Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Junior Ring Ceremony, 2011

Note: These are Mr. Weber's remarks to the junior class, on the occasion of the junior ring ceremony at JPII on April 27, 2011.

12 days.

Twelve days of classes until Senior Walk, May 13, the last day of class for seniors, the last time they will walk the hallways as students of JPII. Though our rightful attention will be on them--and there will be hugs and photographs and tears--something else is happening that is less noticed. From that moment on, this class, the junior class of Pope John Paul II High School, the class of 2012, will take on the mantel as leaders of the JPII student body.

Junior ring ceremonies are not principally about getting jewelry. They are really rites of passage ceremonies, a formal calling out of the junior class to become the kind of leaders that good schools must have. No matter how talented the teachers, no matter how wise the administrators or the Dean of Students, no matter how well written the school policies, schools are only good in so far as the students of that school help build a culture that supports those teachers, the administration and the policies of the school. And whether or not a student body is willing to build such a culture depends on the senior class. IF the seniors buy in, the rest of the school follows. If not, it’s going to be an unpleasant year for everybody.

I am not talking about some sort of slavish obedience. We want students who are willing to politely question, express their disagreements, even push the envelope a bit. That’s why I am using the word “culture.” When there is a culture of mutual respect, pleasantness, trust, then we can have our disagreements from time to time and that’s OK, because both sides appreciate and respect the perspective of the other side. A good culture is built through hundreds of small decisions of people trying to do the right thing, many of which are unnoticed and seem insignificant. A year or so ago, Liberty Mutual ran a very effective advertising campaign that showed one person doing something nice for another person, who then helped someone else, who then helped someone else. Generosity of spirit spreads quickly, even when the recipient of the generosity doesn’t understand its original source. I liken it to a still lake that suddenly begins to have waves. We don’t know what caused the waves because we can’t see it, but somewhere in that lake, someone made a splash. Goodness, kindness, and selflessness have ripple effects in a school that spread in multiple directions, across grade levels, in the classrooms, on ball teams, in the hallways.

That’s why I am excited about you juniors, about to become seniors. We came into this school together—I, the new headmaster here, you, new high school students--and I've had the opportunity to watch you grow as a class. Though you’ve always been the smallest class in the school, you are an impressive group—excellent students, yes, but even more importantly, good people and good leaders. After listening to all the arguments pro and con about moving back to the mixed grade level houses for next year, I decided that it was the right thing to do—and you want to know the major reason why? Because I figured that if I can put this class with younger students in houses and advisory groups, you can have a profoundly positive effect on them. If we keep you locked into the grade level houses we have now, we don’t give you enough exposure to the underclassmen and rob you of the chance to be their leaders.

I hope you will accept this responsibility with pride in your class and pride in your school. The rings you will receive are a symbol of your willingness to do so. But whether or not you’ve purchased rings, all students will be receiving a Bible as a gift from the school, a symbol of our prayers for you as you head into your senior year. In addition, each of these bibles has a personal inscription written by one of your teachers to lend their prayers and support for you as you face decisions about colleges, majors, roommates and all that you will have to decide next year.

Your parents, your teachers, and JPII are proud of the young men and young women you are becoming. Accept now the responsibility of building a culture that is supportive of your classmates and the mission of JPII. Commit yourself to the proposition JPII will be a better school because of you, because of what you want JPII to become and your willingness to lead the student body toward this aim.

In the gym of our school, across one of the walls behind the bleachers, is a quote from Scripture, Psalm 86: “Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.” As your life accelerates into senior year, ask God to teach you and guide you, so that you may walk in his truth. If you do so, God will bless you and give you a profound peace and joy, even in the extreme busy-ness of your last year of high school. Strive to stay close to the Lord, and he will stay close to you.

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