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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Luna: Kids Meet Too Low Standards

Idaho’s education system faces a “stark reality,” state schools Superintendent Tom Luna told a special legislative committee this morning: “Kids are meeting our standards, but they aren’t the right standards any more.” The state has a “very high graduation rate, one of the highest in the country,” Luna said, but one of the lowest percentages of students that go on to further education after high school. “And then we see that of those that do go on, almost half of them have to take remedial courses,” he said. “Thirty-eight percent of them do not go on to their second year.” As a result, fewer than 40 percent of Idaho adults have some sort of degree or certificate beyond high school. “That’s in a world where 60 percent of jobs require some form of post-secondary degree or certificate”/Betsy Russell, Eye on Boise. More here.

Question: Why don't Idahoan parents and students value college?

High School grads get 80 percent off on Lochsa whitewater rafting

RAFTING — Before you hit the cold, cruel world, high school graduates, hit face-first into some cold, thrilling whitwater with this screaming deal for a whitewater rafting trip.

ROW Adventures is offering 2013 high school grads an 80 percent discount for whitewater rafting trips on the thrilling Lochsa River. That's just $20 bucks for one of the best whitewater rapid rushes in the country!

  • Parents, siblings, guardians, and teachers may accompany a graduating senior on the trip at a 20 percent discount.

“The Lochsa River is considered the best whitewater on earth,” said ROW Marketing Director Brad Moss. “The students have worked hard, and now it’s time to play hard. Twenty mind-blowing miles of Class III-IV rapids are sure to provide some of the best memories of senior year.”

The Lochsa River delivers more than 40 major rapids as it runs from its headwaters in the Bitterroot Mountains to where it eventually meets up with the Selway and Clearwater rivers. Lochsa rafting features technical, fast and high volume water. This provides big hydraulics, dramatic waves, and paddler thrills. Accommodations are available at the nearby River Dance Lodge, with camping, glamping, and log cabin options.

The promotion is available on select days in June and July.

Info and booking: (866) 836-9340.

Hope Chests and Silver Spoons: How girls’ graduation gifts have changed

This past weekend in Spokane, thousands of high school seniors graduated and most received gifts from friends and family.

My daughter graduated this weekend, as well. And, just as it was with her siblings, our gift was a computer to take to school with her. It's a pretty common gift these days, a tool for study and work. Exactly what the contemporary student needs to succeed. But that wasn't always the case.

In the not-too-distant past, girls didn't get that kind of gift. Instead, they were given items that would prepare them for becoming wives and mothers. College was fine, but the real work came after they were awarded their 'Mrs.' degree. Later, in the 1960s and 70s, luggage became a popular graduation gift, suitable for a traveling coed, single working girl and (fingers crossed!) eventual honeymooner. Remember Mary Tyler Moore's matched set of white luggage?

I write a column about antiques and collectibles for Nostalgia Magazine each month. In the latest column I wrote about the tradition of Lane Furniture Company gifting high school senior girls with a miniature cedar chest to be used as a jewelry box. The hope was that soon they would be buying, or be given, a full-size 'hope chest' to fill with things they would need as wives and homemakers. Silver companies gave girls a miniature sterling spoon or knife, often fashioned into a pin, when they picked out a silver pattern.

Today the idea of a hope chest filled with household items, linens and lingere seems laughable. But it wasn't that long ago that young women were expected to marry young and set up housekeeping right away.

 

Graduation…a mother’s blessing

My son graduates today…we will gather with friends and sit in the auditorium and cheer. He asks me if I will cry. Of course.  But first, in the intimacy of our home, I will read these words, a look back, a blessing forward. With love, Mom…

We are here – graduation day – when we celebrate you: Alexander.

Somehow the years carried us to this moment: with you growing from an infant, to a toddler, then a child, now a young man. We have marched too quickly in this parade of life.

When you were three, I called you, “Son.”  You smiled at me and asked, “Like sun-shine?”  Yes, like sunshine…and still like sunshine through 19 years.

School may have taught you what you need for life, most likely not. The quizzes and papers and tests feel more like hurdles then bridges today. No matter, you never let school discourage your passion. Nice work! A+

May you take with you some life lessons learned along the way, lessons we discovered in our journey through your childhood.

Together, we discovered time is precious – so why waste it on chores when we could build forts, swim at the pool and read books? The weeds and dusting waited patiently while we played. Our days filled up with laughter and giggles and imaginative journeys to distant lands. We traveled together– through forts and Moon Horse rides into the night.

Sometimes, we had to travel through real-life sadness – losing Grandpa, Uncle Art and Sister Carolyn. You brought kindness on those trips, easing our way.

