Congratulations to the Class of 2014 and thoughts on future grads

Joe Tarica.
Joe Tarica.

We’ve come to the end of another graduation season, and I’m always a little sad to see the final procession of caps and gowns for the year.

In the news business, the first half of June is among the more joyous periods, filled with photographs of triumphant students celebrating one of life’s major milestones. We try to capture as many of the events around our county as we can, from small continuation high schools whose graduating classes number in the single digits to the more than 4,000 graduates receiving their diplomas at Cal Poly this weekend.

Their stories are far too numerous to tell, but suffice it to say that each program is filled with individual successes that should make us all proud.

We enjoyed just such a morning on Thursday when Little Miss Eighth-Grader wrapped up her middle school career in an event they’re calling a “promotion” these days. The name may be different from when most of us were teenagers, but the emotion was recognizably the same, that bittersweet sense of end and beginning blended into one tumultuous community ceremony unlike anything else.

Dressed in their red-carpet finest, the kids looked sharp up there, well deserving of the many accolades and celebration. After all the speeches, music and handing out of certificates, when the group of 49 kids had dispersed for the last time, I asked the girl how she felt about the occasion.

“Empty,” she said with a twinge of sadness, apparently the sense of loss being a bit more prominent at that particular moment. Nearby, one of her friends who can be a tearful sort at times like this, was a mix of red eyes and a smile, clutching her favorite classmates with a fierce determination as though she wanted to hold the moment forever and never let it go.

These 13 years have gone by too fast, like a snowball rolling down a hill, gaining speed with each rotation. The reality of it makes me extra attentive right now, knowing the next four will only move more quickly.

This girl is bound for great things, and she’s already made us so proud already. Did I tell you she was voted Most Likely to Succeed? I never received any such honor in my yearbooks.

Meanwhile, away from the streamers, decorated cupcakes and other grad festivities, the lower grades were finishing up their last day before summer, in perfectly appropriate kid fashion. With the prospect of high school still a distant idea, 30-something 11-year-olds were enjoying a pizza party, chattering away while a video of “Old Yeller” played in the background.

Mr. Big Fifth-Grader, who’s a rather sociable type, was completely in his element, surrounded by several friends, the majority of them girls who were once dubbed by his sister and her friends as his “flock of chicks.” He’s been busy making sure he has all their phone numbers ahead of the summer. There’s another trait these kids never got from me.

Earlier in the day, the fifth-grade class joined the rest of the school in watching the promotion ceremony. Their teacher had given them all sunglasses to wear during the midday event, their future so bright, they had to wear shades.

That’s a fitting image for our county graduates as well, and best of luck to all of them as they embark on new experiences and challenges. To the Class of 2014, my heartiest congratulations. To the Classes of 2018 and 2021, can you guys just slow down a bit?