May 3 2024

Central High School CCR coordinator Tory Park featured in EdSurge podcast

Central High School opportunity fair volunteers in school gym

Tory Park, our Achieve career and college readiness coordinator at Central High School in Saint Paul, is featured in the recent EdSurge podcast, "College for What?' High School Students Want Answers Before Heading to Campus." Learn more in this article by Jeffrey R. Young published on the EdSurge website.  

ST. PAUL, Minn. — What do you want to be when you grow up? That’s a question long faced by high school students. But these days, students have access to far more information than in the past about what, specifically, they could do as a job after they graduate.

And that is changing the way students are thinking about whether or not they want to go to college — or when they want to go.

These shifting attitudes were evident in March at Central High School here, at a daylong event dubbed the “Opportunity Fair.” More than 100 local businesses set up tables with company banners and flyers about what it means to work for them, with representatives on hand to answer questions.

Some of the jobs represented require college degrees. Others don’t. Some of the employers here said they have career paths for both, such as a medical-device company that looks for folks out of high school to work on their factory floor as well as college grads to join their design teams. And other companies look for talented students for entry-level jobs, with the promise to help them pay for college or more training later if needed.

“I don't know if I'm going to go to college right after I get out of high school,” said one junior. “But I think that at some point in my future when I want to get a professional job, I probably will go to college before I do that. I don't think I need to rush into it. I don't don't want to end up failing college or anything like that.”

That’s something that people who work with high school students on their choices are hearing more these days, says Liz Williams, a senior program officer for the Greater Twin Cities United Way. Part of her job is helping high schools set up programs that show students their career options.

“When I think about my own journey,” Williams said, “I have an undergraduate degree in Spanish and Portuguese, so it was a really cool thing to study. I got to travel, I got to learn languages. But it also gave me zero direction as to what careers were possible. And so I had to sort of find that on my own.”

Today students are “asking better questions,” she said. “So I actually think there's a lot of wisdom in that skepticism of, ‘I'm not sure college is right for me. I know I'm going to have to take on debt. I have a cousin, a parent who has taken on that type of debt and I see what that is like.’ They also see adults who maybe don't have debt but hate the work that they do. … And so I think that there's this trend toward taking a step back and really thinking about what they want to do, and if it is college, thinking more critically about ‘Why college?’, and ‘College for what?’”

This is the fourth episode of our podcast series Doubting College, where we’re exploring: What happened to the public belief in college? And how is that shaping the choices young people are making about what to do after high school?

For this installment we’re focusing on the opportunities young people have these days, the changing ways that high school counselors and education leaders are presenting those choices, and what these students think about their options.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, YouTube or wherever you listen to podcasts, or use the player on this page.

Jeffrey R. Young is an editor and reporter at EdSurge and host of the EdSurge Podcast. This article is part of the guide, Doubting College: A Podcast Series.. Photo credit: EdSurge.