Caps and gowns grace the front page of the newspaper, roadside balloons announce parties honoring high school seniors, and pick-up trucks and U-Hauls are curbside at local universities, all marking that life milestone known as graduation.
At local Division I universities, graduation ceremonies serve to remind us that college athletes do much more than play sports during their careers, and just like the commercial says, "most will go pro in something other than athletics."
St. Francis just announced that their athletes have posted a spring semester grade point average of 3.215, a new department record, and the 27th straight semester where Red Flash athletes' GPA was better than 3.0.
In Happy Valley, Penn State saw 59 athletes graduate this spring, including 11 whose teams have celebrated national championship seasons during their careers. In addition to the success in competition, Penn State student-athletes are also among the best in the country in terms of graduation rate. The Nittany Lions' graduate 88 percent of their athletes, that's significantly better than the national NCAA graduation rate of 80 percent.
Of course, on the high school level nearly all athletes graduate, as academic standards are necessary to participate. In fact, most high school athletes learn early-on that the principles that make them successful on the athletic field also benefit them in the classroom. Discipline, commitment, persistence and time management are as valuable in academics as in athletics. The class of 2012 is soon to learn that those same ideals will help make them successful in "real" life as well.
Graduation ceremonies are more than a celebration of a milestone, and the end of an era, they are also the opportunity for student-athletes to thank their parents and coaches for giving so much to get them to that special day.
Imagine the hours spent by coaches in practice, off-season workouts and leagues; watching film, drawing up plays the list goes on and on. Then there are the parents, whose roles can range from cheering squad to fundraiser to chauffer. High school athletics are a family affair, and graduation brings a chance to honor those who support our athletes the most.
This year, my Wyalusing Valley class will celebrate our 25th high school reunion. While I was fortunate enough to be part of some championship athletic teams, when I think back to high school, it's not the wins, the home runs or awards that I remember. The memories I cherish most involve practicing in the rain with my friends, bus rides home from away games, and sleep-over's on Friday nights before Saturday morning work-outs.
As the class of 2012 celebrates their graduations, I hope they take with them endless memories of goals attained and lessons learned, as well as and countless special moments of not only championships, but of friendships.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.