There are many wonderful aspects of spring besides milder weather, with one major event being graduation.  Many people in our community will join in recognizing and celebrating the achievements of numerous high school and college graduates, and this milestone not only is deserving of a great party but it also requires planning for the future.

Planning Your Graduation Festivities

The main responsibility of a good host for any event is to make sure the guests are enjoying themselves.  While entertaining guests and having a good time means different things to different people, there are so many different options available that finding the right entertainment and provisions for you and your guests doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful at all–and neither does your event!

kyle highberg residence in omaha nebraskaIf you are looking for a great place for guests to stay while they are in town for the upcoming graduation festivities, The Residence Inn downtown is an all-suite property located near a wide variety of unique shops, entertaining bars and pubs, and award-winning restaurants, as well as the universities and convention center.  Kyle Highberg of Residence Inn states, “Every one of our suites hosts all the comforts of home, including a full kitchen. Our hotel is ideal for families because our rooms offer 50% more space than traditional guest rooms. We offer a complimentary hot breakfast buffet every morning which gives our guests plenty of options to start their days off right. We also have many great spaces throughout the property to keep your family connected. Our outdoor courtyard is the perfect space for families to bond and reenergize, whether it be catching up around the fire pit or cooking dinner on the grill. Families and friends can gather for entertainment in our complimentary game room, complete with three different game consoles, a pinball machine, an electronic shuffleboard machine, an arcade machine, and plenty of card and board games for everyone to enjoy.”  Residence Inn is also a good option for hosting a graduation event, and in addition to the stunning surroundings of the historic, newly-renovated venue they offer a unique, one-of-a-kind catering menu that is prepared and delivered by one of Omaha’s premier catering companies.  As for planning and booking your graduation event, he advises, “First, make sure to visit and tour the property to ensure it meets your needs and that it’s exactly what you’re envisioning for your event. Don’t hesitate to ask questions–we are here to help! A good event planner tells you what you need to know, not what you want to hear. After you have made your venue selection, leave it to us! We will handle all of your needs and requests to ensure that your event goes smoothly and that you and your friends and family receive the best service and experience there is to offer.  Also, if you’re looking to host a party, book your rooms and meeting space together.  Remember that graduation weekends are very busy, so don’t book last-minute as to avoid higher rates and fewer options and make sure to ask for college rates! Simply provide the hotel with your vision for your visit or event, and let us make an experience for you and your loved ones.”

linda cummings vine and branch omaha nebraskaIf you are looking for a smaller, more intimate venue for gathering around graduation time, either for your party or for getting together while everyone is in town, Vine + Branch offers a great space that can accommodate 25-30 people comfortably.  Linda Cummings, owner of Vine + Branch, says, “Our store offers a dining area that is great for those who want to host guests somewhere besides their home while still maintaining a warm and comfortable atmosphere.  Guests have the opportunity to order off of our menu, which contains a range of items from our signature oils and vinaigrettes paired with breads and other appetizers to hearty entrees such as steaks, or we can customize something specifically for your event.  In addition to food, we offer a variety of wines and tasting options are available.  My advice to those hosting graduation festivities is always the more in advance you plan, the better.  It is also best to keep it simple and not try to overextend yourself or stress yourself out.  Instead, focus on enjoying the moment and the people you are sharing it with.”

If you are considering utilizing a catering service for your child’s graduation party, Sam & Louie’s Event Catering is a great option.  Sam & Louie’s Event Catering is an extension of Sam & Louie’s neighborhood restaurants and pizzerias, a well-known Omaha based and family run  business dedicated to providing delicious and affordable food to families, corporations, and the community.  Leah Parodi, Catering Coordinator for Sam & Louie’s Event Catering, stresses that time is of the essence when scheduling catering for the date of your party because there are so many people who will be hosting graduation parties during the same few weekends.  She adds that if you are hosting a graduation party in your home with family, neighbors and friends they offer plenty of crowd pleasing catered favorites, but for an outside venue they also offer several party room locations throughout the Omaha Metro area to host your event. Whether you are hosting 5 or 500 people, they can provide everything you need including plastic and paper goods, beverages, delicious food and one-on-one personalized service which involves party set up, complimentary delivery and service/clean-up during and after the event if desired.  Sam & Louie’s is featuring a special Graduation Party Catering Menu for the season.  Offerings include a variety of appetizer and finger-foods, picnic fare such as burgers, BBQ sandwiches and hot dogs, desserts, and of course PIZZA!  Each catered event brings personalized, face-to-face service and a variety of delicious, affordable foods that are perfect for your upcoming graduation party.  Sam & Louie’s gives you more time to entertain your guests and to focus on celebrating this milestone and achievement with your graduate and everyone else in attendance!

debra maxfield max carpet glo omaha nebraskaIf you are planning to host a graduation party at your house, you will likely be cleaning it from top to bottom sometime before the day of the event.  Cleaning you carpets prior to your party is a good idea for several reasons.  As a homeowner, it is almost guaranteed that you take great pride in the appearance of your home, especially when entertaining guests.  Flooring is a prominent aspect of your home, and it is very noticeable when it is dirty or soiled.  Clean carpets play a major role in the overall appearance of your home, and freshly cleaned carpets can transform a room from well used to polished and ready for entertaining very quickly and easily.  Also, cleaning your carpets will contribute to a fresh scent throughout your home.  MaxCarpetGlo offers a Green Seal Certified foam extraction method which avoids over wetting the carpet and provides shorter dry times, allowing you to avoid being inconvenienced so you can attend to the other things you have on your plate.  Debra Maxfield, owner of MaxCarpetGlo, says, “This system provides amazing results without using harsh chemicals and is safe for all of your visitors, both people and pets, as well as the environment.  We guarantee our customers 100% satisfaction and our services are always performed by trained professionals.  Our goal is to provide you with a great service in a timely manner, and we can alleviate your stress and worries so you can focus on spending time with your loved ones and guests while everyone is gathered to celebrate this major moment in life.”

