My Last Lesson

Cape Verdean woman in graduation cap
Cape Verdean woman in graduation cap

To the Class of 2015:

It's been 10 years since I've been in your caps and gowns, but it's been five since I have become a teacher and repeatedly watched this process of leaving the cocoon to become a butterfly. It's time to leave the safety of the only life you have known to venture out and start the life you have been daydreaming about in class. I want unimaginable greatness for each of you, but there is something you need to learn that is not located in your text books or on a standardized test; therefore, with my last assignment for you as a student, I want you to grab a dictionary or, let's be honest, your phone and research one last thing because it is this one word that serves as my parting gift to you.


According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, grit, when used as a noun, means firmness of mind or spirit or unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger. If I could impart any piece of advice to you, it would be to fiercely fight for and never let go of grit because if you have it, your life will far surpass any hope or dream you had.


I wish I could tell you all that your lives will never include pit falls or rock bottoms. If I could carry each and every one of you over these, I would gladly do it; however, that's not realistic. Also, truth be told, these pit falls are where you will find out what you're made of and, more importantly, where you will find your grit. When your back is against the wall and you're bloodied and bruised, are you going to give up or fight your way out? The only way out is through, and to make it, you are going to need something more than physical strength. You need mental toughness and courage rolled into a shield called grit.

Grit will lead you to the job that fulfills your purpose because it takes an unrelenting determination to work your way up the ladder and through the drama. I am sorry to tell you that there will be drama; as much as you had hoped, it's not merely relegated to your high school career. People will not always cooperate. You'll fail at an attempt or project. Others will be wildly opposed to everything you do, but your newfound grit will refuse to let you stay down or throw in the towel. Each time you falter, your grit will pick you back up, dust you off, and lead you back in to the arena.

Grit will give you the gumption tackle the day ahead. Life will hit so hard at times that you're left reeling and wanting to cower in the corner. Death, disappointment, love loss, and a litany of other daily issues are waiting around every turn, but grit is there to serve as your armor. Put it on every day because those who don't will rarely be standing on two feet let alone moving forward. You, with your courage and toughness, will be able to navigate successfully through the myriad of challenges heaved at you daily.

Lastly, grit will give you the courage to be fearless. Nothing great has ever been achieved without grit because to do something never done before, you have to expect failure. You have to expect critics, but you also have to have a belief that you can achieve what you dream of if you refuse to quit. Stepping outside the box is terrifying. There is nothing protecting you, but you owe it to yourself to break the monotony of, "That's how we have always done it." Grit is the key to unlocking this door.

That's it. That's the best piece of advice I can give you before you head off to the next part of life. You've had a good ride, but it's time for you to board the next bus that will lead you to countless avenues. Whether going to the work force, military, trade school, or college, you will be prepared to tackle life and make it into a wildly successful adventure if you develop and hold onto grit. The world needs you, Class of 2015. Good luck, and go be great!