Dec 072012

Author: Hannah Woolums

The social norm has been created that right after graduating high school one is expected to go to college.

Many have given in to this expectation, but many others decided to enter into the workforce right away due to different factors that caused them to make the decision.

For 19-year-old, Ethan Midland, going to college wasn’t what he had his sights set on when he graduated high school. His first plan was to join the Army, but then after some persuasion, he decided to stay and work full time.

“I initially was going to go into the Army when I got out of high school. I had pretty much made up my mind and was prepared to go, but my parents (who were very against it) swayed my decision. So instead of going in to the Army, I decided it would be better to just take time off of school,” said Midland.

Although Midland has taken time off from school he plans to start up at Front Range Community College in the near future. He plans to start with taking his general education classes before he decides on a major. For the time being, he will continue to gain experiences as a Shift Lead at Taco Bell.

“The decision has impacted my life mostly in the fact that I’m a bit behind in schooling. It had honestly, in my opinion, set me back,” said Midland. “I plan on going back to school very soon at FRCC (Front Range Community College). First for my general eds and from there we will see!”

Shalon Gage, 24, deviated from her college education for a very different reason. Once she had her son, college no longer seemed as adamant. As an employee of Taco Bell, she quickly worked her way up to the position of assistant manager. With her job and her son, college no longer seems like it fits into the picture.

“If I were given the chance I would not go to college, mostly because I want to be there for my kid,” said Gage.

For others, college was not a priority right after high school and working gave them experiences and knowledge they will never forget.

Dale Woolums, father and wine store manager, grew up in a different social standard. College was not a strong expectation and he factored in his family as a reason why he ended up not attending.

“College was not a priority for my family. Neither of my parents went, and it wasn’t discussed with me, at least I didn’t remember it being. It wasn’t that I decided not to go to college, I just kept working, running kitchens, and then restaurants, and before I knew it, I hadn’t gone,” said Woolums.

Although many years have gone by, Woolums would not have changed the path he followed. Through jumping into work right after high school, Woolums was able to work hard and advance within his company.

He has had a few different jobs throughout his lifetime, but even without going to college, he was able to make his way into management positions in more than one of the jobs he held. Now at 56, Woolums is proud of the experiences he had.

“I didn’t decide my path, I followed it. My career moves were just that, moves, from where I was, to something better. I was fortunate that my career didn’t require a degree to get into, then advancements were based on performance. Not relying on a degree to be ‘successful’ developed my common sense and logic, efficiency and creativeness. While I lack certain skill sets that I could have learned in college, I acquired some that are only taught by experience,” said Woolums.

Midland has had a different experience from not going to school. He has made great friendships but has not seen a huge difference in gathering real life experience over education.

“I’m not sure I’ve gained a whole lot from doing work rather than school. I’ve definitely gained friendships that I would never give up. I’ve also now gained a bit of management experience,” Midland explained. “Mostly what ended up happening as a result of not being in school was the large amount of partying, more than I should have. And mainly what made me decide to take the role as a manager at TB (Taco Bell) was the extra money.”

Although he has had a very successful life, first as a kitchen manger, and now as a manager of a liquor store in Denver, Woolums has seen many jobs in between. Some of which are a wine broker, and then moving on to a real estate agent and to buying houses to ‘fix-and-flip.’ However, he says that if he were able to do something differently, given the chance he would have gone to school.

“I would have gone (to school), for sure. At the time, I wasn’t a great student when I graduated from high school, although I got pretty good grades for the amount of effort I gave. I was ‘to cool for school’ then and after a few years, it never occurred to me to go,” explained Woolums.

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