You taught me simple gestures of love transform us: when you were five, you insisted we take flowers to the hospital patients who were not discharged home for Christmas. You took carnations and put them in paper-cup vases; you brought joy to the bedside. I learned of your tremendous compassion for strangers.

In second grade, you asked if I ever stood up for justice like Martin Luther King, Jr or Rosa Parks; and did I ever meet Rosa Parks and what did I actually say to her?  In that moment, I learned people are more important to you than theories and your heart understands suffering.  You remain a wise soul seeking what is right in the world.  

While the classroom often confined you, the stage has not. Cast as an iguana, a carriage driver, a dyno-bug, Amonasro – and many other characters – you delighted us and found self-confidence.  While singing in Fame, Footloose and Phantom, you found your own voice at Creative Theatre Experience, Kids at Play and in the Catskills. Your courage to listen to your own spirit taught me to listen more closely to my own voice. I am grateful.

God has blessed you with gifts you will soon share with the world. Today I offer these gifts for you:

For your journey, may you take faith – for times of joy and confusion – knowing our God who created you, walks with you – always.

May you take hope – for all your dreams and adventures. You have taught us to see possibilities when discouraging voices whispered into our life. May your hopeful heart guide you to joy-filled destinations.

May you take love – many people loved you through these years - and left their love within your heart. May their love inspire and comfort you, may that love give you strength and delight.

No matter where your dreams lead you: to school, the stage, with new friends and places: our love follows - through eternity into forever.

Always.

Congratulations, Alex!  Love, Mom

(S-R archives photo)

Palin To Grads: Get Off Your Butts

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, right, hugs Republic High graduate Tyler Weyer, who introduced her and helped organize the invitation to speak, as the graduation speaker Saturday, during graduation exercises at Republic High School. The event drew Palin fans from around the region and was a major coup for the graduates who wooed her as a graduation speaker. (SR photo: Kathy Plonka)

Former Alaska governor and Republican firebrand Sarah Palin brought a gift and a surprise for residents of this town of 1,100 who crowded the high school gym to celebrate its graduation Saturday afternoon. Grads found the gift taped under their chairs onstage: a dollar bill. The currency taught a life lesson, Palin said. “You gotta get off your butt to make a buck,” Palin said, to cheers from the crowd of 700 or so who had nabbed tickets to the event. The surprise came later, as Palin revealed the motivation for her acceptance of the invitation from senior class President Tyler Weyer and the rest of the 26-member graduating class. The group posed in the school’s front yard holding a “We Want You, Governor Palin!” banner that went viral on Facebook and eventually led to her agreeing to deliver the commencement address/Kip Hill, SR. More here.

Question: What short message would you want to say to today's graduates?

Sarah Palin’s Biggest Fan

The closest Tyler Weyer has been to Sarah Palin was dressing as her — red blouse, auburn wig, rimless glasses and all. About a month ago, before his classmates, teachers, principal and mother, the 17-year-old senior wobbled on high heels, purchased from the “11 plus” shelf at Value Village in Spokane. He towered over a blonde eighth-grade girl in a pantsuit on the Republic High School stage as they discussed the role of sexism in the 2008 presidential campaign. “So please,” implored Tyler to the audience, “Stop photoshopping my head on sexy bikini photos.” “Stop saying I have cankles,” the eighth-grader deadpanned/Deanna Pan, Inlander. More here. (Young Kwak's Inlander photo: Republic High School teacher Liz Bremner dolls up Tyler Weyer, who played Sarah Palin for a school event)

Question: Name someone whom you are a big fan of?

NIC Graduates Record Number

A record number of graduates participated in commencement ceremonies at North Idaho College today. About 400 to 500 students participated in the graduation ceremonies. Some 1,100 were eligible to do so. (SR photo: Kathy Plonka)

DFO: I'll be attending one graduation this summer — that of Amy Dearest, who will be receiving a master's degree in family counseling from Portland State. How about you?

Question: How many — and what kind — of graduations will you attend this summer?

Tutu To Zag Grads: Keep Dreaming

Archbishop Desmond Tutu brought his message of social justice and equality to Gonzaga University’s graduation ceremony Sunday, urging students to dream dreams that could change the world. Tutu, a central figure in South Africa’s fight against apartheid, has scaled back public appearances in recent years, but said he accepted Gonzaga’s invitation because he remains inspired by the idealism of the young. “I have to tell you, I can’t resist young people,” said the 80-year-old Tutu, a Nobel Prize winner and retired Anglican archbishop of Cape Town. “They are some of the most incredible creatures in God’s creation.” Student activism during the 1980s helped pressure the United States to divest in South Africa, which eventually toppled the racist government and led to democratic elections/Becky Kramer, SR. More here. (SR photo)

Question: Is today's youth more politically active than the ones of your g-g-generation?

