Part 1 of the first journey is about to end. Where to take the path for Part 2 is entirely up to you, graduates. We wish you only success in whatever endeavor you choose.

Hundreds will dress in cap and gown at Jones County’s five high schools to begin the next chapter of their lives. The local graduation schedule is:

• South Jones, Friday, 11 a.m., Magnolia Center

• West Jones, Friday, 3 p.m., Magnolia Center

• Laurel Christian, Friday, 6 p.m.

• Northeast Jones, Friday, 7 p.m., Magnolia Center

• Laurel High, Tuesday, 7 p.m., Watkins Stadium

Over the past 18 or so years, you have grown physically, emotionally and educationally. Each graduating class has the potential to produce the leaders of our community, our state and our nation. The graduating classes carry with them the hopes of their community while trying to navigate an ever-more-complex global society. 

Competition has been fierce, but will only get more challenging in the coming years. In a world economy, it will take the best and brightest in myriad fields to keep America in a position of strength. An educated work force — and not only classroom education but trade skills as well — is the only answer to keeping this country the envy of all others.

Many of you will be moving on to college, while others will go on the hunt for a job or a career. Success in any endeavor should be the only goal. Success, though, comes in many forms. For some, success is measured on a balance sheet. For others, success is measured in what impact you will have on another’s life. A healthy balance sheet can mean deeper impacts on others, but it does not take personal riches to make a difference. Money alone does not bring happiness.

Happiness is gained by the love and support of family and friends, helping others and striving for excellence. Not every student who walked, or will walk, across the stage will realize a life fulfilled. But with dogged resolve, a thirst for knowledge and the drive to be the best will propel every graduate in the direction of greatness.

You are the future of Jones County. You have eclipsed one of life’s goals and now the pursuit of real life begins. Make the right choices. Do the right things. Look out for your neighbor. Help the helpless and comfort the sick. Get a dog and treat it like a child. Make a difference.

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