Upwards of 700 local high school students received their diplomas over the past week in the schools in Jackson County, bringing a sense of pride to their families in the process, and probably more than a few sighs of relief.
They leave the protective environs of secondary education at a perilous time. A weak economy means fewer jobs are available for those heading directly into the job market, and the combination of parents out of work and rising tuition costs will make it more difficult for some to continue their educations at college, particularly for those who must work to put themselves through school.
On the other hand, for those who can manage it, it is a good time to start college as it buys time for the economy to improve — surely there will be jobs when the Class of 2010 graduates from college.
Either way, a high school diploma is more valuable now than ever before. As jobs become more technical and competition for jobs is more intense, a person who does not graduate from high school is at a tremendous disadvantage. That diploma signifies to a potential employer a certain level of education and work ethic. Failure to obtain it has lifetime consequences.
The high school diploma also gives its holder the option of continuing his or her education in college or in a technical school, an option likely to be more attractive in a time of job scarcity. For those who are not college-bound, Lanier Technical College — which has a campus in Commerce — and Athens Technical College offer low-cost continued education in technical fields likely to hold the jobs of the future. Students can take advantage of the HOPE grant to cover the vast majority of school-related costs.
Congratulations to the Class of 2010 for achieving this milestone. You leave high school in a time of great economic uncertainty, but you have laid the foundation upon which you can build a successful life. Well done.