• 88°

DR. MARK PORTERIE — High hopes & best wishes to the Class of 2021

To the Memorial High School Class of 2021! I have come to give you your final assignment for the 2020-21 school year. If you complete the assignment, you will become the leaders and agents of change we all know you can be.

As you come to the conclusion of your grade school years, I hope that you have a sense of pride. You have experienced many ‘firsts,’ including being the first to graduate from your own stadium in your own city of Port Arthur.

As we wrap up the school year that ended Friday, May 28, we not only look back with a sense of fulfillment for what we all have accomplished in a time of our greatest adversity, but we must also look to the future with excitement and hope.

Each of you should feel a sense of gratitude and a little amazement. You should also feel a sense of responsibility to make this world a little bit better.

On Tuesday, March 16, 2020, PAISD decided to close the doors to our educational buildings. That decision changed your lives forever. You were unable to complete your junior year, and the beginning of your senior year was met with uncertainty as to what would happen from day to day. And because of it, you are students who have been strengthened to meet and overcome challenges like never before.

Don’t ever lose that sense of overcoming.

You had to understand how to pivot from the way you were taught all of your lives, in-person, to learning how to receive instruction via a computer screen. The Class of 2021 had to understand that high-fiving friends and hugging grandparents could be fatal.

You became accustomed to wearing a face covering every time you interacted with others, and as a result, you have learned at an early age, how tenuous and fragile our lives are.

You were expected to be able to change your trajectory without being overcome by anxiety. Life changes should not cause you to quit. Disrupted routines and new ways of spending quality time with family has become a part of your lives.

You learned to communicate with others, both virtually and in-person, and completed assignments utilizing non-traditional approaches. You are a survivor, you are a conqueror and YOU ARE Undefeated!

This year has been full of grief and loss. As students who earned the right to be Seniors after years of struggle, you were unable to do some of the things you dreamed about since grade school. Your entire outlook on the world changed overnight. But the good news is that you overcame.

You were able to meet and overcome adversities that had not been experienced in our country in over a century. So, what does that say about each of you? It says that you are built for success.

Other challenges that would have seemed huge during normal circumstances cannot equate to the challenges that you have faced in this 2020-21 school year. You have the tools necessary to make your lives meaningful and make a difference in our world because you are here.

Class of 2021, I ask you to take care of your mental health. Please understand that mental health does not mean you are “crazy” but quite the contrary. It means that we are all vulnerable.

My hope for you is that you are able to change this world for the better. You have experienced a world that has been under fire in race relations, bigotry and hatred. You have seen African American men and women killed because of the color of their skin and Latino children placed in cages in a country whose anthem is “Land of the Free.”

You have been faced with the reality that some of the people we thought were our so-called friends do not believe in equality. However, despite all of that, you still have WON the war — because you survived!!

The expectation now is that because of your experiences, you have the ability to change our world for the better. You must become the change agent for people who don’t know right from wrong. You have to understand what the true meaning of “Good Trouble” is.

Your final assignment is to live true to the words found in Micah 6:8 “SEEK JUSTICE. LOVE MERCY. WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD.” The due date for your assignment will be that glorious day when we must all transcend to the other side of life. May your ending read: “A life well lived.”

Congratulations!

Dr. Mark Porterie is superintendent of schools for the Port Arthur Independent School District. He can be reached at mporterie@paisd.org.