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Honor success in young people

We keep hearing that honoring successful young people should be limited because it might hurt the feelings of those who didn’t do as well. Participation trophies, not keeping score so there won’t be winners and losers, and now not allowing honor cords and stoles for high school graduates are all examples of protecting the feelings of those who didn’t do as well.

This philosophy or point of view has come up again as Rio Rancho debates whether these honor cords and stoles, which for the most part recognize academic achievement and participation in certain organizations, should be allowed as part of the graduation regalia.

We don’t have enough information to speak knowledgeably about the current debate, but we do believe in recognizing outstanding achievement.

We believe that students who have studied hard and earned academic success should be recognized. We believe that students who have gone above and beyond the minimum requirements or have volunteered to help others deserve special recognition. These young people have already started down the path to becoming good citizens and exemplary adults, and we believe their noteworthy behaviors should not be hidden.

Excellence should be celebrated, as well as the achievements of all who graduate. We would like to believe those students who aren’t adorned with extra regalia are proud of their classmates and what they have accomplished. Maybe lessons are learned: “If only I had worked a little harder” or “Next time, I’ll study more and party less.” Regardless, we believe Rio Rancho students are savvy enough and gracious enough to want to congratulate their friends and classmates for their achievements.

High schools honor their athletes with letters that are proudly worn on letter jackets and teams that do well are widely celebrated. The same is true for the achievements in other activities and schools rejoice when the debate team does well or musical groups are successful. Students who make good grades are routinely recognized by making the honor roll. This is as it should be. Not only are schools recognizing success, they are also (they hope) motivating other students.

The Super Bowl – almost a national holiday today – recognizes success on the football field and many of us keep a close eye on our brackets as the basketball playoffs continue. We don’t hear anyone complaining about making the other teams feel bad. Any bad feelings are usually turned around immediately to “You need to work harder next year.”

Today’s students need to learn that hard work and dedication are rewarded. It’s not enough to just show up. The people who get ahead, the people who get raises and promotions are the ones who go the extra mile, who dedicate themselves by working diligently, thinking outside the box and bringing success to their boss.

And these traits are important in all areas of life – raising a family, being part of a community, and taking care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually.

There is no better place to start learning about life than in high school. We want our children and young adults to be gracious in victory and in defeat. Be proud of your classmates and yourself – and, if you need a push, look at these honors as learning experiences and vow to do better next time.

And, kids, there is always a next time.

Contact the Ryans at