“Oh, the places you’ll go!” to quote the Dr. Seuss book by the same name, is an excellent theme for our graduating high school seniors. This June, hundreds of our children
will make that walk across the stage, shake a hand or two and step out into the world with their diplomas. My guess is that there’s no stopping them in what they want to accomplish.
Many of these young adults are off to college—some in distant states, and some right down State Street. Some graduates will enter the workforce and make a positive impact on our community. Others will join the military to help keep our world safe. All of these options and more are admirable. Oh, to be in their shoes! With a little bit of anxiety and a whole lot of excitement, making that leap out of the nest is an awesome moment (and I don’t mean “awesome” in the casual slang way).
Leaping from the nest
Sitting on top of my desk is a photo of the kids in the fourth-grade classroom where I did my student teaching. I can’t help but think about where each of them will end up after they graduate. These are students full of energy and ideas, each with unique personalities, hopes, and dreams. Oh, the places they’ll go! I can picture Ryan earning a scholarship to play hockey at Michigan. A.J. will be a zoologist, and Casey will be a marine biologist. Samantha, with her love of reading, may study library science. David will be a comic book writer and illustrator—his drawings are incredible.
The truth is, where any of these kids will end up is something that I can’t easily predict. Life is not a destination but rather a ride on Space Mountain. You have your ups and downs. And sometimes you’re in the dark, not knowing which direction that next turn takes you.
The point is, just because you decide on one field of study or career path, it doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind later on. Look at me: I started in business, became a writer and most recently went into teaching. Sometimes, I do all three at once. Add raising a family into the mix, and I’d say that life is pretty cool. Busy, but cool.
It’s Ann Arbor
So where our 2011 graduates wind up calling home is anybody’s guess. I will say one thing, however: a lot of them stay in Ann Arbor. Even of those who get out of Dodge, many of them come back. Why? Because it’s Ann Arbor. This city is one of the greatest places on Earth. I remember being a junior at Pioneer High School, talking with a bunch of classmates in the cafeteria about where we all wanted to go. It was hip to say, “Anywhere but here.” You’ll never believe what happened, though. The bulk of us stayed.
After college, a few of my close friends moved to Chicago. They all came back. Even at our twenty-fifth-year reunion, I had at least four conversations with out-of-town classmates who kept repeating, “You’re so lucky to be living in Ann Arbor!” They all asked me questions such as, “How’s the Art Fair?” and “What’s the football team going to be like this year?” or “Do you still eat at Blimpy Burger?” They spoke in the way one inquires about a favorite aunt or long-lost cousin.
Making an impact
Enough about my generation, though. For the current generation, the impact these seniors have made on their schools has been remarkable. My daughter Gabbi, a freshman in high school, recently told me she has learned so much from the seniors in her school. “If it weren’t for the seniors,” she said, “I would not know what to do in theater guild. They’ve taught me so much—the traditions and the basics of everything.” Gabbi has made a lot of friends within this senior class, and I’ll bet she’s hoping they stick around town. Another thing’s for certain, too—the impact they’ll make on wherever they go will be great, too.
So as spring ends and summer begins this month, let all the new chapters emerge for our graduates. Before you begin, though, enjoy the warm weather with all that Ann Arbor has to offer. Get some ice cream at Washtenaw Dairy; hang out and watch a movie at Top of the Park; canoe down the Huron; and scoff at some wacky art during the Art Fair. Yes, do all of these things and more, because you can’t do them anywhere else. Oh, the place you are from!
Jim Keen is a freelance writer and life-long Ann Arborite. He lives in town with his wife, Bonnie, and daughters, Gabbi (15) and Molly (11). He is the author of Inside Intermarriage: A Christian Partner’s Perspective on Raising a Jewish Family (URJ Press). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Or follow him on Twitter: @jckeen