A major rite of passage started Friday night for some area high school seniors and will continue for others through the next couple weeks.

It's a time the graduates will always remember: the commencement ceremony, the funny hat and tassel, the congratulations, the presents, the parties, the diploma. But then the realization that their life's journey has reached a fork in the road: What's next?

We hope our public and private schools have prepared students for the next phase of their lives. After 12 years of mandatory education, the world is open to them, and they have many choices. More schooling at a university or technical college? Full-time work with training? Enlistment in the armed services? Work in the family business or farm?

Graduates should feel blessed to live in a country where their freedoms are limited only by their initiative and drive.

They should not feel daunted by the opportunities but enthralled by them. Ideally, they should have some idea of the next phase of their lives, but many young people don't find their niche until later. They might try college and find it's not for them. They might enter the armed services and then go to college later.

Although having children or getting married might seem like a good choice, and it might be for some, it's probably better for most people to wait until they have a firm idea of what they will be doing for work and how much money they'll be earning.

The biggest lesson in life will come now or soon: The world is expensive, and your parents no longer need to support you unless they choose to do so. Learn this lesson before you enter a marriage or have children.

We congratulate all high school graduates for reaching this pinnacle and remind them that the best is yet to come.

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