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I received an assignment to write my first article for our local paper. No pressure! I struggled with what to say. Should I be funny, or serious or somewhere in-between? Should I write about a topical issue of the day or one with historical significance? Once my mind began to relax a bit, I remembered a conversation I had with our Valedictorian, Benjamin Colson.  Certainly, he would have a lot to say; he has the highest GPA in our class, so he has to have learned a lot from this experience. Benjamin told me, “What I’ve learned in high school is how to be more appreciative of the struggles other people have in their lives, and to never be quick to judge.”

With an answer like that, now I know why he’s our Valedictorian. He said exactly what I couldn’t put into words. High school is all about realizing that not everything is how it seems, but if you take the time to get to know people and understand them then you will gain a greater appreciation for their skills and talents. I have met lots of people in high school and they each come across differently and leave different impressions. One thing, though, that remains constant is that people aren’t always how they come across. We each make assumptions about who a person is based on superficial things – how they dress or what group they belong to – or maybe they aren’t in any group. This is a valuable lesson to keep with you in life and what better a time to learn it than in high school? Right before we jump into the so-called “real world.” This reminds me of something Dr. Tricia Pena taught me in a seminar at the University of Arizona Tech Park, “Every Connection Has Opportunities.” Now to me, those opportunities don’t always have to be professional. An opportunity could be as simple as a new friendship. In the end, this boils down to if you invest in people and take time to get to know and understand someone, who knows where the opportunities could take you.

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