Helping Seniors Soar
A joy in my job is hearing the stories students easily share – their journeys in life, what they are passionate about and where they might be headed. With 1600 students, there are a lot of stories. The exchanges with seniors are particularly interesting because they are close to launching into adulthood. Reflecting on what they have to say should lead us to doing a better job of giving students the preparation and assistance they need to fulfill their dreams.
At UHS, we put a lot of emphasis on the academic requirements that enable students to continue their educations at four-year colleges. Students who excel in these areas are often rewarded with scholarships that help offset the cost of college. The power of scholarships is more than financial. Scholarships are also gifts of hope and encouragement. They say, “We believe in you. You’re going places.”
I am grateful our community provides scholarships to college-bound students. A few scholarships also reward students who plan to pursue vocational training. But I think we can do more. I propose we expand our generosity to help students who need a leg up financially and some moral support to go where their prospects are brighter, even if they are not pursuing education in the traditional sense.
In the book The New Geography of Jobs, economics professor Enrico Moretti argues that an ability and willingness to relocate will provide economic security and prosperity. This is true during recessions and boom times. Migration has long been a key ingredient to American prosperity and achieving personal dreams. Why don’t we help our students go where they can thrive, especially when the investment is comparatively low?
We have fantastic Career Technical Education (CTE) programs at UHS. Students can earn certificates in welding, automotive technology, machine shop and other subjects. When they graduate, some may find jobs locally. Others would be better off relocating to places where demand, opportunity and compensation are greater. A relocation grant, or scholarship, would provide access to such possibilities. As a school we can assist students in understanding job markets and mobility. As a community, we can provide grants to make it happen – such as initial rent, tools and job-related clothing.
Some will say, “We don’t want to lose our young people by shipping them off to new places.” We do exactly the same thing with those on an academic path. We should not fear our children leaving the area. My experience is that the bonds of family and our beautiful county lure many home to contribute the skills they’ve acquired during their time away.
Last year, UHS CTE Director Eric Crawford collaborated with local contractor Larry Richardson and others to create the Mendocino County Construction Corps, a program developed by the North Coast Builders Exchange that encourages high school seniors to get into the trades. After students complete a 14-week training program, they receive a $750 stipend and a tool belt full of tools. This allows them to walk onto a job site and say, “I’m ready to work.” Much of the program, including the tools, was funded with donations from local contractors and businesspeople. This manageable investment assists students in clearing a significant hurdle in their dream of pursuing skilled work.
Another excellent program is the partnership between Delta Community College in Stockton and Peterson Caterpillar Tractor. Students who enter the two-year program receive free schooling. They work half the year and go to school during the other half. At the end of the program, they receive a union card and a job as a diesel mechanic for Peterson. If we have local students interested in this program, let’s provide them with the means to get set up in Stockton.
I like the idea of helping students overcome barriers to reach their dreams. It’s time to start a Relocation Grant or Skilled Trades Scholarship fund together. Each May, we will look forward to celebrating the great work of these students alongside our college scholarship recipients. I look forward to your assistance and commitment. Please join this effort by emailing me at email@example.com.