STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

Life After High School in Michigan: A State of Opportunity special

Brittany Bartkowiak
Michigan Radio

Students across Michigan are in their senior year of high school, gearing up for graduation and trying to make plans for what to do next. The popular narrative is that you get your high school diploma, go to college, and then embark on a career in a field related to your degree. 

But it doesn't always work that way. Life after high school now is more complicated than that for a lot of young people in Michigan.

What's the best way for these students to build a future for themselves?
In this hour-long State of Opportunity special, Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks to students from all over the state – Grand Rapids, Ypsilanti, Detroit, Flint, and the Upper Peninsula – who each took a different path after leaving high school.

We enlisted experts John Bebow from the Center for Michigan and Michelle Richard from Public Sector Consultants to help us understand the role of public policy in these young people's lives. We also talk with Andrea Jackson, a career counselor at Detroit's Osborn High School with over 15 years experience. 

First up are two students who went the college route. Adam Eickmeyer from Wallace, Michigan, talks about the moment that convinced him not to drop out during his freshman year as a first-generation student at the University of Michigan. 

Jazmine Taylor, a third-year community college student at Washtenaw Community College, shares why she transferred to WCC from a four-year university. Taylor also tells us about the community group that has played a vital role in her success. 


The rising cost of college tuition is forcing many young people, especially those with limited financial resources, to explore other options after high school. In the second part of the show, Cadet KasonHamada shares how he's using his Army Reserves Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship to pay for college at Eastern Michigan University. He'll go on to serve eight years in the Army after he finishes his degree. 

Tim Nellett, program coordinator of the Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE) Program, talks about the "imposter syndrome" so many vets go through after starting college from the military. He also breaks down a few of the misconceptions about enlisting right from high school – including the one that students only go into the military if they're not "good enough" or "smart enough" for college. 


Derrick Fergusson graduated from Flint Northwestern High School. His original plan to attend college as a student athlete didn't really pan out. He eventually ended up at the Flint/Genesee County Job Corps Program where he earned a certificate in painting. But painting is just one of many skills Job Corps taught him. 

Scott Mattson, program manager of the Michigan Technical Education Center (M-TEC) at Grand Rapids Community College, has noticed a huge increase in the number of students enrolling in skilled trades right out of high school. Mattson talks about what this means for Michigan's economy and what it takes to prepare students to fill these jobs.  

You can listen to the whole show here: 

What's next after high school for Michigan's most disadvantaged young people?


Related Content