The Teen Appeal

Giving truth to Memphis youth

More taking “realist” look to college and career

Kira Tucker

Central High School


According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, around the time most of the graduating class of 2014 was born, the national college enrollment rate was around 60 percent. That means just a little over half of high school graduates headed straight to college.

Since then, the college enrollment rate has increased to over 70 percent, but dropped slightly in recent years.

Many people have their eyes on the same prize—a college degree and a promising future—but what road are they taking to get there?

John Whitehead, an English teacher at Central High School, has frequent “college talks” with his students to make sure that everyone gets important information. He seeks to not only produce well-read connoisseurs of literature but also well-informed and well-prepared members of our dynamic, rapidly developing society.

“When I was in high school, teachers and counselors said to us, ‘Oh, you’re the smart kids near the top of your class. You should have it all figured out already.’ But the truth was, most of us didn’t,” said Whitehead.

He presents his students with information and advice that he and his peers, once in our same situations, had to dig and search for.  However, he considers himself a “realist” and cautions that students “should have a career plan no matter what, especially if they pursue a future in an area like liberal arts.”

Of course, he agrees that all students may not feel that college is for them, but everyone should seek some form of higher education, including trade or vocational schools.

National Public Radio recently completed a study explaining why there is such a disparity between the return on investments in higher education. The study is not about the advantages of one major over another but the number of successful students in each area of study. The most lucrative college majors can have median earnings in the six-figure range and are almost all in the area of engineering. This highly contrasts with majors in branches of sociology and psychology as well as the arts, where it may be difficult obtaining a job after graduation with starting salaries around $20,000 to $30,000.

A lot of students seek majors in fields such as communications or business.  However, not many students aspire to study aerospace engineering or astrophysics. The job market is all about supply and demand. This is something that Reginald Worles, a sophomore at White Station High School, understands well and has left him ambivalent between two majors: public relations and performing arts.

“What makes it tough to decide is that performing arts offers only small job growth, and I would want to use my major,” he said. “PR offers large job growth and I would enjoy it as well,” he said.

Mary Austria of Central High School, also a sophomore, suffers a similar plight. Several of her family members are medical professionals, but callings of a different path resonate within the depths of her mind.

“I’d rather have a family of architects, for example, to learn about something I’m more interested in,” she said. “But I know my relatives just want me to have abundant career opportunities.

“Any student can successfully do what they are passionate about,” said Sally Busby, a CLUE English teacher at Snowden Elementary School. “But the first step to making this happen is being more realistic with ourselves.” Many have ideas for their future early on, but Busby stresses that “going in blind” may delay success.  She advises students to practice relying on themselves and that standardized testing is not the end of their responsibility, but should accompany the acquisition of practical knowledge regarding the requirements and expectations of dream careers.  This way we can all be well-equipped and prepared in approaching the “next portal of our lives.”

Many people choose a profession because they feel that it is right for them, in ways that are sometimes difficult for others to perceive or understand.  Knowing for themselves what brings them joy and gratification, many will agree, is the key to fulfillment.  They find that they would rather dedicate their lives to something they are interested in and feel strongly about, regardless of numbers and statistics.

Memphian Nina B. Graham chose to follow her dreams of becoming an artist and has since gained both local and international success.  Through her work, she has found an outlet.

“It’s the best way to express my feelings…another form of communication,” she said

And recent Cornell graduate Tiffany Mayhew combined her favorite subjects in high school: math, art, and physics into her major and now works as a local architect.

“Architecture is really a discipline of love.” she said, hinting that some fields best suit only those who love what they do.  However, she is sure of her chosen path, adding, “I couldn’t see myself doing anything else!”




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This entry was posted on April 1, 2014 by in News and tagged , , , , , .


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