Common Ground: Graduates soon face adulthood

BY CHANTE WARREN

En route to my stepson’s graduation rehearsal Tuesday morning, he was quiet and serious, a different side from his sometimes comical and cheery demeanor.

“How do you feel about the big day?” I asked him

“I feel like I’m about to be a big boy now,” he told me.

His answer seemed to suggest the weight of responsibility he anticipates as he approaches manhood.

For the most part, we spend 18 years living in our parents’ homes where they’ve provided our meals, clothes and supplied all of our needs.

Graduation marks the beginning of every young person’s crossover from childhood into adulthood. There are no rides into the sunset and prizes don’t fall from the sky. I suspect that many young graduates face the realization that adulthood brings with it weighty responsibilities and maturity.

I was nervous and excited when I graduated from high school. I too knew that my life was about to change and I realized that my parents expected me to get the job skill training I would need to move on and out of the house.

Today’s graduates must anticipate even more change and choose jobs and careers that will survive a post-recession economy. It’s not going to be a cake walk either. College graduates are facing a tough climb. Half of college graduates in 2012 faced unemployment or could not find jobs in their career paths, according to Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.

I still recall my principal and teachers telling us, “preparation meets opportunity,” a diehard phrase that stands particularly true for graduates.

I didn’t coast through my senior year, but I took classes that really helped shape my life: English IV, physics, choir and journalism were among them.

I stumbled into journalism after our high school journalism teacher, Phil Ward, helped Scotlandville Magnet High launch its first school newspaper, The Talon. I signed up for his course and became among the first class of student writers and reporters for the school paper.

Ward was a journalist and an educator who felt passionate about his craft, so much so that he could talk about a topic well past the end of our 7th-hour class period. Many students did not linger behind, but I missed a few bus rides to listen to him talk about his days in the news business.

His passion for the craft both inspired and encouraged me to pursue a career in writing. He assigned stories that mattered, including ones in which we interviewed and reported on hazardous chemical leaks from plants surrounding our school and its community; and we pursued stories about students from single-parent homes who sometimes worked to help contribute to their families’ income. When a building in our school continually leaked during rainy periods, we questioned our school administrators on what was being done to address the problem.

By the end of my senior year, I’d decided to pursue journalism in my college studies. Those 12 years of schooling that included French, history, science, art, piano, band, choir and journalism exposed me to subjects that eventually became a part of my everyday interests.

There’s no happily ever after scenario following graduation. However, grads have their entire lives before them and approaching it with optimism, confidence and preparation can help them carve a successful pathway.

Now, get ready; the real work begins after the diploma is earned and the working boots are strapped on.

Chante Warren is a freelance reporter. She can be reached at chantewriter@hotmail.com.