Education Is My Brain Power” is a song I wrote in 1992.  The next line is “graduation is my shining hour”.  This is certainly a theme song for the month of June.  

Graduating from high school is a major milestone in a young person’s life. It marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. As students walked across the stage and received that diploma, I could hear some of the internal questions:  “Now what?”   “What plans do I have for the future?” “Is college an option?”  And, “How will I navigate the transition to independence from my parents?”

I’m remembering the track and field coach from the University of Wisconsin calling me and asking if I would come join the Badgers.  (I had just won the state high jump competition with a height of 6’7’).  

I said, “Sure!”  I wasn’t doing much and had no plans for college. Looking back, I ask: “How could I go through all my years of high school without a plan for the future?” Where was my focus?  There was no thought of tomorrow.  

After flailing in the wind or sailing without a sail during that time in my life, I had to make choices on the fly that gave me direction.  With no money for college, the coach placed before me a challenge: “Jump 7 feet and you’ll win a scholarship.”  Challenge accepted and won! 

I’m so impressed with the graduates you’ll find in this issue that have direction and focus.  Just think of the younger siblings or friends who are inspired to follow in their footsteps.  This is the cycle that needs to grow in our community.  UMOJA is excited to be able to promote such a group and encourage such growth. 

We congratulate all graduates for reaching this threshold of independence.  Whether college, workforce, or a gap year, it’s important to have a plan in place. Research options and start making decisions about your future.  Life will throw you curve balls and plenty distractions to bump, and yes, sometimes push you off course. That’s when character comes in to see how disciplined you are about your journey or how you redirect and go to plan B.

If you’re heading to college, take advantage of this time to grow your knowledge base, unveil your personality and become skilled at your extra-curricular activities. 

If you’re ready to enter the workforce, start looking for job opportunities in your field of interest and even consider internships or apprenticeships to gain experience and build your resume. 

If you’re not quite sure what you want to do yet, a gap year may be a good option. Travel, volunteer, or work to gain new experiences and figure out your next steps. 

Whatever the next step is, remember to never stop learning because, as someone I knew wrote and sang about in 1992…, “Education is Your Brain Power!”