It all begins with a of self-discovery, challenges and successes...Thousands of teens prepare to walk onto a stage, shake a hand and get that much-awaited certificate. That diploma marks thirteen-plus years of education. Congratulations, Class of 2014 for a well-deserved job. Your Elementary and Secondary education are complete, but what lies ahead?

Where will the next part of your journey take you? You are at a crossroad: what path will you choose? The famous American poet Robert Frost would encourage you to take "The Road Not Taken" and challenge yourself, face your fears, and overcome difficult obstacles.

Before you begin your journey, there are some great literary authors that have left you with some thought-provoking books and words of wisdom. Below are the top five books/stories that speak to where you may be in life and who you may become. Graduates, as you get ready to walk across that stage that you have so longingly waited to cross, take words of wisdom from some of the most beloved books of youth.

1. Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Suess

From this children's classic we learn that all journeys face perils. Seuss reminds us of good and bad times, but the message is strong... life may be a “Great Balancing Act,” but through it all “there's fun to be done.'"— Don't take life so seriously, Graduates...Find the joy and fun in life.

2. Curious George, Curious You: On Your Way! by H. A. Rey

You didn't think you'd get through this list without running into that beloved little monkey, did you? Curious You: On Your Way! is the perfect sendoff for anyone entering a new phase of life. In this book good ol’ George gives us words of congratulations and encouragement all while reminding us that there is still a lot to do, see and don't forget to dream! Dream big, Class of 2014, there is a world that is waiting to see all that you can do!

3. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

"Once there was a tree . . . and she loved a little boy." A beautiful story of growth, love and maturity, The Giving Tree gives all she has because she loves the little boy. It is in the boy's old age that he returns to tree—a stump now—and the tree is sad because she has nothing else to give...It is then that the hunkered old man asks her if he could just sit and rest. Graduates, may you remember to accept, to give, and most importantly to love...


4. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse 

A book that inspired my own heart... Siddhartha is the story of a boy in search of the truth and meaning of life. The young man goes on a journey searching for who he is. Hesse beautifully highlights personal growth through experiences which leads to understanding the journey of life.

High school students may be able to relate to Siddhartha in the story as they think about graduating and moving away from home in the near future. It is common for students to say that they "hope to find themselves" while away at college. Siddhartha is a story entirely about a person finding himself. 

 5. Dr. Heidegger's Experiment by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The meaning behind this story has stuck with me personally since my junior year in high school. Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment is not a book, but rather a deeply-written short story. Dr. Heidegger, invited four elderly friends to participate in his experiment. He showed them a rose that he claimed was fifty-five years old. He produced a vase that contained water from the legendary Fountain of Youth and placed the old rose in the magical water. Before their eyes, the rose bloomed.  

Dr. Heidegger's friends became excited and wanted to drink the water for themselves. They hoped it would restore their youth and give them an opportunity to live their life free from the past mistakes they made. As Heidegger watched, they greedily drank the water. With their youth restored, they began acting as foolishly as they did in their youth. You see, they went back into their youth, but didn't take any of the knowledge and wisdom with them. So under the same time and circumstances, they behaved the same. Unfortunately, the transformation did not last, and the friends reverted back to their original age.

Graduates, you will undoubtedly make mistakes and foolish decisions…we all do. But if there is one piece of advice to leave you with it is this...Don't beat yourself up when you fall short, fail at something, or make a mistake. As this short story reminds us, if put in the same place at the same time with the same information, you would probably make the same mistake again. What is more important is that we learn from our mistakes and grow wiser so that we don't repeat it twice.

The five big takeaways from these classics...

  1. Have fun!
  2. Dream big!
  3. Give and love.
  4. Learn from life experiences.
  5. Make good decisions, but don't regret what's in the past. Learn from it and move on...

So Graduates, as "Pomp and Circumstance"—also known as "The Graduation March"—echoes in the background of your big day, reflect back on your journey and dream about the journey to come. May you choose “The Road Not Taken" because "the one less traveled by" will make "all the difference." Good luck and best wishes, Class of 2014.

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