By Sid Spahn
It’s the end of the 2021-2022 school year, and there’s less than 10 days of school left!
Seniors are scrambling to prepare for graduation, summer jobs, and then college. So, below are a series of questions that Ms. Marwick, Mr. Keppel, Ms. Rainey, Ms. Smith, and Ms. Wallace all graciously answered about senior year, college, careers, and adult life.
What was your senior year of high school like?
– “It was really fun, but also a little stressful!” answered Ms. Marick, our College and Careers counselor here at BHS as well as a returning Benicia alumni. She had a stable group of friends she hung out with, and made sure to make memories attending all the senior activities. Just like many of us, she struggled with her Algebra 2 class (the equivalent of IM3) and it almost kept her from going to college. But with the help of her counselor, she got through it successfully (shout out Mr. Brady).
– “Senior year was my favorite year of high school” started Ms. Rainey, the counselor for the class of 2023. She told me about her advanced classes, position as captain of the Swim Team, and participation in leadership. Her favorite memory being the moment her football team went into the final rounds of playoffs.
– Mr. Keppel, the graduating class of 2022’s counselor, was an art kid that joined the Wrestling team in his senior year of high school. “Finding my niche in the Art department and also meeting new friends through wrestling and working as a Lifeguard really broadened my social circles and made Senior year a lot of fun.”
What did you do after high school? How was that experience and would you recommend this path for students?
– Ms. Marwick went to Sonoma State after graduating, with a preference for a college that “felt like I was away but also wasn’t so far that I couldn’t come home when I wanted to.” Marwick described college as a wonderful experience, but made it clear that it isn’t the right fit for everyone. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career, so I probably should have gone to community college first.” She warns students to not do what she did, “I spent a lot of money taking classes to figure out what I wanted to study, and then chose a major that didn’t train me for a specific career.”
– Ms. Rainey moved to LA and went to Loyola Marymount University for her undergrad. “An undeclared major and had no idea what I wanted to do” was how she described the beginning of her college experience. A class on Intro to Psychology got her interested in her current field, and tutoring for a 3rd grade classroom helped her decide to work in education. “I would recommend students take any opportunity they can to grow. For me, that was moving 600 miles away from my home town and hoping I would figure things out along the way. Just trust the process!”
– “I started Lifeguarding and attending community college,” Mr. Keppel explained, “I felt like most of my life was under my own control – I could make my own school schedule and pick my own classes.” He enjoyed working as a lifeguard, and eventually taught Lifeguard Training classes and became a Red Cross Instructor. He even taught Red Cross first Aid classes at the UC Davis Campus and was Red Cross Instructor of the Year 1995. “Doing something after graduating I think is essential – whether it’s working or taking a couple classes at community college, it’s good to know that you’re working towards something.”
How should students go about deciding what to do after highschool?
The general consensus? Ms. Marwick put it best:
– “there isn’t a one size fits all answer to this.” She explains that you can be successful without going to college, but you should get more training somewhere to increase earning potential. Most importantly, “Get to know yourself and what you need out of a work environment.” She suggests career interest surveys that will ask questions to “measure your interests and personality to match you with careers from there.” A good place to start is a short survey she suggested on My Next Move.
Many students are simultaneously excited and nervous about moving out and joining the adult world. What advice do you have to make this easier to stomach?
– Ms. Marwick makes sure to say “It’s okay to be feeling whatever you’re feeling. Change can be scary, hard, and exciting all rolled into one.” She remembers being simultaneously scared and excited being dropped off at college. If anything, she says “Just don’t be afraid to ask for help! I’ve called/emailed/walked into places and said “I don’t know you’re the right person to ask, but I’m having a problem with X.” Most people don’t mind answering questions when you’re polite.” She also adds that most colleges have on campus mental health resources and career centers for support for students. “Adults don’t know what they’re doing either, we just have more experience to make our decisions.”
– “You are not alone!” Ms. Rainey recommends that students move out of their comfort zone after high school. “You’re going to make mistakes and you will be challenged, but that is okay, you shouldn’t know everything yet” she implores that we ask for help when we need it, and appreciate the present moment because the future will work itself out. “You have gone through a worldwide pandemic, you are more prepared than you even know!”
– “It’s not the end of the world and fairly common if you live at home for awhile after graduating,” Keppel said, continuing his point about having a goal, “As long as you’re out of the house working or taking college classes, life is much different because so much is new.” He encourages a decision to stay at home and save money, but you could also get an apartment with reliable friends… with an emphasis on reliable. “You’ll have more responsibilities but you’ll also have more freedom so it’s a tradeoff, but usually a pretty cool one.”
And finally, a message from Mr. Keppel, counselor of graduating class 2022:
“I wasn’t the greatest High School student and that rolled over into not starting off as the greatest Community College student. I knew I was a fairly smart kid though and started to realize that I had potential – and it wasn’t about doing things to make my parents happy or get them off my back, it was all about doing things for myself now. I didn’t like the feeling of not doing as well as I knew I could be, and that started to light a fire under me and I started to do better and better in college. So my main thing to pass on is that you all have potential and you all have things you’re good at, and not to lose sight of that. I feel like sometimes it doesn’t matter as much what you do out of High School, as long as it’s productive and fulfilling for you – so for some students, that might be moving out-of-state to attend a 4-year college, for other students it’s starting off at Community College to transfer, for some students they just want to start working and get some roommates to gain some independence and freedom with an aim of moving out of the house. Everyone’s path looks different, and some of us will have challenges to overcome but remember your coping skills that have got you this far. We’ve survived a freakin’ pandemic! Graduating High School doesn’t happen by itself, you’ve put in the work to get here and you’ve got the skills to have made it this far. I’ve always been one to worry about the future too, and one of the most helpful and meaningful quotes I ever heard was from Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius. He said, “Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which arm you today against the present.” For me, that means that you didn’t make it this far by accident and for no reason. You have resilience, you have value, you have purpose, you have meaning, and there’s people who care about you and will support you. If you’ve survived High School the last couple years, that by default means you’re pretty tough and you have grit – remember that and take pride in that and it will embolden you to face what’s ahead in life.”