This year we probably attended more high school graduation parties than ever before. I stopped counting at about 10. Most of these were kids that I have worked with as a volunteer in 4-H and FFA activities. You can count on three things at almost every party for a high school graduate. First, the graduate will greet you - that's refreshing. Second, you will have good food to eat, but you won't know many of the people that are there eating it with you. Third, the graduate's life will be spelled out in pictures, trophies, artwork and other things the young person is proud of displayed around the room, or tent, as the case may be.
The one thing you can't count on is where the young person is going from here. Out of the 10 parties only one displayed the signs and tee-shirts from the college they're attending. Most of them were going to college. One is going to basic training and hopes to be in the Indiana National Guard. More power to him.
Most have been accepted into a college. Some were told to start at a smaller school, maybe a community college, and improve your grades before coming to a big campus, like Indiana University or Purdue University. Others are jumping right into the fire of a huge campus with big plans, like being a vet or a doctor.
Some know what they want to do already. Others think they know but acknowledge they could change direction later. What all these Hoosier kids hope for is that there will be some sort of job waiting for them when they are ready to enter the work force.
The track record in agriculture is good, much better than in some other industries. And the track record in Indiana is good as well. We don't need people going off the unemployment rolls because they've used up all the benefits they can but still don't have a job to make the unemployment numbers look better, as some states do.
Still, there are no guarantees. I didn't find a table at one of these parties where all of the person's future accomplishments were laid out. There were no articles, no trophies or no congratulatory 'attaboys' on doing well at their first job.
Truth is that graduation is a stepping stone along the path to a fuller life. It's a great time for the individual, family and friends to stop, reflect, and get a handle on what the next step might be for that person. It's not the end, for some it's only the beginning.
Congratulations to all those Hoosier farm families that celebrated high school graduations this year. And by the way, if you invite me to a future party, I'm partial to pulled pork, barbecued ribs, fried chicken...get the picture?