Like thousands of other grandparents who are busting their buttons this week as they watch the offspring of their offspring graduate from high school, I'm busting a few of my own.
Jessica is the first of my grandchildren to achieve this particular milestone (just as she's been the first among my grandchildren at all of life's major junctions), and she has set an admirable pattern for the 23 who follow.As I've contemplated this afternoon's ceremony at Abravanel Hall for Jess and her Viewmont High School classmates, it has occurred to me how many people it takes to educate a child.
It's no accident that she is leaving high school with honors and that she has her immediate future assured. She will go the University of Arizona in Tucson this fall on a full scholarship, embarking on her pursuit of a degree in engineering. She hopes ultimately to contribute something to America's space program.
She's realistic about the competition she faces, and she knows about challenges. For the past year she has coped with the effects of rheumatoid arthritis as she maintained her record of excellence at Viewmont. How the disease might affect her future is one of the factors she has to add to her own particular mix of realities.
Jess began her life as a scholar when she was a baby and her parents talked to her, read to her and stimulated her imagination by exposing her to their own curiosity about the world.
My son-in-law, Ben, in particular, showed her how to accept every new situation as a challenge to be overcome by using the intellect with which one is blessed. He's a problem-solver and he involves her (and her brother and sister) in the process.
As Jessica's grandmother, I've been privileged to be part of her education. I'm not claiming to be exceptional. As grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and acquaintances, we all contribute to each others' educations. Our only choice in the matter is to be cognizant and try to capitalize on relationships to contribute as positively as we can.
When I went to Utah State University several years ago on a newspaper assignment, Jess went along and visited with several of the USU people who are involved in space research. She came back and wrote a paper on raising plants in zero gravity for a junior high school class.
When she went to Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., we all cheered her on and enthusiastically listened to her reports and looked at her pictures when she came home.
I've tried to count how many public school teachers have influenced Jessica's life, but I can only guess. Thanks to all of you who excited her imagination and stimulated her innate intelligence, who provided her the opportunity to test herself against new challenges and to stretch her understanding of social relationships as well as book learning.
She is a scholar by choice, but she is a member of the human family by necessity. I believe she is prepared to contribute well in both arenas.
I'm grateful for all of those who contributed their taxes to her education, to those who have the vision to establish a state program that provided her the opportunity and to all the educators up and down the scale who had a hand in her schooling.
I write about Jessica because she is one of mine and familiar. I know that hundreds like me are proudly watching from the sidelines this week as graduations go forward and that they could write the same kind of success stories.
Congratulations to Jess and the thousands of Utah's high school seniors who have - as the rhetoric proclaims - reached a significant milestone and are prepared to become the promise of the future. We're expecting great things.