The Weight of Affection

   I knew even before I opened my eyes, something wasn’t right.
Lying on my back in the dark room, I could feel a heaviness on the center of my chest, a pressure that made taking each breath an effort. My mind raced, inventorying the signs of a heart attack. Shortness of breath? Yes. Pressure? Yes. Pain? Oddly, no.

   Fully awake by this time I realized the “elephant” occupying my chest was nothing more than a snoring two-year-old in footie pajamas, her precious blankie tucked under her arm, one thumb in her mouth, the thumb and forefinger of the other hand twisted—as was her habit—around one of her curls. She’d come into our room at some point and since her older brother and sister had—one by one—already made the trip and had staked out their places in the crowded bed, simply climbed up on top of me, popped her thumb in her mouth and drifted off again.

   I shifted, rolling her gently onto the bed beside me.

   Most mornings when the children were small, I woke up to find everyone who mattered most to me curled, warm and safe, around me. Our bed was an island—not always a comfortable island, with two adults, three children and the occasional cat—but in those moments, it was a sanctuary. 

   Now, the toddler who climbed me and stretched out like I was the top bunk at summer camp, is 22. Today is her birthday and there is a box of cupcakes waiting to welcome her home. 

   Now, she’s about to graduate from college and fling herself into the real world with all the enthusiasm, humor and jolly determination that have marked everything she’s done since the day she was born. She talked early. She walked early. She read early, asking me at five years old, her head cocked as she scanned a book on the shelves in the living room, “What is El-e-men-tal Ge-ol-o-gy?” Her only mispronunciation was a hard “ghee instead of “G”. It was at that moment I realized she hadn’t memorized all the children’s books in her room, as we’d thought. She’d been reading them since she was four.

   This middle daughter is an adult now, soon to have a degree in, of all things, geology. These days, nobody but the cat pads into our room in the wee hours.  But that doesn’t mean she isn’t still on my mind.

   Even now there are nights when I wake and lie quietly in the dark, thinking about her, about the baby she was and the woman she’s grown to be. About the balance of time and how easily it shifts from now to then. And in those moments I feel, again, the warm, familiar weight of love pressing down on my heart.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Home Planet , Treasure Hunting and  CAMera: Travel and Photo blogs, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

APhoto Of The Day — 6.10.10

Danielle Post is the name of the Lake Weir (Fla.) High School graduate wearing this cap Wednesday, photographed by Bruce Ackerman for AP/Ocala Star-Banner. You write the cutline.

Top Cutlines:

  • 1. Congrats!!! UR Valdiktor’n — Cabbage Boy.
  • 2. I wnt 2 b ur bss — Charlie
  • 3. Sadly, an entire generation of text messagers has no idea what’s wrong with this picture — Formerly Sandpoint.

Graduation Girl

Going through previous graduation columns…

Home Planet: They grow up at breathtaking speed

Cheryl-Anne Millsap
The Spokesman-Review
June 2, 2008
 

She came into this world after a labor and delivery so fast and efficient it left us both dazed and breathless. Exhilarated and exhausted, I rubbed my cheek against her soft, dark curls. I counted 10 tiny fingers and 10 tiny toes. I tucked her into the curve of my arm and closed my eyes to rest.

I’m still trying to catch up.

I brought her home and held her close to me as we rocked in her great-grandmother’s rocking chair. I nursed her and sang lullabies in the dark. But in a heartbeat she got away from me. Before I knew it, she was toddling around, talking and singing, one thumb in her mouth and the other hand twisting her hair, laughing a deep belly laugh at the antics of her siblings.

Then, distracted by the everyday chores that pulled at me, I looked up to find she was ready for kindergarten, already reading the books her brother and sister brought home from school.

Another blink and she was on her bicycle, wearing Band-Aids on skinned knees and an ear-to-ear grin on her face. She was in constant motion, an Energizer Bunny who danced through the house and into our hearts.

We were still calling her “the baby” when she went away to summer camp for the first time and I brought her home to find she’d grown taller in just a week.

One minute she was playing with her dolls and the next she was wearing braces on her teeth and getting into my makeup and talking about boys. Then she was driving and dating and we were arguing about curfews and clothes.

Yesterday she was in my arms and now, although it feels like I only closed my eyes for a second, she’s graduating from high school.

While I looked over my shoulder at the past or gazed too far down the road worrying about the future or simply focused on the day-to-day routine, she grew up.

She’s bright and beautiful and I’m grateful for every minute I’ve had with her. But, oh, how I wish I could turn back time.

