Challenges await FLHS Class of 2012

What a difference 40 years can make.

A look back in time to the Forest Lake High School Class of 1972 reveals a marked change to the class of 2012. It is a change both in the size of the student body and the understanding of the challenges that young people face today as they step away from their high school days.

The Forest Lake class of 1972 was much smaller than this year’s class. A total of 295 seniors earned diplomas 40 years ago. This year’s class will come in at 500 to 510 seniors.

The current crop of seniors is not Forest Lake’s largest class by any means, but a good sized lot, to be sure.

When the senior class passed through the halls of the high school for the final time in 1972, just 13 percent were in line for college scholarships. Others with no financial aid most certainly went on to college.

In this era, however, somewhere in the area of 75 percent of this year’s senior class will go on to a four-year college, two-year college, technical college or the military, according to Principal Steve Massey.

Scholarships and awards claimed by the 2011 graduating class topped $3 million. Final figures for the 2012 class will be near or exceed last year’s total.

There is no secret to the fact that today’s schools, high school graduates and their parents have understood the need for post-secondary education as a spring board for a successful life.

It was true to some extent in 1972, but not to the degree that the world demands today. Forty years ago high school graduates could more freely move directly to any number of career fields that did not require higher education.

“The times have changed so dramatically,” Massey says. “We are college focused today.”

Forty years ago seniors would not have access to Advanced Placement and College in the Schools courses that would help chart their educational careers beyond high school. Many of today’s seniors depart high school with a pocket full of college credits.

The emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math was important in 1972, but certainly not to the extent that it is today. STEM schools are becoming more and more common and we are seeing it in ISD 831, both at the elementary level and the high school.

For this year’s 500 seniors, the 13 years of education leading up to Thursday night are nearly complete. Now the hard work begins. The challenges must be met head-on.

It won’t be easy and it won’t be inexpensive. As the cost of higher education grows and grows, it places greater burdens on parents and students who must quickly learn the value and responsibilities of student loans.

But the greater award awaits those who carefully plan and carry out their post-high school plans.

It has been a long road, but a rewarding and well-traveled road for this year’s seniors. In the weeks ahead we will share many of the success stories of the Forest Lake High School Class of 2012.

For now we extend congratulations to the seniors and their parents for a job well done and a wish for the best of luck as they enter a new phase of their life, be it in college, the military or the work world. — Cliff Buchan