We’ve all agreed that the path to a self- and family-supporting job and career requires not only graduating from high school, but successfully starting AND completing some kind of post-secondary path. We are so proud of all of the kids who finished high school last spring and are now on what we consider a traditional path to a four-year institution, though we certainly need to continue to pay attention to their successful completion and ensure affordability. But, what I’m more concerned about are the most challenged young people in Michigan, who we also need to get on that post-secondary path.
We recently heard from a group of young people at a KidSpeak® event at Wayne State University, targeting kids aging out of the state’s foster care system. They talked so eloquently about their unique needs, and our unique responsibility to them that we so often fail to provide. They talked about how long it often took them to get through high school – getting behind because of frequent moves, credits failing to transfer and other life circumstances making it difficult to make their way through in four consecutive years of school. We heard about how critically important transitioning services are to them, financial and otherwise, when they do make it on that post-secondary path – the importance of financial and other supports to help them make it all the way through to a degree. This too can take longer than the time frames allowed by those programs.
For young people who need more time in high school, we are thankful for our system that finances the 5th and 6th year of high school. We need to provide more support to those options that utilize post-secondary and workforce partnerships to successfully graduate challenged young people and smooth their transition.
For some, circumstances are so challenging or they just get so far behind that they need a GED option that ties directly to a post-secondary path. We know that a GED alone doesn’t move you much beyond where you’d be without a high school diploma, but a GED can and should be used intentionally as a pathway to something beyond that credential. There are programs around the state that utilize this path. When combined with real work experience, like through Youth Build programs in some of our most challenged communities, this different kind of support moves young people into the post-secondary trajectory that promotes success.
For everyone, we need to remove time from the equation of high school and post-secondary completion.
We agree with the Governor’s focus on education at Any Pace. The benefits of supports at a variety of paces was clear in KidSpeak®, as was the need to build more consistent and appropriate opportunities available to more challenged young people in our state. Budget conversations are beginning now in Lansing and critical decisions are being made in Washington, DC as well – decisions that can promote or impede opportunities to post-secondary success. Michigan young people are reinforcing the Governor’s rhetoric. If we focus on the goal, rather than putting parameters around the time it takes to get there, we’ll move more quickly toward a more economically secure state.