For those who attend honors day events and graduation ceremonies every year, it gets pretty humdrum. (I know, because I live with one of those people.) Same awards, same speeches. Yadda, yadda.

Still, when our high school honors night was recently held with little fanfare, I was surprised and perhaps a little miffed. Shouldn’t events like this be announced publicly? When I needed to confirm what time the event was to be held, it wasn’t on the school website, it wasn’t on the electronic board in front of the high school, and it wasn’t in the news.

Pomp and Circumstance
Click to hear Pomp and Circumstance, traditional music at American graduation ceremonies since 1905.

These awards are designed to acknowledge accomplishments and reward hard work. Some students naturally strive for awards. Others benefit from the example being set, from the peer pressure. The awards communicate the idea that academic achievement is valuable. I try to instill this belief in my own children, but I know that at this point in their lives they are far more susceptible to the message when it comes from others.

And the honors event confirmed this value. As the principal announced the scholarships and awards earned by the young men and women who are graduating, it was very clear that there is an intellectual and economic advantage to being at the top of your class. One young woman was awarded $65,000 in scholarship money from our local university. When you don’t promote such awards, it doesn’t seem like an equal opportunity proposition, does it?

Organizations that provide local scholarships also deserve more public recognition. Eight local awards were presented by representatives of a variety of organizations, including an international manufacturing company, a service club, the Lions Club, our education association, and a medical network. We are so fortunate to have their generous support.

Another part of the program was teachers presenting awards to the best students in all classes, freshmen through seniors. As they introduced these students, it was so clear that our teachers are devoted to their students and that they are helping lay the foundations of careers and lifelong interests.

Think back to your high school days. Remember being steered in the right or the wrong directions? Do you know someone who took an important step because of a suggestion by a teacher or counselor? My own dad expected to go straight from high school working as a draftsman for one of the Detroit automakers. When a school counselor suggested he apply for a college scholarship, he took the bait and went on to become an industrial engineer.

Encouragement is an incredible force in our lives. When traditions like honors night and graduation become boring, uncelebrated routines, we do these young women and men a disservice. Put yourself in the shoes of the individuals who are at the center of these events. These are—or can be—important moments that help motivate students. They can provide us with real direction and long term benefits. Phenomenal reasons for fanfare and celebration!