Some interesting words

Among the many things that come with spring are graduation ceremonies.

Each of the gatherings includes a speaker, and while the topics of every presentation may vary widely, they very often share a few common themes. One is to continue to learn, and another is don’t be afraid to face the world.

Graduates of a couple of area schools had the chance to hear those reminders delivered by a couple of interesting speakers on May 11.

At Bethany College, Thomas Buergenthal spoke about the importance of maintaining ideals and values, and that tales of self-made men or women are just myths — that we all will receive help from many other people in our lives. He added that education must be a life-long pursuit.

“Whatever you do, remember, if you plan to remain a vital or interested human being you must continue to learn by reading, by traveling, by seeing good movies and plays, developing hobbies and getting to know people of different backgrounds. … And please try not to close yourself off from your community,” he said.

Buergenthal’s words carry special meaning. The Bethany graduate, at 85, is one of the youngest survivors of the Auschwitz and Sachenhausen concentration camps that were run by the Nazis during World War II.

Curtis Martin, meanwhile, reminded graduates of the Franciscan University of Steubenville that the school has provided a solid foundation for lives and careers to be built up.

“What St. Catherine of Siena said about anyone is particularly true of you: ‘If you are what you are meant to be, you would set the world on fire.’ And I believe God is calling you to be world changers who can set the world on fire,” said Martin, who earned his master’s degree from the university in 1993 and went on to form the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.

Even the thoughts shared by the Rev. Sean Sheridan with Franciscan University graduates really struck home with those who were gathered inside the Finnegan Fieldhouse.

Sheridan told members of the Class of 2019 that he knew they might be a little apprehensive about just what the coming decades would hold for them. He added that his future, as well, was a little bit up in the air — Sheridan, who announced in April that he was stepping down as the university’s president, a post he held since 2013, explained he still was waiting to learn what his next assignment would be.

The speeches by Martin and Buergenthal did what the best of commencement addresses do — they offered encouragement, reminded graduates they will face challenges in the future and, along with Sheridan, helped to put a personal touch on their message.

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While some of this year’s graduates are fortunate enough to have already landed employment, many will finally start their job searches in earnest. According to WalletHub, the Washington, D.C.-based personal-finance website, it’s a good time to be looking for work, because employers have said they plan to hire 17 percent more graduates from the Class of 2019 than they did from the Class of 2018.

Even better — WalletHub has ranked Pittsburgh as the second-best place to start a career, not too far behind top-ranked Salt Lake City. That should make it easier for grads who want to stay in the area to find a job.

It should come as no surprise — a growing number of tech companies have found the city as a great place to set up operations in.

Cincinnati, meanwhile, is ranked 30th in the survey, Columbus 56th and Cleveland 132nd. Finishing last, in 182nd place, is Shreveport, La.

The numbers were compiled by using 29 metrics that range from the availability of entry-level jobs to monthly average starting salary to work force diversity, WalletHub said.

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It’s a sad fact, but graduation likely brings with it the responsibility of paying back student loans and other debt that was accumulated while getting an education. It’s troubling that residents of cities in our region are not faring well in terms of having high amounts of student debt when compared with the median earnings of holders of bachelor’s degrees, WalletHub reports.

East Liverpool stands fourth on the list, with a debt-to-earnings ratio of 83.1 percent. The study says median earnings in East Liverpool are $22,222, while the median debt is $18,466. The ratio in Steubenville is 62.94 ($31,808 earnings, $20,019 debt). In Weirton, the ratio is 44.03 ($40,335 earnings, $17,760 debt.)

It’s also sobering to note that Forbes magazine reports that 40 percent of borrowers could default on their student loan debts by 2023.

The least over-leveraged community in the country, according to the report, by the way, is Santa Paula, Calif., which sits in Ventura County and shows a ratio of 15.2 percent ($70,763 earnings, $10,753 debt.)

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times)

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