HUNT COLUMN: Fifty high school graduations and counting

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Cathy Hunt
Retired Troup County teacher and current school board member

I’ve been doing some figuring, and I calculate that I’ve attended more than fifty high school graduations beginning with my own back in the Dark Ages. The bulk of those occurred during my nearly thirty years as a high school teacher. As a school board member for the last six years, I’ve been to six ceremonies each for Callaway High, LaGrange High, and Troup High. Throw in events for a brother, a niece or nephew, and a family friend here and there, and I’m well over the fifty mark.

This week I’ll add to the count with three more local graduations. And I don’t mind that. Actually, I’m always impressed with how well-organized they are. Even with greetings, introductions, short speeches by adults and outstanding students, between two and three hundred young people walking across the stage, turning of tassels and throwing of caps, a processional and a recessional, the festivities are usually concluded in just over an hour.

Hearing “Pomp and Circumstance” and watching a long line of capped and gowned faculty and graduates enter the field at the stadium is always uplifting. The schools want the occasions to be dignified and special, and the teenagers usually come through. Of course, they know there can still be consequences for last-minute shenanigans. The actual paper diplomas are still in possession of the school until after the ceremony! We hope they’ve learned along the way that, although we enjoy many rights and privileges, choices do indeed have consequences.

Yes, the young people usually maintain the decorum, but the same cannot be said of everyone in the stands. An announcement is always made about the dignity of the occasion and how it is important not to scream so loudly and protractedly when your kid’s name is called that the name of the next graduate can’t be heard over the noise. Nonetheless, it often seems that families get into competition with one another about how loud they can be and how many air horns and other sound effects they can blare. My group of teacher friends used to take bets on how many names into the alphabet the announcer could get before the craziness began. I think one year we got all the way up to seven.

A family’s excitement and pride is understandable though. For many of them, the educational process has not been smooth sailing. Getting their child to the finish line is absolutely a cause for celebration. In Troup County our graduation rate has gotten a lot better in recent years. This is due in large measure to the focus our schools have put on intense individual monitoring of students and the availability of special programs including the Troup County Career Center (TC3), summer school, and Saturday School to help kids make up lost credit.

We of course hope for good weather, and as I write this the forecast looks very promising: fair and much cooler than usual for late May. So I’m not going to get into alternate plans in case of bad weather or how a daughter’s ceremony got rained out and we all survived the shake up with no battle scars (although I did kind of want to tell that story…). Instead, I’ll sign off with the obligatory forward-looking advice for graduates, something I think will get them far in life: Strive to treat others the way you would want to be treated. It’s not always easy and you won’t always succeed, but I note that the instruction comes from a much higher Authority than I.