K12 CEO Stuart Udell congratulates graduating NVVA student Morgan Adams
Thank you, Orlando.
Nevada Virtual Academy family, it’s an honor to be with you today. I want to start by extending my heartfelt Congratulations to the Class of 2016! You did it!
I also want to recognize all of today’s guests – the parents, the grandparents, brothers and sisters, other family members, and learning coaches who supported these students along the way. This is your day too. Graduates, how about a round of applause for your families!
Class of 2016, you made it. You did the work. You put in long hours. You studied hard and made friends that will last a lifetime. You completed an amazing journey and are now crossing the finish line.
On this day, take stock of your special N-V-V-A experience. From the “poetry out Loud and Virtual Acting Club” to Mr. Rasar’s (Racer’s) STEM Club exploring 3D printing and robotics. Every student’s gifts are celebrated at Nevada Virtual Academy.
I want to use this time to share a few messages as you start your next chapter—and to tell you a couple stories from my own journey that perhaps might help with yours.
My first message to you: Each and every one of you has unique and special gifts. Use them to follow your dreams.
It’s certainly okay to start small and work your way towards your dreams. When I was your age, I too did not have my whole life figured out. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do or be when I grew up.
But in high school, I did know that I wanted to run a business and to do so, I needed to learn how to lead. In participating in some seemingly ordinary opportunities, I started to find my way.
For example… I loved hockey but was just an average player. I was what you might call pretty unremarkable. However, I still saw an opportunity to step up… to lead…
You see, like NVVA, my high school didn’t have a hockey team… it was a club sport. We didn’t even have uniforms… so I visited local companies and found sponsors. I collected fees, organized practices. There were no buses to get us to and from games, so I scheduled the carpools. I was elected captain, and these decisions rested on me. This was an amazing opportunity to build skills to someday lead and serve in a more significant way.
To this day, that experience informs the adult I am today. So follow your dreams… and it’s okay to start small.
My second message to you: Try to give back in some way through service. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”
Graduates, where are your own opportunities to serve others? Some of you already found them:
· Valedictorian Melina Hashemi (hash-EHM-ee) volunteers to help women in need learn life skills at the Talia Friends of Existence.
· Melina’s peers in the National Honor Society help out at a veterans’ home where they produced the church Christmas pageant.
· Volunteers with the Student Council decorated for prom and organized canned food drives.
You can make a difference in others’ lives by starting small, with just a little bit of time. Whether volunteering in a local soup kitchen, or just raising donations in a local walk-a-thon, you can make a difference.
In my free time, I’ve dedicated my last 14 years to working with the National Dropout Prevention Center, to help keep more kids in school and increase the nation’s graduation rate. Over time, find the way that you want to give back and help serve others. It will make both you and most importantly others feel good… and help make a difference in your community.
My third message today: Don’t lose hope if you hit roadblocks in life! Be persistent and persevere. In high school, as I mentioned, much of my time was spent on sports, playing hockey and baseball. The man widely considered the greatest baseball player of all time, Babe Ruth, said “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.”
“You just can’t beat the person who never gives up”
In my own life, I’ve found perseverance and persistence to be critical.
For instance, after college, I decided I really wanted to pursue a career in education and business. I heard about an internship at a well-known education company and really wanted the job. The problem was, so did lots of other recent graduates! I found out that I was fourth in line for the internship.
So, here’s what I did. I called the company on the phone every day for two weeks to let them know how much I wanted that job! I asked what else I could provide or answer to help them make their decision. Through my perseverance, I worked my way from being the fourth candidate up to second choice behind another girl who graduated from a better school. I was not their first choice.
Until she turned the internship down. When that happened, the job was mine. I eded up spending more than a decade at that company moving up the ranks from intern to actually becoming division President. Perseverance can pay off.
I may not have even had a career education. But that one opportunity led me on a path to my current role at K12… and to sharing in the joy of this Commencement Day with you.
Many here have shown your own ability to persevere. You took true ownership of your education. You all made it! And your achievements are undeniable!
· Six of you earned Honors Diplomas
· Seven earned Advanced Diplomas
· Five earned Advanced Honors Diplomas
· 36 Millennium Scholarships were awarded!
· Nearly $800,000 in scholarship money will go to the Class of 2016. How about a round of applause for that hard work that went into earning these scholarships and awards!
Graduates, the list of schools you plan to attend are diverse and impressive: the University of Nevada-Las Vegas; University of Nevada-Reno; University of Oregon; Utah State University; Cal State-Northridge and Cazenovia College, just to name a few. And some of you will make an impact in the workforce and military.
Class of 2016, in wrapping up today, it is my hope that sharing a bit about my own personal journey demonstrates that your experiences at NVVA were worthwhile and not the end of a journey but the beginning of a new chapter.
I leave you with one more quote, from someone whose work you may be familiar with:
J.K. Rowling, creator of Harry Potter, said this to another group of graduates at their Commencement:
“We don’t need magic to change the world. We carry the power we need inside ourselves already. We all have the power to imagine better.”
Everyone here demonstrates these words to be true. Many here encountered challenges with traditional schools. But you had the strength of character to step out-of-the-box and take ownership of your education. By imagining a school tailor-made for the unique and special person you are, you found your way to Nevada Virtual Academy. Once here, you shined. What’s more, the reasons that brought you to NVVA already demonstrate your ability to listen to your own inner voice and take action. You personify all that can be achieved through online education. You are true pioneers in digital learning.
Congratulations as you start your next chapter. Go make your own individual and positive mark on the world! And never, ever give up! Once again, Congratulations!
Now, I’d like to introduce Class of 2016 Salutatorian, Karlie Omer.
NVVA students celebrate their accomplishments at graduation on June 7 in Las Vegas