Your High School Senior is NOT a Responsible Adult, No Matter HOW Well You Think You Raised Him

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You’ve no doubt heard the tragic story about Matt James, the 17-year-old All American high school student and top recruit for Notre Dame who, while on spring break in Florida, fell to his death from a fifth-floor balcony of a hotel. Because he was DRUNK.

Now, I did my fair share of drinking in high school. I’d also be lying to you if I said I didn’t do drugs before I turned 18.

HOWEVER, I never got to do drugs or drink while 3,000 miles away from home because my parents were NOT IDIOTS. Hell, they knew that just letting me go on a senior trip to DISNEYLAND (which is a 6 hour drive from my house) could be trouble, so I was forbidden to go. And I really don’t think it was because they knew that I’d been smoking pot here and there or drinking beer and wine coolers at makeshift parties underneath oak trees behind the local high school. I believe that they knew that I was an impressionable teenager, and in a big group of other impressionable teenagers, I’d give in to peer pressure and somehow wind up hurt.

So, on Easter Sunday, while reading all of the reports that surfaced about Matt James, my husband and I made a pact that if our children ever asked to go away on one of those spring break or graduation trips, our answer would be a very loud “NO.”

The VERY NEXT DAY, I received the email below from my niece, Lisa. The story you are about to read is TRUE, and has not been edited or modified in any way (except for my adding paragraph breaks, because you all know I’m a control freak and I need to see white space between organized thoughts or I’ll lose my mind).

The story below is about my cousin Jacob. This story was printed in the Rio Americano PSTA Newsletter. My Aunt Cheryl wrote this a few years ago after Jacob’s Graduation Trip.


Our vigilance as parents begins at birth and continues as our children grow older. Then why, when they turn 18 and graduate from High School, do we relax that effort? Many of us allow our seniors to embark on a graduation trip that for most of them is their first experience with complete independence — an experience shared with hundreds if not thousands of other CHILDREN.

If you are considering one of these trips for your child, please let me share my family’s experience when we made that same choice. “Be careful,” “stay safe,” and “make good choices,” were all words of advice given to my son as he departed for Hawaii after graduating from Del Campo in 2003. What were my husband and I thinking?

Yes, he was traveling with a reputable travel company. Yes, we had informed him of all of the rules. Most importantly, yes, we should have known better.

These were 18-year-olds on vacation held accountable only to themselves (and of course their parents an ocean away). The companies that promote these trips are not accountable for your child’s safety. They are merely providing an adult on the property if your child seeks their help. Their brochures state their zero tolerance policy. This policy is only effective when enforced. Some of the students on these trips are following the rules but many more are using alcohol and drugs, making choices you might never expect them to make.

Choices they themselves might never make under different circumstances.

You might think that because your child has never been in trouble and is involved in sports or other activities that if anything happens, it will be to “someone else” not your child. My son was that “someone else”.

I don’t have all the answers as to what happened in Hawaii. What I do know is that my husband and I  received the phone call that every parent dreads. When you are asked to be seated before the conversation can continue, no matter how much you pray the words coming from the other end of the phone won’t come, they do.

We were informed that our son was fighting for his life after surviving a fall from a third floor window. So badly I wanted to go back 6 months to when the brochure for this trip first came home. Desperately I wanted to go back 3 months to when the trip was paid in full. I begged the Lord to take me back to that June morning when we said goodbye to our son and sent him on his way. There was no going back.

My husband and I were on the earliest flight to Hawaii praying the hospital could keep our son alive until we reached him. The first sign that he would ever come home from his “fun filled” graduation trip to Hawaii came days after our arrival, a squeeze of my finger indicating that he knew we were by his side . . .

It took many days for him to be removed from a ventilator and begin breathing on his own. We were blessed after spending weeks by our son’s side in an intensive care unit to bring him home. His life has changed forever along with the lives of many of those who went through this experience with him.

If a graduation trip away from home is something you are considering for your senior, please learn from my family’s experience. I challenge you to find a student who has experienced a week on a graduation trip. Find out what really goes on. Surprisingly, those colorful brochures tend to leave some things out.

If you still choose to allow your CHILD to go, hold them accountable by speaking to them everyday and for more than 5 minutes. Impress upon them that if they see a friend in trouble, seek help immediately.

The importance of being a vigilant parent with your graduating senior should equal the efforts put forth when they were toddlers. They are still counting on you to make the right decision. Their life could depend on it.

Please don’t let the next “someone else” be your child.

Cheryl Rommel
(cr_grad [at]

I. was. FLOORED. I had no idea that this had happened to someone that was in my circle of influence.

I replied immediately and asked if she thought her aunt would allow me to post the story on my blog, to which she replied:

The other kids that were there slipped my cousin something and thought it was funny when he was tripped out and [started] acting very odd. This went on for about 3 days before anyone called an adult to check on him. They took him to the hospital when he starting hallucinating and taking showers with his clothes on.  He was being treated on the 3rd floor of the hospital and because he was hallucinating, he thought the doctors and nurses were aliens that we trying to abduct him. So he ran from them and jumped out of the 3rd story window. Crazy!!

I’m sure she wouldn’t mind. I’ll send her a message and let you know as soon as she gets back to me. I’m sure she’d like this to spread so that it will help others.

Wow. Did you read that? Jacob had NOTHING to do what happened. It was the OTHER kids.

Just knowing that this happened to someone near and dear to my family gives me all the ammunition I need to resist the urge to give in to a request for a week in Lake Havasu or Cancun. No thank you.

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04 2010

4 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    WOW, I am glad I never let my boys go anywhere like that when they graduated how scary, you here these stories all the time, its a world gone crazy and you cna not be to overprotective….thanks for sharing this
    .-= pamela ponder´s last blog ..RANDOM DOZEN!!! =-.

  2. 2

    I was not allowed to go away on trips like that, mainly because we couldn’t afford them. But I did not suffer in any way because of it.
    .-= Marvin´s last blog ..Freeform Five, "Electromagnetic" =-.

  3. Cheryl Rommel #

    Thanks for posting the story about my son Jacob’s graduation trip. I’m always thankful when it is shared with others – in hopes that it might prevent them from making the same mistake my husband and I made. Like I wrote in the letter – we don’t have all the answers as to what happened in Hawaii – but we do know that Jacob didn’t make all the right choices while there. That’s no surprise considering the freedom they have on these trips.
    Thanks again for posting this on your blog and thanks to our wonderful niece Lisa for passing it along to you.
    Cheryl Rommel

  4. 4

    That is so tragic. KIDS (and that is what you are at 18, sorry) are not mature enough to be left alone like adults. I hear stories all the time about kids who slip their “friends” drugs without their knowledge and it never ends well. It’s a testament to the sad reality that even if you think you can trust your child, you CAN’T trust other people’s children to not inflict their stupidity onto their peers.

    I think the kids who were responsible for giving Jacob the drug that did that to him should be held criminally liable. And since they want to pretend to be adults, they should be prosecuted as such.

    I hope this post sheds more light on this subject and helps parents make more informed decisions.
    .-= Corrina´s last blog ..I’ve Been Thinking… =-.

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