Congratulations, you survived high school. The parental leash is unhooked. The popularity contest is over. The drama of your teenage years is nearly dead. Everything that seemed to be at the center of your universe for the last four years is evaporating. Scary, right? Welcome to college.

More importantly, welcome to the University of Oregon. You’re probably asking yourself: Is this where I belong? (Without a doubt.) Will I fit in? (You bet.) Is it worth it? (Definitely.) You’re about to join the ranks of some of the most important change-makers in American — and world — history on one of the most accepting campuses in the country.

We are a school that truly embodies the spirit of our state. Just like the pioneers who came west looking for the edge of the world, we find new ways to succeed and prosper. We aren’t afraid to be different. We embrace that. It sets us apart.

Take our game-changing football team for example. Take Bill Bowerman, the track coach who molded athletes — and track shoes with his wife’s waffle iron, for example. How about Rodger Fidler? This visionary alum may have invented the iPad — way back in 1994.

Then there is my personal hero. He probably walked faster than I run. “Pre wasn’t a runner. He was a rebel who just happened to run,” a Nike commercial says of epic distance runner Steve Prefontaine. No matter your passion, Pre’s guts to move quicker and risk it all in pursuit of the best can serve as an inspiration. Channel the passion of your predecessors.

Finally: Have fun. You’ll have your share of ups and downs in college but it will be, by far, the most important experience of your life. It’s also the most fun. Don’t forget it.

At the Emerald, we’ll be here to give advice when you need a push. We look forward to sharing so many milestones with you. We’re rooting for you!

You’re here to do amazing things. Grow. Dazzle us all … and then you can turn, show your cheeks, and laugh. It’s a great feeling. But if you don’t take advantage of all you have going then … I feel sorry for you.

Tear up the track. Invent the next iPad. Find a new use for a kitchen appliance. It’s in your hands. Now, get out there and shake things up!

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