Thousands of college students and high school seniors in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys will walk proudly across stages over the next month to collect their reward for years of dutiful attendance, responsible conduct and academic growth.
The processionals began Friday when members of the first high school commencement program for the Class of 2019 in the region – Youngstown Rayen Early College – will usher in the season of pomp and circumstance at the DeYor Performing Arts Center in downtown Youngstown. There, those top-notch high-achieving students who attend high school and college simultaneously received their diplomas, which represent their passport to the future.
Now today, hundreds of students will receive college sheepskins at Youngstown State University in the university’s Spring 2019 Commencement. The size of this spring’s class is so large that it has been broken into two distinct morning and afternoon ceremonies.
We offer our congratulations to all the graduates as well as their supportive parents, teachers and other mentors and motivators.
VINDICATOR KEEPSAKE PAGES
Once again this year, The Vindicator will recognize the thousands of high school graduates at Valley high schools with a week of special keepsake pages in their honor beginning June 10. They include lists of all graduates from dozens of area high schools.
Also once again this year, The Vindicator will cover with news stories and photographs a large proportion of these red-letter days. We began that coverage with today’s front-page story on the YEC graduation Friday night.
Several Valley high schools and, more importantly, the students who populate them stand out this year. Some have singled themselves out for superlative academic standings.
The students’ hard work has helped their schools win impressive honors, such as the coveted awards from U.S. News and World Report’s newest rankings of America’s Best High Schools. Included in its list of the top 100 in Ohio are Poland, Canfield, Boardman, Springfield and Howland.
The commencement ceremonies at schools and public halls throughout our region and our nation also serve as a reminder of the value of a high school diploma. They also should signal the urgency to increase the shamefully low graduation rates in many secondary schools across our region, state and nation.
VALUE OF DIPLOMA
Students indeed sacrifice many personal and societal benefits when opting out of attaining that one valuable piece of paper. According to the U.S. Department of Education, a high-school diploma recipient without a college degree:
Earns an average of $8,400 a year more than a high-school dropout.
Contributes more to a state’s economy and requires less public assistance than high-school dropouts.
Becomes substantially less likely to be imprisoned or require public assistance.
Realizes a net lifetime benefit of more than $470,000.
In the Mahoning Valley, graduation rates show significant disparities. According to the 2017-18 Ohio Department of Education Report Cards released last fall, Poland schools had an impressively high rate of 98 percent – already far surpassing national educational goals. But in the nearby district to its north, Youngstown City Schools had a distressingly low rate of 74 percent.
Although the city school district’s graduation rate has increased by about 10 percentage points in recent years, clearly it has a long way to go. District leaders, including incoming Chief Executive Officer Justin Jennings, must continue to make increasing that rate a top academic priority.
But in Youngstown, as in any school district, education leaders can only do so much. Parents and guardians of young people must work diligently to instill a culture that values learning and achievement. That includes monitoring their work closely, keeping lines of communication with teachers open, dishing out applause for good performance and punishing children when they purposely fail to apply themselves.
When schools, families and communities work together toward a common goal of educational excellence, our community, state and nation can more confidently entrust the future to those who proudly earn their ticket out of public schooling this spring and every spring.
For now, though, the grads have earned the right to bask in glory as they toss their caps proudly in the air.
Hail to all in the Class of 2019!