Behind the curtain after commencement Saturday, I told Amherst Steele principal Michael May that covering graduation ceremonies each year is my favorite part of the job.
I meant it. That wasn’t a schmoozy line or pure sentiment.
I spend an awful lot of time each year out in the field with a camera and notepad, watching students go from wide-eyed kindergartners to much-wiser-than-we-give-them-credit-for seniors. I get to know them in a “weird uncle” kind of way — from slightly afar, sometimes getting a high-five in a hallway, seeing the leaders stand out from the crowd as I snap shots for our newspapers.
I like these kids. I like watching them grow up. I like remembering how they told me in second grade what they wanted for Christmas, or watching them launch rockets in sixth grade science class, chatting with them on Friday night sidelines, and seeing their charity work.
The secret is that I get a little misty-eyed too when they cross the stage at commencement.
An increasing portion of my job over the years has been in managing details — time cards, editing, behind-the-scenes projects, training. Other big chunks have been turned toward deeper coverage of social issues and high-profile stories that take great time investments. When graduation time rolls around, much of that weight can be shouldered aside to simply take joy in watching our kids accept their diplomas.
So when it came time to divvy up 2016 commencement coverage, I greedily snapped up the Lorain County JVS, Amherst, Oberlin, and Wellington ceremonies. Uncle mode kicked in and I started dreaming of ways to dedicate huge spreads to your smiles.
When you see me out there, grads, remember this: I’m not dispassionately looking down the lens. It’s not just any day for me. It’s not just another assignment.
I’m proud of you.