The unemployment rate is at the highest level in decades, the economy is uncertain, and institutions of higher education, both public and private, continue to raise tuition to meet the high demand of providing a future; meaning a college degree. But even in the face of this reality there are American high school students who feel optimistic about their future.
I spoke with several students from Suncoast Community High School in Palm Beach County, Florida who personify that optimism.
And how can they feel great about their future in the face of such harsh economic realities? Their school, Suncoast Community High School, is ranked one of the best schools in the country by Newsweek magazine. It’s a place that seems to do everything right, where every student takes at least two Advanced Placement courses, and many focus on some form of science, technology engineering, or math.
Corrine Thomas, a bubbly junior, who is excelling in speech and debate and producing her own stage plays, exudes confidence that she attributes to the school’s environment.
“Suncoast offers in a unique atmosphere,” she said. “Everybody is so willing and so ambitious to work and succeed”.
But the confidence these students feel does not remove the harsh truth of Florida’s 10.7 percent unemployment rate.
William Fields, a high school senior has had to adjust his future plans as his mother was recently downsized and is now unemployed. “I’m going to have to cut back and go to the state college for 2 years and then transfer”, said the well-rounded student-athlete.
The National Urban League of Palm Beach County is keenly aware of the challenges this community and its students face. They have worked to develop on of the best youth programs the Urban League has in the country. The program, known as NULITES, is designed to provide mentoring, skills training, SAT prep and more so that students can succeed in high school and beyond.
Patrick Franklin, the CEO of the National Urban League affiliate in West Palm Beach states, “We’re showing them and exposing them to everything under the sun. We’re letting them know there is a life form after high school, and they have to go for it”.
But even when they go for it, as NULITES Tiffany Wright can attest to, there is no guarantee. As a senior, she carries the stress of having watched her older sister graduate from high school, go on to college, and even get an MBA, only to be unemployed for over three years. Tiffany said that she does have some fear about the future, but there is a silver lining. “One of the NULITES principals is create a better future for my people and myself, that that’s what I want to do,” she said. “I pray for that, I pray that America can be what it used to be”.
So in the face of economic crisis. Students of all kinds realize that there are institutions of all kinds still dedicated to help them maintain hope for the future if they remain dedicated to work for it.
Watch the complete segment on Suncoast High School, part of NBC’s weeklong “Education Nation” series, on MSNBC during the 10:00 a.m. hour today.
Hear more from the Suncoast students in their own words, below:
And visit the Education Nation website for more on the week-long NBC series.