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Here is a little advice for graduates of 2001


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 25, 2001

Tonight is graduation at Pasco's public high schools. Here is some unsolicited advice for the Class of 2001:

Leave the bologna, eggs and liquid solder at home.

Be kind to animals. Be kinder to children.

Think twice, particularly at the Pasco High commencement, before cheering "We're No. 1."

Be original. If you can't, make sure you offer appropriate attribution. No sense getting kicked out of college for plagiarism.

Wear sunscreen. Floss. Sing. Stretch. Get plenty of calcium.

That last paragraph was advice offered by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich in a June 1, 1997, essay credited incorrectly via Internet postings to an MIT commencement address by author Kurt Vonnegut.

If you weren't paying attention, that's how attribution works.

Ask plenty of questions. Like, "Why did the Land O'Lakes High School vandals toss around bologna and the kids at Central High in Brooksville use tuna fish? Is Oscar Mayer vs. Charlie the Tuna the next great high school rivalry?"

Vote. Carefully.

Water your lawn on the appropriate day.

Aspire to gain employment that won't leave you waiting outside the office for two days for a check that later bounces.

Call your parents. Preferably not to tell them you're moving back home.

Don't be camera shy.

One valedictorian declined to be photographed by the daily newspapers doing stories on the top students at each of Pasco's high schools. Her loss. Her family's, too.

Serve your community.

Many already do, spurred by volunteerism requirements tied to collegiate scholarships. Feel free to do it because you want to, not because you have to.

If public service beckons, make education a top priority. As a motivator, think of the times you ate lunch just after 10:30 in the morning or had to dash from your portable classroom to the main school building because of tornado warnings.

Write frequently in personal journals, in correspondence to your friends and families and in opinions to newspapers. Don't forget to sign your name.

Turn off the television and open a book. Learning isn't over just because high school is.

Pay your taxes. It'll save embarrassment if you run for office.

Turn down the rap music. You don't have to switch to the oldies station, but explore music genres beyond Kid Rock and Eminem.

Take in a show at say the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center or Ruth Eckerd Hall, both of which put to shame the acoustics at Festival Park in Zephyrhills.

And while we're on music, don't hum the lyrics to One when picking up your diploma.

Obey deed restrictions. Your neighbors will like you better and you won't be on the hook for legal fees.

Plan a prank that does not involve spray paint, burglary, obscenities and thousands of dollars worth of property damage.

Take it easy on the 40-something guys in the adult basketball league. You'll be that age soon enough.

If you haven't already, learn the basics of cooking. It'll impress potential mates and future offspring. It also will give you something else to do with bologna and eggs.

Swallow aspirin, not ecstasy or OxyContin.

Emulate the parents of Land O'Lakes teenagers who said the students deserve whatever punishment they receive for their senior prank.

Do not follow the lead of Hernando adults who consulted lawyers and threatened litigation after their children were barred from the May 30 graduation at Central for a similar stunt.

Learn to give an oral presentation that, in three minutes or less, accurately tells your local governing body why the idea for the new road, gas station, school or other development shouldn't move forward. Give sound arguments, not NIMBY rhetoric.

Do not tell said governing body a Florida Panther has been spotted nearby.

If you think you're hot stuff, take up golf. You'll never feel more humbled.

Watch how you dress. The finger-tip rule no longer applies, but good taste does.

Be sure to thank your teachers for a job well done.

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