ESCANABA - Students at Escanaba Area High School (EHS) got a sneak peek of life after graduation Monday night during the first-ever "Choices: Life After High School" program. Sponsored by Michigan Works!, Bay College and the National Guard, the event gave parents and students an opportunity to see, first-hand, what goes into planning beyond high school.
According to EHS Principal Doug Leisenring, the event was open to students from eighth to 12th grades and showcased some of the possible options for students after high school. With over 100 parents and students in attendance, various booths, and well-attended informational presentations, he added it appeared to be successful.
"We're really happy with the turnout," Leisenring said. "This is the first year we've done this, and it all started from one conversation about how kids weren't taking advantage of the option to take the ACT a second time."
Bay College offered students a sneak peek at their future Monday night.
The prevalence of students missing this opportunity to boost scores and possibly increase opportunities concerned Leisenring, and following the conversation, he started planning the event. Among those who quickly jumped on board were the National Guard, Michigan Works!, Paul Mitchell: The School, the Marines, and the Navy.
"This is for the students interested in some of the fields being presented. To show them the paperwork and tests they need to be taking in order to pursue those careers," Leisenring said. "For the students who think that the traditional four-year college program isn't for them, we had a lot of information on some of the skilled trades."
Leisenring pointed out Michigan Works! has indicated there will be an abundance of skilled trades positions opening in the Upper Peninsula over the next couple of years - the majority of which will not be filled because of a lack of skilled workers. For this reason, Leisenring said it is especially important for those interested in these positions to acquire the education they need.
In addition to the skilled trades, various branches of the military were also on hand to outline the 'new' military.
"We want to educate parents - this isn't like the old days when their children would be grabbing a rifle and running to the front line," said Leisenring. "There are educational opportunities and job skills offered in the military now."
Speakers like Cindy Carter, director of admissions for Bay College, informed students and parents about the steps they can begin taking as early as eighth grade, including visiting colleges and looking into financial aid. Carter also reviewed the importance of evaluating each career path to ensure it is the right fit.
"It's not all about the money - we have people with degrees and careers coming back to college because they're just not happy," she said. "Half the battle is finding something you enjoy."
As students perused the various booths, collecting information about potential careers and educational paths, Leisenring noted the vast generational differences faced by children today. "It's not like 30 years ago, when you could graduate high school and...walk into a pretty high-paying job with just that diploma," he said. "That's what we are trying to show kids - that you can't just stop at the 12th grade; you have to keep going." In order to keep them going, Leisenring indicated he and the others participating in Choices would build from the success of the event.
"There are a lot of community resources out there and we are just trying to open up those lines of communication," he said.