About Randy Miller

Randy R. Miller is a social studies teacher at Charter High School located in Camden, NJ. Randy has 5 years collective experience in both K-12 and higher education as a fundraiser, program coordinator and student advisor. He is also Co-Founder and CEO of MORE, Inc., which empowers urban youth and young adults holistically through education and mentoring using practical strategies for real life application. Randy received both his bachelor of arts degree (2005) and master’s degree in public policy and administration (2008) from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

Week 6/24 – 6/28

Close up of a graduation cap and a certificate with a ribbonWhen I think about the process of schooling in America, the ultimate culminating event for any and every student participating in that process is graduation. I can remember just about every graduation I’ve been a part of and as I contemplate reentry in graduate school, I fanaticize about a potential walk across the podium; getting hooded and celebrating my accomplishment with my family. Graduations are indeed the greatest of anything that happens during the school year – greater than any ‘A’ someone receives on a test they studied hard for; greater than a kid getting an acceptance letter to the college of their choice; greater than any trip, any lesson or anything else that I have failed to mention. Graduations symbolize the closure of one chapter and the start of another.

Graduations also give us a look through the window of our own lives. I remember graduating from high school and the various circumstances that surrounded myself and my classmates. Some folks were straight ‘A’ students “destined” for greatness. I and many others were “middle of the road” students who were headed to state schools. Others made it through high school by the skin of their teeth. With the advent of Facebook, it is damn near impossible to not compare your outcomes with those of your peers in high school, and even college – since many of them are your FB friends and you have granted access to their lives anyhow. All things considered, I think that I am doing alright. But there are some who took a while to get their minds right and they and in some cases their children are paying the price. This was the thought I had in my head as I watched my seniors walk across that stage to receive their diploma; the importance of making right decisions and the inability to do so costing them in the long run.

Moment of the Week

Friday night was our school’s graduation. Of course there was excitement and anxiety and all those other emotions that create butterflies, relief and tears. Usually, the senior class faculty has to sit with their caps and gowns on in the front with the students. I don’t do that – I’m a rebel – I am backstage with a few colleagues helping out with the backstage stuff. A plus is that I don’t have to sit through all those boring speeches; I can walk around a bit and chit chat until I decide to return to the backstage. The awesome thing about being backstage is that when the graduation is over, the kids come backstage immediately and I and a few others get to feel all of that raw emotion that the kids release. We’re back their taking pictures, hugging, shaking hands, smiling, laughing and in immediate celebration mode. I took a moment to stand in the middle of the room and just take a look around. There were kids screaming, girls crying, boys crying and some standing alone in awe of the moment. In that moment there was one overwhelming feeling that overcame me – fear. These kids were excited to be done with high school but they were scared because what was next for many of them were questions they couldn’t answer. Some were in relationships, wondering if they could last. One young lady or so was pregnant and I am sure she wondered about a lot, let alone how she would finish college with a child. Some were babied and coddled in high school and they knew that would no longer continue and wondered could they make it outside of our doors… And some wondered would they ever return back to Camden and back to their homes… places that hold few good memories. Indeed, there was fear in the room – the fear of the unknown.

Lesson of the Week

Amidst that feeling of fear in the room, I was gently reminded of two things: first I was reminded that engaging with the unknown is a part of growth. In order to grow and mature, we cannot stay in the same place; which led me to my second reminder that while we’re in whatever learning season we are in, we must get ourselves prepared for the graduation. The cool thing about life is that regardless of how long we stay somewhere, we’re never their forever. Even if somewhere is comfortable, life will twist and turn us to the point that no matter how hard we may try, we won’t be able to stay where we’ve always been.

My seniors could not wait to get out of high school. They said it felt like they were there forever. But it is never forever. Their ‘forever’ had now come to its expected ending. Some felt ready to move to the next chapter. Some were actually ready to move to the next chapter. Yet there were others who were not ready to move to the next chapter. I pray that those individuals throughout the country who’ve graduated and are not ready to move forward take serious inventory of their lives and make the decision to finally, get ready. Not only their lives, but the lives of their future spouses and children may very well depend on the decision to get ready for their future today. In the words of the maestro Curtis Mayfield, “people get ready.”

I wish my seniors success in all of their future endeavors. I pray that they stay true to themselves, and true to their mission and passions in life as soon as they identify them. I have faith they will change lives and change themselves for the better.

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