A different mindset for the Class of 2011

Posted: Sunday, May 22, 2011

Congratulations to the Class of 2011.

This week, hundreds of students from Kenai Peninsula high schools will be awarded their high school diplomas. They join graduates of Kenai Peninsula College, who turned their tassels in a ceremony earlier this month.

For many students, graduation is the culmination of years of hard work. For many more, it's just the beginning, whether the future holds post-secondary schooling, an apprenticeship or technical training, enlistment in the military, or immediate entry into the workforce.

To the graduates, we applaud the effort that's gotten you this far. We encourage you to set your future goals high, and chase your dreams.

No doubt, this is a tough time to be thinking about the future. Economic recovery has been slow. College tuition around the country has skyrocketed. Young adults today are more likely to live at home longer, and have more competition for openings when they hit the job market.

Then again, today's graduates bring a much different world view to the conversation than did graduates even 10 years ago. For today's graduates, the world is a smaller place. As much as those of us in older generations might like to gripe about it, today's young people are plugged in and connected in ways that some of us could not have imagined when we received our diplomas in the good old days. Pocket-sized touch-screen computers that connect you to a World Wide Web of data from anywhere you happen to be -- only in "Star Trek," right?

Beloit College in Wisconsin annually publishes a Mindset List, which is intended to give the professors a glimpse into how the incoming freshmen class views the world. Part of what has shaped that world view is the fact that today's graduates have been using technology their entire lives. Indeed, for them, email is too slow, pushed aside in favor of text messaging.

The Class of 2011 is more comfortable with diversity. They have been encouraged to collaborate. To them, Russians and Americans have always been working together in space. Conversations have always been global, and digital has always been the language.

Because of that, they've learned differently, and now, hopefully, they'll be ready to problem-solve differently.

Because, let's face it, we'll be handing over quite a few challenges to the Class of 2011, which they will need every new tool, technology and way thinking at their disposal to overcome.

While we're at it, we'd like to remind graduates and their family and friends that while there's plenty to celebrate, please remember to celebrate safely. Don't stop thinking just because you've graduated -- one bad decision is all it takes to impact the rest of your life. We want to see all graduates have to opportunity to reach their goals and fulfill their potential.

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