Tag Archives: students

Make Your Mark – My commencement speech to my son’s high school graduating class

It is an honor to speak before you today. I’m proud to be among a sea of friends. Today, I have a trifecta happening, I am a school board trustee, an alumni and a parent of one of today’s graduates. Special shout out to my boy, Jake!  This graduating class takes on special meaning to me as I have witnessed first-hand a majority of the students  grow from kindergartners to graduates. 

If someone would have told me almost 30 years ago that one day I would be delivering a graduation speech for Calhoun, I would have said he were crazy. Like many of the graduates today, I was hard pressed to graduate from high school and move on to the real world. My end goal was high school graduation. As a Calhoun student, I’ve repeated the same words so many of you have to your own parents regarding my classes “when will I ever need this in real life”. Well, the only reason I was able to write today’s speech and read it without a bundle of nerves is credited to two of my former Calhoun high school teachers. My English teacher, Mrs. Schuman who taught me the beauty and art of the English language and Mr. Parkinson, my public speaking teacher who taught me the strategies to be articulate when speaking in front of others. Ironically, public speaking was a last minute choice, obviously that class paid off.

As evidenced today, what you learn in high school can and will be applied. In years to come, I promise that each of you will reflect on the teachers who most influenced you.

In keeping with today’s gratitude. I’d like all the teachers present today to stand and be recognized for their contributions to our district. Thank you for all you do for our students in Bellmore-Merrick and being an inspiration to our students, administrators and the board of education. Your passion and love for teaching and the students are appreciated and do not go unnoticed.

As a trustee, I have witnessed the greatness of our students and staff daily. The standard for academic success was set high and each of you sitting before me have met it. Our Calhoun teachers have guided you and challenged you. Each of you today has risen to those challenges.

Faculty, family and friends have all made sacrifices in helping you be successful. Whether it was a teacher extending a deadline or offering extra help or your parent who received that 911 text to bring your homework or that book you forgot. That your parent’s life immediately came to a halt to rush to school to get your much needed items to the office in time. Also, let’s not forget your friends who rescued you when you forgot an assignment and offered help.

Why would so many people go through such lengths for you? The reason is simple. They want you to succeed and do well. It’s a common thread that binds all of these people to your life. We all share in this rewarding moment and celebrate this milestone with you. As a school board trustee it is the highlight of the year when we hand out diplomas and watch each student cross the stage as your dream of graduation is realized by all of us in attendance. The fruits are your labor are rewarded today.

Whether you are entering the workforce after graduation or moving on to higher education, the advice is the same. Take risks. Asks questions. Planning and dreaming are great but I challenge you all to be doers. Don’t sit back gazing into the future of what could be. Be present. Action happens in the now. Greatness can’t be gained through the confines of a comfort zone. Push yourself and work hard. Be life-long learners. Never lose your thirst for knowledge.

Graduation is an interesting time in your lives as you are immediately propelled into adulthood. A week ago you’re a high school student and next month you’re an adult. Shed the skin of others expectations today and adhere to a new expectation. The one you put on yourself. Set the threshold high. Set goals. Make plans. Then work your way toward them. 

You will encounter many people along your journey. There are lessons to be learned from each of them. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your interactions, people will always remember how you treated them and your kindness.

 Here’s a small example I can share with you. When I was in Calhoun, we had an AV squad back then. That can probably be more associated to a computer club now. The students on this squad weren’t necessarily my friends but I always said hi to those who passed me in the halls. With the help of social media, I connected with so many past classmates. When I suffer a tech emergency, my first phone call is to one of these people who were on that AV squad back in my high school days. He is now the successful owner of a technology company. 

Today you are surrounded by classmates however one day you might come to meet them and they will be professionals. At your high school reunion, you will be surrounded by former classmates who are doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, counselors, and the list can go on and on. My point in telling you this is not to burn bridges. You never know when someone from your past will be an olive branch in the future.

You don’t need to have all the answers in life right now. We adults don’t even have all the answers. But each of us moves forward as you will. Part of life is making mistakes. There will be times you fail. Embarrassment or disappointment may try to defeat you. Don’t be blinded by self-doubt because it may infringe on your ability to learn from your mistakes and make you defensive.  Be receptive to the constructive criticism and work on your weaknesses to turn them into strengths. Make smart, well thought out decisions.

You are responsible for your life. Your parents, your family and your teachers have guided you thus far. But now is your chance to make your mark. Life is full of choices. Picture life as a road map. Each choice puts you on a path. Make sure your choices lead you on a path that you are ultimately proud of and will help contribute to your success. Live the life that YOU want, and follow that path to your happiness.

