High school seniors "Close the Deal"

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By Laura Clark

Danielle Jones wants to be a radiologist. Jenna Madonia wants to go to WKU. Her twin sister, Jordan, wants to major in English. Dorothy Schultz wants to be a linguist, and Michael McCarthy wants to be a marine biologist. Tiffany Hambrick wants to join the Air Force.

Six seniors with goals and dreams. But one hasn’t applied to her desired school. One needs a full ride to make her dream possible. And several of them need to raise their ACT scores.

The “Close the Deal” kickoff event held Dec. 4 could help propel them along their chosen paths. All of Spencer County High School’s senior class participated in the event sponsored by Greater Louisville Inc., which brought together guest speakers, adult volunteers to lead roundtable discussions and college recruiters to help encourage students to pursue college, trade school or a branch of the military after graduation.

“It can be a daunting process, especially if you come from a non-college oriented family” said Sam Mannino of Greater Louisville Inc. “I think it all gets down to that: you can go to college. If you put your mind to it, you can make that happen. And we can help.”

The program is in its second year and covers about a dozen high schools. It is targeted at first generation college students and school districts with less than a 50 percent college-going rate, Mannino said.

It helps motivate students and provide information on everything from finding the right college to applying for financial aid.

Several speakers addressed the 195 seniors and many had a message similar to that of high school Principal Jocelyn Lyons: “You will be competing in a very difficult world.”

Assistant Superintendent Norma Thurman compared the average wage earned by a high school dropout ($21,000) and someone with a bachelor’s ($45,000).

“The rewards you’ll reap from a degree or service in the military will far outweigh what  you’ll make immediately as a high school graduate,” Thurman said.

Taylorsville Mayor Donald Pay encouraged students to find it within themselves to succeed and then return to Spencer County and help build a community.

The keynote speaker of the day was Mark Shirkness, GE’s general manager.

“Today,” he pointed out, “it doesn’t all have to be figured out, but you have to have a feeling about it. Keep moving forward.”

He shared a recent experience from his work. When management posted an opening for 100 minimally-skilled jobs, 10,000 people applied.

When an opening was posted for 10 engineering jobs, 100 people applied.

“The more education you have, the more power you have over your own destiny,” Shirkness said.

Following lunch, three speakers presented briefly about college admissions, financial aid and how college is different from high school. After each presentation, students talked at the table about what they needed to do, and their concerns.

They jotted down the schools they had not yet applied to, and wondered aloud how they’d pay for school. A combination of work study and grants? They wrote reminders to ask for letters of recommendation from teachers.

Determination was evident, however, at least at this table.

McCarthy’s still waiting to hear from the University of Florida. But if that falls through, he may go to a state school to study biology or zoology.

“I’m really just looking for anything new I could look into with regards to my future goals,” he said.

“Knowing I don’t want to be there forever,” said Jones of her choice to purse a trade degree rather than a 4-year degree. Plus, she said, there’s a need for radiologists in the growing medical profession.

Hambrick has talked to an Air Force recruiter and plans to sign up when she turns 18. She already has a back-up, having recently earned her CNA certificate.

“I’ve worked at Subway for two years,” she said. “I don’t like school that much. I want to do something real.”

This event was the first of several designed to further the student’s ambitions. Dec. 9 the high school will host a resume and interviewing workshop. Jan. 7 will be a FAFSA-help clinic, which parents are encouraged to attend. And Lyons announced that the seniors will have a scheduled day in January to fill out and send college applications at school.