This weekend and next are life changing for a number of Southwest Georgians.
Last night, Sherwood Christian Academy seniors walked the aisle to receive their high school diplomas. All day today, seniors of Dougherty County’s four public high schools — Westover, Dougherty, Albany and Monroe — will do the same, as will seniors at Deerfield-Windsor School on Sunday.
By Memorial Day weekend, seniors at Lee County High, Mitchell County High, Worth County High, Terrell County High, Westwood School and Terrell Academy will have completed their marches in caps and robes.
There will, of course, be a great deal of happiness as these teenagers on the cusp of adulthood bring to a close a part of their lives that extend as far as many of them can remember. Parents, swelling with pride, will also see their eyes swell with tears as they think back to another time when their graduate was excited — about the first day of kindergarten.
The years move more swiftly than we imagine, and the sudden realization can be staggering.
But as a phase of life is completed, a new one opens. These high school graduates, diplomas in hand, now face life-altering decisions. Will I continue my education in college? Will I learn a trade? Will I find a job?
The future is wide open. Decisions the graduates make will map out that future.
One thing that we hope graduates will consider is the fact that education never really stops. Regardless of what an individual does in life, there are always new things to learn.
And in making decisions, we hope the graduates will ensure that they make informed ones. For instance, if financial security is the goal, a 2011 Census Bureau study shows that the higher the educational level attained, the more money an individual is likely make over a lifetime. In fact, the study found that education levels had five times more effect on earnings over a 40-year period than any other demographic factor, such as gender, location and race.
The Census study said the estimated impact on annual earnings between a professional degree and an eighth-grade education was about $72,000 a year.
Just by obtaining their high school diploma, graduates have lessened their chances of unemployment and enhanced their earning ability. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that in 2012, those who did not finish high school had a 12.4 percent unemployment rate, compared to 8.3 percent for high school graduates. a bachelor’s degree carves that nearly in half (4.5 percent unemployment in 2012), and those who held a professional degree had only 2.1 percent joblessness last year. Obtaining a bachelor degree was also the point at which an individual was more likely to exceed the nation’s median weekly earnings, the report showed.
But school’s over and our guess is area seniors who have graduated or who will in the next week have had their fill of math for a while. After years of hard work, they deserve a little time to sit back and enjoy what they have accomplished.
So, graduates, we salute you. Well done. We also applaud the parents, teachers, relatives and friends who supported you in your course thus far. We wish you good fortune as you start the next stage of your journey.