A New Path in Education and Life

female student on laptop

Ah, graduating high school. Is there a stranger time in one’s life? Suddenly, your entire identity has changed overnight. You are no longer required to show up at the same place you have for the past four years, surrounded by the same people, for better or worse. The familiar disappears, and you’re expected to figure out the next step yourself – an overwhelming task for many.

And what paths currently exist to choose between? In some parts of the world, like Australia, students often embark on what’s called a “gap year” before pursuing higher education; a time to go backpacking around the world and revel in a lack of responsibility beyond keeping one’s Eurail pass valid. Others may choose to take on a more serious endeavor, such as joining the Peace Corps.

But for most, the options consist of – for those lucky enough – going off to a 4-year college or skipping higher education altogether to immediately begin working an entry-level job. However, the Narrative Renewal Project’s article, A Third Path After Graduation, challenges this idea by proposing another path as an option for graduating seniors: a “third path” of remaining in one’s own community to spend a year helping make it a better place.

While the existing alternative options mentioned previously take students around the world and no doubt provide exciting experiences, they don’t cause a direct impact on their own communities. This new idea, on the other hand, proposes that a group of about 20 high school graduates live together for a year in dormitory-style housing in their own city while designing and implementing initiatives to help make it a better place. Simultaneously, they would operate a business venture to support themselves. After, they could go on to college or continue to work with real experience under their belts.

In the highly globalized society we live in today, sometimes we forget about the treasures in our own backyards. And living in a time of “brain drain” as we do, where the best and brightest are almost expected to leave their communities as soon as possible, I fully support the more old-fashioned concept of staying right in one’s own home town or city to make it a better place, close to lifelong friends and family – not because they couldn’t “escape,” but by choice. And those who aren’t considered successful students can benefit as well by being given the chance to thrive outside of a classroom.

Maybe now is the perfect time for us all to consider that to live the life we want, we may need to envision new options beyond those presented to us. Working adults earning their higher education degrees are already stepping outside of the box to reach their goals, but at one time this option barely existed. Let’s work together and discover other kinds of new paths for working adults.


Written By: Lorelei Plotczyk
Lorelei is a regular contributor to the Ashford University blog.

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