I was asked to speak at my daughter’s 8th grade graduation from junior high youth group to senior high. This is a bit long, but I thought I’d post it. Add more thoughts if you’d like.
Hi, my name is Allison. I want to say a few things to encourage you 8th graders as you leave Middle School and enter High school.
First let me say “Good job!” for getting through middle school! You should be proud of yourself for making it this far. You successfully made it through changing classes, remembering your locker combination, algebra, and leaf and bug projects. Now it’s time for a change again. . .into High School. This is a big step.
If you and I were just sitting and talking about the challenges of high school, there are some things I’d like to tell you:
It is the choices in life that make us who we are and we can always make the right choice.
There’s going to be a lot more kids in High school, which means more opportunities and new friendships. But it also means more cliques, more temptation, and more negative peer pressure. Be yourself. Don’t change who you are just to fit into a certain group. Be yourself first and then people will naturally want to hang out with you. You may not be at the top of the food chain, but who cares when you have true friends?
There are kids who will smoke, drink, smoke pot, be sexually active, be disrespectful to their parents and teachers, bully, dress provocatively, you name it. You will come across all kinds of temptations in high school. So be prepared for that. Each temptation is an opportunity to define who you are and who you want to be. Don’t give in to something you know you’ll regret because so many other kids are doing it. There are a lot of kids out there who aren’t doing those things – find them and hang out with them.
Also, this may sound like a cliché, but here it is: Don’t stop talking to your parents. Listen to what they have to say. We love you and want to help you through these difficult years. We may not remember everything that happened to us in 8th or 9th grade, because it was like 100 years ago, but we remember enough and we’ve learned a lot of things along the way that can help you. We want to be there for you. None of us were created to live life all on our own. Remember your parents love you and want to help you. If you can’t talk to your parents for whatever reason, find another trusted adult in your life you can talk to.
Do your best in school, but don’t get down on yourself if you don’t do things right the first time or you’re not the best at something. It’s more important that you try than it is to succeed the first time. Work hard, study hard, and do your personal best.
Learn from your mistakes. It’s OK to make mistakes, of course. You’re going to make them. Just be sure to learn from them so that you don’t make them over and over.
Don’t be afraid to pursue things you like to do. High School is a chance to explore things you enjoy. Join choir if you like to sing. Take Wood Shop if you’d like to make a cool Adirondack chair your mom can put on her porch. Learn a new language.
Most important, believe what God says about you. It’s tempting to believe the negative stuff that people tell us, but trust what God says about you. He tells us the truth and people don’t always do that. He says you are His child and He loves you so much. Believe in yourself that you can do whatever God has put in your heart and life to do. Don’t let fear hold you back.
Take one day at a time and enjoy it like it’s a gift from God, because it is! And when you make a mistake or make a bad choice, God’s love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace is there for you. Jesus is your friend and understands what you’re going through. But also don’t have a casual attitude about sin, like, “Well, God will forgive me anyway if I do this.” Because there are always consequences to our choices, whether good or bad. Again, it’s the choices in life that make us who we are.
Everything that you go through in life has a purpose. It is to help you mature and grow into the young man or young woman God intended you to be. God has a great plan for you life, always believe that. You are His child and He adores you. His love is so amazing and strong that nothing you do or say can end His love for you.
It is the choices in life that make us who we are and we can always make the right choice. What choices will you make this year that will define who you are?