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South Williamsport, PA
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Graduation

Similar to those famous countdowns at Cape Canaveral, in numerous households across the region that ‘countdown’ is proceeding full speed until upcoming high school graduation days blast products of eighteen years of nurtured love into the ‘unknown’ stratosphere of ‘the real world.’ Those coming out parties will be launched with varying degrees of mixed emotions.

Similar to those famous countdowns at Cape Canaveral, in numerous households across the region that ‘countdown’ is proceeding full speed until upcoming high school graduation days blast products of eighteen years of nurtured love into the ‘unknown’ stratosphere of ‘the real world.’

Those coming out parties will be launched with varying degrees of mixed emotions. Those affected most directly, the graduates, will experience excitement, joy, relief, pride, anxiety, and some trepidation as they leave the protection of the past twelve years behind to blaze their new trail to adulthood. To be sure, parents will be filled with pride, some sadness, and cheeks streaked with tears as ‘their baby’ walks into the next chapter in their young lives. In some cases, younger siblings may inherit a bigger room and less competition around the house.

In recent days, a soon-to-be-graduated high school basketball player quickly responded, “fifteen days,” when asked how school was going. A companion dryly quipped, “but who’s counting.”

While stopped at a traffic light, the sight of a young lady in a stunning red dress emerged from a restaurant with five teenaged companions in what obviously was the beginning of prom night — yet another vivid reminder that those high school days are quickly diminishing.

For those of us who long ago ‘have been there — done that’ these upcoming graduation ceremonies may be nothing more than reminders that it is that time of the year again. But for the 2018 graduates and those families who are experiencing a son or daughter leaving the nest for the first time, it is indeed a big deal.

I have been in many meetings and practice sessions over the years when coaches reminded their players to enjoy the sports they were about to begin. Once freshmen, who heard the words with blank looks on their faces and the impatience of listening to another coach lecture, now truly understand what those words were intended to mean and those four years really did ‘fly by.’

As they walk across that stage or athletic field, ‘the colors’ they are wearing may be that of their school, but there will be no number on their back, and only an invisible clock will be counting down their days as high schoolers.

Competitive athletics will take on different meaning, but few will experience the ‘Johnson & Johnson’ effect of the dreamed about higher levels.

South Williamsport senior Ben Johnson’s departure from high school is capped by the double honor of participating in the recent Pennsylvania East-West All-Star football game at Altoona’s Mansion Park, and gaining a Division One scholarship to play at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. The 6’3”, 265-pound all-state lineman excelled in both the classroom and on the gridiron at South.

Johnson said, “It was an honor to be selected to play in the prestigious game with some of the state’s best athletes” and eagerly awaits his opportunity at Marist.

“Marist is my dream school, and I know it’s a perfect fit for me. I knew the second I stepped on campus that it would be my home for the next four years. Marist has elite academics, a high level of football, amazing people and a breathtaking campus, what more could I ask for?”

St. John Neumann graduate, Alize Johnson’s dream of the NBA came a little closer to his reach after receiving an invitation to participate in the NBA Combine, a multi-day showcase for potential NBA draft picks taking place May 16-20 in Chicago.

At the combine, NBA coaches, general managers, and scouts closely evaluate the nation’s top college basketball players in advance of the June 21 player draft.

Johnson recently told the media, “I’m very excited for the opportunity because I know how hard I work and this is the next step to get to the next level. I am really excited to show off my abilities and hopefully turn some heads.”

Johnson, a 6-9 forward, completed his senior year at Missouri State finishing second in the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year voting and led the conference in rebounding for the second straight season with 11.6 per game. He also led the Bears in scoring (15.0), assists (94) and recorded 20 double-doubles. Nationally, Johnson ranked second in defensive rebounds per game (8.48) and fifth in total rebounds.

Recent announcements have been made of numerous local athletes receiving scholarship help to compete at the collegiate level in various sports. To those, thank you for the thrills you have given local fans. To all those high school seniors soon to be competing in the ‘tassel flip,’ cherish the moment and savor the memories. To moms and dads, don’t forget, take along some tissue.

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