Why It’s OK My Daughter Received No Awards at Her 8th Grade Graduation

It’s the 8th grade graduation at Higgins Middle School in Peabody, Massachusetts. In the midst of announcements recognizing junior honor society members, scholarship recipients, superlative winners and top students in records of attendance and community service, please let me introduce you to an academically average and otherwise ordinary student: my daughter, Mandy. Her name won’t be announced for any awards today. She sits among a large sea of faces in the letter “M” section of the incoming freshman high school class of 2019. 

To many, the most outstanding thing about Mandy is that she’s “the kid with the cane” the only student out of 450 in the 8th grade graduating class who uses a long white cane for safe independent travel.

Mandy at her 8th grade graduation, smiling and wearing a colorful dress.

Mandy isn’t on the president’s list.

She isn’t a member of the student council.

She doesn’t volunteer as a peer mentor or tutor.

She isn’t in the band or on a sports team. 

She doesn’t even have perfect attendance with four eye disease specialists, appointments inevitably get scheduled during school hours. 

Mandy’s artwork doesn’t hang from the school corridor walls, though her boundless imagination colors everything she touches.

She doesn’t formally cheer at athletic events, but she’s the most lively cheerleader of American history her 8th grade social studies teacher has ever seen.

Mandy isn’t on record as one who “volunteered the most hours at the local food pantry.” Her community service includes encouraging a new shy classmate and consoling a much younger bus mate who was temporarily trapped in a damaged seatbelt.

Her exemplary performance comes not in straight A’s, but in achieving just one semester of honor roll while juggling lessons in Braille, assistive technology and orientation and mobility.

Her superb memory doesn’t produce perfect test scores, but instead inspires choosing a year-end gift for a favorite teacher based on an offhand remark made several months earlier, at the start of the school year.

She’s a member of the honor society for perseverance.

She earns a 4.0 in enthusiasm.

Her superlative is most inquisitive.

Her biggest achievement is adaptability.

She’s a recipient of scholarships for courage and kindness. 

Mandy’s strength comes out of her weakness and her assets are a direct result of her limitations. My daughter is daily learning to make advantage out of disadvantage.

 It’s a beautiful adventure to witness this miracle in mediocrity.

Mandy smiling in between her parents.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Blindness

The Side of Infertility That’s Still Very Much Taboo

Infertility isn’t glamorous. It isn’t always inspirational quotes and images of the ocean on tumblr. It isn’t always holding hands in waiting rooms and wishing the people you’ve met along the way, “Good luck.” There’s a side of infertility that’s becoming more widely acknowledged in our society, but is still very much taboo. It’s the [...]

Johnny Depp Dons Jack Sparrow Costume to Visit Kids in the Hospital

Johnny Depp might be pretty busy filming the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie in Australia, but he took some time to surprise kids at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in his full Jack Sparrow costume, Nine News Brisbane reported. Johnny Depp takes time out from filming to visit sick kids in hospital. @sophie_walsh9 http://t.co/fOmlGvYHDg #9News pic.twitter.com/JUEpG8dRYw [...]

A Guide for Parents Who Are New to the NICU

Dear New NICU Parents, Welcome! Congratulations on your amazing gift. I know you’d much rather be in your own room snuggling your baby on your chest, but alas, life has brought you here. Please know you’re not alone on this journey. This is your Day 1. Breathe. You’ll undergo orientation for everything that’s happening — [...]

What You Can Tell From the Contents of Our Hospital Bag

It’s been said you can tell a lot about a person from the contents of their bag. I wonder what people would think of ours. It may seem strange I’m writing about a bag. After all, it’s nothing more than pieces of material that carry things from point A to B. But when people pass [...]