Charles E. Richardson

To seniors: ‘I’ve got to do better’

Life: the final frontier. These are the voyages of 21st century students. Their five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new technologies, to boldly go where they have never gone before.

College is a new frontier, the opening of another door. Whether it be a university or technical school or the military, the 21st century demands more than a high school education can deliver. If you’re a high school senior and don’t know where you’re headed: stop. Don’t blame your school counselors or your teachers. I’ve sat in those gyms and auditoriums. I’ve heard them preach to you since the time you entered the ninth grade about being prepared for college.

Now that we’ve gotten that pity party out of the way, stare into the mirror in front of you. Don’t hit it. That would only further the damage you’ve already inflicted on yourself. Instead, say these five words: “I’ve got to do better.” You are unfortunately not alone. Many of your classmates are on the same slow-moving shuttle.

There is also another class of student that has had every intention of going to college. At least that’s what they said. But when their SAT scores came back, they were in the low 800s or even lower. The GPA was a high C or low B. AP courses? Nowhere to be found on the transcript. Guess what? They’re finding out what it takes to be admitted to almost any college. Scores that low limit a student’s choices. A seat in a freshman class is valuable. Colleges and universities don’t let just anyone take up class space, particularly those who they think might not finish. Schools are graded, too, not only on how many students they enroll, but on how many they retain and graduate.

If you’re a parent of a child about to graduate from high school and you don’t know how you’re going to pay for college, look in that same mirror. Not planning ahead, believe it or not, is a plan. I know all about life circumstances. Some families just don’t have any extra. Knowing that, it is imperative that those parents put a boot on little Johnny’s or Jane’s backside and make them understand the importance of a high GPA and a high SAT score. If you have good scores, finding money for college is not a problem. And many schools like Central Georgia Technical College offer free (yes, I said free) tuition.

Example, Central High School is obviously doing something right. Last week the school announced that seniors Tamia Middleton and Ira Moore have been named Gates Millennium Scholars. What does that mean? We should all know by now. Central is making a good habit of fostering millennium scholars. Middleton and Moore will join six other scholars from Central in recent years. Being a Gates Scholar is a really big deal, and it comes with $250,000.

I know, there are parents out there who have nagged their children for years and nothing has worked. They are stubborn and hard-headed. Reality is about to hit like a gamma ray storm. Because, no matter what parents do, the students are the ones who have to put in the sweat equity. They have to want it. They have to treasure learning. And while college is a laudable goal, I’m not going to sit on these pages and tell you it’s for everybody. What I will tell you is that it should be a choice for everybody.

Here’s what I mean. If a student has good grades and test scores and decides he/she wants to be a welder or electrician or sheet metal worker, that’s more than fine. Everybody should attempt to do what they love to do. What I don’t want to see is a student’s choices narrowed by bad decisions. Wasted potential hurts everybody.

I would rather see students enter their lives at warp factor 3 than limp along on impulse power. I see too much of that already. I guess I don’t have to tell you who will get further in life and who is always playing catchup, but some folks have to learn that lesson on their own.