Thursday, June 16, 2005

Editorial: Hail and farewell

Published in the Current

CAPE ELIZABETH (June 16, 2005): As graduation season winds up for another year, we wish all of the graduates well, their parents too – and a special "good luck" to the graduates’ younger siblings, who now step up a rung in their own growth ladder.

Scarborough’s 202 graduates and Cape Elizabeth’s 129, all newly minted this week, join 221 of their neighbors in South Portland who became alumni last week, taking on new roles in the community and in their lives.

Many of them will leave town to attend college or other professional training, or to enter the military. Some will stay near home, either living in town while attending classes nearby, finding a new job or sticking with an old one.

To all of these – and any other subgroups – we offer hearty congratulations and wishes of good luck.

By now, you have chosen your role models and begun to follow them. But you will find still others who affect how you live your life. Choose cautiously those whose models you will follow, as no road is truly clear from the outset.

One example we hold up this week, not just to celebrate an extraordinary graduate making an unusual choice, but also to provide food for thought and discussion among parents, students and teachers, is Megan Barnes of Cape Elizabeth.

As we read on Page 1, while many of her classmates are headed to college, she is delaying that route – not forever, she says now, but perhaps. Instead, she is headed to Ecuador to work in an international school where she studied during part of her junior year, seeking out international experiences to enrich her learning and development. (Plus, it’s fun.)

It’s very common in this country to go directly from high school to college, and for many students, that’s the proper way to do it. But there are a whole lot of high school graduates for whom college right after school may not be the best idea.

Schools and parents should be open to the idea students who don’t follow any of the three traditional American paths for high school graduates: college, work or the military.

In other countries, from Europe to Australia and New Zealand, it is very common to take a year or more before college for what is sometimes called an “OE” – overseas experience. Some young people work, as Barnes is doing, while others just travel. Many do a mix – traveling until they run out of money and then working for a bit to make it back.

That type of experience is very valuable, and even those going directly to college should seek some sort of study abroad if they wish to truly understand this incredibly diverse and wonderful world we share.

People on an OE meet others in similar quests from other countries, visit faraway lands and explore not only other cultures but their own, and themselves.

High schools strive to prepare their students for the “real world,” but can go only so far – staff and teachers know it just as well as parents and students. Some sort of additional education or preparation is needed before these young adults are fully fledged.

There are a number of routes available – including college, work and the military. But there is another, and Barnes has found it, all on her own, and stuck to it despite advice to the contrary from teachers, guidance staff and administrators.

She should be proud for growing up to be the young woman that she is, as all the graduates should be proud of who they have become.

We look forward to hearing more of Barnes, and of all of the class of 2005. May they all grow to know their own minds, choose their counsel wisely, and refuse to take no for an answer, no matter how authoritative the rejection may seem.

Jeff Inglis, editor