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Linda Mah
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Alumni Day 2019: Find Your Own Path

Grads Tell Students to Explore All of the Alternatives

You don’t have to go to a four-year college.

You can start on your college career while you’re still in high school.

You can do what you love.

Those were some of the messages students heard during the 2019 Alumni Day at Loy Norrix and Kalamazoo Central high schools.

Graduates from the past five years returned to the high schools on Dec. 20 for what has become an annual tradition. Alumni shared their experiences in college and the world of work.

Malcolm Jones graduated from Kalamazoo Central in 2017. He works full time as an EMT and part time as a firefighter for Kalamazoo Township while he attends Kalamazoo Valley Community College full time. He hopes to eventually become a flight nurse. If that weren’t enough, he also has his own business as a photographer.

“Going to a community college does not mean you’re working at a lower level,” Jones said. “It’s simply a matter of earning an associate’s degree versus a bachelor’s degree. A lot of the people who teach at a community college, also teach at a four-year college.”

He said he’s found his classes challenging and he has to make the same adjustments to college as students at a four-year college in terms of practicing good time management and learning how to relate to professors and their different teaching styles.

Jones got a head start on his career choice in high school by taking advantage of Education for Employment classes. He took one in teaching before switching to the health aide program as a senior. Through that program he attended classes at KVCC and earned his EMT certification by the time he graduated from high school.

He said he still lives at home so he doesn’t have the experience of living in a dorm or an apartment — like some other college students — but he’s OK with that. The 20-year-old’s plans include buying a house in the next few years.

His final word of advice for students: “I recommend you be very critical of yourself. Know what you can and can’t do.”

Loy Norrix graduate Megan Youngs also found her career path while still in high school — and again by being willing to explore the trades through EFE. The 2016 graduate is now a junior at Ferris State University, where she is majoring in heating, ventilation and air conditioning engineering.

She was a senior at Norrix when the EFE HVAC program jumped out at her while she was registering for classes. Heavy in electrical and mechanical engineering, the program qualified for her third required science credit. Plus, that winter, her father’s furnace had gone out and she thought, if nothing else it was probably a pretty good skill to have.

“I fell in love with it,” she said. “I was doing something new that no one else did.”

Her instructor at KVCC was “amazing.” And, although her classmates were mostly older men, she didn’t let that scare her.

She’d always done well in math and science classes but had never really considered going into engineering until that program.

She enrolled in Ferris because of their unique 2+2 program, which requires students earn an associate’s degree in HVAC before going on to earn the full bachelor’s degree. Youngs knew that she wouldn’t stop at the associate’s, but she liked that approach to learning, because the hands-on nature of the instruction is valuable even if you’re looking at becoming an engineer.

She’s already had one internship in Atlanta, and she’ll have a second this summer in Chicago — both paid.

“With my degree, it’s not a question of if you can get a job, but where you want to work.”

Joseph Domanick, a 2019 Loy Norrix graduate, got his start on his career in a different fashion while in high school. He played varsity golf for four years at Norrix, and he knew that he wanted to play golf for the rest of his life — but he didn’t want to be a college athlete.

In his junior year at Norrix, he heard about the pro golf management program at Ferris. At the end of the four-and-a-half-year program, graduates have credentials to become a member of the Professional Golf Association. The PGA golf management program was the first of its kind sanctioned by the PGA of America. It’s heavily focused on cooperative learning and provides students with handson job experience in addition to classroom work.

He plans to be the director of golf or the head golf pro at a high-end golf club.

“I knew I couldn’t work 9 to 5 in a cubicle,” he said. “I think you need to do something in life that’s challenging so you’re not stuck in a routine.”

Domanick encouraged students to take that leap and think about what they really enjoy.

“I want to be around golf every day of my life and get paid for it,” he said. “What’s that saying, find something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

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