Graduation brings reality for our latest graduates.

Local students collected diplomas Friday, and more will do the same today.

Garden City Community College had its commencement ceremony Friday night. Commencement exercises for Garden City High School's senior class take place tonight.

When the pomp and circumstance of graduation ends, reality sets in as graduates take the next step.

Some will choose to pursue higher education. Others will be on their way to volunteer for service in the U.S. military.

And many will seek other opportunities in the workforce.

Those planning to start work immediately should embark on a job hunt with realistic expectations. The national economy may be on the rebound after a painful recession, but the job market remains competitive.

While graduates may have their hearts set on specific career paths, they should be open to other possibilities and intent on contributing in some way.

Those graduates who discover the job they wanted isn't available need to be flexible not only in what they do and where they do it, but also the hours they work and how much they're paid. Even unexpected opportunities can pay off in fantastic ways.

It's not uncommon, after all, for graduates to end up on a path they never imagined while in school. Statistics show the average person changes careers not jobs, but careers from five to seven times during their life.

The good news is today's graduates should be prepared.

Whether they're leaving high school or the college setting, local graduates were exposed to a more diverse and comprehensive menu of learning opportunities than their predecessors. It's up to every graduate to make the most of that valuable education.

They've taken an important first step. Graduation is a testament to a student's hard work and dedication, and worthy of celebration and appreciation.

Along with praise, graduates also hear many words of wisdom, from those delivered during commencement ceremonies to advice from family and friends.

We would offer this: Be realistic, keep your options open and work hard at whatever you do.

Congratulations to all local and area graduates, and best wishes for a successful future.