My niece graduated from the coolest magnet school ever last week.

It’s a School of the Arts for sixth through twelfth grade that teaches core academics as well as “fostering excellence in the visual and performing arts.”  As a magnet school, all of the students enroll through a lottery application system with over 2,000 youth applying for open positions yearly. This academic year had a total enrollment of 1,655 students so slots at the school are highly prized. Since each student has chosen to be part of the community they have a vested interest in their school’s success.  I think that kind of commitment makes a big difference in a middle and high school.

Each student chooses an area of concentration from among the following: band, chorus, strings, guitar, piano, dance, theatre, creative writing, digital media, game art/design, and visual arts/photography.  I mean, just look at that list…holy cow!

I wish there had been a school like this around when I was her age, a place where students interested in the arts could learn.  Someplace that would not only care about math and science education, but would also help develop my creativity and hone my skills as a writer.  What an incredible opportunity that would have been.

So anyway, the graduation ceremony was awesome.  It’s the first (well, the only) high school graduation I’ve attended where the valedictorian’s speech was a huge highlight.  I mean, the whole speech was fantastic, celebrating the school’s culture of acceptance — but when he pulled out a ukulele (at least that’s what it looked like from our seats) and serenaded the class with an original song I was done.  D.O.N.E.  It was fabulous.

I loved the fact that everyone there was accepted for who they are.  Tolerance, diversity, and a respect for individual differences are core values in their school culture, and you can sense it among the students.  I hope our kids find something similar when they head off to high school.

So enough gushing.  (Wait, one more.  WHY, OH WHY wasn’t there a school like this when I was a kid?!)

Okay, now, enough gushing.

BrightSide and I were sitting there watching my niece with her graduating class when I was suddenly overcome with a time warp kind of feeling.  I could picture her through the years, clear as day…running around on her toddler legs, nose buried in a book as a kid, when she moved into her teens and began wearing makeup…

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I turned to BrightSide feeling slightly swept away and said, “Man!  We held her when she was baptized.”  And then he thanked me for making him feel old, but whatever.  We are old, and I can’t believe our sweet baby niece has grown up and is moving on.

And just when I’d finally gotten hold of myself, Bear decided to do this.

It'll be here before we know it.

It’ll be here before we know it.