Next year, let's just congratulate graduates

On Saturday both the Ashland Daily Tidings and the Mail Tribune ran "Grads face tough job market" stories. I would also like the directors of TV stations to give an ear because at least a couple carried their version of the same story. Next year, when graduation day rolls around, could we set aside the stories of how hard it will be to get a job after graduation, and just do a "Congratulations Graduates" story? Maybe something supportive and upbeat?

As a proud professor at the School of Business at SOU, I attend graduation every year because it is the celebration of so many of the right things we are looking for in our world today. Students who have persevered through challenging classes and stuck with their education through thick and thin to receive that document that becomes so personally important to them that the sacrifices they make for it are all worth it — the college diploma.

It has become the tradition of newspapers and other news outlets to run the habitual "but it's going to be a tough world out there getting a job" stories. Here's some news from the students for you: They know that already, it isn't news.

"It's tough out there" is the reason they are in school to cope with the issue. Yet they also know that a college education done well will give them better opportunities and a wider range of opportunities throughout their lifetime. Many of our students are first-generation college graduates, many are just as talented as students going anywhere in this country but are place-bound for any numbers of reasons, and many are nontraditional students.

If you want an inspiring set of stories just go ask some of these "nontrads" their story. Single mothers working a job and going to school. Mothers with partners, children, jobs — go ask their partners the sacrifices made on behalf of their family to make it to graduation. And ask them the meaning of graduation. Ask guys who were "downsized" about why they put their lives on hold and their families on a tight budget to pursue a degree hoping to provide better for them later. Talk to our student speaker Virgina Luka and tell her amazing story.

They all do this because they lived "it's tough out there" for real, and their answer for it was to pursue a college degree. These are great people who have worked, borrowed, sacrificed and then succeeded and gained their degrees.

One of the reasons I will never miss graduation is that while we celebrate this great accomplishment in their lives, it is also a bittersweet moment. Another reason is that I know their stories in a very close and personal way, as do my fellow professors as we have coached and mentored them through their college experience. After graduation they will disperse throughout the world to take up the next step in their lives and our time together comes to a close very quickly. We all know there is a difficult and challenging world out there waiting for them, and they know there is a difficult and challenging world out there waiting for them.

The people who run higher education in our country with all the fancy slogans, etc., many times miss our one true mission: to help prepare these fine and hard-working people to meet that difficult and challenging world. We know it is tough out there, but next year can we have one day to just celebrate the accomplishment?

Maybe you've forgotten what that moment felt like. If so come with me next year to graduation and I'll happily show you the beautiful and inspiring stories all over our field on that great day.

Dennis Slattery lives in Ashland.

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