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.
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.