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Column: Pomp more than worthy of circumstance

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This is a big week for gowns, mortar boards and speeches.

The four public high schools in Bartholomew County have ceremonies scheduled for Friday night or Saturday, and all of those graduations will be covered in next Sunday’s Republic.

We will have stories and photos on the front page and on multiple pages inside the paper.

That’s a big commitment on our part, but not nearly as big as it is for the students.

Graduation is a big deal, an important check to mark off on people’s personal to-do list.

But it’s also an elusive one for many.

About 85 percent of seniors at the three Bartholomew Consolidated high schools — East, North and New Tech — graduated last year. The graduation rate is about 5 percentage points higher at Hauser High School in Hope.

The Columbus-based Community Education Coalition has set a graduation goal of 100 percent by 2017 and is supporting many educational initiatives to propel progress. It’s a worthy goal, but there’s a big gap — 10 to 15 percentage points — to overcome in a relatively short time.

The ceremonies themselves are probably not that memorable for most graduating seniors, unless they trip or endure some other embarrassing moment while crossing the stage on their way to accepting their diploma.

I can’t remember much about my high school graduation, other than it was a final exam in arranging things — students, to be exact — in alphabetical order.

But the high school ceremonies

do mark an important milestone, a rite of passage into what’s next in their lives:




Phillip Blaylock never graduated from high school, but the Columbus man was able to land a job in construction anyway.

But when he lost that job at age 40, it didn’t take long for him to recognize what that meant.

He was in trouble. No one would hire him, and the bills didn’t stop coming.

“When I lost my job, I lost everything,” Blaylock said in a May 24 Republic news story.

His answer was to seek a High School Equivalency Diploma from McDowell Adult Education Center in Columbus, which he got at age 42.

About half of the McDowell students are between the ages of 16 and 24. Its oldest graduate was 83. Those statistics prove that there is no magical age when realization of the importance of a diploma becomes apparent.

More than 5,000 Bartholomew County adults still do not have one.

The Community Education Coalition has a second goal in education attainment. That’s to help 60 percent of the adult population attain a postsecondary degree, certificate or other credential. Bartholomew County is about two-thirds of the way there at

40 percent.

Of course, you’ve got to get through high school before you have a chance to get a college degree.

Not everyone has college plans, but some form of education is necessary for just about any job.

Pore through the help-wanted listings in The Republic and you will see companies and placement agencies working to fill hundreds of jobs that are available from Bartholomew County manufacturers, as long as someone has that diploma.

You can start making money right out of high school as a machine operator, assembly worker, warehouse employee, material handler or press operator, for example.

Although technical coursework will be a big plus on your resume, employers are also looking for other skills. What kind? Here are some excerpts from one recent help-wanted ad:

Strong desire to learn new tasks.

Work well with a diverse group of associates.

Detail-oriented, good followup skills.

Be flexible.

Able to handle

difficult situations.

Ability to problem-solve.

Maintain a positive attitude.

These are among the soft skills that employers find important, and you won’t typically pick them up in a welding class or some other coursework that trains individuals for a career in a particular field.

Such skills say more about the person than the educational profile.

A diploma alone doesn’t guarantee a satisfying personal and professional life, but it’s the key to a door where those opportunities can be found.

And that, readers, is worth celebrating.

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