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High school graduation is fast approaching for many bright young students. As members of the senior class get ready to walk across the stage and onto a better time in their lives, memories of my school years come flooding back.

I can hear the echoes of my elders lecturing, "If I could go back to school instead of working, I'd do it in a second." I remember doubting that back then. I didn't particularly like getting up early to get ready for school and waiting for the bus at 7 a.m.

Nor did I like riding the bus for a whole hour because mine was one of the first houses on the bus route. And I can't say that I loved doing the homework, especially in subjects like economics or biology.

But, in spite of these obstacles, I still felt lucky for the solid education I was getting. The constant learning was a wonderful high in my life. Getting a paper back with a "100" on it was a great accomplishment for me. I wasn't a straight-A student, but I didn't have to struggle to get decent grades, either. I was "average," if you will.

And that was much the same way I would describe my social status back then. I was neither popular nor considered one of the nerds - just simply in the middle. And I must say I was lucky for that. Being popular came with high expectations and being classified a "nerd" came with plenty of unwarranted abuse.

Through it all, it became apparent to me that the most important part of school wasn't my social status or how many friends I had. It was the teachers who made it all worth it.

Whether it was Mr. Edgar, my English teacher; Mr. Drayer, my running coach; or Mr. Eckerson, the assistant principal, they touched my life in a big way. I hope that this year's graduates will make the effort to say "thank you" to the teacher who pushed them and believed in them. I hope they say, "I just got a great education!" instead of, "I'm finally out of this place!" High school was a carefree time in my life, when I had little responsibility and no bills. How did I ever think that life would get easier?

I realized too soon that it only gets harder and more hectic. Kids are often in a rush to grow up. I wish I would not have been. I often think back to the joy of seeing my friends every day, staying in athletic shape because of the sports I was involved in, eating lunch for $1 - the food was never as bad as we used to say - and having a mentor to look up to, someone who was always willing to lend an ear, a shoulder or some wise advice.

Those days are long past, but not forgotten. The good times, the bad times, even the embarrassing times, are all memories I've come to cherish. I will always remember the day I walked across the stage and accepted my diploma. And I will always remember taking pictures with my family and friends and shedding more than a few tears. It was an exciting, scary and sad time. I will continue to hold onto those memories, and feel blessed for that wonderful part of my life.

And I'll watch the young men and women begin their new journey in life and hope that they, like me, know how lucky they are.

LYNN M. LOMBARD, a legal secretary, lives in Akron.

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