541-773-5339, 60 Hawthorne Street, Medford OR 97504 office@unitedwayofjacksoncounty.org

It seems forever ago and it was.  And I’m pretty sure at the time, I didn’t want to hear one speech from anyone saying, “When I was your age…”  I’m not going to do that.  I’ve spent 8 years being excited for June 2020.  The Big Idea students are completing high school!  There was a lot of serendipity in the project including that when we began we hadn’t calculated what year the then fifth graders would be graduating and surprise it was 2020.  These students do have a remarkable world vision.  Many were born in 2011 when 9-11 happened.  And they are completing their high school years in this world pandemic of COVID19.  I am so proud of all of them and I am honored deeply by the ones I know.

So much has happened during these years, all the way back to the kick-off party that had pizza, balloons, DJ Gemini and Tanner Richie singing.  The best part was the group of students who stood before all their peers sharing what success looks like to them!  And today, they stand together, physically distant, a success.  Every single one.  Our goal was 100% high school completion and many folks thought that was outlandish.  And yet it was inclusive of all.  It’s possible, prior to the pandemic, that 88% will graduate and still all of them are a success.  They have made it to June 2020.  This world isn’t an easy place and not of them have lives that are simple or clear or understandable or even safe.

One of the graduating students, Aubrey Sandler, spoke at United Way’s building dedication and shared that no one throughout their school years said all of them would graduate except for United Way.

We believe in these students.  We believe in this community.  I graduated in 1975, a different millennium!  For real.  Wacky and fun things like gas was 0.44 cents a gallon, new cars were around $5,000, and a house cost on average $39,300!  Okay enough of that. It can give people like me angina!

My high school song was “Morning has Broken” by Cat Stevens.  Today, it could be Travis Scott, The Weekend, Drake, Post Malone or almost anyone else in the Hot 100. I am quite sure then, as might still be true, someone chose the song for us.  My class wanted a far more raucous song.

I wish peace for these students in their lives, in their schooling, in their careers, in their families.  That is my wish, peace.  I am grateful for the remarkable efforts every single one of them has made and I was so looking forward to watching them cross a stage.

To the Class of 2020, know I care about you, our community cares about you.  And know we are counting on you, every single one of you.  We trust you to care for this community.  Peace,