Options for success

Published 10:05 pm Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I come from a small – but growing – agricultural city in California. When I was in high school, California was rated at the bottom of the public school systems in the country and our schools in Santa Maria were the worst in the state.

I remember being at a coffee shop with my mom and hearing her talk to the mother of one of my childhood best friends. She said something about them being lucky to get us girls out of high school before we got pregnant. Sadly, that was the case. The two public high schools in Santa Maria both had nurseries built on school premises.

Most people don’t leave Santa Maria. Not that it would be so bad to stay, but — more often than not — they don’t understand how to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.

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If they’re lucky, students graduate high school and go to our community college. If you get that far, I’d say you got a good start. But, for many students, that’s where they stop.

I have many friends who have taken this route and have managed to do well for themselves. Often times, life circumstances leave no other option.

More often, though, I’ve seen far too many students stop short of a degree — high school, associates and college.

From what I’ve seen in Suffolk, high school students have a great starting place.

I’ve only been exposed to a few of the opportunities, but I’ve been encouraged by what I have seen and have found myself wishing these options were around for me and my friends when we were in high school.

I visited the Pruden Center and saw the programs they offer. Students take college-level classes at the center and receive high school credit for them. When they graduate, they can count 12 credits towards their associate’s degrees.

Students can take classes to prepare them for jobs in industries — such as modeling and simulation — go on to finish their associate’s degree, graduate and make $35,000 a year.

I don’t know about you, but I would consider it a great opportunity to be making $35,000 practically right out of high school.

I understand there are also students enrolled in a dual-credit program through Paul D. Camp Community College, which allows them to earn a general studies associate’s degree before they even graduate from high school.

Five students from Suffolk will graduate with their associate’s degrees a few days before they receive their high school diplomas.

It takes work and dedication, but for someone who doesn’t think a traditional four-year education is in the future for them, I would say this is a great starting point. Bravo to the public school system for making sure high school students have these kinds of opportunities.

LEila ROche is a reporter for the Suffolk News-Herald. She can be reached at 757.934.9613 or at leila.roche@suffolknewsherald.com