Tuesday, May 16, 2017

EDITORIAL >> Turn tassels and toss hats

Graduation season is here.

As spring gives way to summer, hopes are high and celebration is nigh as students from area schools pick up their diplomas en route to the future.

After a dozen or more years of boredom and excitement, learning and dread, parties, clubs, Friday night lights and of hope and heartache, graduates will move forward to fulfill dreams—their own, their parents’ and their friends’ and their communities’.

Rule No. 1: No celebratory drinking and certainly no drinking and driving. Don’t snuff out a future full of possibilities during a careless celebration.

As Mr. Spock would say on “Star Trek,” “Live long and prosper.”

As you receive your diplomas and end this stage of your lives this weekend, know that your families, friends and communities are proud of your accomplishments.

Beebe High School graduated 215 students on Friday at A.S. Bro Erwin Stadium; 28 were honor grads. The class of 2017 netted $2.9 million in college-scholarship offers. Haley Owens was valedictorian and Kyle Roberts salutatorian.

Also on Friday, Lonoke High School had 218 students receiving diplomas, 39 of whom were honor graduates.

Next up, Cabot High School’s graduation is at 7 p.m. Friday at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock. There will be about 700 graduates with 229 of them receiving diplomas with honors.

Jacksonville High School’s graduation is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Jack Stephens Center, where Sylvan Hills High School’s commencement will begin earlier in the day at 4:30 p.m.

Taylor Toombs is valedictorian of Jacksonville’s first graduating class with 187 students, 27 with honors.

This class is noteworthy because this is Jacksonville-North Pulaski’s first year as a standalone school district with a new mascot: The Titans. Beginning with the 2019-20 school year, graduations will be held at the new $65 million high school on Main Street at the old middle school site.

Four co-salutatorians will participate in the ceremony: Joseph Cummings, Kenzie Dean, Brianna Higgins and Linzie Martin.

Jacksonville community members are invited to line up along Main Street at 11 a.m. today to cheer on the Jacksonville High graduates, who will drive down the route in buses on their way to graduation practice.

“The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District would like your support and school spirit. This is an important milestone for our seniors and for our community. It would be great if we could line Main Street with community members and well-wishers to show support for our grads. They will be the first class of the Jacksonville High School Titans to graduate. Let’s help them go out with a big bang, Titan style,” according to an announcement from the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

Sylvan Hills’ valedictorian is Kaelei Atkins, with Grace Persson the salutatorian. There are 274 graduates, 108 of them who were offered $3.4 million in college scholarships.

Sherwood is also hoping for its own $65 million new high school if voters extend an existing debt service bond for an additional 17 years to fund an an ambitious project. That election is June 13.

Jacksonville Lighthouse College Preparatory Academy will graduate 64 students at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 25 at the State House Convention Center in Little Rock.

As hopeful as a new round of graduations is, state Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) has long advocated for modernizing the state’s public education curriculum to better meet the demands of a changing job market.

Instead of the old-fashioned textbook and testing approach, she’d like to see schools team up with employers and give kids skills they can use to go into the world as marketable workers.

“Just encouraging people to go to college is not the thing to do. About 20 percent of our kids across the state go off to college. The other 80 percent walk out the door and don’t have a skill and don’t have a future,” English said during a recent speech to the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce.

Those are sobering words to consider this graduation season.

May today’s graduates become leaders of industry and government and contribute meaningfully to their communities. We are proud of your accomplishments.

Congratulations to everyone.