Today is a critical point in your life. The future is an open book and you will be responsible for writing the pages. You don’t want your life comprised of excuses of obstacles that stood in your way, who didn’t tell you something or by someone not offering sound advice. Someone will always have more or less than you. Find opportunities and leap at them. Figure a way over or around obstacles. Don’t rely on gossip and rumors as facts.  You are tasked to investigate things for yourself. Learn things first hand. Be accountable for your actions. Take this mantle of responsibility and use it to your advantage to be the best version of yourself possible. If you had a bad day, experienced a disappointing test grade, flopped on a job interview don’t fret. Don’t be stuck in that moment. Rather turn the page of your life’s book and start fresh tomorrow. You are the author of your own story and are capable of changing the narrative at any point.

We are gathered today because of your academic achievements but more important than that is continuing with the strong character education you’ve been taught. You can be the most successful person in the world but if you don’t have good moral character, life is shallow. Continue to be a good person. Be kind in all you do and to all you encounter. Be compassionate. Be generous. Be accepting, Be tolerant. Be humble. You never know how your words or kind gestures may impact another person. Your integrity is your calling card in life. Be true to your word and never break it. You are only as good as your word. A reputation is what others think of you. Integrity is what you think of yourself. 

This truly is the time of your life. Seize the day. Enjoy your friends this summer. Enjoy the beach, ½ price apps at Bees and revel in being around those you love most. Don’t base your worth on how many likes you have on Instagram. Social media isn’t the benchmark of one’s value. Don’t lose out on moments in order to capture it in a picture. Don’t be a slave to your phone or preoccupied with who is texting you. Just stop. Put the phone down and participate in making memories with those who are present. Live life every day to the fullest.  

In closing, we look forward to hearing about you even after today’s graduations. We celebrate in your greatness, your achievements and milestones today and beyond. We are all enormously proud of you. Remember, once a Colt, always a Colt. We all bleed blue!

On behalf of the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District’s Board of Education, Congratulations to the Sanford H. Calhoun Graduating class of 2016. You did it!

The Woman Behind The Myth

Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!

Life is full of twists and turns and today, we shall celebrate a twist!

For my steady followers, you might find yourself yawning during this blog but I encourage you to stick around. While you have pieced together my personality through my writings, and I have shared snapshots of my life, we are going to delve into who the woman behind the keyboard really is. I invite you to take a peek.

It’s a bit long, but stay the course.

Besides being a successful blogger, mom, sister, friend, daughter, and business woman, I am also a school board trustee. Interesting, right? If the answer is no, kills me to say but you might want to scroll past this latest post and I promise for continued entertainment in my next blog. Pinky Promise!

To my delight and surprise, I have found that the teachers in my district are directing parents to my blog. Wowza! I’m a lucky girl. I have about 95,000 views on my blog currently and I’m hoping my hometown peeps will push me over that 100k threshold. Repeat after me, YES WE CAN!

Now that I have a new found, extended hometown audience, I just want to give a shout out. Welcome people.

Let me tell you my story, rather than the myth behind the legend. Let’s talk facts.

Like any good Italian mother, my mother drilled certain things into my head and they have carried over to adulthood. Don’t put shoes on the table because it’s bad luck. Don’t open an umbrella in the house. Always tell the truth because the truth is never wrong and be a leader, not a follower.

I grew up as an independent thinker. I never succumbed to peer-pressure and honestly, was never one to follow the crowd for the sake of popularity. I’ve always been a forward thinker, problem solver, peace maker and a strong advocate for the underdog.

I grew up in a broken home with older siblings and my mom. She worked her ass off! She worked full-time and attended college full-time at night all in effort to provide for her four children. Despite being exhausted, and having limited to no funds, she always took me to see local high school plays, ballets and operas. She instilled in me the love of the arts and I share this passion with her.

Before baby #4 came along (that’s me, baby #4) my mother volunteered as a 4H leader and was a Cub Scout leader.  She has and still does have a strong belief in volunteerism.

Growing up, I was always the student that didn’t have a parent in attendance at school events, due to my mother’s working obligations. Since we had no money, I could never participate in after school activities.

For sake of anonymity, I’ll use just first names. Kristin was a year older than me. She was a pretty blonde girl, very popular, perfect family and she strut the halls of our elementary school with her green Girl Scout sash. I wanted a Girl Scout sash too! I ran home to ask my mother if I could be a Girl Scout. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have the money and that couldn’t happen. While disappointed, I never held a thing against my mother. She was doing her best and I appreciated it all.

Everyone WAKE UP! Hopefully you’re not dozing off. There is a reason I’m giving you these examples. I have core beliefs and I contribute them to my upbringing. I’ll refer back to this a little later in my blog, good reason to stick around.

For the sake of time, boredom and a limited word count, let’s fast forward.

