Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Congratulations to the Class of 2019

More Straight Talk

For the past thirty days, families have been celebrating the graduation of their children from various levels of our educational system in this country.  I’ve enjoyed watching the evidence of pride on the faces of the many parents and students who are participating in this annual right of passage for the most valuable asset our nation has, our children.

We didn’t have pre-school or kindergarten in the small community I came from in New Hampshire. The existence of those early age learning opportunities for the youngest of our society just wasn’t available at the time.  The establishment of those opportunities came along later in our small communities in New England.

I’m not sure anyone today would argue the value of early programs dealing with childhood development.  The younger the mind, the more it seems to be receptive of the learning opportunities available to it.  I guess that is why I have a hard time setting the clock on our VCRs or changing the time on our car radios.

The 2018-19 school year will see about 3.7 million students graduate from high school in the United States.  Of that number, 3.3 million students will have graduated from public high schools and another 400,000 from private high schools (nces.ed.gov).

Unfortunately, 1.2 million students will drop out of high school each year.  That number equates to one student every 26 seconds or 7000 a day or equates to 25% of students entering the 9th grade fail to graduate high school (dosomething.org).  Those are troubling numbers and although those statistics have been dropping the last several years, we need to do a better job insuring no child is lost.

As I think back to my own childhood and experiences growing up, I can’t help but recognize the differences in the circumstances which surrounded us during our upbringing.  I can’t help but reflect on those variations in my life and make comparisons to today’s generation.

As I grew up, I was always told that you should want to give more to your children than what our parents had.  There is probably some truth to that, but when does it become a negative in the experiences that affect the children of today.

Has it become easier to give more to our children, than it is to expect them to earn more themselves.  Simply put, have we taken away the pride and lessons to be learned when we work towards securing those things that we believe are important to us?  Have we therefore lessened the value of those material things, by expecting others to provide for us?

Have we become a society which believes we are “owed” those things which our parents had struggled so hard to provide for us? A drift of society to a sense of “envy,” rather than one where individuals set goals and objectives for oneself to accomplish.  This may be a dangerous path with unintended consequences for this next generation and our nation.

Has it become easier today to expect others to do for us, rather than looking to see what we can accomplish for others who have a true need, rather than just a “want?”

As we watch many of those students accept their diplomas and return to their seats, I wonder what they have come to expect from the world that awaits them.  Have we done our best to prepare them for the real-world challenges that lie ahead?

Some will labor under the belief that to be successful in life they will have to pursue higher learning opportunities such as college when in fact there are a number of wonderful opportunities in a trade or specialty field that will provide them a strong future.

Marco Island’s future, as well as the rest of Florida and the nation lies in these graduates and those that will graduate in the years to come.  From the early years they spend at Tommy Barfield Elementary School, to when they walk around the corner on Trinidad Avenue and through the doors of the Marco Island Charter Middle School, they are provided with a wonderful educational foundation.

They jump from that platform and take a choice of attending the Marco Island Academy, Lely High School or several other wonderful secondary school offerings such as St. John Neumann High School or the Community School in Naples.

Graduating students then have a number of choices should they choose to continue their educational pursuits by going on to traditional colleges or taking advantage of the offerings provided at the Lorenzo-Walker Technical College run by the Collier County School District.  There, they can choose from a number of course offerings which lead to rewarding careers in air-conditioning, refrigeration and heating technology, health sciences, aviation, cosmetology, information technology, and many other specialty fields.

The last thirty days have been exciting for our young adults and their parents, but nothing can compare to what the future holds for them, should they decide to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities and the journey they are about to embark upon.  Congratulations to our 2019 graduates and their families.

Steve Stefanides, well-known by his nickname “Stef,” is an experienced award-winning reporter of local civic and public interest news. Stef’s More Straight Talk column (and its predecessor, Straight Talk), on a variety of subjects, is a favorite of readers who trust him to bring them the facts. A Marco Island resident, Stef contributes to the community in many ways, having served on a number of city committees, charitable groups, boards and local organizations. Contact him by email at Stef@coastalbreezenews.com

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