Twenty years ago this month, I was graduating high school.
I’m sure for some of you, that makes me a baby. For the high schoolers who’ve been interning in our newsroom and at least a couple of our staffers, I’m pretty sure that makes me ancient.
In any case, donning my black gown and cap, I walked across a stage at the arena in Gwinnett County. I was headed to Berry College after the summer but otherwise didn’t know what came next.
I spent the summer with my friends, and in my down time I tried to research — on the 2002-era internet — what it would be like at Berry.
Much has changed since then, obviously.
But there are still a few senior year traditions that hang around.
Senior year prom, for example. I hear promgoers still gather somewhere to get that classic group shot on somebody’s staircase. In my day, that was done with a camera, and then you had to get the film developed to see if everyone was smiling in their fancy suits and dresses. Now, the parents all snap those on the smart phones, of course.
We also had professional photos made at prom. I imagine a photo booth and phone may do the trick in 2022, but my professional photo hangs on a wall in my house. Two days after prom, I finally decided to give that prom date a shot and we started dating, or “going out” as we said in those days. So, that marks 20 years with my husband, too. We got married about five years after senior prom.
A more serious tradition is the college visit. While you can research a lot online these days, there’s no substitute for being on campus. Of course, in my case that campus was Berry. And if you’ve ever been to Berry’s campus, you know there is no substitute. It’s the largest in the world, and it’s beautiful.
My college visit sealed the deal. It was the only college I applied to, and I was pretty confident I’d be accepted. Other classmates weren’t as sure.
That uncertainty is still unnerving, but getting into your No. 1 pick is tougher these days, depending on the school.
Of course, once you actually head off to said college, there’s the age-old tradition of parental worry. Will she make good choices out on her own? Will he get his homework done? Will she find a good group of friends? Will he stay out of trouble?
These days, a few young and stupid bad choices can follow you well beyond the dorm room via social media.
Kids have their own worries, too, of course. One of the big ones is still fitting in. That can be tough in high school, and college offers something of a do-over. Will you be the same person you were in high school? Will you be able to make friends? Will you get along with your room mate?
Some of the local high school students I’ve met seem way more confident and put-together than I was at that age. I bet they’re all still a bit nervous at the new experiences coming their way.
For most, they will make friends, they will have at least a couple of pretty tough college courses and they’ll do a lot of growing up along the way.
Looking back 20 years later, it was all a special time. The freedom of that age and the friendships we had never quite look the same again. That said, I won’t call it the good ol’ days. I might be living those now.
Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a North Hall resident.