Another Path: Opinion


Libby Peterson, Online Editor

My brother isn’t going to college. The reason I say this is because I have grown up with him. I know his struggles, but more importantly, I know his options. Few people are aware that there are other options. It’s okay if four more years of school just isn’t for you. It’s hard for many students to stray from the traditional path when their parents state over and over, “Go to school, get good grades, go to college, get a job, and then you can live an enriched and well-off life.”  

My mom was walking by Valley last spring and saw all the paper graduation cap cutouts strung underneath a vast array of colleges. Upon seeing the bolded names, projecting an air of direction, she said to me, “Carter isn’t going to get one of those.”  

Judgement commonly arises when a boy from a fairly well-off family in the richest county in the United States isn’t college bound. We praise academics so faithfully in Loudoun County, Virginia. This mentality can lead to mental health issues and added stress in many students. Academics are often a burden because of their intrinsically competitive nature. As I walk into my homeroom every morning, I notice the lack of comparison and the muffled cries for acceptance. As all of the seniors continue to one-up each other, I constantly think about the kid listening in who might be just like my brother. 

My brother struggles with ADHD, OCD, anxiety and is on the Autism spectrum. School has always been a battle for him. He is a brilliant coder, hacker and illustrator of electrical line blueprints. A career in the practical trade market is the route my brother will most likely take. Hands-on learning relays more information to his brain than a textbook ever could. 

School systems should promote trade jobs because they can save students from college debt. Even technology-based careers such as film-making and coding do not require a formal education. Other jobs such as welding, landscaping, air-conditioning, videography, plumbing and coding are the future. Currently, many people with college degrees can’t find a job because they aren’t qualified to do blue collar jobs. The cost of trade school is, on average, around $33,000 in total for two years. That is a big difference compared to $46,950 for each year of a private four year college. 

I am accustomed to tears when one A- drops a final grade to an 89. My peers believe their futures are effectively ruined. They state time and time again, “Oh my, your class rank isn’t in the top ten percent, forget scholarships.” I hear adults whisper things such as, “Poor thing, he’s going to end up going to NOVA, or no college at all, if he doesn’t get his act together.”

That is the thought process of my generation. As we grow into adults and gain the power to share our thoughts with the world, this limiting culture could change. 

Loudoun County offers great programs for specialization in a job-oriented field. The issue with these programs is that they are being cut, and spending is being redirected to advanced STEM programs. Hopefully, by the time my brother graduates, there will be a place where he is recognized for his specific strengths.