With first semester grades stashed away and a fresh slate for the new semester, most students are looking to spend the next four months maintaining grades and toughing it out until the end of the school year. But for a few seniors, their high school days are already over.
Karlie Schwichtenberg, class of ‘21 early graduate, had decided on her course of action even before COVID-19 hit, but the pandemic “made me even more confident in my decision. Like, second semester is supposed to be the most exciting part of your high school experience so I was a little doubtful at first, but when we started e-learning, I knew I’d be so much happier doing my own thing because I’m really not an online learner.”
Now, having completed her last days of high school e-learning, Schwichtenberg plans to put her time to good use by helping out her family financially.
“My number one school is in Florida, which is completely out of state, so I wanted to get a job to help my parents pay for it because I know it’s gonna be really expensive,” Schwichtenberg said. “Growing up, they’ve already [helped me out] a lot financially, and because I have ADHD and my grades aren’t amazing, I wasn’t able to get a ton of financial aid, so I really want to be able to help with the costs of college. Besides, I feel like it’ll be a good experience for me to work a real job and I think I’ll learn more [working] than I would taking more classes.”
With her combined work experience and education from her years in school, Schwichtenberg says her next few years will be spent at the University of Tampa, studying criminology. Although she’s “not 100% sure if that’s what I’m going to stick with,” her college choice is set as she “doesn’t want to go anywhere [other than the University of Tampa].”
While Schwichtenberg was prepared to graduate early even before COVID-19 took the world by storm, the pandemic was what caused Jordyn Naughttrip, class of ‘21 early graduate, to ultimately decide on her early graduation.
“I’ve always been kind of off of the straight track school-wise, never taking study halls or lunches, and I was super interested in graduating early when I found out about it,” Naughttrip recalls. “But my counselor was like ‘no don’t do that’ and my mom was like ‘why would you do that, just enjoy high school.’ Then COVID hit, and we were all like, ‘well, what’s the point of staying in school then when you could be learning just as much outside of it?’ [So] even though COVID has been horrible, I think it’s aligned a lot of stars for me, helping me focus on where I want to go [and] what I want to do.”
With her stars aligned and her schedule freed up, Naughttrip is now working through a busy second semester while dreaming big for her future.
“[Right now], I’m taking my Gen Eds online at CLC (College of Lake County) while nannying and working a retail job,” Naughttrip said. “I’m working to save up some money, get ahead in college, and take enough classes between this spring and summer so I can get out of [my senior year] of college and then go to fashion school instead. And as much as I want to just hop into FIT (the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City) immediately, I’m making sure to get a science undergrad degree in biochem or environmental studies to fall back on, which could also help me work towards building my own sustainable eco-friendly brand or helping with pollution issues in the fashion industry. And if fashion doesn’t work out, I’d love to go work for the UN too.”
Outside of the strict schedules of high school, Naughttrip says she is finally able to expand her horizons and see just how successful she can be on her own. But despite all her newfound freedom, there are still parts of high school that she says she will miss now that it is all over.
“This past year was so sad because I never got to see my [senior year] teachers in person and connect with them and I’ll miss my junior year teachers, who really influenced me and helped me make my decisions for the future,” Naughttrip said. “Honestly, it all ended on a good note but there’s still some tears. It’s been bittersweet.”