This was a big year in terms of the sunshines graduating. I had 2 of these guys for 3 years, 2 for 2 years, and 3 this year. Life in our fishbowl is cozy, so we all get to know each other well. Really well. I hear about their love lives and fights at home; I'm there when they get driver's licenses and get accepted to college. Two of them are parents, and I check in on my grand-students regularly. For them to finish, to "make it" to graduation, is no small feat. They all have their own issues, their own stumbling blocks. To see them overcome the odds and march with their class is beyond gratifying. The smiles on their faces are different from those in the Top Ten: you can see the relief in attaining a goal that was a struggle to reach. Some are going onto college in the fall, some are working and saving money to go eventually, and some may never go. That doesn't matter to me as much as the knowledge that they finished something that was hard to do, that took effort and commitment and self restraint.
They gave me all sorts of swag... coke, roses, lillys... and one of them, when I thanked him, got real quiet. "No, Buckaroo. Thank you."
My graduate wall is growing, and my drop out numbers declining. I miss them all when they move on, but so far, my sunshines come back and visit me regularly. Connections. I know they've mastered that concept.