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An Open Letter to the Class of 2016

Dr. Randy Watts
As you well know, there is a lot to celebrate with your class. Yours is the largest senior class to graduate from Brookwood. You have impressive college admission stats. You have set academic and athletic records. You have left indelible marks on our memory of theatrical, debate, and musical performances.
As you well know, there is a lot to celebrate with your class. Yours is the largest senior class to graduate from Brookwood. You have impressive college admission stats. You have set academic and athletic records. You have left indelible marks on our memory of theatrical, debate, and musical performances.

You are on the eve of your graduation. While this is a time to savor, please allow me to fast forward through several of your next life steps….

You graduate from high school.
You begin college.
You make some new friends.
You declare a major.
You decide on a career.
You graduate from college.
You interview for your first real job.

When you enter the job market, you will be joined by an ever-increasing pool of fellow college graduates. You will have cultivated an impressive résumé, without doubt. However, you will also be competing against others with impressive résumés.

So, what will separate you from the others?

In a devotion a few months ago, I shared with you a story about a career fair that I attended. My role was to interview prospective teachers and determine who I might invite to Brookwood’s campus in the event that we had an opening. Of the fifty people that I interviewed in a two-hour span, only five stood out in my mind as potential candidates.

While they all had impressive résumés, only half of the candidates could shake my hand, look me in the eye, and introduce themselves at the same time. The pool was quickly narrowed from 50 to 25. Of the remaining 25, only 15 had dressed appropriately for the interview.

The final differentiating factor that narrowed the pool to five was passion. That is, the strongest candidates immediately showed that they loved their profession and wanted to lead, inspire, and work meaningfully with others.

In a 2013 survey of 500 senior-level executives, 92% of the executives reported that American workers are not as skilled as they need to be. The most commonly cited skill deficit was that of soft skills, such as communication, critical thinking, and collaboration. Some 44% of the executives named soft skills as most often deficient, followed by technical skills (22%) and leadership (14%). The executives commented that today’s young job applicants are challenged in the face-to-face interview as they have become accustomed to relating in an electronic world of social media, texts, and emojis.

These important social attributes -- soft skills -- are within your class. Consider Jack’s handshake, Thomas’ eye contact, Truman’s gentlemanly manners, Anne Scott’s philanthropic heart, Grace’s tenacity, Mary-Catherine’s poise, Hampton’s style, Caroline’s sincerity, Julia’s smile, Carson’s warmth, Levin’s presence, Stuart’s sense of humor, Sergio’s confidence, Jameson’s… well, whatever it is that he does, it is social. The list could continue, but the point remains that you have the important stuff that it requires to be successful in life.

As you leave Brookwood, remember that your education here was not simply about grades, SAT scores, and starting a résumé. Your experience here impacted you on the academic, athletic, social, and spiritual domains of your life. It is in the broader realm of education that you will have truly learned the skills that you need in your next major steps of life.

More than possessing knowledge, you have the skills and the mindset to make a meaningful impact in the lives of others; in doing so, you will be able to truly shape your life’s work. Over the next four years (and, please, only take four years to complete college!), take what you have learned here to grow into your whole self, develop those “soft skills,” and kindle the passion required to take young adulthood by storm.
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Located in Thomasville, GA, Brookwood School is a private school for grades JK-12. Students benefit from a challenging academic program, fine and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.