Hundreds of local teenagers will graduate from high school in the coming weeks, heading to college, the military and the work force.
The State Journal sat down with 22 seniors at Franklin County, Western Hills and Frankfort High schools, Wilkinson Street School and the Franklin County Career and Technical Center to hear what they thought about high school, where they’re headed, and what they think are today’s major problems.
Here’s what the Class of 2012 had to say:
What’s the most important thing you learned in high school?
The seniors said they gained study habits and learned to manage their busy schedules – though many admitted they still struggle with procrastination.
They said school taught them about work ethic, leadership and how to be more self-sufficient as they transition to adulthood. Several also found classes or teachers who piqued their interest in a career path.
Nikki Cook, 17, FCHS: This is going to sound really cheesy, but I found out who I am and where I stand. I came into high school, and I was really shy and didn’t know what to do with myself. As I got older, and I accumulated more friends, it became where I could be myself. Keeping up a façade is just not worth it – just be who you are. You’re happier without the constant worry.
Brianna Banks, 17, FCHS: I learned to make sacrifices. There are weekends when you want to go out and hang out with your friends, but I stayed home and did my work and just focused on everything for my junior and senior year.
Gill Finley, 17, FCHS: I think that being in high school, as a whole, has taught me independence. Obviously you have your parents telling you want to do, but at the end of the day, you’re the person who’s going to control what you do after high school. You can either leave your homework here and not do what you have to do, or you can excel. I think it taught me independence, really – the foundation of independence.
Josh Harper, 18, WHHS: I think probably the most important thing I learned was just growing up.
Austin Roberts, 18, CTC: Stick with it. Don’t drop out and don’t give up. Even if you have troubles at home or whatever, you’ve got teachers here to work with you and talk it out. Right now, as the world and the industry is going, you can’t even get a job at McDonald’s without a GED.
Looking back at high school, what would you do differently? What advice do you have for students just starting high school?
The same piece of advice came up over and over again: don’t slack off during freshman year. Those who did said it burdened them later in high school, especially junior year, which they said is the toughest.
The seniors said students should get involved with sports or clubs because the people they meet there provide a much-needed push to work hard in school.
They also said they’d take more challenging classes and study harder if they could do it all over again. It’s tougher to raise a low GPA than to maintain a strong one, they said.
Adam Al-dbhany, 19, WHHS: Do not slack. From the day you start, come in determined to chase whatever aspirations you might have in your head. Even if you find out that’s not what you want to do, it could lead to something you really enjoy doing.
Elise VanMeter, 18, WHHS: Sit in the front row of your classes. It makes teachers like you.
Shelby Wooldridge, 17, WHHS: I also think that you need to make sure you don’t join too much. Don’t get over-involved, because it makes everything more stressful.
Daniel Anderson, 17, FCHS: Don’t come into high school wanting to find your new clique and try to fit in with people. Be yourself.
De’Ante Floyd, 19, WSS: Sometimes it’s not easy. Some people go through more stuff than other people. Don’t quit – keep going. I have a 1-year-old son, and if I quit, he’s going to feel like he needs to quit in life. So every day that’s my motivation to keep working harder.
Raven Robinson, 17, FHS: “Be yourself. It is kind of hard – especially for girls – because there are so many people around you. Don’t give into peer pressure. I fell into that, and it’s hard to just be yourself.
Brooke Talley, 18, FCHS: Be genuinely nice to people.
Do you feel like high school has prepared you to go to college or enter the work force?
Most of the teens said they feel prepared academically for college, but worry about being on their own. They can’t call mom if they forget their lunch, the seniors at FCHS joked.
Some said they wish high school had taught them more about study skills and the logistics of applying to college, earning scholarships and finding a job. They said high school prepared them for the big picture of what’s to come, but not the details.
Finley: Everybody has their reservations, until you actually step foot on the college campus. But I think everybody – whether you believe it or not – has the basic foundation to get you going, but it’s up to you to take the initiative to better yourself. It’s pretty much up to you how you do in college, not the school.
VanMeter: I think that academically (high school) has prepared me a lot … I know that I can sit down and read a textbook for three hours and be attentive and know how to take notes on it.
I think if you’re going straight into the workforce or something like that, I don’t think our high school has been quite as effective. Life skills classes don’t prepare you as adequately as they should. I didn’t know how to fill out a letter until I did my graduation invitations, and then I had to ask my dad which side the stamp goes on. I think a school should teach just common, basic skills like that.
