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Dear Graduates,

Congratulations on graduating from high school. It is an accomplishment. You should be very proud of yourselves, and please know that your community and loved ones are proud of you too.

As you go off to jobs, college, the military, trade school, gallivanting or however you choose to begin adulthood, we'd like to offer a few words of advice. And yes, while some of them are cliche, that doesn't mean they're not sincere or based in reality.

Enjoy the moment because you never know what's coming next. That doesn't mean "be stupid." Rather we encourage you to appreciate what you have and what you're doing when you're doing it, whether it's hanging out with friends or family, building something, going on a road trip, reading a great novel or celebrating Grandpa's 80th birthday.

Make good choices. Stop and think and don't bow to peer pressure. It's the same thing we've been telling you since you were in elementary school and it will keep happening your whole life. It's up to you to be a strong, self-aware individual in charge of your own life.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. Most people are nice and want to help. They'll give you directions to a great restaurant, show you the ropes at school or a new job, explain a difficult concept, befriend you. Knowing when you need to ask for help is an important skill, so is accepting it graciously.

College isn't just about taking classes. It's also about meeting people who aren't in your comfortable little circle, peers who think thoughts your parents might not agree with. It's about learning life skills like balancing a checkbook, paying bills and getting along with annoying roommates. Everyone has his or her own path in life, find yours.

Be flexible. Listen to what the world is telling you. If you're too busy following some predetermined path, you might miss something. You never know, maybe you will find a great job or that person that is perfect for you where you least expect it.

Don't be afraid to take chances and make mistakes. Life can be an amazing adventure full of new discoveries. If you do make a mistake, learn from it and move on.

On the subject of mistakes, here are a tips to prevent a couple of the biggies:

• Don't drink and drive, or smoke pot and drive or do any kind of mood-altering substance and drive. The consequences can be deadly and we want you to have the best shot at life. Remaining alive will help with that.

• Use a condom. There's nothing like an unexpected pregnancy to derail a young person's dreams and aspirations. Kids are great, but wait until you're truly ready before you assume the tremendous responsibilities of being good parents.

Know that it's never too late to change direction. Folks go back to college in their 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. They change careers multiple times. They get out of unhealthy relationships. They conquer addiction. You can do it too.

Respect one another. Love. Laugh. Know that people are always more important than things.

And please, graduate, after you've gone out into the world, don't be afraid to come home. You are always welcome. We need good people in Carlton County, to carry us onward in good and bad times.

Sincerely,

The Pine Journal staff

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