My 17-year-old ds is graduating high school this month. He's MG by IQ, though his GAI is higher, his pulled down by processing speed and memory scores more than 5 standard deviations below his other scores. He's dysgraphic, highly introverted and not an "out there" kind of kid. He was entirely unschooled, and very resistant to structured academic learning until 10th grade, at which point he decided to enter our tiny local public high school part-time in order to get the structure he felt he needed from an emotionally detached source.
He's not a natural academic achiever, as he's not particularly a pleaser driven by grades. If he has bright, creative teachers who engage him, he does amazing work, but if the work isn't helping him learn he doesn't sweat it.
He's done fine in school; his teachers all love him and he's well-liked by students. After that first part-time year he has attended full-time in 11th and 12th grades.
It's been a heck of a spring.
Okay, a bit of background. This is the principal's first year as a principal, and his first year in a high school environment. It's a tiny k-12 school with only about 35 high schoolers. This is his guidance counsellor's first year as a guidance counsellor, and it is a part-time add-on to her other position. And she's very pregnant with twins, and her mother is dying of pancreatic cancer 8 hours away ... so she's incredibly stretched. And ds is the only student in the school who is planning post-secondary studies next year: a couple of others may attend college in the future, but they're taking gap years to work or upgrade first.
So it turned out when he went to confirm his college application at the end of February (this is Canada, so these things are done almost a year later than in the US) that he needed a second-language course he hadn't been told he might need, and his school has never offered such a course. His only option, other than putting his college plans on hold, was to pick up a monster full-year distance education course at the beginning of March in another school district and try to finish it in less than a third the normal time. This on top of a full senior course-load. And on top of taking time off for a choir tour / choir-in-residence experience that he had a major solo role in, which had been planned for almost a year and necessitated more than a week off all school. He picked up the course and dug in.
And then one of his close friends drowned, along with three other current or former school-mates. It totally devastated the community. Everything went on hold for a week or two, even classes at school, the school having become a sort of community grief-counselling hub. It took two weeks to find the boys' bodies so that further delaying feeling that little bit of closure. There were memorial services, and celebrations, and dinners, and the eventual scattering of ashes, all four times over ...
And did I mention the rotating teachers' strike and partial lockout? So school has been closed for at least one day a week, and all non-essential teacher services are banned on the other days: there's only in-class teaching.
And he got this great job for the summer, but they needed him to start June 2nd, the day after his four end-of-year choir performances, and two weeks before the end of classes. So he's had to start juggling that too.
And then he got his admission offer to his university of choice revoked last Wednesday because his guidance counsellor had misunderstood the process for submitting his interim grades. And he spent a sleepless night and the next day madly trying to get the situation reversed with emails and phone calls navigating switchboards and voicemail and trying to get through to someone who could actually do something, and dealing with high schools in two different districts on two different strike schedules and ...
And he advocated effectively for himself and got it fixed.
The day he got it all sorted out was also the beginning of the two-day Graduation Celebration, at which he gave a valedictory address he'd crafted with humour, humility and exactly the right tone of remembrance for the graduate who had drowned, and respect for another grad who was still too deeply consumed by her grief to walk the stage ... so there were just four of them left, and it was okay, and he was kind and wonderful. The whole community came out to support and celebrate the teens who are still here and ready to move on. It was poignant and lovely.
He made a clean sweep of every last academic award, filled his pocket with almost a dozen scholarships, and looked very dapper ... but that's not at all why I'm so proud. I'm proud of how he handled all the other stuff, how he held himself together, honoured and supported others, stayed on track and dealt with the bad luck and the tragedy and the grief and the mistakes and was strong and kept going.