By: Ashley Song, immediate past governor, Kentucky-Tennessee District

I look back at high school with fondness, a sense of nostalgia for the laughter, tears, celebrations and consolations that occurred within those halls. I would’ve done short of anything to have known my senior year would end so abruptlyI would have savored those last few weeks of school with love and appreciation for all my peers and my teachers.  

I am certain I made lifelong friends and memories throughout my high school career; I know I’ve grown and evolved into a young woman that my younger self would be proud of. But I’ve also had struggles and bouts of insecurity and uncertainty. High school was a cycle of doubt, need, ambition and acceptance, and just as I found clarity about who I am, it was over.  

The past four years have been transformational and impactful. As a graduating senior, I’ve had to learn some things the hard way, and I hope the following advice will benefit you as you navigate your education and the memories stemming from it. 

Be gracious. There is someone behind the school lunches, the clean classrooms, the appealing landscape of your school; the curated lesson plans, spotlessPowerPoints, thoughtful discussions; and the new school supplies, the trendy wardrobe and the positive home environment. It takes a village to raise a child; recognize that village and treat them with the same respect and appreciation they’ve shown you. Sharing gratitude can make you a happier person. It takes a few seconds to say “thank you” to a staff memberteacher or parent, but it shows infinite gratitude that will mold you into a better person and manifest better relationships.

Work hard. I once read a quote online about hard work: how, even if your family, partner, friends, etc. betray you, your education never will. That quote has stuck with me. One of the things we have the greatest control over, without even knowing it, is what we give real estate to in our brain. Let it be education and inspiration, ideas and concepts. Even if you exhaust the years of book-smart education, you will never lose the critical thinking and reasoning skills that are beneficial to every field imaginable. We are blessed with a public education system that is free and accessible, a privilege not everyone in the world is fortunate to have. Take advantage of it. 

Be kindAs Key Clubbers, we pledge to live by the Golden Rule, but in the rush of things, we can forget the necessity of being kind. Teenagers are notoriously moody, sleep-deprived and overwhelmed. This isn’t your fault — it’s almost a rite of passage. Make an effort to respond to you and your peers’ bad days with forgiveness and compassion. Everyone has a shortage of kindness in their lives. So much in our world is flawed that we forget the value of being good and doing good. View those around you as a sum of their parts; we are figuring it out as we go along. 

Find a hobby and make a passion out of it. The routine of high school is inherently mundane, but discovering and enriching your life with an interest, craft or talent makes all the difference. Find something. For some, it may be a sport, but for me (and I believe some of you), it was service leadership. I entered a Key Club meeting as a sophomore looking for a hobby, and I left with a passion for community service. This activity shaped my high school career and brought me friends and experiences from across the nation. I still smile thinking back on some Key Club memories. It truly made my high school years one-of-a-kind. It was my something. Go find your something. 

Make mistakes. While you can, make a lot of them. Try new hobbies and activitiesEven if you’re bad at them, you’ll know a little bit more than you did before. In a few years, you will no longer have the security net of your parents or the excuse of being a young/new to the field. More importantly, however, learn from your mistakes. You learn more from mistakes than you do from successes. View each mishap as a learning experience, budon‘t limit this mentality to solely yourself — learn from the mistakes of others, too.

You are growing up in an unprecedented time. Allow yourself the freedom to adapt and change. One day, these will be stories to share with your children and your grandchildren, about how a pandemic made your childhood one of meaning and memories. You will be living history.  

Warm regards,  

Ashley Song 

Immediate Past Governor, Kentucky-Tennessee District