My first child was entering kindergarten at the very same school I went to. It was surreal! She would now be walking the same halls I did. Sidebar: I never attended kindergarten because it was part-time back in the day so I was enrolled in full-time daycare. While I did skip kindergarten and can’t attribute that to my uncontested smarts, I did skip 11th grade. (Silent applause lol) 

I knew I wanted to be an involved parent and be part of my daughter’s educational journey, as with all my children. I immediately volunteered for class mom, assisting as the teacher directed. I attended every PTA meeting and my thirst for knowledge and information was palatable. I asked a zillion questions but some just couldn’t be answered.

This is where I made a choice and my path veered toward leadership. I sought information and there was no one there to provide it upon inquiry. So I took it upon myself, to attend educational sessions sponsored by the PTA to learn the rules, guidelines, procedures, and bylaws. I became an encyclopedia. I wanted to share the wealth of information I acquired.

I soon chaired events, held various positions on the PTA executive committee and ultimately was propelled to President. I navigated my way through the schools with parental, teacher and administrative support. We were a team,  all with the same end goal in sight, educating the whole student and making a difference in a child’s life, including my own.

I was a Girl Scout leader for seven years during my daughter’s entire tenure at the elementary school.  I was also a Boy Scout leader though that didn’t last long due to my son’s lack of interest lol! I wanted to afford my children every opportunity that I didn’t have.

If you were to ask those that worked with me, I’m going to go out on a limb and tell you that they thought I was fair, knowledgeable, accessible, calm, understanding, compassionate, passionate and student driven.

I made many initiatives with support of the committee I served with that I am enormously proud of and some still continue today. Just a few examples are Red Ribbon Week, PTA teacher grants and after I chaired the auction committee, our PTA solely funded the new basketball courts, benches and all the murals you currently see in the school today.

After exhausting my goals on the PTA, the next natural progression was the School Board. Like PTA, I have been attending school board meetings since my daughter was 5. She is almost 21 now. I listened at these meetings and asked questions. It quickly became apparent at the get go that the big decision making for our children’s education happened at this level. I found it mind boggling that I was sometimes the only parent in attendance.

Are you still with me? Let’s talk school board. Why do I serve?

I am a lifelong advocate and volunteer. I believe serving on the school board is one of the greatest acts of volunteerism. I serve for betterment of our community and as an investment into our future, the children.  This district has educated me and all my children and I want to give back as it has given so much to my family.

I totally believe in lending a voice to those children who do not have one. For the children’s parents who are indigent, for those that have immigrant parents with language barriers, for those with special needs. I want those children’s voices to be heard as well as the general education child.

My childhood has prepared me for all of this. My heart is big, my compassion is boundless and my urgency for inclusion is pressing.

Ok ok ok ok…I’ve gone on and on. Let me catch my breath! Condense Wendy, condense!!! Wrap it up.

While staff or parents may become focused on a specific issue, it is important to recognize that issues come and go within any school district. What is a priority today for a parent or teacher may not be tomorrow.

Being a trustee is a multi-facetted job. It is a fine line as we are elected to represent our constituents but we are employers to the staff of a district. Every decision by a school board is made in the best interest of the student. Sometimes people lose sight of that and become distracted or focused on a single trustee when truth be told, we work and vote as a unit of seven. No one speaks individually for themselves but rather for the board as a whole. We are one voice.

Before I was elected on the school board there were times I got frustrated as a parent and couldn’t understand why an action wasn’t taken when the solution seemed obvious. My blinders came off the minute I walked into that board room on my first day. There are so many moving parts, and confidential information which weighs-in on any decision made by the unit.

We create policy, procedure and the vision for the district. We also have a responsibility to ALL voters; singles, parents, empty nesters, and seniors. We work hard to keep programs intact and our teachers employed all while keeping taxes increases to a minimum.

For those that stand in judgment and wag fingers or look for minutia to attack, ask yourselves, are your actions in the best interest of a student? Are your motives with the student in mind or are your motives clouded by your own agenda?

I’m a fact seeker, let’s throw out some facts about me:

  • I love children.
  • I advocate for children.
  • I believe in educating the whole child.
  • I believe in exposing our children to the arts and thus, fight to keep a very successful theater program in place.
  • I believe in fairness, transparency and truthfulness.
  • I believe in open-mindedness and thinking out of the box.
  • I believe in exposing corruption and untruths.
  • I believe in volunteerism and giving back with no hidden agenda.
  • Lastly, I believe everyone should be an independent thinker, making decisions based on fairness and track record.

