We attended the first high school graduation of the year last Sunday afternoon. Several of our young friends, members of our hay crew, tossed their caps into the air and waved goodbye to their youth. I couldn’t be more proud.
None of our “other people’s kids” from this particular class are heading off to a 4-year university to study agriculture. During both junior and senior year, three of our young friends took classes at a technical education center in preparation for life after high school. One received training and certification as a nursing assistant through the tech center and plans to become a Registered Nurse. One took agriculture classes and will attend a local community college to get an Associate’s degree in agriculture. He plans to put what he learns to good use on his family’s grain and livestock farm.
Finally, one studied ag mechanics at the tech center and next week begins his second summer internship with a local farm equipment dealership. This farm equipment company is part of an association that sponsors students through a technology institute. The participants apply what they learn in the classroom and lab in a real world setting so they are familiar with the dealership environment and what is expected of a professional service technician. When Kyle graduates, he’ll have an Associate’s degree and a job.
Our three young friends held part-time jobs all through high school, played at least 2 sports each, and were members of school clubs. They played in the school band. All three made high marks and many friends at school. They are what you would call “well-rounded.”
None of these very smart and capable young people will have a famous Alma mater or experience sorority or fraternity life. They will not be recruited by large agricultural companies and will probably settle down and start their families not far from where they themselves were born and raised. They will be members of the local Lion’s Club, run for school board, and support their local volunteer fire department.
They will not find themselves tens of thousands of dollars in debt when they finish their post-secondary education
They will pay taxes. They will vote.
One does not have to earn a degree from a major agricultural university – or from any university for that matter – to achieve success. We need agronomists and we need truck drivers. We need engineers and we need equipment operators. We need veterinarians and we need electricians. We need chemists and we need collectors of refuse. We need each and every one of those high school graduates to have a job and become an active member of society and the community in which they live.
Today’s high school graduates hold the future of our country in their hands. Let’s encourage them, inspire them, engage them and challenge them whether they are heading off to Cornell or to the local community college. We need them as much as they need us.