This has been a special week or so in the Lakelands. Most special, indeed.
A stream of students walked across stages in caps and gowns, sporting wide grins as they accepted their high school diplomas. Valedictorians gave speeches laced with humor amid serious messages. Some took to today’s digital world and took selfies with their cellphones, tweeted graduation messages on Twitter, and posted happy remembrances on Facebook and Instagram.
Another school year has come to a close, hundreds of students have shifted their tassels to the other side of their graduation caps, a ritual carried out year after year. What’s next? What comes after their celebrations and trips to the beach? It depends.
For some, the celebration will continue well into the summer and right up to that point when they will pack up and head off to college, possibly with parents in tow to help them unload their dorm furnishing and accessories.
Many graduates have a clear sense of, as Dr. Seuss would possibly say, the places they will go. They entered high school with a plan, they are entering college with a plan. Nothing will turn them off course. Others will attend college with uncertainty. They have areas of interest, but no set course in mind. Still, they will likely fare well. Others still have no real sense of where they are going, what they want to do in terms of careers. And there are those graduates who, while uncertain about their futures, know the value of continuing education and will at least take some additional courses while working at a decent job to pay for their groceries. A smaller group, sadly, has no sense of direction whatsoever.

Where they will ultimately land is anyone’s guess. Add to the mix is the high cost of a college education these days. Despite the incredible benevolence of some who bequeath great wealth and whole estates to colleges and universities, many of today’s college students arrive on campus facing an enormous mountain of debt, a mountain that will grow exponentially with each year they attend -- often one to two years beyond what was the normal four-year college stint -- and hit them hard as they make their next pass across a graduation stage.
Right now, we extend heartfelt congratulations to the hundreds of Lakelands high school graduates. Do celebrate a bit, while you can. Enjoy this summer. Make the most of it, but be safe. If you know -- precisely or nearly precisely -- what you will be doing with your life come fall, congratulations yet again and we wish you much success. If you do not know what you will be doing, we urge you to take time to give your future careful consideration. Yes, you are young and you have your whole life ahead of you, but what many of your parents have been saying is absolutely true: In what seems like an instant, years will have passed you by like a speeding train. Don’t wait too long to get on board.