EDITORIAL: Congratulations to the Class of 2014

BY ROBERT MORALES

This year, 34 seniors are graduating from what used to be called Van Horn High School. We’re told it’s the “Secondary School.” Regardless of what it’s called, we have 34 high school seniors graduating this year, and they should be proud — very proud.

Today’s graduates confront many of the same decisions we all faced, perhaps the most obvious being, “What will I do with my life?” At 17, 18, or even 19 years of age, that is not an easy thing to unravel.  There’s so many factors to consider.

For some of these graduates, they’ve followed a path that will lead them toward a four-year college or university. They’ve studied hard, they have the grades, the aptitude and the attitude that they need for a college education.

For others, a four-year degree may not be in the cards. Unless a student is fortunate enough to have his or her education paid for by parents, the road will be very difficult if a student doesn’t have the alternative means of financing, such as scholarships or, student loans.

Vocational and technical schools have in  recent years have come of age. They offer a student a two-year degree, and in some cases, an 18-month certificate in some of the most highly desirable fields today. In many cases, a vocational or technical school graduate will earn significantly more money immediately after graduation than a four-year college graduate.

A traditional four-year university education is not for everyone. Some students thrive in the give-and-take Socratic method that many university professors use today to pry open analytical and reasoning skills. Some students will hate this method of teaching because the Socratic method is not a simple fill-in-the-blank type of answer. It’s not a yes or a no answer. It forces a student to really think using logical skills. For some students, this can be a very fun and engaging manner of learning, and for others, it will be torture.

This is where the hands-on learning comes in for vocational/tech students. Instructors know that these students have the aptitude to learn, but to learn by actually handling and doing what the instructor is showing them. Yes, there are textbooks and a few tests, but most of the teaching is done with students handling a welding torch, removing the compressor off an air conditioner, or writing code into a computer program. 

In Britain, the apprenticeship program has been a success. Students as young as 16 can enter into an apprenticeship, and the student will have a mentor to teach that student everything he or she needs to know about the business from the ground up. They are paid a minimum wage, and they have holidays off. 

For those students who neither choose vocational/technical school or a university, an apprenticeship may be the perfect answer. We have plenty of local business owners who have a wealth of experience in their particular area of business, and they can share that knowledge with a willing participant. Of course, the key here is that the participant must really want to learn.

The workforce requirements today demand that a person looking for a job must have, at the very minimum,  a high school diploma. Additionally, the applicant should be minimally trained on how to use various computer software, whether it be word processing or spreadsheet applications.  It is no longer acceptable for an applicant to say, “I don’t know how to use a computer.” In fact, many companies no longer accept paper applications at the job site. Applicants must fill out an application online.  One can question whether it is fair or unfair, but for those companies that require online applications,  they have already determined that it is a much more streamlined process than handling a paper application that may not have the best penmanship, as well as not being filled out properly. 

Our 34 graduating seniors have a multitude of options available to them. They have worked hard to reach this first major milestone in their young lives, but this is only the first step. From here, the sky is the limit. Only they can control their destinies, and there is no reason to think that they can’t be extremely successful in whatever field they choose. They may need a little push along the way to guide them in the right direction, but in the end, these 2014 Seniors have a very bright future ahead of them.