Dallas Roberts, 17, FHS: I’ve mentally prepared myself for multiple circumstances, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to go unexpectedly. I’m prepared for the unexpected.
Steven Walton, 18, WSS: I feel, as an institution, they don’t prepare you as much as they should … it’s more like the individual teachers in school who prepare you, rather than the system itself.
With forecasts that tough economic times will linger, are you worried about getting or keeping a job?
Most of the students said they aren’t concerned about finding work – either right out of high school or later on. Many said they picked college majors with their job outlook in mind – especially those students who attended classes at CTC.
A few said they worried about getting part-time jobs or internships during college. Others, like those pursuing teaching degrees, said they also have some concerns, but hope the economy is brighter by the time they finish school.
Allison Parrent, 18, CTC: Rose-Hullman (Institute of Technology, where she will attend) has a 99-percent rate of people who graduate and start jobs, so I’m pretty confident and I think I’ll be OK. And I think there’s always a need for engineers, because we’re building new ideas for everything.
Emily Goodwin, 18, CTC: People are always going to get sick or hurt, and people are always going to want to get better, so I think I’m pretty set. I know how to find a job – my teachers helped me so much with that, and if I ever needed any help or anything like that, they could help me out.
Jesus Patino, 17, CTC: Computers are always going to be around – I don’t think they’re going out anytime soon. Thanks to Mr. (Dewayne) Hancock, I think I have a pretty good basis for what I’m going to do.
Al-dbhany: I’m not worried about getting a job, but I’m worried about getting a good job that’s something in my field. It wasn’t a problem getting a job at Applebee’s, but I really want to work at Apple next year while I go to UK, and I know that’s going to be tough.
Walton: I’m scared half to death. Any field that you go into is competitive … if I have to get a job flipping burgers, I’m flipping burgers, college degree or not. I’m going to work to succeed in life because I’ve come from some bad background, and I’m not going back to that. I’m not having my kids go through that, and I’m not having my grandkids go through that.
Could you see yourself staying in Frankfort or returning someday? Do you want to live in Kentucky or move elsewhere?
The seniors were mixed on this issue, some saying they definitely want to return home after college to be near family and friends, and others saying they want to live abroad or in a big city.
Those who plan to stick around say Frankfort is a beautiful place, a tight-knit community where everybody you walk past says hello. They said they like the mix of rural areas and cities in Kentucky and the traditions.
For some, it’s the excitement of seeing the world that motivates them to roam. But others said Frankfort doesn’t offer the right kind of job opportunities for the careers they are pursuing.
When they imagine their lives down the road, most said they wanted to settle down somewhere and have a family – but they hope to be independent and stable first. They said they just hope to be happy, doing work they enjoy and having time to travel.
Al-dbhany: I think I speak for all of us when I say we’ve never had the opportunity to be gone and miss it. I don’t know if I want to live in Lexington or Louisville for Frankfort. I guess it really depends on jobs, because I doubt there’s going to be any major jobs where I can get hired in Frankfort.
Cook: I’ve always really been big on seeing the world – I want to see everything and experience everything I possibly can. As much as I like Frankfort, I don’t think I can do it here … I love Frankfort, I love the way it feels, and it’s home, but I’m ready to see what else is out there.
Kyle Lightfoot, 18, WHHS: I’m going to be on the move quite a bit (with the Marines). I’m actually kind of looking forward to it. I like traveling – it’s one of my favorite things to do. I would like to come back. It’s a nice state to live in for myself, but I don’t know if I’d want to raise kids here.
Harper: I think I probably wouldn’t really think about leaving Frankfort until my little brother got older because I couldn’t leave him. He’s only 5 right now.
Ryan Halligan, 18, FCHS: A lot of people say they want to get out, but I probably won’t. I might move away for college, but I’d like to come back and get a little farm. I like the people here, and right now, there’s not a large animal vet in Franklin County, so I’d like to be the first.
Deshawn Alo, 18, FCHS: I like Frankfort, not in a sentimental, cheesy kind of way … Frankfort is one of the most boring places, but once every blue moon, something amazing and special happens. It’s something that you will never forget for the rest of your life.
That’s what I like the most about Frankfort because I’ve been to California (where his family lives) a bunch of times now, and it’s like, every day there’s something going on. Here, it happens once every blue moon – you’ve got to work for that awesome moment.
Goodwin: I don’t want to say I’m going to stay in this place forever, because wherever the wind blows, let it take me there.
What do you think makes your generation unique?
The students almost immediately said two things: the use of technology and acceptance of each other regardless of their differences.
