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An Open Letter to the High School Class of 2008–And Their Parents

It is that time of year when high school graduations are front and center.  These festive events
 are filled with congratulations, high fives and tears of joy.  It is my opinion that in many ways
the high school graduation is a rite of passage.  It signals that a young person has crossed into
adulthood.  The many years of late nights, writing papers and taking copious notes have all
paid off.  Students will have many fond memories of field trips, club affiliations and favorite
teachers.  Some students will graduate with multiple honors while others are happy just to
finish high school.  The common element among them all is that they are now members of
the class of 2008.  The lurking question in the minds of both graduates and parents alike is
what is the next step after high school?  Let’s take a quick tour of the available options.
First and foremost, we must make the assumption that new high school graduates will
want to take another step. It is my strong belief that doing nothing is not an alternative. 
Many high school graduates will enter college either during the summer or this fall and
some high school graduates already have earned some college credits. What is
important, I think, for students going to college is that they really want to go.  It sounds
simple, but it is true. I will say more on that later. The academic bar is raised and more
is expected of you. Late nights writing papers will turn into later nights. Deadlines for
receiving papers will be listed in the all-important syllabus that you will receive from your
teacher at the first class meeting.  There are some high school graduates who have trouble  
adjusting to college because they were accustomed to getting assignments done at the last
minute.  I speak from my experience both as a college student and as a college teacher that
this strategy does not work. You will only meet with frustration and failure. Going to college
for the right reasons is also extremely important.  Going to college to be with your friends, to
escape real work or because your parents “forced” you to go will probably not keep you in
college.  The rigors and demands of college are such that you will have to stay focused.
Increasingly, there are more students coming out of high school who want a position with
training.  The most important part of this option is that it is a job with training.  The training
element allows you to advance and to acquire new skills.  Going into a job without a
training component will give students little by way of accomplishment.  In fact, some
graduates will job hop until they find one with a training opportunity.  Many companies,
because of downsizing, are willing to invest in new high school graduates by training them
for a long-term commitment. There are some companies that will also pay for college
courses or provide tuition reimbursement. Either way gets your foot in the door and
keeps it in the door.  A lot of high school graduates want hands-on experience so
getting a position after high school is a great idea.  To some, sitting in a classroom
all day is boring so they would rather be on the job practicing their craft.
The armed services is still a viable option for many high school graduates.  Having
just celebrated Memorial Day, we realize the important role that the military has
played in shaping our country.  We probably take our service personnel for
granted because they have always been there for us.  Recent wars have given us
new perspectives on just how important our men and women in uniform are.  High
school graduates who are interested in the military should thoroughly research their
chosen branch.  As you might have heard there is a move afoot to close or consolidate
some of our bases. Still, it is a great career choice with wonderful opportunities.
Parents and love providers of new high school graduates need to give them support and
encouragement. Knowing that you are in their corner will give them a big boost. Don’t
worry that their success may not happen on your time table but it will happen, just on
their time table.
Dr. Ewers is the associate dean for student affairs and director of community partnerships at Miami University Middletown in Ohio. He is the author of Perspectives From Where I Sit: Essays on Education, Parenting and Teen Issues. He received the 2008 Drum Major Award, recognizing him as a “drum major” for peace, justice and equality, from the Ministerial Association of Middletown. 

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