FROM READERS: Columbia residents share their advice for graduates

Friday, May 11, 2012 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The warm breezes of May usher in not only the summer months but also a season of commencement ceremonies in Columbia.

We sought out advice for all the new graduates. Read these tips, sent in writing to us from high school and college staff members, City Council and School Board members and MU alumni.

Gerald T. Brouder, president of Columbia College: "Set your expectations high and then go out and exceed them. Use the moral compass when making critical decisions. Treat everyone with civility and respect. Take time to have some fun."

Tom Rose, Columbia School Board member: "Whatever you do and wherever you end up, remember to be an active community member. Find an area of service that interests you. You have more to give than you might think."

Robert W. Schwartz, chief of staff of the University of Missouri System: "I would probably give three pieces of advice:

  1. Always try to do your best every day.
  2. Keep your passion and always strive to learn new things.
  3. Don't be afraid to take chances in your career."

Eryca Neville, director of Douglass High School: "My advice is to follow your passion.! Find a way to do what you love."

Tracey Conrad, principal of Hickman High School: "My advice is work hard, play hard and chose a career where you truly enjoy the work."

Tim Wright, assistant principal of Rock Bridge High School: "Take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. Commit yourself to whatever you are doing 100 percent. And most importantly, never stop learning."

Brian Brooks, associate dean of undergraduate studies at the Missouri School of Journalism: "My advice is always simple: Be honest. Work hard. If you do those two things, you are likely to succeed in life." 

Barbara Savage, admissions coordinator, Columbia Independent School: "Take time to discover what you are passionate about and pursue all the knowledge and experiences you can about your interest; then find meaningful work doing something you truly love. For me, being an educator has made my heart sing for 40 years. I also believe the wisdom in Gandhi's quote: 'Be the change you wish to see in the world.'" 

Michael Trapp, Second Ward Columbia City Council member: "My advice to recent graduates is to remember who you are and what you value. You will be challenged as you enter professional employment to compromise your sense of right and wrong, to question your heart and second guess yourself when you want to go against the tide as the new person. Do not believe anyone who thinks they know more about the basics of right and wrong just because they have more experience. Trust yourself, make good decisions, and follow your heart. Looking back when I have not done so has led me to regret."

Mark Maus, principal of Rock Bridge High School: "I hope they (are) building on the skills they have learned and the experiences they have had while in high school. As they move ahead and identify next steps I want them to find something they love and then do it for the rest of their lives. Life is a journey and it is important to enjoy it."

Betsy Jones, director of guidance at Rock Bridge High School: "While in college, go to every class. Realize that now you are in school approximately 35 hours a week so that you definitely can make 15 hours in college. This is the only way to succeed in college."

Keija Parssinen, author of "The Ruins of Us" and Columbia Independent School director of admissions: "I recently stumbled across this wonderful line from a W.S. Merwin poem: 'From what we cannot hold the stars are made.' I think it's a perfect thought to share with graduates because it alleviates the anxiety that attends such moments of great transition — Merwin assures us that we need not be devastated by loss or change or transition, for though we cannot remain youthful college students forever, those memorable years become stars in the sky of our lives. Though transitions bring wistfulness and a sense of loss, they also punctuate our lives with meaning and beauty, and they humble us before time, the great leveler."

Christine King, Columbia School Board member: "First, be flexible and open to change in your professional career. Even if you know your first job is not what you want to do long term, respect the position and that a company or someone is paying the best they can and doing your best with a great attitude may come back as a bonus down the road. Second, take care of your health. This may sound odd, but the healthier you are, the more 'productive' and energetic you are in your career or advanced educational pursuits. Third, always set yourself apart from your peers — ask yourself: 'What can I do in a positive way so that people know who I am and the job I am doing without stepping on others or assuming you are better than others.' Fourth, be financially prudent and independent — i.e., live within and below your means. Finally, remember your family, friends and loved ones who have supported you along the way and don't forget to call and tell them how much you love them as much as you can!"

Barbara Hoppe, Sixth Ward City Council member:

  1. "Always be true to your best self in whatever you do. Work toward finding the job that makes the best use of your unique talents, that you enjoy doing and that will allow you to achieve your full potential as a person.
  2. "Imagine what can be and what should be. Then work toward achieving those things, with vision, dedication and determination.
  3. "Never underestimate the power of a few individuals to achieve great things.
  4. "You only have one life on this earth, make it a worthwhile and enjoyable and make the world a better place because you are in it.
  5. "Help others reach their full potential while you are reaching yours and take joy in doing both. Appreciate, respect and value people.
  6. "When making decisions, always take the 'high road,' the ethical road, the road of truth. It will be your sure and safe compass through life's challenges and difficulties.
  7. "Treasure the simple joys of life each and every day. They will sustain and strengthen you — the way the light hits the leaves of the tree, the dancing shadows they create, the smell of flowers and food, a warm smile, a caring touch, the birds singing and soaring, and the diversity of color in the world that surrounds you.
  8. "Stay grounded and rooted to the earth, while always 'reaching for the stars.'"

Mike Doak, '76 MU graduate: "Stay in school, get as many degrees as possible. There will always be jobs, but you seem to run out of opportunities, to stay in school and get the advanced degrees. Don't get in a hurry, life is long. I always regretted not getting my doctorate, it was there for the taking — instead I went to work and never got it."

Ron Sammons, '95 MU graduate: "Keep an open mind. See as much of the world as you can. Enjoy the adventure and possibilities. Make sure you are well-rounded in both your career and personal life. Always stay connected to your friends and alma mater."

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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