Rebecca Rider column: Gearing up for graduation

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 9, 2017

The school year is marching steadily towards the finish line, and now that we’ve passed the halfway mark it’s time to start thinking about graduation. In February.

Here at the Post, planning for the Graduation Section actually starts in January — the same time that high school seniors are receiving their acceptance letters and making some tough decisions about their futures. We’ve had to make some tough decisions, too.

Last year, the Post made an executive decision to run a class picture instead of individual photos of the graduates. On our end, the decision was simple and born from an honest look at our available resources. Thanks to the rise of digital programs, we no longer have an entire department of people organizing and laying out pages, and we were short a copy editor. Using group photos was a simple, logical way to conserve energy and man hours.

You would have thought we’d murdered someone’s grandmother.

We didn’t get inundated with calls, but the ones we did receive were worth noting. People were understandably sad and upset that we’d broken a decades-long tradition. And, in classic Southern fashion, they offered to help if needed.

So this year we’ll be returning to individual student portraits. Which means planning started when 2017 was still a new, young thing, and which means I started sending out e-mails to schools on Friday.

It also means that the deadlines we’ve set for photos and information are earlier than before. Which, of course, means there’s that much more pressure on the school contacts who compile and send us all the information that makes up the Graduation Section.

So, before we get started, I’d like to take a second to thank those people — guidance counselors, yearbook directors, communications directors and parents. Thank you for helping us assemble this monster year after year.

Because, no doubt about it, it is a monster of a section. So much so, in fact, that I was warned about it when I began working for the Post — nine months before it would run in June 2016. So much so that it honestly does take nearly six months to complete.

If we get headaches formatting, designing pages and triple and quadruple checking that we’ve received everything we need, I can’t imagine what you all go through compiling it.

As I’m sure any of those people will tell you — it takes months. To communicate, collect information, check it (and check it again, and again) and to make sure that every student who walks across that stage is properly represented.

So thank you. Because for us, and for the schools, that journey begins now. In some ways, I suppose it’s in the true spirit of graduation season. Just like seniors, we’re all running around, filling out paperwork and trying to meet last minute deadlines — all for a single, triumphant hour on a humid June morning.

And to everyone who called us last summer — put-out that we took a stab at the simple route — and offering their services to help: I’m going to take you up on that.

If you called us a year ago and offered to help, call again — but this time, call the schools. In the year and a half I’ve been at the Post, people have never stopped talking about the need for volunteers. Volunteer. You likely won’t end up doing anything related to graduation, but does it matter? Education is a continuous process. If you help in any way, at any point on the spectrum, you have helped on graduation day — it just may not be yours, or your child’s. But it will be someone’s, and it is every bit as precious and important as your own.

If you were willing to take up arms and come to our aid — the Post’s, the schools’ — over a simple photo on thin newsprint, I think it is vastly more important that your offer the same for something that carries real weight and value — someone’s future.