What I’ve also been exposed to as a parent, PTA member and board member are that labels get thrown around quickly and quite often unfairly. As in life, not everyone will see eye to eye in the education world. Parents begin to walk on eggshells for fear of being labeled anti-teacher. What’s unfair about this quick call for condemnation is often times; these very parents are the ones whom volunteer in classrooms, volunteer at school events, buy teachers gifts at holiday time and end of the year. These are parents who entrust their children with the teacher day in and day out and rave of their child’s success and growth. These are parents who believe they are taught by outstanding educators and brag to anyone willing to lend an ear. These are parents who want the very best for their child. A disagreement doesn’t constitute an anti-teacher position. Why do I know so much? Sadly, some have attached that label to me.

Wow, Debbie Downer! Ok group hug. Bottom line is I love my children more than life itself. I love my school district which I have been in for 46 years. I love my teachers even though occasionally they don’t always have love for me and I love being your voice on this Board of Education! Each and every vote I cast is not of my individual perspective, it’s a vote I cast for YOU, my constituents, and the actions I believe you would support and want.

So hometown crew, listen up! Rally the troops and get out there on May 17, 2016 and vote for me. Show me the love!

Big thank you to anyone that has read this blog or any other to date! I’m proud of my writing. Teacher’s let me know how I’m doing on grammar, sentence structure etc.. I’m open to it lol! Know that not every blog is for every person but give it a chance, be that independent thinker and maybe, just, maybe you’ll even find that you like them! Peace out!

Be the Ringleader of Your Life – my commencement speech to an elementary school 

It is an honor to have the opportunity to speak to our graduating class today as you complete an important step in your educational  journey that will continue your entire life. I thought about where one might learn life lessons outside of the classroom but can easily be applied to your journey in school, and the circus came to mind. 

When I think of the circus, I think of the lions in the cage, twinkling lights, the big top, the clowns and trapeze artists.

Beyond the wonderment of the sights and sounds, a lot of things happen under the big top. In many ways, the circus is a metaphor for life. We experience a range of emotions as we take in what’s before us. One minute we are laughing, and the next we are holding our breath in fear and anticipation. Let’s pull back the curtain and see what life lessons we can find amongst the stardust:

Be the Ringmaster of your life. It’s your life. The ringmaster controls the show at center stage. While you can’t control everything in your life, there are certainly times you have the power to direct it. You can choose to study for a test. You can choose the people you do or don’t want in your life.  And just as importantly, you can choose the type of person or friend you want to be. Choose wisely.

You’re on a tightrope. Keep your balance. Just as an acrobat walks across the tightrope and tries to balance successfully across it, you must find the balance in your life. Find a place for everything in your life, school work, friends and extracurricular activities. While school work will increase in the next phase of your journey, so will the chance to meet new people and join in more after school activities.

Toss your hat in the ring. Get involved. The circus is wonderful to watch, but even more fun to participate in. Don’t sit on the sidelines as a spectator. Challenge yourself to push your limits. Take the risk. Perhaps you want to try a sport you never tried before. Perhaps there is a club that interests you. Middle school is filled with resources. This is an ideal time to tap into these opportunities.

Like the trapeze artists, you’ll need a sturdy net. You will need back-up. No matter how much you try to be balanced, there will be times you make mistakes, slip and fall. This is part of life. You need to acquire a network of people who will help dust you off and put you on the right path. Your new team of teachers and guidance counselors will be there to prepare you and support you at MAMS during your time there. But the strongest net you will have will be your parents and family because they will catch you each and every time.

Like the clowns in the circus, it’s important to take a moment and laugh about things. Seriousness has its place, but it’s good to take the time to laugh with your friends and enjoy every experience that comes your way in middle school.

The lion tamer faces his fears each time he steps foot in the enclosed cage. So must you face your fears and take risks, knowing that you can learn to tame a lion, too When new challenges and unfamiliar circumstances are in front of you, don’t run but rather face your fears. Feel empowered to initiate a conversation with a teacher or a coach, or to ask a question. Be confident in who you are. It’s ok to speak up for yourself and even better, for those that won’t or can’t for themselves. Take all the lessons you learned at Camp Avenue and apply them in middle school. Be kind, be caring, be inclusive, and most importantly work up to your full potential.

Life is very much like the circus. It’s filled with the unexpected, the exciting and sometimes anticipation of the unknown. It’s a lot to take in but if you look closely beyond the glitter, you will see wisdom and magic that awaits you at every new milestone. You will continue to learn and grow throughout your educational journey. The spectators of your life, your family, friends and teachers, will celebrate with you each step of the way. After today, you will have your ticket, walk into the arena, head held high and embrace all the great things that away you in middle school.

On behalf of the North Merrick Board of Education we sadly and proudly say goodbye and on behalf of the central high school board of education we welcome you, congratulations to our class of 2015