Never underestimate the value of a diploma | Nandell Palmer

Pay day is sweet. Yes, indeed!

Matching achievement with reward is what makes pay day so sweet.

At the end of a recent middle school graduation exercise, I asked to see one of the graduates’ diplomas.

He shrugged his shoulder casually and said “Oh, I don’t know where it is.”

I asked a few more of his peers, and they, too, had left theirs behind, not bothering to take their hard-earned diplomas home.

Finally, one student obliged me the chance to look at hers. That’s when I became a bit more understanding as to why the graduates would leave those diplomas behind.

I shouldn’t be surprised since three years ago at an elementary school graduation, one teacher told me that diplomas were not meaningful to students until their high school graduation.

Could we be potentially shortchanging future educators, doctors and engineers from earning college degrees with this mindset?

The 13-year-old student whose parent is on crack can never rely on her parent’s encouragement to stay in school.

Most likely, the encouragement will come from the student’s eighth-grade diploma to continue on to high school.

Waiting until a student is graduating from high school to make his education tangible or worthy of a decent diploma is sending the wrong message to our youth.

Grady Smith, brushing 50 years old, graduated last week with his master’s degree from Evergreen State University.

Spending six years in college, he was encouraged every step of the way by one past degree to advance him to the next.

The same relationship is true in politics. The city council office opens Senate doors. The Senate leads to the governor’s mansion or the White House.

At no time should we discount our students’ academic achievements. They should be celebrated at every level.

Thus, graduation exercises at the elementary and middle school levels should have more pomp and circumstance to them.

The oversized T-shirts and sagging jeans just don’t cut it. Neither is the delicate piece of rolled-up paper parading as a diploma.

I am not advocating that parents go out of their way to purchase suits and ties and pretty dresses for their sons and daughters.

Nevertheless, there ought to be some modicum of decency at such a milestone occasion in our children’s lives.

I strongly believe that if we set the standard, then students will follow.

One disappointed parent voiced that his daughter completed elementary school recently, and the school opted not to have a graduation for its students.

Budgetary constraints no doubt play a role in graduation exercises. But we don’t have to break the bank to show prestige in this time-honored document and display.

PTAs or corporate sponsors could easily absorb some of the costs.

How about a design contest involving the graduates where they’re able to craft/design their diplomas and certificates, while keeping the school’s logo, etc.?

You would be amazed to discover the vast talent pool among our students who are willing and able to turn out superb work.

The diplomas would then be printed on nicely-finished papers at a reputable printer, with the superintendent and principal’s signatures affixed.

In one rough estimate, the cost of producing an A-class diploma in this fashion is cheaper than a bag of popcorn.

On a whole, there are many wonderful things to celebrate in our school district. Space would not allow me to list them all.

My only bête noire is with the casual treatment of valuable educational credentials, which could potentially lay the groundwork for our youth’s future vocations.

I liken this shortcoming to an expensive car needing just a little air for one of its tires.

According to Newsweek’s latest report, Federal Way High School is ranked 428 out of the nation’s 1,623 top high schools.

From the same report, FWHS placed seventh among 32 Washington state high schools. Five schools in Bellevue and one in Silverdale ranked higher than FWHS.

Note that this coveted award only goes to 6 percent of the nation’s public high schools.

Our district is not afraid to challenge students in rigorous programs like AP, IB, Cambridge, Running Start, among others.

For all these noteworthy achievements, I say hooray to our esteemed retiring superintendent, Tom Murphy.

Kudos, too, to our hardworking teachers, principals, and administrators who made it possible for our district’s bragging rights.

Pay day could not be sweeter for this proud father hearing this news. It will get even sweeter when more stately diplomas start matching our young scholars’ achievements.

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