McAlester High School seniors walked the stage Saturday — graduating high school and heading into a great unknown. We remember the relief, anticipation and anxiety over graduating high school.

Moving into the next stage of your life should be a glorious adventure. The world is full of promise — with risk. We hope you are prepared to make the most of your future.

Here’s some unsolicited advice to help make your next steps seem less like walking the plank.

Some of your fellow graduating seniors will become lifelong friends. Friendships — the ones forged through spending 12 years in the same schools and the ones yet to happen — are incredibly vital to your happiness.

Don’t take friendships for granted. Some will stand beside you through the good times. Others will lift you up through the bad times. And, if you’re lucky, you may marry your best friend.

Keep your friends close, and your family closer. Graduation can seem like a time when you want to spread your wings and become independent of home. That is a bit of a natural reaction. But family feed, clothed, nurtured and sustained you through 18 years. Some friendships may come and go, but family is family for life.

Dedication and effort are cornerstones to a successful career. You may be at the top of your class today, but there are top seniors graduating all over the United States this month. The competition grew stronger. When two or more people have the same intelligence, knowledge and skills, the dividing line is effort. Every day you take a mental day off from hard work, someone else is not.

Faith, religion, a sense that there is something greater than you will help you get through the tough times and more appreciate the good ones. How you treat others is a reflection of you. You may be on top now, but there is no guarantee you won’t see difficult times. Treat those who are struggling the way your faith taught you.

Success in a career is not just about the money — although we agree it doesn’t hurt. Success will be determined partially by your happiness and how other people feel about you when you retire. Money can’t buy happiness; it just may be able to rent it for a while. Your legacy won’t be defined by clothes you wear or the car you drive. Your legacy in the workplace will be written by those who worked with your and for you.

Graduating seniors, you are just beginning to realize that you have been given a wonderful gift — this world is yours. You must be our next leaders. You must be the next stewards of our planet. You must be the protectors of the weak and vulnerable.

Graduating high school is just the beginning of a journey that could last 70 or more years. You’ve been well prepared. You have earned a measurable amount of freedom. You have become more responsible for your life.

Respect is something you should strive to earn every day. Work hard, play fair, enjoy life.

We can’t wait to see the heights of your success.

Congratulations!