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Like that cap in the sky, fly on graduates

A photo that regularly wins awards in Georgia Press Association’s annual newspaper contest is a scene of high school graduates tossing their caps into the air. The photos are poignant, celebratory, and visually compelling – a colorful explosion of square caps against a backdrop of sky, like a flock of birds frozen in time, mid-flight. They capture seniors in different communities across the state – wearing different colored robes depending on what school they attended – but they all similarly commemorate that important crossroads from adolescence to adulthood. 

Like birds, these graduates will fly on to a life outside of the nests and schools they’ve known so long. Decisions will be theirs now, not their parents. 

As a mother of one of these students, graduation season makes me reflect not only on my son – hoping mine and my husband’s influence will encourage good decisions when we’re not around – but also on the friends and peers he’s been in school with since kindergarten. I think about how they were as young children, about how they are now, and about how things will change for all of them in the future as they go their separate ways. 

Just like birds, it’s interesting to think about all the varied trajectories these seniors have flown and will fly on into the future. Some people live charmed lives, and like Midas everything they touch turns to gold. They’re successful, comfortable, and seem to suffer no major struggles or tragedies. Others have hard starts and bad childhoods, but overcome and will go on to succeed as adults. Some people always make the wrong choice, or always draw the short end of the stick. Some people don’t know what they want out of life. Others have known since 1st grade. Some people work hard. Others don’t. Some people are passionate. Others don’t care. Some people are cruel. Others are kind. Some people have friends. Others struggle to connect.

These aren’t the only paths or characteristics our seniors may have, of course — there are a million gradients in between. The constant within them all is that a graduation by nature is indicative of hope and infinite potential, even if a student hasn’t made the best decisions up to that point or has been dealt a bad hand. I’m grateful my son has had – barring a few expected adolescent bumps along the way – a positive experience in school, which certainly wasn’t the case for me. I went on to thrive more in a college setting and found my footing after my teenage years, after bouts of rebellion and lack of direction. 

As adults we know things can turn around for better or for worse and, as is my case, life can surprise you and you find yourself in a place you could have never imagined you’d be in your youth. 

So whatever point on the spectrum our seniors are at right now, I look forward to cheering them all on from the stands on Friday. Just like those green caps they’ll toss into the backdrop of the sky, they’ll soar into just as many different directions. The hope is that they realize the infinite potential that is within them and the infinite possibility that is their future. 

Congratulations Class of 2024!

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