Last week in this space we celebrated educators. This week we get to celebrate graduates. A lot has changed in the brief time these students have been in school and yet, people frequently point out how quickly the time has passed.
Just 15 days after this year’s seniors started kindergarten, the world changed dramatically on September 11, 2001. Back then they were too little to remember much about that eventful day. Now, as they are finishing high school, the world they are entering continues to be changed by the war on terror, the fight for liberty and an economy that has become increasingly global over the last thirteen years.
Even in our little corner of the world, life has changed since the first day of school on August 27, 2001. When this year’s graduates entered kindergarten, there were 716 students in the CRSD as compared to a projected 424 for next year. In 2014 the CRSD has approximately 30% fewer employees than it did in 2001. During the autumn when this year’s graduates started kindergarten, the Copper Valley was just beginning to feel the impact of a declining oil production with the closing of pump stations. Now, the loss of jobs, increased cost of energy and economic recession have left a lasting mark.
So while considering all of these changes, it is a good time to ask some questions about the K-12 education these students have received between 2001 and 2014. As the graduates make decisions about the future, we must ask, are they prepared? Has living in the Copper Valley equipped them to live, work and raise a family? Will they be good citizens and contribute positively to 21st century society? Is our little corner of Alaska still a desirable place to raise children that will live in a world very different from the one that existed just fifteen years ago? For us in the CRSD, we ask, are our programs, policies and classrooms adequate for a world that is changing? As parents and guardians, we all ask, have we instilled the values and relationships that will make life abundant? I look forward to the graduates themselves answering these questions for us.
Change is often difficult and in the brief time between kindergarten and 12th grade our graduates have grown up in a period of historic transition. If the changes in the world cause you to worry, take time to attend one of the CRSD’s graduations this week. I can think of no evening with more optimism than when graduates walk into the room, receive their diplomas, and celebrate the potential for their futures. I guarantee, you’ll leave the ceremony with a smile and lots of reasons to celebrate the class of 2014.