Congratulations to the Class of 2007, who graduate from Del Norte High this evening. Earning a high school diploma is nothing to sneer at; indeed, an Editorial Projects in Education report released Tuesday found that a full 1 in 3 seniors across the nation won't graduate this spring.
That's a distressing number, especially given that these days more than a high school diploma usually is needed to land a job that pays a living wage. Many education and economic experts believe an associate's degree from a two-year college is the minimum needed in our increasingly high tech and specialized society job market.
Given this, our first piece of advice to tonight's graduates is simple: Realize that your education isn't over. Go on to college, participate in an apprentice program or join the military to learn a skill. Recognize that years from now as technology changes, you'll need to take continuing education courses to keep up your skills and expand your horizons.
Of course, work and college hardly are on the minds of seniors tonight. It is a time to celebrate with family and friends, and in some cases to even say goodbye to classmates with whom the last 13 years have been spent.
Which brings us to our second piece of advice: Celebrate responsibly. We already hear the groans rising from seniors, but the odds say that a sizeable number of teens across the country will cut their lives short this weekend. For the past several years, more than a 1,000 teens have died annually during April, May and June, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The prom and graduation season accounts for a third of each year's underage drinking deaths.
Life after high school is a time of major change. Leaving home, going to a new school, getting a job, buying your first car and home, marrying ... It's now all about to happen.
Which brings us to our last bit of advice: Find a mentor, someone you can truly trust to help guide you through these many changes. Hopefully it's your parents. But it might be an aunt or uncle or a teacher or a new colleague, someone who can warn you of potential pitfalls and listen to your concerns. There's no shame in seeking, receiving and following good advice.
But enough of our two cents. It's your day. Best wishes, graduates, and may all your dreams come true.