Warford

This time of year, high school students receive the long-awaited notifications from their dream colleges. This brings joy for some, dis­appointment for others.

Still other students, though, sit quietly during all this college acceptance talk. They aren’t going to a four-year university in the fall.

They are going into the military, into the family business, to a trade school, or — most often — to a community college.

We must encourage and champion these students just as much as we cheer the justifiably happy kids who just heard they got ac­cepted by an elite uni­ver­sity.

I showed the students in my Bridge class — a career and college read­i­ness class all students at The Palmdale Aerospace Acad­emy take — a TED talk by Josh LaFazen.

Called “From Com­mu­nity College to Harvard: Re­thinking College Ad­mis­sions,” the talk lays out how LaFazen endured rid­icule for choosing com­munity college out of high school.

His friends told him he was “pursuing the worst life plan ever.” Really? Just four years later he had two Ivy League de­grees — a bachelor’s from Cor­nell and a master’s from Harvard.

That doesn’t sound like such a bad life plan.

“The kicker?” he said. “I did this all while saving $100,000 over my first two years of college. More im­port­antly, community col­lege allowed me to stay home, earn money and clarify my life goals. When­ever we choose a cour­ageous path — to take a road less traveled — we subject ourselves to what seems like unrelenting criticism and ridicule.”

One family friend even offered “condolences” to LaFazen’s father over his son’s decision not to go to a four-year college out of high school.

LaFazen, who was elect­ed to his Long Island school district board at 18, em­phasized that, given the ever-rising cost of col­lege, all high schoolers should have the courage to be different, and give com­mu­nity college a sec­ond look.

He’s right.

Here, we have a great com­munity college in An­tel­ope Valley College, and if you don’t believe that you can go on to success fol­lowing two years at AVC, consider this:

Pulitzer Prize winner and U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan is an AVC alum. Fox News anchor Trace Gal­lagher, former Major League Baseball stars Jim Slaton, Jim Brus­ke and Kevin Appier; pol­it­ic­ians Dave Cox and Shar­on Runner; and auth­or Do­reen Virtue went to AVC, to name just a few high achievers.

Nationally, wildly suc­cess­ful community college graduates include Apple founder Steve Jobs; anoth­er Pulitizer Prize-win­ning poet, Gwendolyn Brooks; PBS News Hour an­chor Jim Lehrer, actors James Dean, Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Clint East­wood; and billionaire presidential candidate H. Ross Perot.

George Lucas went to Modesto Community Col­lege. Eileen Collins, the first woman to com­mand a space shuttle mis­sion, went to Corning Com­munity College (be­fore going to Syracuse Uni­ver­sity with your columnist, though we did not know each other).

Oscar Hijuelos, the first Hispanic-American to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, went to Bronx City College.

Still think community col­lege is for losers who can’t get into a “real col­lege”?

Besides the savings of a cool $100,000 or so, choosing a community col­lege gives students time to decide what they want to do.

Also, maybe you were a late bloomer and didn’t hit your high school stride until your senior year. Go to a community college and show what you can do.

As a high school senior, it is natural to want to come to school and tell your friends and your teach­ers that you got ac­cept­ed to one of those fancy schools that always makes the cover of U.S. News & World Report’s annual listings of the nation’s best colleges.

But choosing a com­mu­nity college such as AVC doesn’t mean you aren’t smart.

It may mean just the opposite.

William P. Warford’s column appears every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.

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