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The students of the Class of 2019 have received their diplomas, turned their tassels to the left and tossed their caps into the air

What makes a close-knit community? It's all about sharing a common experience.

For years — decades — generations — kids have been growing into teenagers, growing into adults and growing old, all passing through the doors of schools like Newberg High, C.S. Lewis Academy, St. Paul High and Veritas. It's a signifier, a sort of shibboleth: "I went to Newberg High" means "I am from here." (A common response, "Oh, when did you graduate?" is a more polite way of asking "how old are you?" for those of us of a certain generation.)

The students of the Class of 2019 have received their diplomas, turned their tassels to the left and tossed their caps into the air – they have joined an unbroken chain of Newberg, Dundee and St. Paul residents before them who sat in those same classrooms, ate lunch in those same cafeterias, walked down those same halls and got those same certificates.

Not everyone who lives here is from here, of course. Some of us come from nearby — Sherwood, McMinnville, Gaston, Lafayette. Some of us come from further away — Idaho, California, Texas, Michigan, Ohio. Some of us crossed a border, or voyaged across an ocean.

But everyone who lives here — lifelong residents who can prove it by their diplomas and transplants who have adopted this community as their own — can appreciate the special occasion of graduation season.

Many of the high-schoolers — no, not high-schoolers, not anymore — who have walked across a stage over the course of the past few weeks will head off to college or vocational school. Some of them might stay close to home, attending a four-year school like George Fox University, Linfield College or Pacific University, or a two-year school like Portland Community College. Others will head off to Corvallis or Eugene or Monmouth, or north to Seattle or Ellensburg or Pullman in Washington, or to schools far beyond.

Some will make their adult lives here in eastern Yamhill County. Some will become transplants themselves, who can't say "I went to Sam Houston" but will nonetheless be Houstonians — or wherever they end up. Either way, it all started here for them.

Graduation is more than just a stuffy annual routine. We're welcoming our next cadre of adults into the wider world. The Class of 2019 is joining the Classes of 2017, 2016, 2006, 1986 and 1946 in that realm.

As always, this occasion is a good time for us to think about the world that we have made for our newest high school graduates.

Many of these 2019 alumni walked out of classes last year to protest gun violence in schools — a scourge that was nearly unthinkable before the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, just a few years before most of them were born, and which has since become horrifyingly routine.

They come of age to vote at a time of extreme political polarization. They come of age to join the military, as some of them are doing, at a time of fragile detente — peace teetering on the brink of war — with Iran and North Korea, even as the longest war in our history wears on in Afghanistan.

They come of age to make their own decisions about their bodies at a time of shifting societal views on issues like genetic manipulation and therapy, marijuana use and trans and non-binary gender identities.

And, not least among the challenges they will confront as adults, a scientific consensus has emerged over the course of their lifetimes that the Earth's climate is rapidly warming, that humans are largely responsible for driving those changes, and the ultimate outcome of that trend is not yet fully understood.

These are the new graduates we raised here in this community. Our teachers, coaches, pastors, troop leaders and school counselors helped to educate, guide and mold them in their formative years. They learned to read from our libraries. They learned to drive on our streets. And their parents and guardians had the greatest influence on them of all, certainly imparting lessons from their own teenage years — their experiences from the Class of 1979, the Class of 1987, the Class of 1995 — and raising them to contribute to our society.

Congratulate them. Celebrate them. Hope we didn't screw things up too badly for them. And accept them as they take their place alongside us as adults.

After all, they're our progeny.


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