Grads Who Choose Work Get No Respect

Vocational Education Journal, October 1994 | Go to article overview

Grads Who Choose Work Get No Respect


This fall, as another crop of seniors embarks the year of high school and heads toward college, it is once again time to reflect on a sad reality: While a college degree is a badge of honor, enrollment in the working class has become a curse.

For the most part, high school graduates who enter the world of work won't find their names in the local newspaper or church bulletin; and they often won't go off to their jobs with the networks of support or enthusiasm provided to young people who go on to college. But a society requires many layers of support to function. Too many Americans forget that.

"When my sister graduated from high school and went off to Dartmouth, the world stopped," says Feri Tyler, a 1993 graduate of Oakland's Street Academy and a former customer service representative with Circuit City in Emerville, California. "Everybody was so happy with Aisha's decision. They were equally as unhappy with my decision to go to work right out of high school."

Tyler recognizes the importance of education but also realizes the importance of learning from life's experiences. Lofty goals may not be apparent at this time in her life, but self-acceptance and self-worth are very important.

After more than 15 years of teaching in colleges, I've come to recognize that the networks, resources and support mechanisms for college students are fairly extensive. With financial aid, cultural clubs, political organizations, sororities, fraternities, counseling and athletic teams, college students have some real options to back up their present and future efforts.

"When you come straight out of high school to work," says 18-year-old Andrea Crews, "people think you don't know anything because you haven't been to college."

Crews is a 1993 graduate of McKinley High School in Washington, D.C. Through her co-workers at Dylantic Incorporated, a contracting company that provides clerical personnel, elevator operators and movers for the State Department, she has a real network of support. Crews also is benefiting from a comprehensive in-house training program. She's upgrading her secretarial skills and has not dismissed college as a future possibility.

Certainly not every high school graduate has a clear sense of what she wants to do or be. Most can't afford the luxury of trying to "find themselves" during a year off. Many flounder, many more suffer and some end up costing parents thousands of dollars and years of heartache because the college experience was not for them--at least right now. …

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