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Finishing high school is a notable accomplishment and should be celebrated. For most, it signals the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood. The structure of school, where relatively few decisions are left up to students, is left behind and a world of myriad choices opens up.

Thousands of young Utahns will be making that transition in the coming days. Some others who are not so young finally will be receiving the piece of paper that symbolizes the completion of an education process that is truly American.Some students thrive on the academics and social stimulation of high school. For others it's a long, difficult road ending in that traditional walk across a lighted stage. For everyone, graduation is a great achievement.

High school lasts only a few years, yet it mysteriously defines who we are for the rest of our lives. Most of us return to our home towns every few years to recall the past with our high school peers. Somehow our high school class forms a base from which all progress is measured.

What other group holds reunions every five or 10 years for half a century or more? What other occasion prompts people to travel sometimes thousands of miles to exchange personal histories and compare bald pates and number of offspring? Other than your family, who else would care?

Parents whose children are members of the Class of '96 sometimes forget what a milestone this is. Some are simply happy to see the end of another hectic school year. But the occasion deserves some reflection on its meaning as well as contemplation among graduates and parents about what lies ahead.

High school in 1996 is a much different place than it was 25 years ago, and the world beyond offers challenges and opportunities that didn't exist when the parents of today's teens were graduating. The changes are both exciting and frightening. Looking ahead can be overwhelming, and the future arrives soon enough.

So for a few days at the end of May, high school seniors would do well to take a few moments to simply enjoy and appreciate the friendships and the memories of high school, reminisce and say goodbye to one of life's unique experiences. And parents should indulge them.

Everyone is happy and proud to see high school end and diplomas distributed. And also sorry that it's over.