The end of this school year marks the beginning of a new phase in your life. You've made it this far, but you've still got a long way to go.

You may or may not have been one of the top achievers -- those with the gold and silver flair on their caps and gowns at graduation. They were the ones who were introduced first, who spoke at the podium and were applauded.

Chances are, you stood in line to walk the stage and they read your name with a handshake.

Your high school commencement may have been the first time you truly saw the reality of your achievements, compared with those of your peers. You may have seen that those at the top of your class had the same opportunities as you, but somehow did "better." They should be congratulated and looked up to for one final lesson: What you accomplish is up to you.

There is no reason for ambivalence. From the top of the class to the bottom, you're all graduates.

Take heart in the congratulations from your parents, family members, friends and mentors. A high school diploma is not an exclusive reward, but one that signifies real effort. You worked hard. You should be proud.

But what is your vision for the future? What is your vision of you?

To look ahead, you must look inside, as you can't chart the future without knowing yourself.

Such self-awareness comes by considering your place among others.

Though you are now an adult, you can't hide your naivet -- a reality your classmates share.

Thus, as the years pass, you will all become more sophisticated people, and "successful" to varying degrees, no matter how you walked the stage. That's because knowledge and hard work will continue to set you apart.

But there are other keys to success that are not so evident on the commencement stage: Courage, humility, honesty and compassion are among some words used to describe those qualities. Accomplishing such traits requires constant reflection, which will focus your vision and enable you to find your life's passion.

Whether you earned top honors or barely squeaked by, the future is yours -- to win or lose.

If you haven't already figured it out, find out what inspires you. Put all of your hard work and the best of your character into it, and you will succeed.

As new high school graduates, time is on your side, as you will eventually see when you reach other milestones in life.

Good luck.