Grads to Follow Different Paths

Seniors explore options beyond jumping into four-year colleges


Cooper Avery

Next step — Senior Brandon Stogsdill plans to begin pursuing a career in law enforcement. He began learning more about his career options through career classes at LHS.

By Macy Landes, Co-Copy Chief

Though most students graduating from high school decide to attend a four-year college, there are other options that can be more affordable and beneficial depending on what students’ career goals are.

“I just want to make sure that kids leaving Lawrence High School have the door open for whatever choice they might make,” guidance counselor Lori Stussie said. “It’s hard when you’re 17 or even 18 years old to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life. So we try to make sure our graduates are ready to either enter the workforce, possibly do some technical training or go on to college if they decide that college is not for them directly.”


Vocational schools train students in technical skills that allow them to begin their careers sooner since they last two years. Generally these schools interest students who already have a specific career in mind, like being a nurse or a fire fighter.

Some students who plan to fulfill these occupations first take classes at the College and Career Center or the Peasley Technology Center.

“Our enrollment in some of our technical programs is growing,” Stussie said. “We have a number of students who want to do things like cosmetology or the CNA [certified nursing assistant] program.”

After that, they go on to a vocational school, or at least take classes in which they learn technical skills.

“Some of the programs are two-year programs, and they’re all pretty individualized,” Stussie said. “I know that Johnson County Community College, although it’s a community college, does have certification programs that may fall under the definition of technical schools.”

One senior who plans on having a career requiring technical skills and certifications is Brandon Stogsdill, who wants to become a law enforcement officer. During his time at LHS, he took the emergency services class to see if he’d like to turn it into a career.

“I want to be in law enforcement, but I kind of took that class to see what it was like to help people and see what it’d be like, seeing what I could do if I didn’t have that training,” Stogsdill said.

Originally, Stogsdill was planning on being a firefighter, but changed his path so he could spend more time with family.
“I could still celebrate Christmas and stuff like that and be with my family, not being gone for that whole day, like my uncle is sometimes,” he said. “I think my uncle hasn’t been to Christmas in like four years because he always works, but I think that was a big factor in [my decision].”

Stogsdill stressed that, although he’s changed his mind about it before, he’s excited to be making career decisions.
“Find a career, not just a job,” he said.


Other students opt either to take a gap year or to go straight into the workforce after graduation.

Although the term “gap year” implies that students intend to go back to college after taking a break from school for a year, Stussie said that it often means the student won’t go to college.

“A lot of students leave high school thinking that they’re just going to take a year off, but once you’ve been out of school, sometimes it’s really hard to find the motivation to go back to school,” she said. “And some kids, honestly, they get jobs and they like their work, so it’s easier to not go back to college.”

Senior Olivia Jiminez is a student who’s going straight to work after getting her diploma. She plans to continue to work at Pet World, although she still considers college to be an option for the future.

“I haven’t blocked the idea of college out completely,” Jiminez said. “It’s just not the right move for me right now. I would really like to see where Pet World takes me. I would like to stay at Pet World for a few more years at least.”

The decision to continue work came easily to Jiminez. She loves working there and is surrounded by support from her coworkers.

“It wasn’t a difficult decision, but I definitely felt a little pressure from my family to go to college,” she said. “My wonderful manager, Sherry Emerson, and my family have assured me that they will support me no matter what I choose to do in the future.”

Ultimately, the decision comes from hopes for a career in the pet business.

“I would eventually like to start my own business cleaning aquariums for businesses,” Jiminez said.