Editorial: Investment in Friday Harbor grads is paying off

Financial news Monday morning was bleak: The Dow was down 3.13 percent, the Nasdaq 2.96 percent, the S&P 3.09 percent. A CNN/Opinion Research Poll released Monday showed that 78 percent of respondents believe the state of the nation’s economy is poor or very poor. In a USA TODAY poll, 54 percent of those surveyed said their standard of living is no better today than five years ago.

But on Saturday in a small town on a small island in the Pacific Northwest, residents were reaping big dividends from investments they’ve made — in education.

More than $390,000 in scholarships were awarded at Friday Harbor High School’s 96th graduation. Of all the four-year scholarships awarded this year by Washington State University, two were awarded to Friday Harbor graduates. Forty-one graduates in the 56-member class are going on to colleges and universities; 11 more are pursuing some other form of post-high school education.

Friday Harbor will be represented at 24 colleges, trade schools and universities in six states and British Columbia.

Our investment: Equip our community’s young people with the knowledge and skills they need so they can pursue meaningful, rewarding lives. Based on what we saw Saturday, the Dow and Nasdaq couldn’t match the return on our investment.

When we invest in education, we aren’t investing in just books and buildings. Saturday, we sent forth from the island the next wave of artists, business leaders, coaches, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, financial advisers, journalists, lawyers, nurses, pilots, police officers, political leaders, teachers, tradesmen, veterinarians. We sent forth young people who want to help foster good environmental stewardship and bridge gaps between cultures here and abroad.

They gained knowledge, yes, but also confidence, poise and sense of fairness from 13 years of testing their limits in the programs our school system offers — arts, clubs, community service, sports, stage.

Herbert Hoover said, “If we could have but one generation of properly born, trained, educated and healthy children, a thousand other problems of government would vanish.” Education is one of the most important investments we make; the level of return depends, indeed, on what we put into it.

(To help maintain school funding and programs at current levels, call the San Juan Island Public Schools Foundation “SOS Hotline,” 370-7925; or use the “Donate Now” secure link on the foundation Web site, www.sjpsf.org.)