Congratulations, grads — you’ve finally made it

Published 9:38 am Tuesday, May 29, 2012

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Going to high school graduations each spring always makes me nostalgic. It’s hard to believe I walked across that stage and received my diploma nearly a decade ago.

Watching Shelby County’s thousands of high school seniors take their final steps before entering the real world, I can tell they are feeling the same excitement I felt on my high school graduation night.

It’s certainly a bittersweet feeling. The kids have to say goodbye to the hallways and classrooms they’ve grown up in, but they get to take an exciting step in their lives.

I think Pelham High School valedictorian Sunny Chang hit the nail on the head during her speech during the PHS graduation ceremony last Tuesday night.

“The next steps we take are some of the most crucial, and also some of the most conflicting,” Chang told her fellow graduates. “Many of us, self included, aren’t sure what we are going to do after graduation.”

To those who have solidified plans to attend college, enter the military or start a career path immediately: Good job. We all genuinely wish you the best of luck in your endeavors.

To those who have not figured out exactly what they plan to do next: There’s nothing wrong with that. There are literally millions of options out there at this point. The most important thing is that you pursue something you are passionate about.

No matter what your future plans are, I encourage everyone who walked across the stage in a cap and gown this week to enjoy the next several weeks with your friends and family.

“There are people here tonight that this is the last time we will see them for a while,” Chang said.

How true those words are. I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to work in and cover the communities I grew up in, but many of my classmates have moved on to nearly every corner of the country since we took that graduation walk.

It’s a fun time, and it definitely should be. That diploma signifies at least 12 years worth of hard work and dedication.

From all of us here at Shelby County Newspapers, congratulations, graduates.

Neal Wagner is the city editor for the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 17 or by email at