Month of May tests many high school seniors

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

There is sadness when anyone dies, but the emotions seem to run deeper when death comes to a child. And reports of the tragic loss of life among teen-agers, often as the result of underage drinking or an automobile accident - or a combination of both, are particularly heart-wrenching at this time of year when the hopes of high school seniors are soaring.

With prom season barely over, high school students already have been tested. In far too many cases, proms are taken as occasions for experimenting with adult beverages and activities. When these activities get out of hand, tragedy often follows.

Parents are a key part of this scenario. And parents appear to fall into several categories.

Some parents take little interest - if any - in what their teen-age sons and daughters did before, during or after the prom or what they will be doing on graduation night.

Other parents take the position that the transition from teen-ager to adult is one that needs the kind of supervision that leads to parent-sponsored parties where alcohol is readily available.

But still other parents believe their graduating sons and daughters still need the steady hand of experienced guidance. Some of these parents, such as the volunteers once again preparing Project Graduation events for Marshall High School seniors, sponsor large parties - without alcohol - that will become treasured memories. In the process, the parents are able to participate in the excitement and joy of the party atmosphere and provide a sophisticated but responsible setting in which their children can celebrate appropriately.

If proms are seen as a rite of social passage, graduation is often seen as a move from strict parental oversight and required school attendance to newfound independence and all kinds of choices about what to do - and not do.

The statistics for accidents that maim and kill at this time of the school year are horrible. But young people who are developing a sense of responsibility rarely dwell on statistics when deciding how to party at this celebratory time of their lives.

Instead, they must rely on the examples of their parents and of their friends who understand the difference between having a good time or engaging in activities that could easily cut short their unfulfilled lives.

Congratulations to all graduating high school seniors, particularly those who have enough sense of responsibility to participate in all the time-honored traditions that accompany the end of high school and to avoid anything that might have tragic consequences.

And congratulations to those parents who are involved enough in the lives of their graduating sons and daughters that they have a sense of confidence their children will behave appropriately, no matter what opportunities for destructive behavior they might encounter.

A safe, sane month of May for high school seniors is one in which everyone acts and behaves in ways that will make for lasting memories of happiness.