When she heads off to college in the fall, putting three states – and other less-tangible barriers – between us, I suspect she’ll start her new adventure with just as much impatience and exuberance and determination as she showed when she came into my life in the wee hours of a February morning 18 years ago. She’ll rush off to her future, a whirlwind of potential and possibility.

And once again I’ll be left to catch my breath.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

The Hannah Project

     My friend sat with her husband in a stadium crowded with of thousands of parents just like the two of them. One by one their college-educated children marched across the stage and picked up diplomas, given with a smile and handshake, before crossing to the other side and back to their seats.

      Suddenly, my friend’s eyes filled with tears. Tears of tenderness. Tears of bittersweet sadness. And, to her surprise, tears of relief.

      For the first time it occurred to her that she’d really reached the end of the “Hannah Project” they’d started 22 years before. She had, as the old saying goes, worked herself out of a job. The baby was grown. She had a good education and, most miraculous of all, had already been hired by a reputable company. There was a young man in the picture who gave every indication that he would eventually be a son-in-law.

      For a moment she was wracked with sadness. The baby was gone. Then, for the first time, my friend realized that she wasn’t losing the baby. She was gaining freedom and independence and a second chance at making some of her own dreams come true. Without the day-to-day worries of parenting, she could focus on the dreams she’d put off to raise a child.

      In the time it took a new graduate to cross the stage, she had an epiphany. She was graduating, too. Even as she grieved, she was already looking forward to having a second chance at life.

      Wanting to share what she was feeling, she reached over, clasped her husband’s hand, and whispered in his ear.

      “I can’t believe she’s all grown up,” she said. He nodded.

      “It seems like she was born yesterday,” she whispered. He nodded again

      “We’ve got a lot to look forward to,” she said with tears in her eyes.

      “I know,” he replied squeezing her hand, looking like he was close to tears himself. “No more tuition.”

      She told me the story over a cup of coffee, still shaking her head and laughing. She’d been overcome by the significance of the moment. By the idea that it wasn’t just her child who was moving into a new life; that she was being reborn, as well.

        Her husband had more practical matters on his mind.

        “I had stars in my eyes and he was seeing dollar signs,” she said.

      Actually, when you think about it, that’s a pretty good description of parenting. From conception to graduation, raising a child is brief periods of rose-colored daydreams followed by sobering reality. Maternal glow and  morning sickness. Lullabies and sleep deprivation. Adoration followed by frustration. The drive to give a child what he or she need to grow and thrive and the spirit-crushing responsibility of bringing in the cold hard cash to make it happen. And, finally, when they step out of the nest, regret tempered by the thrill of picking up the life you put on hold.

      Of course, that first step is a big one. A few days after the graduation ceremony, over a late-morning homemade breakfast of pancakes and sausage in mom’s kitchen, my friend’s daughter sheepishly asked for a small loan to tide her over. Just until the first paycheck. It seems the deposit on the new apartment and all the other nickel-and-dime expenses of starting a life on one’s own had erased the balance in her checking account. And, she’d been thinking… To really get ahead she might need to go to graduate school.

      I laughed and she smiled at me over her coffee cup.

      “I know, I know,” she said. “I got ahead of myself.” Apparently, so did her husband.

      My friend may have stars in her eyes but she doesn’t have to rush to decide what she wants to be when she grows up. Again. After all, it takes a little time to wrap up a big effort like the Hannah Project.

      Well, time and a few dollars more.  
 
 
 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

A Proud Moment

As many of you know, son, Seth, graduated from medical school at UColorado Denver Friday, with his medical degree as well as a doctorate in neuro-science. Here, you see the young man shortly after being awarded his second degree last week, along with Mrs. O, Amy Dearest and me. Just wanted to let you know that I wasn’t entirely goofing off during my 5-plus days away from the blog. My daughter-in-law was handling the photo duties.

Culminating Projects

For this year’s and last year’s graduating senior classes, a new graduation requirement has been added among the class and credit prerequisites: the culminating project. In this assignment, senior students are supposed to spend at least 20 hours in creating this project as well as writing a proposal letter and researched paper on the topic they chose. The project is very open to whatever students may choose to present on, but the main goal of the task is to make students experience “a learning stretch,”  which essentially means that they should be able to take away something from the work.

As a senior in the graduating class of 2009, I, myself, had to undertake the culminating project. In all honesty, it was burdensome and added already to the large amount of work I already had. For my project I had created a music video to a song my friend, Casey Ager, had written himself. The song he wrote happened to be his finalized culminating project. Here is the finished product.

But what I am really trying to get at is this: how do you feel about the requirement of the culminating project? Is it a good thing for students or another pointless graduation assignment? If you did a culminating project, what did you do it on? (Just out of curiousity)