It's that time of year again when high school seniors march across graduation stages to take their first steps into a new phase of life.
Many parents and grandparents greet this occasion with tears and worry, and there are many things to worry about in today's world. A shaky economy makes finding a job tougher and rising costs make college and technical school more expensive. It is increasingly difficult to earn a living wage on just a high school diploma alone; often a technical school or college education is required.
The thousands of graduates across Northeast Georgia join millions across the country in competing for jobs and college opportunities. According to a report earlier this year from Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, this spring's graduating class of students in public and private schools will be the largest in U.S. history at 3.34 million.
It certainly can be overwhelming for a young person facing such a daunting beginning to adult life. But many of our area graduates are undeterred and are marching into the future with feet firmly planted on the paths they already have chosen.
Today, The Times salutes 12 graduates from area schools. They all have ambitious plans for the future, from attending service academies and prestigious universities to expanding their knowledge in other arenas.
Last Sunday, we saluted our annual class of Academic All-Stars, teens who not only are stars in the classroom but already are making a difference in their communities.
In a time when we frequently hear so many negative stories about today's youth, The Times is glad to report the accomplishments of area teens who are on the right path. Though these high achievers hear praise from many sources, they deserve our continued encouragement.
Manse Jennings expressed a love for learning that is shared by those being honored in today's stories.
"Learning coincides with living, whether it's learning from experiences, relationships, or discovering a new skill," he wrote. Jennings was honored by The Times last weekend as an All-Star and is being honored today as one of the area's outstanding graduates.
While we applaud the graduates at the top of their class, we also don't want to forget about their classmates. All graduates need our support to continue to build on what they have achieved: a high school diploma. They don't give those things away just for showing up to class; all students have worked for them, whether they ended up at the top, middle or bottom of their classes.
Whatever plans this spring's graduates may have, we all should help point them in the right direction. That can be in the form of a pat on the back for the young man who wants to study auto mechanics at Lanier Tech or a word of advice for the young woman who's trying to decide between being a bank teller or a beautician.
It's a tired refrain but true that these teens are our future. Today's 18-year-old high school graduate will be our future governor, electrician, physician or auto mechanic. Whatever their calling or profession, all will fill an important role.
Tyler Desper of Habersham Central High School summed it up well in his comments as one of this year's Academic All-Stars: "The students who achieve academic distinction are more than hard workers; they are the students who are goal-oriented and know what the bigger picture is. A good student is one who gives back to their community in order to form a brighter future."
We hope all of them, the cream of the crop and the rest of their graduating classes, find their own path to making the future brighter for us all.