With our county and city school students returning to school on tomorrow, let’s send our students this collective message: our students will be engaged and motivated and will channel their talents into productive actions. Also, this is the perfect time to remind all of us about the goal for America’s education system — every student should graduate from high school ready for college or a career.
Since the inception of our modern public school system, there has been a perennial debate over what students should know and be able to do by the time they finish high school. Now, we may not agree on what our students should know and be able to do, but we should be in agreement that our schools need to prepare graduates well enough for success after high school and for a lifetime of learning. I think we can also agree that we need greater student supports for our more vulnerable students in the form of collaboration among education, business and community representatives.
Make no mistake about it, our greater community must work together in a supportive effort with our schools. We must remain committed to making investments in youth and in figuring out ways to do more to assist students in becoming career ready and helping them learn the value of contributing to their society. Otherwise, the costs in terms of lost earnings, taxes, productivity and in perpetuating inequality will be enormous, too impactful to ignore.
One thing seems pretty obvious to me, we need to invest more in all our youth, those bound for college and the ones who seek employment, for these youth should matter to all of us. These young people should not be allowed to become “disconnected youth,” for that would be a huge loss to each one personally and a devastating loss to the community’s economic prosperity.
Furthermore, these students remind us that it is imperative that we teach young people to feel empowered and help them acquire the skills they will need to become employed, meeting their career development needs, thus connecting young people to jobs and careers. This will not only help our young people advance, it will move our community forward as well.
Right here, right now in Sampson County, we still have far too many young people who are not in college and are not working. It is my firm belief that our high schools need to do more in arranging job shadowing, work placements, and community-based learning programs that would allow more students to directly experience work place situations.
Just maybe, we can expand our network of employers and other interested stakeholders and create more employment partners. Also, it would help if we had more businesses willing to invest in tapping the talent of our young adults, with more workforce training, thus creating a more diverse work place environment.
To be sure, we do need more pathways to opportunity, helping more young people thrive.
Larry Sutton is a retired teacher from Clinton High School.