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Today’s Students Marching to Their Beat for Successful Living

There was a television show many years ago created by Art Linkletter called “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” It later returned to the airways and this time it was hosted by Bill Cosby.

The premise of the show was to have young children answer some life questions. It was both funny and telling! When you are five to seven years old, you will give some interesting responses. I can actually remember going to St. Ann’s Academy in Winston-Salem, N.C., as a kindergarten student and saying some of those things that would make you wonder. As I became older and progressed in elementary school my conversations and thoughts became easier to understand.

My children embarked on a similar journey beginning in elementary school. Our families had great hopes and aspirations for Courtney, Chris and Aaron. Our blended families did all we could do to push education and the importance of going to college. I added the additional refrain of graduating from college not just attending college.

In retrospect, I probably sounded like a broken record. Every day I was advocating college. It was a monologue that my children probably whispered to each other saying, enough already!

Each of them tried their hand at college, albeit at different times. I was the most excited about them attending. However, in all of my cajoling and exhortations I neglected one critical component. We forgot to ask them if they were ready for college. I was a college administrator and I should have known better. I have always asked that question of other students yet with my own kids I didn’t. Why? I thought my college vibe might transfer to them in some vicarious way.

I discounted their decision-making abilities and their view of the world. Aaron is now a successful career soldier who takes college courses periodically, while Courtney and Chris took a circuitous path to their college degree. Both recently graduated in the class of 2014 from colleges in the South and Midwest, respectively. The term nontraditional student fits both of them perfectly. They both went to school and worked at the same time. I admire all three of them greatly. Could I have done what they did? Probably not! They were juggling a lot of balls in the air at the same time. They put the “m” in multi-tasking.

Over time, I believe the advice we gave them helped yet they weren’t ready to create and implement an action plan with the advice. Their timeframe for actualization was a lot different. Maybe it is the era that we find ourselves in today. The opportunities are endless, and, with some prior planning, you can have a pretty successful career path. Back in the ’60s the opportunities were fewer and my generation wasn’t as resourceful. We were not risk takers. If the path wasn’t already made many of us did not have the foresight to create a new one.

So if you are a parent or a grandparent, be encouraged because there is hope. Your children and grandchildren are moving at their own pace. For example, there are more non-traditional college students than at any other time in American higher education. Research has shown that more students are working and going to school at the same time. If your child does not want to attend college directly after high school they will be joining a growing list of students who are opting out of the academy.

Working seems to be a significant option for students directly after high school so give them some room to breathe. Too many students have made the mistake of going to college too soon. They end up disillusioned and do not return. Don’t force them to attend after getting multiple signals they want to choose another option.

Around this time of year high school graduations are in full bloom. As much as this time is celebratory it is also stressful. Decisions are being made where to attend and as important if to attend. If you find yourself in one of these groups try to realize it is not the end of the world. If the four-year college does not work then try the community college as they have become a viable choice for many high school graduates. Our children used all of the available options. Many colleges for years now have had weekend programs designed for non-traditional students. Be patient and give them time. What is important for them to have at this point is an attitude of success.

Now that each of our kids is carving out a road to success, I can truly say they did it their way. It is only when you reach a certain point can you truly reflect upon your life. The mountains and the valleys were all tests. The challenges that you had with your children when you were trying to live their lives for them were all tests. We know that the race is not won by the swift but by those who endure until the very end.

We can only help and give our children hope. We can’t navigate the course for them. Courtney, Chris and Aaron charted their own way and now the wind is at their back.

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