Grads won't rule out a return home

June 20, 2005|by DAVID BUSSARD

Just days ago, I sat on a stage and stared off into a sea of cameras flashing and faces grinning with pride. I'll spare you the tired analogy of being set free, like a bird or some black-and-white, stripe-wearing convict. Yet, there I was, graduating. It seemed very surreal to think that people I have seen every day for the past four years of my life, if not longer, were now scattering across the country in search of their own distinct futures.

Washington County has provided for the local class of 2005 a unique environment to grow up in. The contrast between the square in Hagerstown and the back roads of Clear Spring or Hancock is a visual testament to the diversity of lifestyles in the area. From rural farm fields to the sprawl of downtown, graduates have experienced variety.

While many will continue their educations at Hagerstown Community College or other local schools, some will be traveling hundreds, or even thousands, of miles from our bucolic home for higher education. Members of my graduating class at Clear Spring High School will be going everywhere from Georgia to New Mexico to New York City. The tradition of sending off the best and brightest is a time-tested one, but there is always that one catch. Will they return?


Many times, the angers and frustrations of high school can be translated to the setting in which one lives. I can't tell you how many times I've walked down hallways at Clear Spring only to hear "I hate this school," or "I can't wait to get out of here." I may have said it once or twice myself. But is that really always the case?

Surprisingly, I found that many people who are going off to college are considering returning to Hagerstown and the surrounding area after their four years are up.

Some, those military-inclined members of the student body will have very little choice over their locale, but for the most part they were reluctant to say that they would not return to the area.

Clear Spring High School graduate Tracee Haupt will be attending Columbia University in the fall. She said that despite the joys and benefits of living in New York City, including internships and job opportunities, she can't be sure whether or not she will stay there after completing college. "It may not be the best place to raise children," said Haupt. With that in mind, she has not decided whether or not she will return after her four years are up.

Like Tracee, Clear Spring's valedictorian for 2005, I will also be leaving in the fall for New York City. At the end of August, my freshman year at New York University begins. I've always wanted to go away to school, somewhere urban, to experience things that I could not in Washington County. However, I will most likely not return to the area after my four years at college. I have always considered myself a city-dweller at heart, and I finally have the opportunity to realize that dream of mine.

Many of the careers that my graduating class intends to pursue are sharply dichotomous. Everything from journalism and creative writing (my intended majors) to German, French, English, history and the sciences.

Those who intend to return to Washington County would easily be able to find employment within their major. And, with an expanded view of the world, those who leave for college and return to the region will be able to broaden the perspectives of our developing county. Even those of us with no intention of returning to the area, I'm sure, will return on occasion to visit family, friends and for inspiration.

It's amazing how quick the feeling of nostalgia, a rather unflattering emotion, can descend upon a people after they graduate. My love-hate relationship with my hometown has shifted more to the former lately, as I have finally realized the benefits of growing up in a more rural environment.

It takes a lot of tenacity for a person to be themselves here, and even more courage to realize that what you want lies beyond the Tri-State area. Much as the farmers cultivate their crops, one must cultivate oneself among one's surroundings.

Well, this is it.

For the class of 2005, we've reached the summer of our lives. Now is the true test of our abilities. Nelson Henderson said that "The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit." Go beyond that. Don't plant the trees, be them, and never settle for the shade.

David Bussard is a Clear Spring resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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