By: Kevin Sanford, SMS Sibling
My sister, Jenavieve (Jena), 20, graduated this Spring with an Early Childhood Development Advanced Certification in a virtual graduation ceremony from a local community college. Jena was diagnosed with SMS at 9 years old. She has had challenges with academics, but has always shown an amazing work ethic and determination to accomplish what she puts her mind to. After volunteering at preschools during high school, she really wanted to try to earn this certification. With the help of a full time tutor, Jena earned 28 credits this past year and did what she set out to do. Here is my letter to her on her graduation day:
Congratulations on graduating from community college with an Early Childhood Development Advanced Certification! Years of hard work, dedication, and perseverance have earned you this amazing achievement. I am so proud of you and want to remind you that it is okay to be proud of yourself as well.
I know that your path has never been easy, and quite often you may have wanted to give up but you never did. You were okay with taking the road less traveled. Early on, you attended a “one room schoolhouse” where you not only learned academically but you grew in character and responsibility. You were then homeschooled through high school where you had the time to volunteer weekly and discover your interests and passions, while you shared your many gifts with others.
When school was difficult, you persevered.
When social events gave you anxiety, you walked in every time with a smile.
When health issues arose, you were brave and showed your inner strength.
All of the challenges that you have conquered and overcome inspire me. Your innate ability to care for others, your exuberant passion to share your interests with others, your determination to always accomplish your goal no matter what it takes – these are just a few of the many qualities you hold that make me want to be a better person every single day.
We often shared different interests and have very different personalities, but I want you to know that I am so thankful for this. While it has often been the furthest thing from easy, you have pushed me to be more patient, caring, tolerant, and thankful. I am not who I am today without you. My greatest self is only built on the foundation that you helped create.
As you continue on your journey through life, here’s some advice:
- Don’t give up when things are hard at first. Cherish the journey and the hard days because nobody will be able to appreciate the accomplishment as much as yourself.
- Be proud of who you are, and don’t apologize for being uniquely you.
- Give to others because it is the right thing to do.
- Continue to take time to slow down and enjoy the little things.
- Most importantly, take time to love yourself and allow yourself to grow every day.
Thank you for always reminding me of what is important in life. You will never know how much I love you and everything about you, but hopefully this letter is a start.
You inspire me to fight on my hard days, share the joy on good days, and be thankful every day.
Congratulations Jena! I cannot wait to see where your journey takes you next.
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