My Corner, Your Corner: Graduates, be smart about your future, but don’t forget your past

My Corner, Your Corner - Tony Callaio

It’s that time of the year — where did the last 180 days of school go?

Graduation is upon us and I’d like to congratulate the seniors from Pittston Area on receiving their diplomas Thursday evening. Wyoming Area students will graduate Friday, June 17.

When I wrote this column years ago, I would write what I called my commencement speech. I didn’t get that chance when I was a senior, but I made up the opportunity by penning something each summer.

I had a lot of fun doing so.

One year I wrote about the fact that all speakers painstakingly write what they believe is the best piece of writing they ever created. The truth is not many will remember what was said at the ceremony weeks, let alone years, afterwards.

One of the most famous graduation speeches was actually a hypothetical commencement address written by columnist Mary Schmich in 1997.

The message was profound — wear sunscreen. The speech is often erroneously attributed to author Kurt Vonnegut. The myth states he gave that speech at an MIT graduation, but the speaker at MIT that year was Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan.

The rumor became so widespread, Vonnegut was getting deluged with requests to have the speech reprinted.

Regardless of who said it, the advice is very good, and skin cancer is no joke. So students, wear sunscreen!

I can recall in a previous graduation column writing about how life would change for students over the next five years or so.

Face it, graduate — you’re heading in a totally direction and college won’t be as forgiving as high school.

When a paper is due, you can no longer say the dog ate your paper, or your baby brother spilled juice on it, or that you simply forgot to get it done. Or remember if you had something due in high school and you fell asleep the night before trying to finish it and didn’t, so you told your parents you didn’t feel well the next day and stayed home? Yeah, that isn’t going to fly in college.

No more hand-holding by high school teachers — you are on your own. You might find a new friend in a class to study or work on a project with, but for the most part, it’s all on you.

Try to remember, unless you are getting a full scholarship, that someone is paying for your education. It could be you, or it could be your parents, but someone will pay for it.

A four-year degree could cost as much $50,000 a year — that’s a lot of dough. Who can afford a $200,000 college degree after four years? Grants and scholarships are only a fraction of the yearly total.

When I went to college, graduates had 10 years to repay the loan. Today it’s 30 years. That is a very long time to get a return on your education. Message number two: In addition to wearing sunscreen, make sensible choices on where you attend college. Apply for as much free money as possible and work really hard.

Message number three: When you are receiving your diploma, shaking hands and smiling for the camera, think of your parents or whomever is responsible for getting you to where you are.

Think about all the things they had to do to make graduation happen. Think about the rides to school, the hours of homework help, the rides to and from practice. Think about the school clubs in which they volunteered their time. Think about how proud they are of you at the moment you get that diploma.

Instead of putting yourself first, think of your parents or guardians and how happy you are that they were there for you.

You are going to have to get used to a lot of changes in the next few years. Take care of yourselves — the “freshman 15” is no joke!

Congratulations to all high school seniors as you close one chapter of life and enter another.

And above all – wear sunscreen.

Quote of the week

“A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that ‘individuality’ is the key to success.” – Robert Purvis, American abolitionist.

Thought of the week

“There is a good reason they call these ceremonies ‘commencement exercises.’ Graduation is not the end, it’s the beginning.” – Orrin Hatch, U.S. Senator.

Bumper sticker

“The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values.” – William S. Burroughs, American novelist.

My Corner, Your Corner

Tony Callaio

Tony Callaio’s column My Corner, Your Corner runs weekly in the Sunday Dispatch. He can be reached at

Tony Callaio’s column My Corner, Your Corner runs weekly in the Sunday Dispatch. He can be reached at

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