There is a universal theme amongst all people and that is the desire for success, especially the success of their children. We all want it, but every single person has their individual and unique path towards achieving it. The American Dream is the idea that anyone, despite where they come from, can move up the ladder towards success. If a person works hard, they should be able to reach their full potential. Does the American Dream have a place in reality today? People in low-income families might not think so. Some students start at the bottom of a socio-economic ladder, making it a struggle to reach the first rung or take their next step. The American dream boasts of equality, but is this a reality for all? Picture a student from a low-income family trying to decide where they want to go to college with a belief in the American Dream. Their parents relay to them that they cannot afford for them to go to a 4-year university without a nearly full scholarship. Students are typically taught that the best way up the ladder is to get into a good college to be connected with a promising career. When disappointment becomes a reality, what if there were other paths to success? Be relieved to know that multiple streets lead to prosperity.
The first question to ask this student is: what do you want to do in your future? The response could be as simple as: “I don’t know.” Why then decide that college is the solution to an unanswered question. It is perfectly normal for a teenager not to know what they want to do with the rest of their lives. This blank answer is why many students in college change majors on multiple occasions, which is a waste of money and time. Even if the student does have an answer, they might not be able to fully grasp what is required for that career. Within the last 5-10 years, the Washington Post determined that only 27 percent of college graduates were working in a field related to their major! The solution to this predicament is knowledge and preparation: knowledge of all career pathways, that do and do not fit the traditional mold, financial literacy alongside the preparation for the road ahead. Envision another student who has special needs. Academic and social expectations in school can be a challenge for these students, but career pathways can be differentiated for them if need be. This is any student with ADHD, autism, or anything under the umbrella of a learning disability. With knowledge of career pathways, instead of struggling to find a place in the workforce, the student and their families can best choose for themselves where their future begins. Anything is possible, but only with the knowledge of all possibilities. It seems like secretive information that for many successful careers, a college degree is not always required.
Many students go into unnecessary debt by going to college and in some cases, do not have to go. Not to mention, some might not have a desire to go. There is a need for students to be educated about other viable career pathways they should consider to obtain the career of their choice. That knowledge is how they can more efficiently move their way up the ladder. There are a variety of companies that hire based on value and skill without a college diploma. Some careers might require training or vocational school, but not necessarily a 4-year degree.
There are some careers where a degree is non-negotiable. If the student has their heart set on becoming a doctor, then they need a good SAT or ACT score, a Bachelor's degree in the Sciences, and Medical School. What if the student hits a stumbling block: an average score on the SAT, limited college acceptations, or denied from Medical School. Those who have the funds and or resources have more of a chance and opportunity to excel while other students have to put in a seemingly insurmountable amount of extra work. Every student is not on an equal playing field and landing a career is a competitive sport.
The EPIC Foundation mentors students and exposes them to the various career pathways beyond what schools traditionally promote. We live in the modern world. There are endless opportunities and paths to success. Time is invaluable and should not be wasted. Maybe a student should take the traditional route, but it needs to be known that there are infinite alternative options. Mentoring is the solution!