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Congratulations to the class of 2011

A total of 659 seniors from five area high schools are reaching a significant milestone

Hello graduates: Congratulations as you finish one of life's major milestones.

There are many of you out there in our local area:

* Lakeridge High School has 269

* Lake Oswego High School has 263

* Westside Christian High School has 64

* Riverdale High School has 59

* Park Academy has 4

If you are the parent, grandparent or other family member of one of the 659 graduating seniors from our local schools, we think we have a pretty good idea of how you are feeling about now.

And if your child is just now graduating from college, we may have a line on those feelings as well.

Undoubtedly you are proud - and rightly so.

You probably are excited - not only for your graduate's future but your personal future as well. Changes come; many of them are very invigorating; some a bit stressful.

Financially you may be holding your collective breath - going forward is expensive and the recent downturn in the economy has made this part of achieving the American dream more difficult for many people.

And possibly you are concerned - with a messy global situation, a depressing national financial situation and a job market that's proving to be very tough for young adults to break into, there are plenty of reasons about why you might be anxious.

Throughout our nation's history there have been ebbs and flows, high and low time periods. Our young people are tested no matter which era they grow up in. Still, this particular epoch provides an unusually tough challenge for many of our offspring.

Our advice - honed over years of experience during a time that, for the most part, was vastly different than what our youth are experiencing today - may or may not be terribly relevant. Still, it is worth noting that even in tough times successes can happen. People need to be up to the challenges, fight hard for their beliefs and realize that very few of us got anywhere without the benefit of hard work, sweat and possibly tears.

Life comes at you fast, graduates, and you need to be ready. Undoubtedly most of you are better educated at this point in your young lives than your parents were when they were this age. Technology has not only leveled the playing field, in some ways it has obliterated it.

Yet don't forget, that while technology has its many merits, there can be downsides as well. Texting has its place but it's not the only form of communication that many in corporate America want to employ. You can find information on the Internet no doubt, but can you hold a conversation or read a book.

Take time - and care - to figure out what it is you want to do. It's not true that there are no second choices. It is true that second choices probably will end up costing you - and your family - more.

Relish the fact that we are proud of you. Go forward in life and continue to earn that pride. Make good choices, be kind, follow your heart and your mind. As the world changes, change with it. But hold onto the important things that have brought you to where you are today.

And so, class of 2011, we wish you godspeed.

Enjoy today, your friends and family and celebrate your graduation. Enjoy the future and all that it will bring your way. And enjoy the many special qualities and talents that make all of you - all 659 of you - the unique individuals that you are.

Good luck and congratulations.