You’re not the low man (woman) on the totem pole. You have purpose on this earth. Be a difference maker in all you do.
And most importantly, enjoy life, find a hobby, take time for yourself and your family, when that comes along.
Again, congrats on all your success. The doors of opportunity await you.
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.