Don’t take graduation for granted


A week from now, our local schools will be holding graduations, and the parents will be experiencing what I already did over the weekend.

You see, Carroll County Schools, in Virginia, had fewer snow days than expected this year, so the high school had its ceremony this past Saturday.

As a journalist and photographer, I have been to numerous graduations over the past two decades. However, Sarah is my only child, so this was my first and only time going through the emotional part of the tradition.

Oddly enough, most of the time it was exactly the same as what I’m used to. Sweating, squinting into the bright sun, wondering why there were four songs holding us hostage.

The seniors who speak at graduation always spend a long time agonizing over what to say, but the truth is that the kids in the robes are too caught up in the moment to pay attention to what is said.

Even seeing my daughter walk across the stage and get her diploma felt a little ho-hum. Sarah has always been a great student; she’s in the National Honor Society, of course she’s going to get a diploma.

After all the photos were done (and in my case that was more than 1,200 shots), I got in my car to head home while Sarah went to a relative’s birthday party.

Feeling the blessed A/C blow across my face, driving back down U.S. 52, all the emotion of the moment finally caught up with me. I’m fortunate I didn’t go sailing right off the side of Fancy Gap Mountain.

Later that evening, while looking over the photos with my daughter, I thought I would dispense a little advice.

Here it is: don’t overlook this moment.

It is so easy to think like I did the moment Sarah was walking across the stage.

So what if your parents have beaten it into your head that you will graduate high school since you were in preschool? Be proud of this accomplishment.

I made good grades back in school myself and was in the National Honor Society, too. Sarah’s mother and I have always emphasized getting a good education, but that doesn’t make what she’s done any less remarkable, and other seniors and parents should feel the same way.

Back in my day, many students didn’t bother to graduate. There were factory jobs ready to hire them as soon as they got a driver’s license. Several of my own cousins dropped out at 16.

I look back at my Gentry Middle School yearbook, and there are 300 or more kids in my grade, yet we only graduated 164.

While a handful of students counted down the days until they were 16 so they could drop out, lots of other kids fell along the way just because of circumstances. Teen pregnancies, tragic accidents that either killed or severely wounded students. Kids who dropped out because of problems at home like taking care of an ailing family member, or to replace the income of a father who died.

I look at our community and see the tragic deaths of students like Jacob Pettitt, Gage Edwards, Taylor Thompson and Megan Davis, the cancer battle of Taylor Bouma and the loss of a parent like soccer standout Antonio Mata Jr.

Life can throw so much at us. Like the old saying, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

So when graduation comes around next week, seniors and parents should take pride in the moment because nothing is guaranteed.

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