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Commencement Address by Dr Scott Carpenter - June 3 2023

Superintendent’s Commencement Address -- June 3, 2023

As the parent of two recent Monomoy Regional High School graduates and as Superintendent of this district, there have been countless times that I’ve been amazed at what our students have learned and done in our schools, and there are times that I’ve been equally amazed at what my own graduates have not yet learned. For the Monomoy Class of 2023, I want to provide you with a crash course in what I affectionately call Adulting 101 – skills and mindsets that you may not have learned in school but will help you as you head out into the world. These skills and mindsets are a complement to the knowledge you’ve gained since preschool. 

I’ll focus on four experiences that my two college-aged Monomoy graduates faced in the past year as examples of how – even after high school graduation – we are works in progress, continuously developing the skills needed for adult life. The fact that some of your skillsets aren’t fully developed yet will at times be a source of frustration and angst for your parents, but soon you will find that you are capable of much more than perhaps you believe.

I’ve gotten permission from both of my children to share these four stories and despite some occasional frustration, I am exceedingly proud of both of them – after all, we are all works in progress.

  • #1 As parents, at some point we will get that call when our children get sick or injured for the first time far away from home. Our phone call came the morning after our daughter Darby fell down a flight of stairs at a college party. From over a thousand miles away came the words, “I’m really hurt and my knee can’t bend — What do I do if I can’t walk from my dorm to the university health center?” I will admit that my first instinct was to search for the next flight to Georgia, but being there was what I needed, not what she needed. What she needed most was a gentle reminder that she is more capable than what she thought. Instead of rushing to Logan Airport, I asked, “Can you walk down the hall to use the bathroom?” She could, so I said, “Just keep walking down the hall, past the bathroom, out of the building, jump into an Uber, and get yourself to the doctor.”

  • #2 This past winter I got a phone call from my son Rory, who goes to college in Colorado. His question was, “How do I replace the windshield wipers on my Jeep?” Now, I don’t expect that everyone knows how to do this, but he grew up with a father who can fix anything, with him often by my side. He is also a year away from having an undergraduate degree in engineering. While Mechanical Engineering courses don’t have a unit on wiper blade replacement, I reminded him that there are YouTube videos on how to fix almost anything. For someone who has literally studied rocket science, replacing wiper blades really isn’t Rocket Science

  • #3 A few months later came another phone call from my daughter. This time, the question was, “What do I do if I’ve lost my driver’s license?” She admitted that her driver's license had actually been missing for weeks, and she was now anxious about not having it because she wanted to fly somewhere that weekend. We pointed her to the RMV website where she could easily order a new one and explained that the replacement license would get mailed to the home address in Chatham in 7 to 10 days, but sadly not in time for her flight. This was something best tackled when the ID first went missing. By not handing it right away, waiting caused a small problem to become a crisis

  • #4 And, my favorite Adulting 101 lesson of the past year happened when a traffic ticket from the City of Colorado Springs arrived in the mail addressed to me. I knew it wasn’t me who had run the red light, so I called my son. He asked, “How can I get a ticket if I was never pulled over? And what am I supposed to do about it?” He learned the hard way that engineers have developed sensors that register if a car enters an intersection after the light turns red, camera arrays that video document the infraction, and the means to automatically send the vehicle owner (that would be me) a ticket in the mail. I told my son that I could go to the city’s Red Light Camera website and see him nonchalantly zooming through the intersection. In fact, it actually looked like he was saluting the camera as he ran the red. So I texted him a picture of his citation, the website information, and everything he needed to pay his own fine. Adulting can get expensive if you don’t pay attention to details, deadlines, and, in his case, red lights.

While in today’s world, the solution to many of life’s problems may be just a few clicks away, being masterful with technology isn’t the most important skill. After all, your parents and I managed to come of age without the benefit of apps and websites. Other skills and mindsets are even more important, things like independence, confidence, grit, and engaging in problem-solving on your own

Getting yourself to the doctor, ordering a replacement ID, fixing things around your home or car, resolving a traffic ticket, and a myriad of other minor challenges are all part of navigating adult life. From experience with my own children, I know that Monomoy grads are more than capable of successfully navigating these small challenges on their own. Don’t let life’s little obstacles feel larger than they are.

Being proficient in reading, writing, and arithmetic alone won’t prepare graduates for everything that lies ahead. You also need proficiency in Adulting 101 skills to be successful moving forward. Mastering skills like working independently, being confident and presenting yourself that way, displaying grit, being persistent, and engaging in thoughtful problem-solving will increasingly be important in your lives. Each of these builds upon the skills and knowledge you’ve been taught since preschool. 

This year, our district went through an initiative to develop something known as a Portrait of a Graduate, a process that identified the skills and mindsets that our community believes students should embody by graduation – in many ways, it is an in-depth and more nuanced version of Adulting 101. As part of this process, we surveyed our community and worked with a team of parents, educators, community members, and students – including senior Molly Gramm – to discuss the skillsets and mindsets our graduates need to be better prepared for college, careers, and life. 

Four themes emerged:

  1. to be creative and critical thinkers, 

  2. to be strong communicators and leaders,

  3. to be independent and confident, and

  4. to be engaged citizens (which includes acting with integrity, treating others with empathy, and respecting diversity).

In addition to teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic, the Portrait of a Graduate initiative will guide our district towards purposefully embedding into our curriculum, from preschool through senior year, the development of these vital skills and mindsets to even better prepare youths for their futures. 

Strengthening your Adulting 101 skills and mindsets will take you far in life. Take the excellent education you received here at Monomoy, combine it with these important life skills, and you will be unstoppable!  Use the little challenges as opportunities to practice these important skills.

I’ll close by sharing a postscript to one of my stories. When Darby realized that she couldn’t get on a plane without an ID and that her replacement license (which had already been paid for) wouldn’t reach Georgia in time, she decided to retrace her steps over the previous couple of weeks. She turned the University of Georgia upside down searching for her license and through sustained effort finally found it. That was a great example of practicing the Adulting 101 skill of persistence.

To the Class of 2023, have faith in your abilities and confidence that you can manage whatever life sends your way. Master Adulting 101 skills and you’ll be prepared for whatever the future brings

You are about to be Monomoy graduates, I know you’ve got this!

Click here for the slides that accompanied the commencement address