All around this great nation a great outflow of emotion and tears have been being shed in all corners of our country. The reasons are not what you might guess. The cause of this outpouring of sentiment has little to do with the loss of a loved one or a national tragedy.
Over the last two weeks and into the week after Labor Day parents are seeing their youngest leave for their first day of school. They could be entering pre-school, kindergarten or the first grade. Some will be leaving their respective elementary schools and headed onto the next step of their formal education when they walk into middle schools, while others are making the big leap into high school.
An even larger leap is being made by those that will have graduated high school last spring and will be going on to college. For some, making it the first time they have been away from home for any extended period of time. Parents here on Marco have been moving their sons and daughters into these institutions of higher learning all over the country these last couple of weeks.
The 2018-19 school year saw approximately 3.7 million students graduate from high school in the United States. Of that number, 3.3 million students will have graduated from public high schools and another 400,000 from private high schools.
Some have received prestigious nominations to a number of the U.S. military academies, while some will go only as far Florida Gulf Coast University or Florida SouthWestern State College. Others have entered into wonderful schools like Mississippi State, Boston College, University of Florida, Florida State, University of Georgia, University of Vermont, Cornell University and so many more.
Others will go on to seek out the necessary training for well-paying jobs in the trades. Plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians and other highly skilled tradesmen are in high demand, especially in a fast-growing area such as Florida.
Medical technicians are also in high demand, especially here in Florida.
Where I grew up in New Hampshire, we walked about a mile to school every day and back. Kids that lived a little further would be able to be bused. Of course, our parents would always remind us about walking 10 miles to school, through snowbanks that were six feet high and winds of forty miles an hour. I am sure some of you can remember those same stories which were meant to make us feel better about our situation.
When I get together with friends of mine from my college years, the conversations seem to always touch on how happy we were that we didn’t have cellphones in those day, or the pesky little gadget called a camera that is embedded in each one of those devices. Good God, can you imagine the mischief that would have been recorded on those devices and the embarrassment they might have caused!
I’ll always remember the scene in the wonderful 1994 movie “Forrest Gump,” as Forrest (Tom Hanks) waited with his son Forrest Jr. for the bus to pick him up at the end of the long driveway leading up to their home. As Forrest Jr. ascended the steps and turned somewhat hesitantly, his dad promised him he’d wait right there for his return.
Friends of mine confided to me last week that they had indeed wiped a tear or two away when they parted from their daughters or sons, and these were parents that were leaving their kids off at college.
I can’t image the thoughts that must pass through the minds of a first grader being left at school for the first day, or the angst that their parents must feel. I attended the orientation night for sixth graders at the Marco Island Charter Middle School and wrote about it in our last edition. These sixth graders would be entering into an entirely different process, moving from classroom to classroom for different studies such as math, English, science and five other subject matters. It has to be a bit confusing, but they appear to overcome the confusion within a week or two because of the careful mentoring by staff and teachers in the school.
Today’s world is a tough one, but here in our little community we should have such great pride in the foundations that we lay for the next generation’s future. From the time they start at Tommie Barfield, to that evening they enter the orientation night when they reach the sixth grade at the Charter Middle School, they are given the basic tools for survival in high school.
They are then propelled into those important four years of high school. Then, they and their parents have the wonderful opportunity to choose between attending either the Marco Island Academy, a public charter high school or Lely High School. Both provide outstanding opportunities to send them off on their next choices in life.
A great friend of mine reminded me that she cried the day her daughter entered into Tommie Barfield and would again cry when she and her husband drove that same little girl to Gainesville and helped her settle into her dorm room there.
She would cry one more time, that would be on her daughter’s first trip home from college after two months being gone and dumping what seemed like seventy-five pounds of dirty laundry on the floor and running out the door to visit with friends back here at home. She told that story with a great grin and a small tear at the corner of her eye, a tear of joy and love that only a parent can understand.
Steve Stefanides, well-known by his nickname “Stef,” is an experienced award-winning reporter of local civic and public interest news. Stef’s More Straight Talk column (and its predecessor, Straight Talk), on a variety of subjects, is a favorite of readers who trust him to bring them the facts. A Marco Island resident, Stef contributes to the community in many ways, having served on a number of city committees, charitable groups, boards and local organizations. Contact him by email at Stef@coastalbreezenews.com