jeff white colby ridge omaha nebraskaWhen providing treats for your guests, Colby Ridge offers a wide variety of products and options to fit any theme or color palette.  Popcorn is one of their traditional specialties, and they can incorporate your school colors and assemble personalized, individual bags to hand out to your guests which can feature your senior picture.  You can also buy the popcorn in bulk and use it for a popcorn bar.  Jeff White of Colby Ridge says that the personalized popcorn bags are really popular and particularly simple yet delicious gift for graduation events of any size.  They will not only look nice and get your special message across to your guests, but they are also easy to handle and fun for all ages.  If popcorn isn’t your thing, Colby Ridge owns and operates a candy store with over 200 bins of colorful candy–which is perfect for a candy bar at your graduation party!  White adds that when you place an order with Colby Ridge, you will always receive a quality product at an affordable price.

Going Off to College

dr. daniel beninato premier dental omaha nebraskaThere are many things that are best handled before a graduate goes off to college, and visiting your dentist is definitely one of them. Dr. Daniel Beninato of Premier Dental offers the following advice:

“We recommend that students get all dental work done prior to leaving for college.  It is important to get work done with your dentist with whom you have established care, rather than having an emergency while you are in a new city.  For parents especially, the last thing you want is for your child to be away at college and be scrambling to find a dentist during an emergency.  We also recommend that you stay on top of your oral health while away at school, and maintaining a healthy diet, which is not always easy as a student, will also contribute to a beautiful smile.  But most importantly, regular cleanings and exams are crucial to maintaining overall health.  Scheduling those in advance to coincide with a break from school will ensure that your dental health is not neglected.  At Premier Dental, we believe that providing convenient care is as important as providing top quality dental care.  We do everything we can to schedule your regular cleanings and exams during breaks or planned visits.  At those appointments, we make sure and try to do any necessary work the same day, in order to try to prevent any dental emergencies while away at college.  A good example of this happened recently over Christmas break.  We were able to accommodate a patient’s daughter, who was in town for a visit and had never been in to see us.  She came in for an exam and cleaning one day prior to leaving to go back to school, and during this visit we determined that she also needed a crown and two fillings.  We were able to complete all of the necessary dental work before she left the next day, and moreover, she walked out of our office feeling confident about her health and wellbeing.”

Graduation also presents a major photo opportunity—is your smile picture-ready?  Premier Dental offers many options for cosmetic dentistry which can give patients the smile they have always wanted and deserve.  They are also offering a Zoom! Whitening Graduation Special for graduates and their parents if you want an easy touch-up so you look your best for the big day!

Graduation is a time when one feels a great sense of accomplishment and also excitement for the future.  There are a few small things you can do for yourself during this time that will benefit you when you head to college or into the workforce.  When you receive all the cards wishing you well, you will also likely receive the traditional monetary gift that accompanies them.  Instead of blowing your cash on summer plans or that new item that you’ve been dying to purchase, save this money and put it towards your first semester’s textbooks, technology that will make your life easier, or just save it so you can focus on your new college setting for a little while without worrying about a job or finances.  You could also spend this money on a nice set of clothes for your new job, professional activities or potential internship opportunities.  Also, whether you are going to college or into the workforce, take on responsibilities to ensure that you will still have a structured schedule similar to the one you had in high school or college.  This can include joining an on-campus club or organization, finding a job with hours that supplement your schedule well but not too much to distract you from school, and if you are working ask your boss about projects that you can be involved in.  Being pro-active, responsible, and dependable are incredibly valuable life skills that are necessary for success anywhere.

There are many factors that should drive your decision to attend college, including your personal goals.  For some, school can’t end soon enough and they will pursue a job or career without attending college.  Despite the rising cost of education that makes its value a topic of scrutiny, attending a four-year college and earning a bachelor’s degree is still a worthwhile plan and statistics substantiate this as well.  In fact, over the course of a typical working career an average person with a college degree will earn one million dollars more than an average person with only a high school diploma.  To make your college degree worth the investment of two to four years of time and a significant amount of money, there are some things to keep in mind.  It may sound fun to go out of state to college, but consider staying local for your first two years.  For most degree programs, your first two years will be filled with general education courses that for the most part are completely unrelated to your major or focus.  You can take these courses at a local institution for a fraction of the cost of a typical university, and most are transferable to your institution of choice at any time.  Now that you are making a monetary investment in your education, it is your responsibility to be successful and take advantage of all that you are paying for.  The more you learn and the better you do in college, the better your resume and qualifications will be when you start looking for a job after graduating college.  Good grades not only look great on paper, but they can benefit you in many other ways such as discounts on insurance and accolades from your school. They may also provide opportunities such as additional scholarships or eligibility for organizations.

We live in a climate of constant economic change, and many people’s opinions of post-high school education have shifted to be more welcoming of young adults who wish to bypass college and enter the workforce right after graduating from high school.  Furthermore, with regards to choosing a college, there are currently a wealth of options available other than a traditional four-year university, including two year Associate’s degrees, trade schools, and online programs.  Make use of your resources, such as school counselors, and check out plenty of websites for information on potential colleges, their programs, and additional offerings.  Not all colleges are created equal, and cost alone is not necessarily an accurate indicator of what they may have to offer you.  Focus not only on each prospective institution’s educational programs, but also on access to supplemental programs that will assist you with life after college, such as career placement services.

We wish all the best to the Class of 2014 graduates, and looking past all of the fun and lasting memories that we anticipate you will experience during your graduation festivities; we hope to see all that you have to offer the world in your future endeavors!