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North Summit seniors embark on next phase

At North Summit High School Thursday night graduates fidgeted in their purple caps and gowns, shifting from foot to foot, nervously waiting in line to enter the auditorium packed with a full house of expectant family and friends. Parents nimbly positioned themselves on their seatbacks, aiming cameras at the doors, ready to get a good shot of the kids. In the background new parents tried to pacify their fussy infants who filled the room with cries and babbles.

Outside in the hall, Jordan Ercanbrack, a female student near the front of the line, said that high school graduation is special because it represents a new beginning. She explained that she was excited to start the next phase of her life, that it was both scary and exciting an enduring sentiment given the occasion, one echoed throughout the ceremony.

Once the class was seated on the stage, Salutatorian Jaci Judd began her speech, addressing fellow students and the audience from the lectern, with a witty list of "10 Things I Learned While at North Summit High School " that included a winning mix of humor and serious tidbits, i.e., No. 10: Ranch dressing can go on anything and No. 5: Make friends with everyone, because you never know what they might be like.

Judd also mused about the problems inherent in leaving old things behind and facing an unknown future, and like Ercanbrack, voiced a shrewd recognition of the dualistic nature of fear and excitement, so joined that one almost always accompanies the other, often being a matter of perspective. Each girl saw both the risks and rewards on the horizon. Judd concluded, and counseled her classmates, that belief in oneself was the key to success and overcoming adversity. She quoted a poem by Arthur Hill that said,

"Life’s battles don’t always go / To the stronger or faster man / But sooner or later the man who wins / Is the one who thinks he can."

But moving out from under the wings of parents, to begin life as an independent young adult, is an experience many of the students won’t get to enjoy, or at least not fully.

Ercanbrack said she expected to work during the summer, and attend Salt Lake Community College in the fall, but intends to stay at home for at least a year or so. She said the economy and saving money played the biggest role in her decision. Many students said they would be doing the same, and that money was the significant factor. Across the country and across age-groups this is becoming less unusual. The cover of this week’s New Yorker magazine depicts a young man hanging his Ph.D. diploma on the wall of his parents bedroom, a piece follows in the magazine humorously alluding to the bleak prospects facing even college graduates. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment is higher than it’s been in decades.

Guest speaker Reagan Leadbetter of Good Morning Utah raised a pertinent question, when recalling her days as a teenager. She said she remembered thinking, "What am I gonna do? I can’t live with my parents forever," then doled out a number of recommendations for success including: "practice your passion," "jump in with both feet," and "gather positive people around you." Ledbetter amused the students by demonstrating a product called Flarp a silly puddy looking substance that made farting noises when squished. Turned out it was a prop in an anecdote about determination and drive her son was adamant about their ability to procure some Flarp, despite the difficulty of finding it, or perhaps the hour or the night. Either way the lesson on the importance of perseverance and tenacity appeared to hit the mark.

The ceremony concluded with students walking across the stage as their names were called. They shook hands with Steve Jenkins or Arlin Ovard, who alternately congratulated students, and received their diplomas; adults, at least in theory, now facing the ubiquitous difficulty of a modern era a bewildering variety of choices but, with increasing competition, a dwindling supply of desirable options. Yet this reality didn’t spoil the mood. When the students chanted a traditional school cheer, shouting "we can do it, we will win" it seemed a clarion call fitting to the occasion.


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