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Looking back to five years ago when my biggest job was to figure out my career path after high school, it seemed obvious that I would attend a four-year college. Why? Because that’s what was expected among the few options. Of those few options, there were two main ones that were talked about by the advisors and other adults in mentoring roles. The first being that I would go to college and graduate four years later with everything that I need to have a successful career. The second being that I would not go to college and therefore be set up for sheer uncertainty. As black and white as it sounds, it’s not too far off from the constant, “Good luck finding a job without an impressive college degree” or “The workforce is too competitive to enter without going to college first” repeating in my head when weighing those limited options that were presented. 

Now as a college student entering my senior year, I know that sticking to the traditional four year schooling system should not have been the most obvious choice. Looking back, I would formally like to call BS on successful careers only stemming from having an expensive degree in hand. There are so many things I wish I would have known about my options after high school that advisors and the people around me simply did not advertise. As I write this from my desk in the office where I intern, I regroup the last five years of my educational and professional life and wonder where I would be if I was given an earlier opportunity to have greater exposure and hands-on experience. The experience that I’m gaining now within my internship can feel long overdue as I see high school students now presented with opportunities tailored to different styles of alternative education and outcomes. It’s naive to think that each student will thrive in the same learning environment, so why do traditional schools continue to teach in those traditional ways with little room for “thinking outside of the box”? As an intern coming from a four year university, I continue to see the benefit of my hands-on internship far outreaching the “learning through lecture” model that most schools take. Don’t get me wrong, there’s value in lectures and learning from professionals, but being able to apply it all and relearn it in ways that makes sense to you holds the greatest value. 

The constant expansion of GPS Education Partners is allowing a growing number of students to understand that their options aren’t limited; your career plan can still include college but it can also be tailored to help you begin a career right after high school through industry-credentialed learning. There is a whole world of employers out there seeking students that are looking for those “outside of the box” options. GPSEd strives and succeeds in connecting those students and employers with a work-based approach that successfully allows students to earn their high school diploma all the while earning money through paid work experience, which is huge. In all honesty, my communications internship at GPSEd allows me to be able to beg for blogs like this to write. I’ll take any opportunity I can to connect with students whose shoes I was in just a couple years ago, if not still today. If I have to spend each day at work seeing the life changing outcomes worked for by countless students, it only makes sense that I will eventually start weighing my own past high school decisions. With that being said, I may as well attempt to make those decisions impactful. If you’re still not sold on the work-based learning approach, check out the graduation video of students who figured it out early and are jumpstarting careers they may not have ever learned about in high school. This is an exciting new view into how students are transforming their lives through an alternative work-based learning education. Work-based learning, it just works!

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with traditional high school or wants to connect their learning to the real-world of work, contact GPS Education Partners, or visit our website at gpsed.org. We are committed to advocating for each student’s needs, focusing on access and equity for all our youth to succeed in sustainable careers.

Written By

Alyssa Derpinghaus
GPS Education Partners

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