Ah, the joy of living in Southwest Nebraska! The trees magically turned green this week and High School graduation rites were in full force. It has been life at its best despite a strong winds and cold rain.
It's been graduation time and small town USA at its best. For some, high school graduation is just the first "small step for mankind" with a tech school or college to follow. For others it is the end of formal education and time to immerse themselves into the work force. I can only wish them the best no matter what road chosen.
One way our communities send a note of encouragement is through the many scholarships awarded to graduating seniors. I applaud our own Senator Ben Nelson for personally making a large donation to fund a grant providing scholarships to deserving students. Congratulations to the two delightful young ladies who received the awards this inaugural year. The Delbert Townsend memorial scholarship also comes to mind but there are a plethora of others each saying "We have faith in you young fellow/lady, go out and make a success of yourself. We honor you. You make us proud"!
In my opinion, small town schools have many advantages for our area youth. At each reception attended we crossed paths with many of the teachers that had just given their best to prepare their young charges for a successful future. Their work was done but each young person is affirmed that their mentor will be behind them cheering their continuing success in future endeavors.
Grannie Annie and I attended graduation receptions in Ogallala, Grant, Imperial, McCook, all in Nebraska plus another in Almena, Kansas. The grads were young men that I taught to fly plus a couple daughters of parents that I was also privileged to teach. Associating with eager young people does one's soul good. The moms prepared special food, displays of pictures, certificates of awards earned and scrapbooks highlighting the student's lives proliferated. Church friends, neighbors, relatives from far and wide but especially dads and uncles were all there. Many took the day off, when they should have been in the field planting corn. All took pains to came and affirm to the young person that, "You are important! This is a day that we honor you."
One of my "kids," Ryan from Ogallala, will soon report to a school in Michigan where in a two year period will be earning his A&P (aircraft mechanic's rating), along with commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. His plan is to be a missionary in some back-country third world area with Java presently in mind. That my friend is real service to mankind. Bravo!
Another, Shane of Imperial, the valedictorian of his class, will report to the Air Force Academy to follow in the footsteps of his father who also graduated from that institution. His granddad flew with the Air Force in Korea and his great granddad was also a pilot. The apple didn't fall very far from the tree!
One of the honored daughters will be enrolling in medical school to follow in the footsteps of her Kansas Doctor Granddad. The other is headed to a Christian college to study graphic design.
Another of my private pilot licensed "kids," Kyle from McCook, will be attending college on an athletic scholarship and plans to earn a Commission through ROTC and a slot for Air Force pilot training. There is no doubt in my mind that all will be able to attain their goals and get to live their dreams. Ah the optimism of youth!
For many graduates, their diploma marks the peak of academic endeavor. Many will enter the military and earn money enough to later earn an advanced degree. Unfortunately many colleges today are much too expensive and those graduating will be faced with the prospect of no job and a heavy burden of debt weighting their shoulders. Then too many of our colleges are hot beds of liberalism/progressivism and all too many lean toward a Marxist philosophy. Hopefully our kids will be able to hold to the small town values that have brought them this far in their journey through life and avoid such nonsense. Those with a strong Christian Faith should be even better prepared to avoid such pitfalls.
Curiosity aroused I looked back at the 56 year record of my own McCook High School class. Of the 113 graduating, 89 are still living counting three that I cannot find. Too many of the deaths were from automobile accidents, several from alcohol excess and at least one self inflicted, all gauntlets that the current graduates will have to run. At least 14 of us went into the military. One became a medical doctor and three became lawyers. One became a world-famous architect and another owned and managed a chain of clothing stores. True to their roots 17 farmed or married farmers. The remainder contributed to society in a myriad ways, teachers, publishers, implement dealers, preachers, NASA, the FAA, auto dealers and mechanics, business men of many stripes and even a politician or two. None to my knowledge checked out of society and became homeless.
So it will be with the current crop of graduates. Theirs will be a different world with a great many opportunities in high tech industries that didn't even exist for my generation. They will have exposure to self destroying illicit drugs that we also never heard of, ever changing social morals and a world political scene that at the moment seems to be in greater turmoil than we ever faced. I have faith in our kids though; faith that they will help create an ever better world than we handed to them this moment in time.
That is the way I saw it.