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

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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.
Originally published: July 8, 2015
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