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This is a time of transitions across the country - for students, their parents and the communities where they live and learn

Graduating seniors in high school and college, including those from or receiving the educations in Central Illinois communities, are making major transitions. They are setting books aside, at least for awhile, and moving into the "real world" - perhaps a job, maybe the military or on to further schooling.

This can be an exciting and frightening time both for the students and for their parents - who are going through transitions of their own.

About 3,200 Illinois State University students will be receiving their degrees today and Saturday. About 500 Illinois Wesleyan University and 130 Eureka College students received their degrees earlier this month, the most ever to receive diplomas at Ronald Reagan's alma mater. Heartland Community College will graduate 625 students on May 16. Add to that, thousands of high school seniors across Central Illinois.

All of these recent or soon-to-be graduates are making decisions that can affect the rest of their lives. They are on the verge of greater independence - and they are facing that independence at a time when the country and the world itself are undergoing major transitions.

With talk of recession, prices rising on just about everything, jobs moving overseas and an ongoing war, this is a time when more than a few of us would like to escape the "real world," including those whose school days ended long, long ago.

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The transition isn't easy for parents either. Their natural instinct is to protect their children harm. It's an instinct that never fully goes away, even when parents recognize that being overprotective can harm their children, too.

Parents of the Class of 2008 need to let their children spread their wings and find their way. Often the trial-and-error method of learning is the most effective even if learning through experience can be painful.

Graduates need to remember not only what they've learned in school but also what they have learned from their parents - and put those lessons into practice.

Meanwhile, Bloomington-Normal is undergoing its annual transition, when the majority of college students move away for the summer, if not forever.

Although year-round residents may welcome the decrease in traffic and shorter waits for a table at their favorite restaurant during semester breaks - especially in summer - the tradeoff is a loss of community vitality and, yes, a hit to the economy.

A hearty congratulations and a sincere wish of good luck to all in the class of 2008 - whether they are graduating from high school, junior college or college.

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