District Letter: Thoughts from Upper Bucks Ombudsman Graduation (Penn.)

Date: June 14, 2016

The following letter was recently sent from Karen Shanton, House Principal for Pupil Services at Quakertown High School, in regard to the Upper Bucks Ombudsman graduation.

Camil and I had the privilege of attending the graduation ceremony at Ombudsman earlier this evening. Watching the ceremony really gave me pause. One thing was very evident—personal connections. Each mentor teacher presented the diploma to the students they had worked most closely with, and offered a few brief words of wisdom. Their themes all centered around “believe in yourself and you can…”, and it was very clear that each had developed a special bond with their students. Inside jokes were many, and many eyes welled up. A unique feature of the evening was providing an open floor time for any student who wanted to comment. This is what struck me the most. Several of the students listed above took the opportunity to speak, some even had prepared remarks. Common among them was gratitude for the opportunity, gratitude for someone believing in them, for a second chance. One of our students shared the following quote:

“When a flower isn’t blooming, you don’t try to change the flower.
Instead, you change something about its environment”

I thought WOW—that is a powerful statement coming from that student…So what was the change? We moved them to a smaller space, they could work at their own pace, they had smaller groups. But guess what? Not a single student talked about class size or location or pacing. THEY ALL TALKED ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIPS. And so I wonder…

What if we all made an effort to know, and I mean really know, all of our students, but especially the students who seem to not care, not want to be here, who don’t seem to think they will get anywhere in life? Twelve of our students just demonstrated that they can flourish when they believe that someone believes in them and thinks they can….


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