Graduations have always frustrated me.
My own, my children’s and everybody else’s.
Perhaps that lies in the investment this occasion often demands.
In Ontario, it was enormous and began when people were four.
Every preschooler had a graduation accompanied by pomp, ceremony and expense.
Ye Gods, she knows the days of the week and the alphabet. Someone call the caterer.
Then there were graduations from elementary school, high school and, if anyone had any money left over, possibly from a post-secondary institution.
High school graduation is not cheap, laments the mom who has funded four. There are school grad fees, the cost of a cap and gown, also a tuxedo rental or prom dress to purchase plus add-ons like hairstyles, professional makeup, manicures and swanky transportation.
Each June, I wonder how families keep up and imagine the stress it must cause in some households.
None of this is meant to take away from the real accomplishment of graduating, but it’s food for thought.
Not everybody graduates. In British Columbia, according to the teachers’ federation, the secondary school graduation rate is 84.6 per cent.
Often, high school is described (possibly by those who never went to one) as the best time of a person’s life.
Trust me, kids, that is not true, nor should it be.
Despite the real efforts of good teachers, counsellors and school district trustees, high school is not a trip to the fair for every child and the expectations are unreasonable.
One can partially blame those bubble-gummy teenage films where the boy always gets his true love, the mean (albeit misunderstood) kids end up with cans of paint on their heads and the debate team wins the national championships.
You can’t hold the school responsible for every child’s struggles.
We are talking about adolescents. They may be staring at hurdles including, but not limited to, depression, anxiety, gender or sexual identity confusion, alcohol and drug use, eating disorders and unstable situations at home.
Anyone who survives four years dodging those landmines, in or out of school, deserves a diploma.
Fortunately, the B.C. curriculum includes instruction in mental health wellness. Just last week, Princeton Secondary School hosted a Zoom meeting for some classes with jack.org, a national group reaching out to students in hopes of building support around some of the most challenging issues.
It must have been even tougher for high school students, these past two years under COVID-19 restraints. One of the DeMeer progeny, now a successful and happy young man, maintains the only reason he ever finished Grade 12 was because he had to go to school to play volleyball.
There hasn’t been volleyball, or its equivalent, in some time.
There are definitely reasons to celebrate as students cross the stage in the coming weeks, and also reasons to reflect.
You can call it graduation or you can call it a prison break, but the better word is commencement.
Graduation is an end. Commencement is a beginning.
To have the better part of your life ahead of you, to literally own the opportunity to dream and make it happen – that is an incredible thing.
So congratulations. Now off you go and do it. Take every advantage of being young, free and educated.
Andrea DeMeer is the publisher and editor of the Similkameen Spotlight.
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