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FOCUS: College is most popular path for area's Class of 2019

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Franklin County High School's senior class of 2019 waits to graduate during its ceremony on May 25, 2019 at Alltech Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by McKenna Horsley)

More than 450 students graduated from the three local public high schools a few weeks ago, and the majority of them are opting to further their education in some way, according to data provided by Western Hills High School, Franklin County High School and Frankfort High School.

While most graduates, 211, are going to an in-state four-year college or university, a select few are going out-of-state, 44. Community college and technical schools are the second most popular choice. In all, more than 80% plan to stay in the classroom. Of that number, three-fourths plan to attend a four-year school.

Where the Class of 2019 is going

Four-year college or university

255

Community college or technical school

94

Military

10

Workforce

65

About 10 graduates are going into the armed forces. Maddie Baute, a Frankfort High graduate, enlisted in the National Guard and left for basic training on Wednesday. This choice wasn’t something that she had always wanted to do, but after hearing more about the National Guard from a recruiter when she was a junior in high school, she became interested.

Baute saw the opportunity as a way to pay for her future college degree, as she has younger siblings and wanted to save money for her family. She will begin the spring semester at Western Kentucky University to study photojournalism.

"I'm nervous but excited to start my life," Baute said. 

Baute said the majority of her peers want to leave Frankfort. There isn’t a lot of opportunities in terms of careers for young adults like her, she said. She said the area should focus on creating a variety of job opportunities to encourage growth.

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Frankfort High School graduates take their seats during the ceremony on June 7, 2019. (Photo by McKenna Horsley)

Frankfort has experienced minimal growth in recent years according, to the U.S. Census Bureau. From 2010 to 2018, Frankfort’s population grew 1.5%, according to census estimates. The unemployment rate has decreased during the same period, from 9.9% in 2010 according to the Census, to most recently 3.3% in Franklin County, according to the state Center for Statistics. Some of the largest industries in Frankfort are public administration, education and arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services.

Aaron Crombie, a recent graduate of Western Hills, echoed Baute’s comments about a lack of opportunities available to his peers in the capital city. He defines “opportunities” as things that help people reach their goals, like jobs or college. He said that Frankfort is still an “old town” that needs to be open to change and progress. Lexington is a good example of a town that has progressed, he said.

“We are ready to move on and become our own person,” Crombie said.

In the fall, Crombie will begin classes at Asbury University in Wilmore, a little less than an hour from Frankfort. He will major in exercise science and minor in communications, though his programs of study might change after he explores his options on campus.

Crombie knew that he wanted to leave Frankfort but attend college in Kentucky. He is one of 68 recent Western Hills graduates who plan to attend a four-year college or university in Kentucky.

Crombie always planned on going to college, but he was not sure where. He first learned about Asbury after going to a teen camp on the campus last year. He quickly “fell in love” with the university.

Crombie also found a spot on Asbury's soccer team. He tore his ACL as a senior in high school. Some colleges showed interest in recruiting him, but he could not play for scouts because of the tear. He said Asbury’s team was not just willing to give him a spot on the team but was also welcoming of him.

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Western Hills High School seniors get ready to sit before their graduation ceremony begins on May 25, 2019 at Alltech Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by McKenna Horsley)

Frankfort High graduate Maysia Harris said she will move to Louisville in August to take classes at Jefferson Community and Technical College and join the LOOP program, which is for college students living in Jefferson and a few other counties. It allows them to work at United Parcel Service while taking classes and living in an apartment complex. Of 48 Frankfort High graduates, 11, including Harris, will attend a two-year college. 

Harris said she did not know of a similar program in Frankfort and decided to enroll in the program because of the “real world” experience she would get by living in her own space and working a job while taking courses. She plans to transfer to the University of Kentucky after getting her associate’s degree to finish a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She isn’t sure that she will come back to Frankfort, but it was not her original goal to leave.

Harris said there are some local opportunities for people her age to start a career and have a good life. She said the community around Frankfort should encourage young people to go to college and start careers.

"They have to put their mind to it," Harris said. 

Allegra Renfroe graduated from Franklin County High School in May. When choosing a college, she wanted to be close enough to home to visit with friends and family, who are very important to her. She just switched from the University of Kentucky’s pre-medical program to pre-nursing and plans to eventually become a registered nurse first assistant — a nurse who helps surgeons during operations.

Renfroe learned about the job when she did a co-op internship at Frankfort Regional Medical Center through her high school. She also took some introductory medical courses through dual-credit programs at Midway University and Kentucky State University.

Renfroe visited several colleges before ultimately choosing UK. When visiting the university, she felt like she belonged. She said UK has a good medical program and, being from Kentucky, she was already a “big UK fan.” While she still has a fondness for Frankfort as her hometown, she can’t predict whether she will move back to the city after graduating from UK.

Like Harris, Renfroe believes Frankfort does have support for her peers. Renfroe took several classes at Franklin County Career and Technical Center as a student in high school and qualifed as a certified nursing assistant, meaning that she could work at places like nursing homes after she graduated from high school. She said FCCTC and the certifications it offers students helps them earn a good salary after getting their diplomas. She also said that local scholarships tremendously help high school graduates.

“They do have opportunities, but it depends on what you want to do,” Renfroe said.

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