Each year at our Graduations, students choose a member of the faculty or staff to speak on their behalf. This year’s 8th grade graduates chose Middle School Language Arts and Social Studies teacher Julie Mushkin. You can read Julie’s speech below.

Students, family, staff, and loving supporters, I would first like to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak to you today about this class I love so very much. Delivering a graduation address for this talented group of 8th graders is a tremendous privilege, and I am truly honored. Thank you so much for inviting me to speak here.

To our graduates, today represents the culmination of years of hard work. You have survived middle school and all the trials, tribulations, and triumphs that come with this time: Capstone, Big South Fork, 7th grade language arts, countless field days, formals, and so much more. Congratulations on making it through the beautiful, messy, priceless middle school years. You deserve to be celebrated today as you are poised and ready to embark on the new adventure of high school.

Before we look at the exciting things that lie ahead, if you will indulge me for a minute, please allow me to take you all back to the first week of 7th grade when I gave you three pieces of advice: the first, and very critical for middle schoolers, as you all know, was to wear deodorant every day; the second, and equally important for timid 7th graders, don’t let the stories of the 8th graders scare you, for they aren’t true; and the third, and most critical, was to live with intention. It is intentions that I would like to speak to you about again now.

Intentions are very different from goals. Goals sit outside of you and are often things you want to accomplish in the future. For example, the goal to attend college is something these graduates aspire to achieve. Intentions, on the other hand, are inside of you and represent all that you want to be in your heart in the present moment. As a teacher, my intention is to support and nurture each child’s mind and heart every day. Because intentions are focused on the here and now, they become true the minute you speak them into existence; the act of wanting means it is already real. As Buddha said, “What we think we become.”

While having goals is positive, having intentions is even more so because they represent your values and your inner voice. When you focus on who you are in the present moment, you aren’t waiting for success to arrive. You are already successful! Strong goals, therefore, are built on intentions. Our School’s core values, in fact, are intentions: Individuality, Inclusivity, Community, Thought, Openness, Expression, and Curiosity. These intentions provide a strong foundation for every other goal we achieve together.

I kept a poster of the beautiful intentions these intelligent, thoughtful graduates composed last year. This poster hung on my pod every day and was signed by every member of the then 7th grade class. The inspired things these talented graduates have achieved here at St. Francis ring with these intentions:

  • the intention to create an environment where people are valued for their ideas is reflected in daily class discussions and debates;
  • the intention to create peace and kindness was demonstrated when I received literally over a hundred emails from these students while on medical leave for a portion of the year;
  • the intention to create good vibes in tough situations was shown on the trails at Big South Fork;
  • the intention to search for solutions where others see problems is demonstrated in student council and in our service-learning projects;
  • the intention to strive for greatness and encourage greatness in others was evident in the Capstone Projects, on the Goshen stage in the drama productions, and on the athletic fields, courts, and track;
  • the intention to appreciate that success doesn’t come overnight has been shown in the years of hard work these graduates have put in to get to this point;
  • and, finally, the intention to explore the world and its people with compassion has been and will continue to be a driving force in these graduates’ lives.

The most meaningful moments in life are filled with intentions because they fuel connection. What you have all learned during your time at St. Francis is that when you lead and follow with your values, you will bond with others and become cherished members of the team. To the students: You are all loved and cherished members of this team.

Before I get too sentimental, though, let me remind you that middle schoolers are full of seriously bad ideas at times, too, which is why solid intentions are necessary: engaging in pranking wars, posting self-incriminating videos on social media, renting out your lockers for cash, starting underground candy selling rings, and the list goes on and on. And in those cases, their intention to be funny or just make a joke needed a second thought. This is why our community is so important: we must continue to guide these young people to live in accordance with their values.

Family and friends, I would now like to address you, specifically, as members of the greater team and ask, “What are your intentions for these graduates?” How are we as loving adults sustaining and supporting them in their endeavors? I’d like to invite each and every one of you now to take five seconds to send your intentions for these extraordinary young people out into the universe.

What a beautiful, powerful moment that was, for every intention has now been made manifest simply because we were loving and vulnerable enough to speak it into existence. I hope all the students feel our love, support, admiration, and congratulations right now.

Graduates, as you set off into this great big world, I want you to be brave enough to ask for what you want and believe it can come true. As you already know, our intentions create our reality. You simply have to follow your heart and believe you are deserving of everything good because you ARE. Whatever your goals may be, if you remember who you truly are and what you value, you will find success. This will require you to take risks, but as you have already shown, you are brave and powerful beyond measure. Every challenge we presented you with, you rose up and faced. You are thoughtful, intelligent, compassionate, inclusive, hysterical, loving young people who will undoubtedly change the world for the better. You have already changed the St. Francis community for the better. You have certainly changed my life in innumerable ways for the better.

Thank you again for allowing me the privilege of speaking today and for sharing your lives and hearts with me. Congratulations on your graduation today.