I waited, moved from family to family along the south bank of the marina, waiting for that moment. It never happened, or at least I wasn’t able to capture it to accompany reporter Sarah Cooper’s story.
Rushing from the marina back to the newsroom, I thought about my to do list: photograph free fishing day. Check. Next, photograph a Sparks graduation for the front page.
With three high schools to choose from — Spanish Springs, Sparks and Reed — two were holding ceremonies Saturday and I picked Sparks High School’s 11 a.m. graduation at Lawlor Events Center.
Strategically avoiding the numerous orange cones lining Pyramid Way, I traveled to the University of Nevada, Reno campus. While waiting for the Sparks High School class of 2010 to walk to the arena where they would receive their diplomas, I observed the smiles of joy and looks of uncertainty as well as felt the electrifying energy that filled the corridors outside the stage area.
It was a girl who sat down on a bench along white walls of the circular hallway inside Lawlor who caught my attention. As she sat in her yellow cap and gown, she rocked her undoubtedly sore ankles from side to side. The heels she wore were probably a little ambitious, but after all it’s graduation. After a minute or two of staring at the linoleum floor, with a sigh she retreated to her place in line and was smiling and laughing with friends again.
The boys down the hallway were slightly more relaxed yet many still tugged on their dress pants and adjusted their ties, making it obvious that the formal attire was not a regular occurrence. A group of boys jeered each other as to who could probably pull the best prank while walking across the stage, all secretly thinking, “What happens if I get caught?”
In the 10 minutes before graduation started, I learned that Sparks High School would only have 179 students walk across the stage to receive a piece of paper that states they’ve accomplished so much more than they have yet to understand. The class was nearly a fourth of the size of my graduating class.
When I graduated from McQueen High School, the handful of thoughts I had that day centered around moving on, moving out and not looking back. Little did I know then what I know now.
As I watched Sparks’ students walk and pause and walk and pause their way to their seats Saturday, I couldn’t help but think to myself how those young people should be savoring every moment but that they wouldn’t realize that fact until years down the road.
Granted my 10-year reunion is quickly approaching and I have had plenty of time to reflect on my feelings about high school. However, I couldn’t help but think about how that little piece of paper with my name on it changed so much.
A high school diploma not only opens the doors to the future — college or career — it also signals the end of childhood. It ushers in a new time for young adults: a time of decision making and confusion.
When I was in high school, no one told us that the real world doesn’t care about your social status, if you were homecoming queen or captain of the football team. A potential employer won’t ask you how you feel about your sports accomplishments or how the crowd responded to your acting in the school play. Yet, that’s what we hold on to in that initial year after graduation — what defined us as children and teens while looking for our definitions as adults.
The greatest thing I took away from high school was the ability to roll with the punches. In college, I had to teach myself how to study because I didn’t learn that in high school. I also learned that working hard to barely make ends meet while living with four roommates is a situation no one warns you won’t end well. No one warns you that people change, and that the friends you have today might not be your friends tomorrow.
Yet, the greatest lessons are the ones learned about personal accountability.
In the months to come, when the newest members of the real world start making the tough decisions about school, roommates, jobs and the future, I hope they all understand it is up to them what they make of it. No one else will look out for you besides you. Not every day will be perfect and nothing comes easily, but accomplishing your goals and dreams has to be one of the best feelings you’ll ever know.
Enjoy this time new graduates, stop for a moment to take a deep breath and let it all sink in.
Cortney Maddock is a reporter for the Sparks Tribune. She can be reached at email@example.com.