Charles E. Richardson

RICHARDSON: Advice for 2015 high school grads

Last week this space dealt with college graduates. This week, many students will finish up their high school careers. Some know what lies ahead. They know what institutions of higher education they will attend, and their lives are all planned -- until they get there.

No matter how well planned, life takes funny twists and turns. Plus, at 17, 18 and 19, there’s a lot to learn, not only about everyone else but also about yourself. Your ideas are still being molded, shaped and challenged. Some of the things you used to think were valid really aren’t. It’s a time of discovery.

Don’t get mad at yourself or others for changing, for growing, for not being like they used to be. Remember what I Corinthians 13:11 says: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

Those going on to college will be all right, even though they are bound to experience bumps and bruises along the way. We learn from failure. But there are some graduates waking up this morning who are clueless. They have no idea what they’re going to do. They didn’t take care of business, and come Monday, they have no place to go. Sure, it’s summer vacation, but there are no plans when fall hits.

This is the group I worry about most. They are almost adults. They look like adults, and some even try to talk like adults. But their minds are still childlike. And while I don’t mean to criticize, many of them, particularly boys, have been coddled by their mothers and have no idea how to survive on their own.

As long as they were in high school, they had some identity. But that all came crashing down as the music stopped playing and the cap and gown came off. Their mothers, seeing the error of their ways, rarely abandon them, but they do cut them off. They stop paying for gas or cellphones. Car insurance is due, and all mom does is give them that “you’re-grown-don’t-look-at-me” look.

What do they do now? I’m glad you asked. First rule of a reality check: Stop digging. Try to understand the situation you’re in. “The answer,” to quote Dr. Keith Moffett, “to every question, is education.”

If you didn’t do well in high school, you still have options. Instead of taking the interstate to success, you will have to take an alternate route. It takes longer, but remember, you wasted a lot of time, too.

Get in somebody’s school. There are plenty of choices around here. You may have to take some remedial courses to bring up your scores to qualify for admission, but there are ways to do that, too.

Two pieces of advice. There are some institutions that are for profit. All they want to do is to run up your student loan debt and say “see ya later.” Don’t believe the hype. Once accepted to an accredited school, do not lollygag. Colleges and universities cost money. You can’t play around like you did in high school. They will put you out, and if you mess up your student loans as a freshman and get put out, you’ll have to pay that money back before you can get into any other school.

Now, I want to address those who didn’t walk across the stage at all, those who gave up, probably in the 10th grade when you found yourself hopelessly behind. You fell through the cracks and had been falling through the cracks since the second grade. Here’s what you do. Pick your butt up off your mother’s couch and register for GED classes at Central Georgia Technical College. That’s step one. Attend faithfully until you get your GED. While taking those classes there will be opportunities to take other courses at CGTC. Yes, this path is hard. Life takes over, and there will be all sorts of obstacles, but it is essential that you continue your education. If not, there’s a fast food restaurant in your future.

You may still foolishly think you don’t need an education, that the streets will supply your every need. They might for a while, but judges are handing out time like M&Ms. If a thug’s life looks attractive, look around for anyone with gray hair. You won’t see any. Why? That sort of life lands you in prison or a cemetery.

Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraph’s editorial page editor. He can be reached at 478-744-4342 or via email at crichardson@macon.com. Tweet @crichard1020.

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