Jan Rueschhoff, Bryan Collegiate High School teacher and 23-year veteran of the U.S. Army, had two words of advice at the high school’s commencement ceremony Friday: Go fail.
“Two words, six simple letters, which I think are so incredibly important to anyone’s journey,” he said. “Let them be your rallying cry. Let them carry you to your distant destination in life. Let them energize you when you see things going astray. … See, in our society we too often confuse failing with failure, and they’re completely opposite. It is through failing that you arrive at success.”
Although most people refer to these ceremonies as graduations, Rueschhoff said, the other name is commencement, meaning a beginning.
“So tonight, we are not really here to celebrate — although we will — the end of your high school years. Really, what we are doing is we are celebrating your departure as you get ready to sail across the oceans of life ahead,” he said. “Essentially, we are telling you ‘Bon voyage.’ ”
Senior Class President Macy Boegner noted that new beginning as she welcomed the crowd to the ceremony at Rudder Auditorium on the Texas A&M campus.
Bryan Collegiate changes people, she said, noting a few years ago she would never have even considered stepping up to the podium and giving a speech.
“This school helped me and countless others break out of their shells and reach their full potential,” she said. “This school isn’t here for us to just earn our credits, fill the attendance quota and leave. That would be too easy. The teachers and staff have ensured that we work on our personal growth as much as our grades.”
The graduates amassed a collective total of 4,100 college credit hours with an average of 49 credits per student. They notched more than 205 college acceptances, received almost $1.7 million in grants and scholarships and completed more than 16,000 hours of community service.
For the rest of their lives, the students of the class of 2019 are linked by Friday’s graduation, the school’s valedictorian Vivian Didsbury said.
“Take a moment to feel this minute,” she said, noting Bryan Collegiate sets itself apart not just because of its programs, but because of its community created by the faculty, staff and students. “There’s a room in my heart that will forever hold the memories I’ve made here.”
The journey after high school will not always be easy, Rueschhoff told the graduates, adding there will be difficulty, challenges and failing along the way as they chase their goals.
“There will be times when the waves will be high, the currents will be strong, the winds will be fierce, the skies will be dark,” he said. “It will be the fear of failing that will tempt you to turn back to that safe harbor. It will be the fear of failing that will turn you away from your destination. It will be the fear of failing that will hinder you from reaching your goals, your dreams and the person you’re meant to be. Don’t turn back. Don’t turn back. Go fail.”
When the storms “shred your sales,” “snap your mast in two” and “take you way off your course,” he said, patch up the sails, lash up the mast, shoot a new azimuth and fail again and again and again until those failings lead to success.
“Just keep plotting forward to reach those goals and dreams. Keep moving forward and become the person you are meant to be,” he said. “Go fail.”
Rueschhoff ended his speech the same way he ends his classes, with a Korean phrase literally translated to “If you do it, it will be.”