The $18 million solution: Provide more college and career exploration

Photo by: Caitlin Leggett/WUNC

My freshman year, the only thing I knew I was good at was talking.

I would ride in the car, asking my aunt millions of questions all at once, and she always seemed to know the answer, so it was easy for me to ask anything. But did I know I could do this as a future job? Of course not, until I got into journalism.

Most of the time students don’t have an idea of what they should do after high school. Some don’t even have a plan for what to do during high school.

In my case, journalism has been the most influential class I ever took. It opened many doors for me. I’m meeting new people in the community, and learning and working with classmates and adults in ways I would have never thought possible. I’m making friendships with people who can relate to having a similar passion as me. And I would have never known I had these interests until I got into the class.

I’ve participated in workshops. I wrote a few pieces, published an investigative story about why so many bilingual students take Spanish 1, and interviewed my school’s French teacher, who also happens to speak Arabic and Berber. Last spring, I learned how to create a résumé, applied for an internship, and spent the summer working with WUNC to create my own radio segment.

Young people need an opening, even if it’s small, because many don’t know where to start. Schools should be able to provide these types of openings for other classes as well. And with the $18 million grant from MacKenzie Scott, DPS could give these kinds of opportunities to all students.

When kids enter high school, many only think about passing their classes, moving on to the next grade, and surviving that final exam. Others don’t care about their classes or their GPA. They don’t think high school is important.

But let’s say schools gave them classes where they can actually engage, and it’s less about a structured grading rubric and more about helping them build life experiences, skills, and connections.

It’s important for young people to explore and experience what they could do as a career in the future. And high school is the time to do it. At the very least, it will give kids activities to put on their college applications. And at most, more students like me, who feel lost and unsure about their futures, will realize the value of school and discover what they could do in their lives, like making a difference in their communities, making their families proud, and bettering themselves as a whole. This could be done with one push, one opening, to change and better a student’s life. DPS should use the grant money to give high school students the chance to explore interests that could become occupations rather than forcing them to concentrate only on academics. 

This op-ed was previously published by Indy Week

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