by Serena Gestring, staff writer

Fifty-nine percent of teenagers plan to attend a four-year college course after high school, according to 2020 statistics. A lot of careers do require a college degree, but that is not the only option. Community college, technical or trade school, apprenticeships, the military, mission trips, and gap years are all paths that can be a better fit for some people.  

One of the many options students have after graduation is joining the military. Pictured is the U.S. Airforce Recruiting Office in Kent, Ohio. By Owen Baird.

Community College

At a community college, students can earn an associate’s degree or a certification in only two years. The programs at community colleges are often directly related to the needs of the current job market. Sarah Sipek, author for careerbuilder.com, says students can get a degree or certified “as a veterinary technician, a dental hygienist, web designer or even a winemaker,” as well as many other possibilities. Receiving an associate’s degree also gives students the option of transferring to a university to get a bachelor’s degree. 

Take Taleah Cline for instance. Cline is a Bio-Med Science Academy 2020 graduate taking a gap semester to work and save money. In the spring she plans to take an EMT class at Stark State College. 

“I did originally plan to go to Med school, but I quickly realized that’s not the best idea,” Cline said. “But I still wanted to go into the medical field.” 

Then Cline met Andy Miller, the husband of Bio-Med ELA 11 teacher Ms. Bates, when he came into their lunch one day to tell them about his job as a firefighter/paramedic. 

“I was instantly interested,” recalled Cline. She talked to Ms. Bates about volunteering with the Tallmadge Fire Department. “After volunteering for just a day, I knew that was something I wanted to do,” said Cline. However, before someone can become a paramedic, they have to be an EMT. “So that’s where I started,” Cline concluded.

Here is a list of community colleges near Rootstown, Ohio from Google Maps. 

Technical School

Technical schools, also known as trade schools, are another career avenue, especially if a person already has a career that they want to go directly into. These schools specialize in courses that teach skills applicable to specific careers, such as carpentry, electrical work, culinary arts, etc. Unlike a four-year university, “you aren’t required to take classes that aren’t related to your career focus,” according to Sipek. 

Here is a list of technical schools near Rootstown, Ohio from Google Maps. 

Apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are a way to learn a trade and skills relevant to an in-demand field while also getting paid from day one. These programs consist of on-the-job training from experienced professionals and classroom instruction. Apprenticeships are available for many different occupations, such as health care, internet technology, manufacturing, and construction. To learn about apprenticeship opportunities in Ohio, visit ohio.gov.  

Military

Joining one of the five branches of the military is another option. According to Sipek, there are several benefits: competitive salaries, free health care, little-to-no living costs, retirement with benefits after twenty years of service. If you choose to go to college after your service, the GI Bill can be used to pay part of your tuition. 

The five military branches include the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The first step to joining is researching and deciding which branches are most interesting. Then contact a recruiter for those branches. The recruiter will provide information about that service. 

To enlist, report to a military entrance processing station (MEPS), where pre-enlistment steps will be completed. This includes having a physical exam and taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test to determine what job specialties would be best for an individual. Once accepted, orders for basic training will be given. To learn more about the military branches and how to contact a recruiter, visit usa.gov/join-military

Mission Trips

According to volunteerhq.org, mission trips are “an international volunteering opportunity focused around collaborating with local communities to provide support where it is most needed.” Short-term mission trips can range from one week to twenty-four weeks long, and there are several travel destinations around the world to choose from. Some churches also have their own mission trip programs for an added religious component. 

Gap Year

According to gapyearassociation.org, a gap year is defined as “a semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to career or post-secondary education, in order to deepen one’s practical, professional, and personal awareness.” This can involve expanding your comfort zones, having a cross-cultural experience (such as traveling), reflecting on your experiences and possible career interests, and working to save up money (possibly for school). It should be noted that the purpose is not to do nothing for a year. 

For example, Ben Morgan is a BMSA 2020 graduate who is taking a gap year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and has kept himself busy. He’s currently studying French with a tutor, practicing carpentry, working part time, and hopes to begin studying astronomy. 

“More or less I’ve put together my own college curriculum taught by friends or associates,” Morgan said.

In addition, Morgan has also been working with Staughton Lynd, a historian and social activist. Lynd has been assigning readings on social movements, labor history, economics, and moral injury to Morgan. The two also collaborated on an article that was published in Dissent magazine last month. 

“It feels very satisfying to have that piece published. Since my freshman year at Bio-Med when I participated in National History Day, I’ve wanted to get an article published,” said Morgan. 

This time before college has allowed Morgan to grow as a student and as a person and has given him many valuable opportunities and experiences. Morgan had this to say on the topic: “I believe that there’s a lot to be said for not jumping into the world of higher education at this specific point, as it seems one learns just as much from their peers and from the experience of being on a campus as from the actual taught information.”

Jacob Rude is another BMSA 2020 graduate who is taking a gap year to work and determine a best-fit career for himself. So far, he has had three jobs in food service where he has learned important lessons. 

“Taking accountability for mistakes or misunderstandings [that] may not even be your own fault is an incredible tool that is refined by those who work in jobs such as these,” said Rude. Also, one of his life goals is to write books, so Rude has been using his free time to write whatever comes to mind in order to nurture his creativity.  

Rude has been looking into many possible careers. Teaching, movie making, entrepreneurship, and skilled trades such as carpentry and masonry have all gone into consideration. However, he is still undecided, and he wants to take his time in order to avoid making what he believes is a common mistake. 

“When they prioritize return on investment over any and everything else, they tend to get stuck in an occupation they have no passion for and lead a dull, unfulfilling life,” Rude stated. 

Rude gives his respect to his peers in college who are struggling during these difficult times. He also recognizes that he needs to sort out his own thoughts before he can make a final decision. On the topic of his gap year, Rude offers a final thought: “I knew that I just needed more time to figure out what I want to do with my life and what I want to give back to the world, and that’s okay too.”

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