They said they spend lots of time on their phones, texting their friends and staying up-to-date with Facebook and Twitter.
But not all their answers were positive. Some said their generation is taking the use of technology too far, at the expense of face-to-face relationships. Others said they too often fall victim to peer pressure and the messages in music and other media, and are too competitive.
VanMeter: Compared to our parents, we just have so many more opportunities to be who we want to be. If you want to be any type of person, you have the right to do that, versus our parents, who grew up in more of a strict time.
Al-dbhany: There’s a lot, but probably the diversity. There are just so many different cultures – like even at this table right here. He (Lightfoot) is black, my father is from Yemen, and we all just come together and all have passions for stuff and share. I think that our backgrounds really help with collaboration in the classrooms.
Cook: I kind of feel like we had to grow up a little bit faster than other generations. They start telling us in our ninth grade year that we have to know what we want to do with our lives. We’ve always been pushed – it’s very fast-paced, a constant go. It’s good to have your head on your shoulders early, but you do kind of miss your childhood.
Aubrey Penn, 17, FHS: No two people are alike, from clothes, music, hobbies, there’s so many things you can be involved in, and there’s always someone else with those same interests, which makes it worth it. It’s a lot easier to be who you are – at least here (at FHS). There’s a general acceptance of differences.
Patino: Technology. We depend on computers, and most everyone has a smartphone. It’s our way of life now.
Goodwin: This kind of bothers me. I feel like our generation has kind of lost the art of conversation because we text so much. No one picks up the phone and calls people. People don’t know how to talk to each other anymore. (Before technology) my biggest problem was that my Barbie’s outfit didn’t match, and now it’s like, why won’t this person text me back?
Parrent: I think it makes us impatient as well because we expect that instant reply all the time, that instant answer. It really does test your patience, and that goes out into the world too. I just feel like life was so much simpler without technology.
Why do you want to be on your phone the whole time? I just feel like it wastes those precious moments that you miss because you’re on your phone or watching TV.
Walton: I got a lot of things, but they’re not good. Our generation has had to struggle more because the generation before us, they went out and partied and they did their thing, but then they weren’t around when we were trying to grow up. They were kids raising kids.
Jesse Dunmire, 18, FHS: We’re influenced pretty easily by outside things. It seems like everybody just wants to be like celebrities – they don’t want to be them.
What is a problem or issue you hope your generation can solve?
The seniors seemed optimistic that they can come together to tackle some tough challenges – finding cures for deadly diseases, raising living standards, and feeding the hungry to name a few.
Cook: Wishful thinking, I’d say cancer. A lot of people I’ve loved have been impacted by cancer, and a lot of people have suffered – it’s so awful. So, I don’t know if it’s wishful thinking, but so many people have it nowadays, I think it’s something we could fix.
Banks: Poverty, kids going to bed starving. No kid should ever go to bed starving – it breaks my heart. Hopefully we can help them out a little bit more, create more organizations to help out people who might need it.
Halligan: On Oct. 31, on Halloween, the 7 billionth person was born on earth. It’s estimated that by 2050, there’s going to be 9 billion – that’s the fastest we’ve ever grown. In 2010 there were 925 million hungry people in the world, so that’s going to grow, and we’re going to get to the point that we don’t have enough land to feed everybody.
We lose 1 acre of farmland every minute to development. So at some point, we’re going to have to decide what’s important – how can we feed all these people that keep growing, that are facing so much poverty?
Penn: There’s the big green revolution, and the environment is important. I feel like a lot of the environmental issues are going to be solved with this generation just because it is such a big thing, and people our age – even if it’s just as simple as recycling or picking up your trash instead of throwing it out the window – I feel like that’s going to be a major issue that this generation is going to fix.
Walton: I’m fed up with war, to be honest. We’re always in other countries trying to change something, but we need to worry about our own country. We are broken. We need to help other people out, but we cannot spend millions of dollars blowing people up because we didn’t agree with the way they were doing things.
If we’re going to help people, we need to take a more positive approach. We wouldn’t be in debt, and we wouldn’t have all these people running around not having parents, having to grow up on the struggle, having to grow up in poor communities, which leads to violence. It’s a vicious cycle.
Talley: I think we’re so innovative, we’re so creative, and we’re so interested in creating new things that I think this generation is more motivated. I think we’re on the way to coming up with some really cool things.
Look for photos from Franklin County and Western Hills High schools graduation ceremonies in Tuesday’s paper, plus a full list of graduates. Photos and names from Frankfort HIgh School’s graduation will run in the Sunday, June 10, edition.