What do teenagers do after school?
With rising college tuition costs and huge student loan arrears, there is a debate about whether college or the workplace is the right path for young people facing financial barriers and other challenges.
But educators, politicians and employers involved in restructuring higher education institutions do not always understand what teenagers really need and want. If they listened, what would they learn?
The short answer: young people want more than just a good life. They want a good life.
This is what EdSurge has learned over a long conversation with nine different high school students from across the U.S. in 2021 about the life they are working on and the choices they make to achieve it. Read profiles, look at portraits and listen to the voices of those students here.
Then read on to find out how the lives of these teens have changed over the past year.
In high school, Dina Sabic of Chattanooga, Tennessee, was stressed by the pandemic and frustrated by interrupted football seasons. He reflected on studying business in college, beginning to reconsider his previous goal of working in medicine.
After graduating in the spring of 2021, Dean entered the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, where he is currently studying. He also continues to work part-time in a logistics company.
“I love it still!” Dino reports. “Great school and great job!”
Vernell Sheno III
Future businessman Vernell Chenault III decided not to go to college until he graduated from high school in the spring of 2021. Instead, the New Orleans resident was excited to start working in the HR department of the Fortune 500 energy company.
Wernell says he has been doing great at Entergy ever since. He expects a raise soon and says his manager has asked Vernell to continue working in her department because he is such an “activist”.
Over the past year, Vernell has stopped its side business of reselling phone cases. Now he has a new business: selling T-shirts through a website called The headquarters of the villain.
“In short,” says Vernell, “life has been wonderful for me.”
As a member of a farming family in Idaho Falls, Idaho, Spencer Raisenmei planned to pursue a degree in agribusiness to learn about the scientific innovations that are shaping agriculture. But before entering higher education, Spencer planned to complete a two-year mission to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
After graduating from high school in the spring of 2021, Spencer embarked on this church mission. He is currently serving in Ghana, according to one of his former teachers.
With her strong mathematical skills as well as family members with a science-oriented career, Ethiopia Jagun once thought about studying engineering in college. She even received a scholarship to Georgia College of Technology.
But in her final year of high school in Durham, North Carolina, she realized she wanted to explore other interests and pursuits instead. She wondered if it made sense to enter the university’s technology center.
Efiota eventually went to college at Georgia College of Technology, and she says, “So far so good!” She is studying public policy and sociology there, in addition to playing frisbee, opening a department of a student advocacy organization and doing an internship at the Georgia General Assembly at the 2022 legislative session.
The college is still on the horizon for Princess Sebalos, a busy high school student from Porterville, California, who spends her time playing tennis matches, breeding animals, running clubs and doing community service.
The princess says she has been accepted to four universities: California State University in Fresno, California State University in Chicago, California State University in Pomona and the University of California at Berkeley. She said Berkeley offered to cover most of her studies and also invited her to become a Regent Fellow. Right now the Princess hopes to study agriculture and plant environmental science to become a pest control advisor.
In between working on college, she has recently enjoyed traveling outside her city in the San Joaquin Valley. The Princess recently mentioned that “I will be in Sacramento for a conference all week and I am very excited about it.”
On the eve of graduating from high school, Matthew Guadiana was looking forward to entering college to continue her studies and study to be a nurse. It was her profession that she chose because of the opportunity to help others.
But Matthew, who lives in San Antonio, was also worried he might graduate from college. Many years ago her mother could not afford a diploma.
Last year, Matthew enrolled at the University of Texas A&M in San Antonio and says she focuses on school.
Despite clear career goals and success in high school, Kayasha Williams was worried about going to college. She wondered if she could stay motivated, not procrastinate and stay confident.
In the spring of 2021, Kayasya became the first in her family to graduate from high school. Since then, she has attended college at Clemson University, where she is studying engineering. “College makes me run in circles,” she said.
To help get to her, Kayasya got a A scholarship gift of $ 10,000 from a couple who also lives in Charleston, South Carolina, and Fr. CMiC-Elena Berg Memorial Scholarship $ 20,000 from the Architecture, Civil Engineering and Engineering mentoring program of America.
“The scholarships I won were enough to go through the door,” says Kayasya, “and I’m really grateful.”
When Alan Farfan was thinking about life after high school, he called career stability a big personal priority. And a student from Austin, Texas, wasn’t sure that a degree was the best way to find a secure job.
Alan is now a junior high school student who is taking some college-level courses, including UX design. He plans to do an internship at IBM this summer. And according to one of his teachers, Alan started working at Whataburger, a job he enjoys.
As a high school senior, Chicago student Freddie Zepped hoped to leave college ready to find a job that interested him and that helped him build the good life that his family represented.
After graduating in 2021, he entered the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he is studying earth and environmental science. He says it’s very good there. Thanks to the credits Freddie received when he entered high school and community college, the university considers him a junior and he has met many requirements to pursue a degree.
Freddie says he is now focusing on applying for summer internships, keeping up with coursework.
What can we learn from teenagers?
Adults who are building new paths in college or vocational training programs need to better understand where young people end up wanting to end up. This information comes from listening to teens.
“You want to know to begin with, what are the young man’s work interests, what are his work values, what do they want to get from work?” says Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center for Education and Workforce.
Listening these nine teenagers EdSurge has learned a few key lessons. The brains of young people are set on passion, purpose and experimentation. While some face significant barriers to success after high school, they tend to rely more on their potential than on their limits. They trust their families, friends and teachers to guide them. And some teens are skeptical of college values, but many still see higher education as the best option to achieve their goals.
These ideas can help educators, politicians and employers better develop programs for young people.
“The more young people are involved and involved in all of this,” says Alison Gerber, director of employment, education and training at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and it will be attractive to them and their peers. ”