Commentary – Feeling good about the kids

Joe McWilliams

One of the more encouraging assignments in a reporter’s yearly round of events is the high school graduation.
This normally rowdy rabble, full of manic energy, mischief, weird fashion ideas and with a set of priorities and interests bewildering to anyone over the age of 40, are transformed into something completely different.
I walk past the high school grounds several times a week. This occasionally involves running the gauntlet of students out on their lunch break. The trail of discarded gigantic sugary drink containers and other ‘food’ wrappers and containers between the high school and a certain handy convenience store does not give a person a good feeling about the future of humankind.
I admit it’s a limited set of data. But add it to the language you hear, the blue jeans that are more rip than fabric, the obvious ‘cliqueiness’ and a dozen other things, and you start wondering what the world is coming to.
Not only that, probably some of them don’t even know what a community newspaper is!
But then you attend a graduation ceremony. The girls all look beautiful. The boys are very handsome. They are mostly happy and proud. They’ve gotten through a dozen or 13 years of all sorts of challenges – academic, social and other – and have earned their diplomas.
There’s a dignity and elegance about it that is very little in evidence in normal daily circumstances. I always come away feeling pretty good about things in general and 18-year-old kids in particular. Not to mention with a revived appreciation for the people whose very challenging job it is to spend their days 10 months of the year doing something akin to herding cats.
Another bonus; you get to hear about the plans of many of the kids for further study, for travel, for exploration, investigation and good old-fashioned work.
It’s actually surprising [maybe only to me!] to hear how many graduates have solid post-
secondary and career plans. If I recall correctly, I was firmly in the ‘none of the above’ category when it came to responsible, approved, post high school options. A ‘career path’ at that point sounded more like a life sentence than a good opportunity. I could not relate at all to those members of my class who had it all mapped out.
Or thought they did! All I wanted was to get free of school and charge off on some sort of grand adventure.
Probably there was a sprinkling of that same sort of outlook among last week’s class of 81 students graduating from Roland Michener School in Slave Lake. Likely there’s a fledgling world traveler or two hidden somewhere in the crowd, perhaps unaware of it yet. There will also be several who will go straight into the workforce; some will find they have a knack for business and work their way into self-employment.
Others will work for a while in the oilfield or the forest products industry or the retail jobs and realize that if they have to work anyway, they might as well apprentice and get a trade out of the deal. Some, of course, already started their apprenticeships while in high school, through the excellent Registered Apprenticeship Program.
Some are on a fast-track to academia and whatever happens on the other side of four or six or eight years of study. A couple want to be doctors. Bravo!
Others? Scientists, engineers. It’s all out there for the taking!

Share this post