Between all the locking out and walking out going on in our schools these days, it was nice to see our young adults simply walk Saturday in Port Hardy and Port McNeill. Bathed in the glow of spotlights and the applause of friends and family, the North Island’s secondary school graduates took the first steps across the bridge to their future.
When the applause has died away and party detritus been cleaned up the grads will have time to take stock of that future.
As ever, these now-former students of Port Hardy Secondary and North Island Secondary schools were addressed by School District 85 officials and civic and First Nations leaders, all of whom invariably urged them to face their impending adulthood with confidence and conviction, grasp opportunities offered, and utilize skills they’ve developed and the family and community resources supporting them.
The generation represented at the speaker’s podium likely heard a similar message when they made their own walk over the bridge 20, 30 or 40 years ago.
The sentiment may remain the same, but today’s grads face a different future than we did. Those of us who chose the university path did not face an average of $30,000 in student loan debt upon graduation. Those who jumped straight to work in resource-extraction industries had much less opposition arrayed against their particular industries.
We elders also enjoyed a range of educational offerings, particularly in the arts, that have been stripped through more than a decade of funding cuts and left to volunteers in the community to offer after-hours.
Yet this is not a gloom-and-doom message, grads.
You possess a technical savvy suited for the rapid pace of change we all face year to year. You’ve got the backing of a small but involved community that managed to scrape together $90,000 in combined scholarships and bursaries to get you started on the road to your futures.
And you’ve got the ultimate blessing and curse: the broad range of choices available only to the young — a range that seems to narrow through the decades of age.
You told us last weekend you plan to study to be social workers, teachers, nurses. Or to attend trade, technical or art schools. Or go straight to work, either to save money for a later entry to school or to start your career.
You may choose to work in oil extraction, oppose oil extraction or develop alternative, sustainable energy methods.
Those choices will determine your future. And they may well determine ours.
Congratulations, class of 2014. Best of luck.