Other stories filed under Features
What does the diploma mean?
May 17, 2016
A diploma is the universal symbol for the end- of kindergarten, primary school, high school, college, doctorate programs. The diploma signifies both an end to a journey and the gateway to a new one. For some students, the simultaneous end and beginning is frightening. For others, exciting. It means freedom and a new start. For others, it is only a curve in a long road. Some view it as the springboard to launch them to higher and better things. Each diploma holds significance. That significance, however, is dependent upon the person who has earned it.
To those who regulate the ISD 761 school district and write state education legislation, a diploma means the graduate has completed the required courses in the core subjects and has earned a minimum of 28 credits. The student also must have taken and passed the Minnesota MCA-II tests in reading, science and mathematics. The Explore, Plan and ACT assessments were also completed.
This view of this particular piece of paper hardly scratches the surface. However, at the Owatonna High School, the administration has taken the meaning of the diploma a step farther. Their goal is for each and every student to graduate with a diploma representing learning excellence, life readiness and the ability to meet high expectations. Their desire for each student learning in the high school is that they graduate prepared for the world ahead of them.
Assistant principal Nicole Adams said, “From the academic standpoint, it means you have the basic skills necessary to acquire the next set. A high school diploma says ‘I am ready to learn the next set of skills.’ There was a time when the end of formal education was the high school diploma. Now, though, it really is the foundation.”
Is there more to the diploma, though? What does the diploma mean to those who have worked for it? The answers are as diverse as the senior class.
For Avianna Alba, the diploma is a mix of sentimental and realistic meaning. She said, “Basically, it’s just a sign of childhood ending. It really is. The diploma is a new chapter. You need it to go to college. But it has sentimental value, though- it holds memories.”
Carli Langeland has a different view of the diploma. For her, the diploma is not the end all to be all. She said, “The paper is nothing. The idea is what matters- your experience of high school. You’re looking forward. And when you look back, you will remember your obstacles and life challenges and overcoming them. Not the paper.”
For many students, college is not their next step. Tristan Frank plans to either go into construction management or into the military. Neither path requires a high school diploma. Frank said, “Truthfully, all a high school diploma is is something to get into college with. It means nothing. It doesn’t apply to my future.”
Some students personify the diploma- it represents a character trait of the person who has earned it. Natasha DeVries said, “The diploma shows you want to accomplish more. It encourages you to do more. You made it this far, and you can go farther.”
For Brennon Brase, the diploma represents a decision. He said, “I think when you get a diploma, it means you made the decision to be responsible. It’s a decision to further your education and be a better person. It gives you the option of what you want to do with your life. Without it, you’re just settling. I think you just have to settle for a mediocre job without a diploma. If you want to be rich or successful, you have to go to college nowadays. I want the option to be successful. I want the option to make decisions.”
Deqo Salan thinks of the diploma through the rearview mirror. She said, “You can do bigger things with your life- better things. A diploma shows what you’ve been learning. The teachers prepared you for the world and the things you will deal with.”
Some students don’t know what to think about the meaning of the diploma. It is something they have never contemplated. Cienna Raden said, “I don’t know what it means. It’s just a certificate. I graduated. It doesn’t mean you’re going to college. It just means you’re done with high school.”
And still, there are more views. Heidi Marquard sees her diploma as a stepping stone. She said, “It means you can go to college, get a job. It’s an ending. But it’s also a new beginning to another era. In a way, though, it means nothing. You have to keep going.”
Even Ms. Adams commented on the other side of the diploma. She said, “My dad didn’t graduate high school, and my mom didn’t go to college. They both regret it. Education is the only investment that is forever. This diploma is the start to taking 100 percent control of your life. It really is about moving forward.”
Although varied, these answers run along the same thread: a high school diploma has meaning. Even when having one doesn’t apply to the life being envisioned, the diploma carries a sense of hope.
The strength and courage and dedication to earn one shows character for each graduate who walks across the stage and receives theirs. There is a sense of pride that accompanies the diploma- a badge of honor.
While the journey to the commencement stage has been long and hard for many, and while unity within the senior class may never fully exist, the diploma ties each class together in a special and unique way.
As the day the senior class of 2016 receives their Owatonna High School diploma approaches, it begs the question, “What does this diploma mean?” And as thoughts begin to form, one question in particular refuses to be set aside; Does a high school diploma really prepare graduates for life?
Leilani Berudez said, “It’s a reward for going to school. It makes you feel smarter.” Is the work to achieve the reward truly preparing graduates to move forward and take on the world?
Can graduates balance a checkbook, create a budget, and provide for themselves? Are the life skills there and fully accessible?
While the consensus is the diploma is an important accomplishment, there needs to be security in it. Graduates need to know they are graduating prepared to tackle their next step- college, military, work- and more importantly, life.