To Students on Their First Day. 

Dear Students:
It’s that time of year again. You went shopping for school supplies, picked out the best backpack, had an alarm set, and woke up for your first day of school. It can be intimidating, boring, exciting, and even annoying. But hey, school is school. As someone who survived and made it to college, I want to give you all a piece of encouragement.

To my elementary students:

You guys rock! Enjoy recess while it lasts; those times will be full of making great friendships, expanding your imagination, and just having fun. I know sometimes it can seem hard to make friends, especially if you’re new to the school—as a kindergarten or as someone who transferred to a different school—but once you find those friends you click with, it’ll make everything feel better!
Make sure you are friendly with your teacher! They love to hear about things that you’ve done or things that you’re proud of. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help; teachers are there to teach! It would be a shame if we didn’t let them do their jobs, right? Elementary school is a great time to work on your listening skills. Because for the rest of your life you’re going to have to listen to people and when it’s appropriate, reply back to them. The earlier you understand this concept, the better off you’ll be! Trust me, I was always the kid whose report card said, “Emma is a blast to have in class, but she sometimes has troubles with talking too much.” I eventually buckled down, but I know your teachers and even parents would absolutely love it if you learned to be a great listener! Practice makes perfect! Just know that I’m living vicariously through you and some days I really do wish I could go back to elementary school. You’ll have a blast if you go in to school expecting it to be great!

To my middle schoolers:

Welcome to the most awkward stage of your life. Nah, I’m just kidding! (…mostly). Middle school is a great time not only to learn new things but also to learn more about yourself. You can really start to pursue things that you love in middle school. You like music? Join band or choir. You like to act? Do the musical or plays. You get to meet different teachers, all who are passionate about something. Find someone that you identify with. If you like science, have conversations with your science teacher about it! I know it sounds boring and maybe some of you may even say it’s dumb, but any chance to learn more, take it! I’m serious! Yes, teachers will give you information you need for tests to pass the class, but don’t be afraid to ask deeper questions. Middle school is a great time to start asking the question, “Why?”
Have friends who support you. No one will ever be happy with a friend that tears them down. It’s just not worth it to have negative influences in your life at such an integral part of your growing up. Have friends you can laugh with. Ones you can talk about life with. Ones you can study with. And it’s more than okay if those aren’t all the same people! Don’t always stick to the confines of group. Open your eyes to all the other people who are searching for friendship too! Sometimes they can be the best of friends.
Middle school may be more of a challenge than elementary but I have no doubt that if you really concentrate and believe, you can do it!

To my high schoolers:

Go ahead, give yourself a pat on the back—regardless of whether you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior—give yourself a pat on the back. While I am very proud of my elementary students and middle schoolers, I am incredibly proud of you.
All of you got up and went into your high school today. Some of you were really dreading it, trust me, I know. Some of you were really excited, again trust me, I know. But some of you thought you couldn’t. You didn’t think you could do it today. This is why I’m asking you to give yourself a pat on the back. Because you did it. This is a huge accomplishment and most of you probably don’t even realize why. Think of all the years you’ve made it through. Think of how over the years your enthusiasm for school has decreased. Yet you are here today, a high schooler. You are an example—a role model—for all the younger students. They want to be you when they get older. Just remember that. When times get tough, classes get hard, friends get mad, there’s a little kid out there who sees you and aspires to be you. And at one moment in time, you were that little kid.
Life it too short to waste it on friends who don’t believe in you or support you. When I was in high school, I changed the friends I hung out with probably 10 times, and you know what? That’s okay! Because in the end, I found an amazing friend who stuck by me through everything, the thick and the thin. If you’re not a huge social person, then don’t focus on that. You don’t have to party or spend all your time outside of school with people. I personally never went to parties, but that’s mostly because I heard they were lame and they got busted a lot. If you only have one friend, don’t look at the people with 20 and ask yourself what you did wrong. You didn’t do anything wrong! You are just doing what’s best for you. You do you.
If academics is all you think about, let me offer this piece of advice to you. Try breathing every once and a while. Come up for air, relax, and breathe. Don’t work yourself to death, you’ve got a whole lifetime ahead of you to do that. Befriend a teacher or two. Someone who can keep you accountable, who can encourage you, talk to you. It’s the best decision I ever made. Those teachers know who they are, and they know the impact they’ve left on my life. They want to run this race called life with you—at least for the four years you’re with them. They want to see you succeed, to push you, to expand your knowledge. Don’t lose the imagination that you used when you had recess in elementary school. Tap into that little kid you were and use it as motivation and inspiration for the future. More than anything, stay true to yourself.

So students, here’s to a new year. To friends, to homework, and to your amazing teachers. May you go forth and conquer! I’ll be praying for you all, if you need the encouragement, I’m here, and please come back to these words when you feel discouraged. People do care. I, your teachers, and your parents/family want the absolute best for you. Go make this school year great!

Sincerely,

Your college friend, Emma.

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