It is almost here! Graduates will be reaching one of the greatest milestones in their lives.

This weekend (including Friday night) will mark the start of a new beginning for many area high school seniors. They will put on their caps and gowns and take their first steps toward adulthood while embarking on the next phase of their lives.

For some, it will mean joining the workforce, or flying overseas to experience new adventures, or joining the military. However, for the majority, it will be on to college.

First off, congratulations to all of you who have made it this far. It is not a milestone that should be overshadowed. The New York State Education Department recently released the graduation rates for the class of 2012. Overall statewide graduation rates remained stable at 74 percent despite increased rigor required for graduation phased-in over the past four years.

Graduation rates in the Big Five districts have decreased with Buffalo having the largest decrease of seven percentage points. In a statement released by the state education department, New York State Education Commissioner John King and New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch expressed concern about the low percentage of students graduating college and career ready —  particularly students of color, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities.

The statement continues: “The performance gap between high need and low need districts continues to be nearly 30 percent, with nearly 94 percent of students from low need districts graduating as opposed to only 65 percent of students from high need urban-suburban districts earning a high school diploma.”

So you have done it. But don’t be fooled, it is not all smooth sailing from here on out. In these challenging economic times, it’s more important than ever for students to put their educations to good use. Finding a job can be as hard as finding a needle in a haystack, so it can seem.

While this is undoubtedly an exciting time in a young person’s life, it can also be the most challenging. It is a time to break away from the familiar walls and surroundings that have become so recognizable. It’s a time to fly away from the somewhat cocooned existence of small-town life and see what the world has to offer. It’s a time to cut the umbilical cord and expand one’s horizons.

Graduation is an exciting event for the students and it also can be a difficult adjustment in a parent’s life. It is hard setting a child free, but one hopes that most have the responsibility to make a smooth transition. Graduation is not the end. It is the beginning of a young person’s life.

It is time to celebrate; responsibly of course! Milford Central School will hold its graduation ceremony at 7 p.m. at the school on Friday. Cherry Valley-Springfield will hold commencement exercises at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Glimmerglass Opera. Cooperstown Central School’s graduation will be on the back lawn of The Fenimore Art Museum at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. If it rains, festivities will be moved to 2 p.m. in the Sterling Auditorium.

As area students graduate and begin new adventures, we wish them well and hope they help pave the way to a better America in the years to come.

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