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College Versus Trade School: Lansing student “paves the way” for hybrid learning

As a high school student who is quickly approaching graduation, you are asked again and again the same dreaded question and no it's not, “Who you are taking to prom?” It comes from your parents, guidance counselor, and friends, “What are your plans after school?” or “What college are you going to?” For millions of students, these important decisions lead back to the concern of saving money. Maybe you were lucky enough to have your parents save up since you were born, or you have a few grand from your high school job in the bank. But tackling this reality and fear of the educational system is all too real for many. 

            According to Forbes, it was calculated that student loan debt has risen to about $1.7 trillion dollars as of 2021 with the average loan debt costing around $37,693 per individual. Covid-19 has been a catalyst for exposing not only students' struggles to get employment, but also brought to light who is considered an essential worker. In this time of need, trade workers have been called upon to keep clocking in as their collegiate counterparts stayed home. There has been a shift in the type of skill sets needed in today’s world. Learn below how one student’s experience in the trades transformed her path to college and saved her thousands of dollars in tuition.       

            Lansing graduate, Ivey Card has started her first semester at the Rochester Institute of Technology (R.I.T.). In typical freshmen fashion, she is learning about her new classes, meeting new friends, and just joined the school’s volleyball team. However, six months ago her life looked very different. As a high school student, Card spent her senior year going to school for half the day and then spending the other traveling up the road a few miles to TST BOCES. Here, students can attend a variety of educational services for free. One service they provide is called, “Career and Technology,” this is where high school students can learn a trade. 

            Every day, Card would hop off the bus making her way to the classroom passing by power drills, bolts, and machinery to take her seat as the only female in her class. She has spent her junior and senior years of high school as a heavy equipment student. This trade allows employment in jobs such as Equipment Operator, Engine Technician, Mechanic and much more. In these careers, you can make a pretty penny. For instance, as stated on Indeed.com, “The average salary for an equipment operator is $52,642 per year in New York State and $8,250 overtime per year.” 

            Right now, you might be asking yourself, why aren't more people going to trade school? Card says that most of her classmates at her high school were focused on getting college credits and did not understand the benefits of trade school. She explains, “I don't think most people understand that from BOCES you can actually leave there getting degrees and certifications right out of high school...I am still really happy I took the class because I learned a lot physically, mentally, and socially as a student. This type of learning really has helped me in college because right now I have three classes that are hands-on courses and only two lectures.” TST BOCES has provided her and many students with the opportunity to get an education that is not just book work and relevant to today’s workforce saying,” We would talk about different machine parts. My teacher would talk about safety and how to avoid accidents in the shop. People in class could walk around and see each other's projects as well as help each other. Before the pandemic, we took two field trips, one to a local college and another to a lift manufacturer.” 

            In college, Card is currently studying Interior Design as her major and eventually plans to attend a graduate program in Architecture. This decision was made from her experience at a TST BOCES school year event, the annual pumpkin carving contest. Each trade class takes on the challenge to carve a pumpkin that reflects what their trade does. This gives students a chance to get creative and work as a team toward their goal. “Mr. Kinney, my teacher, had me help out with my class’ pumpkin carving contest and we only had a few days, so I had to think of something fast! I had to draw out on paper how exactly I was going to build this with my class, and I created a kind of blueprint. I realized soon that this process I just did was the same process in building a house and I really enjoyed designing it!” This experience not only allowed Card to figure out her major, but her experience at TST BOCES allowed her to get thousands of dollars in academic scholarships at R.I.T because her background with her trade made her standout as a student. 

            There are many avenues for students when learning how to find their career path. Trade school can be used as a tool to find your passion and even in some cases help navigate college. When asked about advice she would give students curious about joining a trade, Card responded, “If you do not want to do it because you do not want to be in a male dominated field or are afraid if people will judge you, then that is the wrong reason to not to give it a shot. These are temporary thoughts that will eventually go away...Most people do not know this, but with this experience you can work almost anywhere. We learned a little bit of everything. This included auto tech, welding, and many more useful skills...You should go for it especially if Mr. Kinney is your teacher because he will make you feel right at home!” For more information on Career and Technology Programs, please visit tstcte.org or follow them on Facebook @tstboces.