A Decatur High School senior wants students to know that college isn’t the only choice immediately after high school.
That’s why 17-year-old Haegan Altizer is organizing the free Decatur College Alternatives Fair, Monday, March 3, 6-8 p.m., at Decatur High School Performing Arts Center, 310 N. McDonough St., Decatur.
“Basically it came from the fact that I personally was not planning to go to college straight after high school,” Haegan said. “I wanted to do a gap year—take some time off and travel. It got me thinking that high schools do a really great job of providing lots of info about college and about pursuing that path, but they don’t do such an awesome job at providing [information] about the other opportunities.
“There are a huge number of really awesome other opportunities for high school graduates like apprenticeships and vocational schools and routes other than your traditional four-year degree,” Haegan said. “I just thought it was a need in the community to get that info out there.”
The fair will feature presenters from more than 15 organizations including Americorps, technical schools such as Brown College of Court Reporting, Aviation Institute of Maintenance, and gap year programs such as American Field Service.
Haegan said he is not trying to discourage students to from pursuing college degrees. “It’s just to let people know that there are other options and that if you’re not particularly excited about going straight into a four-year college, there are other really productive, really useful things you can do.”
The Decatur resident received assistance organizing the fair from his mother, Gail Rothman, who works for the Decatur Education Foundation, and from Cheryl Burnette, the assistant director for Decatur Active Living. Burnette is Haegan’s senior project mentor.
“I’m hoping that now that the idea is out there and that I’ve brought it to the attention of some of the counselors that there might be the possibility of it continuing in future years. I really do think it’s a very often neglected part of what should be provided by the schools. It’s a little frustrating to see colleges pushed so heavily but it’s kind of understandable from an educator’s perspective.
“Decatur does a pretty good job of [offering] other sorts of programs too. Career academy has partnerships with DeVry University graduate with a two-year degree.”
Haegan, who works at Bicycle South, said he is unsure what career he will pursue.
He said he first wants to “see the country; get that wanderlust out of the way before figuring out what I really want to do.”
College is “definitely a possibility at some point,” Haegan said. “College is an option that I can always go back to.
“For me as well as a lot of students, it makes more sense financially to go to college a little later when you’re more prepared to get the most out of it,” he said. “Since it’s the next step after high school, a lot of people will go to straight to college…and spend five or six years trying to decide exactly what they want to do.
“So many people will go and get a degree and you ask them what they’re doing 10 years later—sure the degree helped them land that first job, but it’s not really specific to what they’re doing,” he said.
Haegan said the fair is open to all students regardless of whether they are planning to attend college immediately.
“Even if you don’t see yourself as someone who would take one of these alternative routes you never really know until you’ve check them out and seen what your options are,” Haegan said. “Even if you’re planning on going straight to college after high school, more power to you, but come check it out anyway and see what else might be out there that could be interesting to you.”
For more information about the Decatur College Alternatives Fair, contact Haegan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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