Thursday, June 21, 2018

New grads, here's a list of what to do next

The tassels are turned and the air-horn blasts are a memory. Hey, who snuck in the beach balls, anyway? Forget it. With diplomas in hand, the class of 2012 is rearing to go.

Well, maybe in a few hours. It is the weekend, you know, and teenagers do love their sleep, particularly after four years of presenting themselves for a school day beginning at 7:30 in the morning. Significantly earlier if they had to catch the bus.

The graduates from Pasco's public high schools numbered 4,000 this year, according to the district, including the first-ever graduating class from Fivay High in Hudson, which opened two years ago.

That school at Chicago Avenue and State Road 52 gained notoriety just in the planning stages after nearby residents grumbled about noise and traffic, the county and school district butted heads over off-site road costs, and the state Legislature answered with a pile of money for Pasco and other districts trying to put new schools into old neighborhoods.

It provided a real-life civics lesson that the new graduates should remember. Participate in the public dialogue, but be prepared with something beyond not-in-my-back-yard arguments.

And by the way, the days of Tallahassee throwing money at education are long gone, despite the current political boasting of adding $1 billion to education in the new state budget. They don't like to mention they cut $1.3 billion from schools a year ago. For you math not-so-aficionados, that's a negative number over a two-year span.

If your commencement speaker failed to mention that, don't worry. Other stuff got overlooked as well. As a public service, here is a near-annual offering of unsolicited advice to the class of 2012:

• High school is over, but learning isn't. Read a book, visit a museum, or just ponder the historical markers that dot the Pasco County landscape.

• Be a good communicator. Have a face-to-face chat. Use the telephone to talk, not text. If your conversations include a variation of "@mynicknamehere'' then you should shoot for a discourse greater than 140 characters.

• Don't be a digital bully. Don't assault a digital bully in the mall.

• Keep your eyes on traffic, both hands on the wheel and good music coming through the speakers. Rage Against the Machine, not on the road. And use your turn signal. The people around you will appreciate it.

• Have an umbrella handy.

• Keep the ink hidden. Tattoo You is a great album but a questionable fashion statement.

• Keep exercising. They teach that HOPE class for a reason.

• Keep reading. No standardized tests on comprehension needed. Feel free to look beyond a computer screen for your literature. The public libraries are still open, though not as often.

• Volunteer. You could even serve on a textbook-selection committee. You'll feel valuable and irrelevant simultaneously.

• Vote. The results are much more imperative than the homecoming court.

• Be smart with your money, but don't be a cheapskate. Don't be hesitant to pay to park at the beach or to ride your bike on a trail.

• Start saving for your retirement.

• If that sounds like contradictory wisdom, then consider this: Pasco County has been collecting tourist tax since before this graduating class was born and has yet to spend it on a tourist project. Obviously, savings can be taken to extremes.

• Pay your fair share. Getting caught not doing so cost two politicos their careers. One was simply embarrassed. The other faces a federal criminal tax evasion charge.

• Declare everything. It's kind of hard to forget a luxury lakeside vacation home in Arkansas, but some people manage to do it.

• Document your experiences through pictures. Keep the inappropriate ones off the Internet.

• Life is reality. Reality television is not real life.

• Don't cheat. Future penalties will be more significant than an 0-20 football team.

• Return to the classroom for the Great American Teach-In. The youngsters will think you're cool. You'll also get a little taste of what those educators have been going through with you for the past 13 years.

• As always, thank a teacher. Your gratitude shouldn't be part of the annual cutbacks.

• Graduating high school is a great accomplishment, but do not let it be your greatest accomplishment.

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