Sophomore Gabrielle Stephens is aiming high. Aspiring to be a marine biologist or lawyer, Stephens said she decided that it is important to challenge herself now in preparation for college and eventually the struggles involved in finding a job.
“I have decided that high school education is a great way to prepare for college and the obstacles that I might face in my future job,” she said. “The courses I take now will help me determine my strengths and weakness so that I can determine the correct career choice.”
Stephens is not alone. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for Social & Demographic Trends, Millennials—those born after 1980 and come of age in the new millennium—are particularly ambitious. In the Survey, over half of Millennials currently enrolled in high school, college or graduate school said they want to go on to earn a graduate or professional school degree, and 34 percent will end their education after graduating from college.
These statistics show that Millennials are on their way to becoming the most educated generation in American history, but this is not without reason. The study also determined that Millennials are driven by the demands of a modern knowledge-based economy making it more difficult to find a job without a college degree.
According to Amy Dudley, the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for Carmel Clay Schools, post-secondary education after high school is vital in today’s world.
“I believe that some type of post-secondary education is paramount for students,” she said via e-mail. “This education may include a college degree or it may be vocational training in a skill or trade.”
Because of this new trend, schools across the nation have started to shift their educational focus in order to better suit student’s future needs, and, according to Dudley, Carmel is no exception.
“The educational focus has shifted from what units of knowledge students have to what students can do with knowledge,” Dudley said. “Knowing how to think critically, analytically and creatively are not new to education; however, these skills have taken on a new importance as the nature of the economy and work has changed. Today’s workforce needs to be able to find and analyze information, often from multiple sources, and use this information to make decisions and create new ideas.”
It is no secret that the global and national economy is becoming more competitive, and, according to the College Board, the United States is falling behind. The United States used to lead the world in the number of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees but it currently ranks 12th among 36 developed nations.
According to Dudley, the Carmel Clay School District has recognized the more competitive economy and has made changes to the curriculum that prepare students more for life after high school.
“At Carmel High School we offer a larger variety of AP, dual credit and IB courses in all departments,” she said. “These courses provide a strong foundation for students entering college. In addition to course work that focuses on higher-level thinking, students have an abundance of opportunities through sports, clubs and service organizations to corroboratively work with others and solve real world problems.”
According to AP Economics teacher Dan Bates, who has been teaching at Carmel for 32 years, the biggest shift he has seen in teaching was the integration of the AP courses throughout the curriculum.
“It all ties into the AP program and the possibility of our high school students entering college as sophomores with all of the credit they receive from AP exams,” he said. “So, yes, we have adjusted by providing that opportunity.”
Not all students, however, are pursuing a career path that involves higher education. Recently, students at Carmel and 11 other school corporations in Marion, Boone and Hamilton Counties have been given a unique opportunity by the J. Everett Light Career Center. According to the JEL Career Center website, Career Center classes apply academic subjects to the “real world of work,” and most students are juniors and seniors.
With a facility of over 150,000 square feet and space for over 1,000 students, the career center includes a full service Beauty salon, an onsite banking center, dental laboratories, radio and television studios, an auto repair shop and a child care center that cares for thirty preschoolers.
Stephens said she understands the current economic condition and said she feels that the more experience and education one has the easier it will be to find a job in the future. Because of this, she is taking advantage of the new opportunities available here and has filled her course schedule with several honors and AP classes. She said she realizes, however, that she can never be sure how well she is really preparing herself for the future.
“Planning for the future is hard,” she said. “Things just pop up every now and then. I think that by putting effort into the classes I am taking, I am preparing myself for the future.”