Slow marches across elevated stages will soon play out at high schools in the St. Croix Valley. Graduation for the class of 2021 has arrived. Finally. 

For some, the formality of receiving a diploma may seem like an eternity in the making. It may have started out for four and five year olds in 2007-08 as pre-kindergarten programming or official kindergarten at age 5-6 before entering first grade in 2009. Twelve years later, “Hello, world!”

The reality? Those 12 years of elementary, middle, and high school could be viewed as the first act of a three-act play. Those acts are sometimes referred to as the set-up, confrontation, and resolution. 

Class of 2021, you’ve just advanced past the introduction of the main characters, including the protagonist, antagonist and the conflict in need of resolution. Will the young man meet the young lady? Will the hero score the winning goal? And will the mystery be solved? The answers in no particular order are: Yes, yes, and maybe.

Class of 2021, plan on participating in Act 2, spread over the next four to 10 years, to learn more. There’s the college or university experience. This includes technical colleges. The military could be calling some. Want to see the world? Uncle Sam may have an offer for you. For others, Act 2 could mean a gap year (or two) as a way to mature, or entry level opportunities in business and industry. Professors, work supervisors, and family generally expect the same thing – exceptional attendance and even better participation. Act 2 is not a one-way street.

Class of 2021, Act 3 is out there on the horizon and will be upon you before you know it. Family obligations. Work obligations. Community obligations. Financial obligations. All will demand time and attention. Remember the seemingly meaningless advice offered by a den or pack leader, volunteer coach, or parent? Ahhh, you’ll soon be finding yourself doling out the same advice.

Class of 2021, you are survivors of sorts. Of a global pandemic. Of masking up. Of back-to-back years of remote learning. Of growing up a little too fast. Of relying on electronic devices for zooming around the galaxy, for support and comfort, oh, and for communicating. Think of the innovations that are ahead. The class of 2021 is living what was previously found in comic books and cartoons, namely Dick Tracy, Batman, and the Jetsons.

Class of 2021, you’ve completed your graduation requirements and commencement ceremonies call. Please remember this – commencement is a beginning, not an ending.

As for advice, Ferris Bueller, the lead character in the 1986 movie classic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” put it in perspective by saying, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around, you could miss it.”

While you are living life, don’t miss out on life.

Bill Rubin is the St. Croix Economic Development Center executive director.

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