I first met Wendi as a walk-in. With graduation coming up, I needed my hair cut quickly, and the new girl (age 17) had an immediate opening. Over the next few years, she changed salons several times, always sending out post cards to her regular customers to let us know where she would be going. Living at home to save money, she was ready when opportunity presented itself and the elderly owner of a salon in town wanted to semi-retire and transfer her business to a new owner. Wendi convinced her to change her plans slightly and share the space with a new business, "Hair It Is," until she was ready to completely retire. And so Wendi became sole proprietor of her own business at the age of roughly 21. When a larger space eventually opened up, she moved, expanding the business to add tanning and hiring a part-time receptionist. Besides running her business and raising a daughter, she also finds the time to participate in charities such as "Locks for love" and a service her aunt runs to provide coupons to men and women in the military, collecting and donating the equivalent of over $100,000 annually. By any measure, her life is a success, just as her principal at Franklin Tech predicted it would be.
Franklin County Technical High School is well respected, and competition is fierce to be accepted. So when my friend's son was admitted, I offered my warm congratulations. "Thank you," she said. "So many people are giving me a hard time." I expressed surprise, and she explained that friends were telling her she was selling her son short and that they felt he should go to college. "What does he want to do?" I asked, and she told me that he was thinking of being an electrician. "He can get a job right out of high school and start off earning (figure I won't name but which was more than I was then earning as a seasoned teacher)." "And be happy," I added. "And be happy," she said. "So why on earth wouldn't you support that?" I asked. "I don't know," she answered.
Everyone has their own, individual path to happiness - unique talents, skills, passions, desires. I can think of no good reason to judge one person's path as better than another, nor can I think of any good reason why we should all walk the same path. So when President Obama calls on schools to educate every student to be college and career ready by the end of high school, he is well intentioned but missing the point. College is right for some people, but jumping straight into a career is right for others. The trick is for schools to find a way to educate every kid so when they graduate from high school, they are ready for whatever awaits them. If this means keeping as many options as possible open as long as possible, so be it.