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High school graduations are fast approaching. In last week’s blog, I said I wished I’d gone to college right out of high school. What I didn’t say is that when I graduated from high school second in my class, I thought I was too dumb to go to college. I thought only really smart people went to college and that wasn’t me.

The only person who ever encouraged me to go to college was my grandmother, but she died when I was 16 and after that, no one told me I was capable of going. If I’d more confidence in myself as a teenager, I might have at least checked it out. I went to school before counselors were invented so there was no one at school who encouraged me. I was so ignorant, I didn’t even know what needed to be done to get there, like taking an SAT or ACT test. So maybe I truly wasn’t smart enough to go to college right out of high school.

I discovered the value of education with my first job. I was the lowest paid employee at the office, mostly due to the lack of higher education. I had little opportunity to move up. After some time, I finally did, gaining one level. Doing that, I got to take a computer class in Fortran. Then the oddest thing happened. It was very easy for me, and the college-educated engineers had trouble with it. I had to help them with the work. What? How could that be? Could I be as smart as they were? It was the first crack in my mistaken idea.

I was finally convinced of my hidden intelligence when my brother was about to graduate from college. My high school grades were always higher than his so if he could do it, why couldn’t I? He inspired me to find the confidence in myself to reach for the stars.

But I was married and had two children. Was it too late to go? Hubby always encouraged me to try new things, and he said go for it! I thought a class or two a week might be nice to try. I took the ACT and scored really high for someone out of school for 11 years and not studying for it. I applied at Fort Lewis College, uncertain of what would happen. A few weeks later, I got a letter from them saying because I’d graduated second in my class, they were giving me a scholarship that would cover all my tuition and fees. The only catch was I had to be a full-time student. But who would take care of the kids? I might have walked away, but Hubby pushed me to find a way to go. I did, and I graduate twice, earning two Bachelor of Science degrees.

High school gives people the basics. After that, people need to pick their area of interest in which to pursue more education. For some, college is the right route. For others, going on to learn a craft or a trade is the best route. A lot of tradespeople make more money than college graduates and are more likely to find work.

My message: high school is not the end, but the beginning. Go on and learn something to support yourself in your adult life. No matter your age, education is important. Have the confidence to reach for the stars.

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