Standing in a room full of 12th grade students is always a joy to me. Hearing their thoughts and plans for the future amazes me every time.
I usually come straight at them with questions like, “What are you going to be when you graduate?” And, “What do you need to do to get there?”
I hold off on questions like, “Did you complete your FAFSA?” “Did you search for a scholarship?” “What was your ACT/SAT score and what colleges have you applied to?”
Why, you might ask?
When I enter a room, I am there to trigger a thought process. I can go through the same routine their counselors and teachers go through, but many times students will go through the motions and still have no real plan.
Not all students are going to a four-year college.
Not all are financially able to go to a four-year college.
Some of those same students are not motivated to go to a two-year college.
Some, if not engaged properly, will not continue their education at all. Reasons vary from lack of preparation, homelessness and low GPAs, to students who decide to stay home to help their family financially. Still every one of the students I speak to has a plan.
It’s my job to help them think of how that plan will get them where they need to be sooner and keep them secure longer in life.
College is what schools push. I push back on just offering college info at these events.
I expose students to as many sources of post secondary education as possible:
■ Four-year college or university
■ Two-year community college
■ Two-Year community college with dorms
■ Certification programs
■ Trade schools
■ Job Corps
■ City Year
■ Armed Forces
■ Peace Corps
■ Phlebotomy Express
■ Emerging Industries
■ Police Academy
■ Fire Department Academy
■ Apprenticeship programs, including electrician and roofing
■ Design and technology certifications
■ Earn-and-Learn programs
■ Video and audio production
■ Barber and cosmetology school
If we expose students to these types of options before they graduate we will have fewer students trying to figure it out in September, when their peers have established new lives on campus.
One of the responses to the students’ thoughts I love to address is, “I will be an Entrepreneur.”
I respond with simple questions like, “Have you assumed your business name yet?” “Do you know what an LLC is?” “Will your business be for-profit or non-profit?” “Have you patented your idea or product?”
When a student tells me they want to be an engineer but have not pursued any classes, I tell them about Focus Hope’s engineering programs.
When they tell me their goal is to produce music or web design, I tell them about the Detroit School for Digital Technology.
If they want to become a truck driver, there’s the Earn and Learn Program through Southwest Solutions.
JobCorps? I explain to students how it offers experience and students get housing for a full year.
Foster students can check with schools like Western, Saginaw Valley, the University of Michigan and others for scholarships.
Whatever the need, my goal is to connect them to someplace that will set the on a trajectory for career success.
The reality is that not every child will set foot on a college campus. However, failure is not an option when I am in the room. You have to do something. Something other than figure it out alone.