Our congratulations go to the Class of 2015. Whether you will receive your diploma through Mountain Home High School, Bennett Mountain High School, Richard McKenna Charter High School or other learning centers, those who step forward to receive their diplomas this week have reached a major milestone in their lives.
To quote Winston Churchill, "this is not the end, or the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning."
For many who will graduated in just a couple more days, these ceremonies represent just the first steps to improving their future. Some will go on to college or a technical school in hopes of becoming doctors, lawyers or scientists. Others will go straight into the world of business to gain invaluable experience that will lead them to greater avenues in years to come. A few more will enter the ranks of the U.S. armed forces to carry on a proud tradition of selfless service to their country.
Wherever fate takes them, this year's graduates deserve to feel extremely proud of this accomplishment. Not everyone who starts school actually makes it to graduation day.
Nationwide, school graduation rates are showing signs of gradual improvement over the past 20 years, but they are still a concern. Depending on which statistics you use for comparison, about 20 percent of school age students will never reach the milestone our graduates will meet this week. Some statistics paint a more dire picture; others are more upbeat.
However, our students beat the odds and persevered, despite the ever-increasing amount of education they need simply to graduate. It's a daunting workload that previous generations never had to deal with when they were in school.
Today's graduates should take a moment and reflect on what they achieved. It's a significant accomplishment and one that no one can take away from them.
But after this week passes, the "real life" begins for these graduates -- a world where there are few opportunities for second chances or time to correct mistakes. The protective, sheltered environment that school offered them is gone. A sometimes unforgiving world awaits them.
Some of these graduates will fail while others will succeed. It's nothing personal. It's simply how life really happens.
Oddly enough, many of today's teens have looked forward to graduation day for a long time. For them, it represented a chance for them to gain total independence -- a chance to make and follow their own rules. That will change drastically when they realize they've also gained a tremendous amount of responsibility. From this point, the amount of "fun" in their lives will drastically be cut back if they want to succeed.
From now on, they won't have parents or teachers pushing them to work and study hard or to pick themselves up when they stumble and fall. It's up to each of these graduates to motivate themselves to succeed and to learn from their own mistakes.
Scary? You bet! However, that diploma means they've received the basic tools they need to succeed on their own. How they use those tools will determine their chances of success.
Believe it or not, they're ready.
Congratulations, and good luck.
-- Brian S. Orban