Excitement is in the air as the next generation of Red Deer’s high school graduates get ready to face a fresh, albeit uncertain, future.
While most students look forward to getting on with lives in the real world — or at least in post-secondary — there are concerns about job prospects, the high cost of a university education, and a potential plan by the provincial government to bring down their minimum wage.
A few Hunting Hills High School students who have their graduation ceremony on Friday think the proposed wage decrease for youths and restaurant workers could have positive trickle-down effects if more hiring or lower prices for consumers result.
But others think it’s discriminatory and wonder if it will hamper the ability to save for university.
“I’m very concerned. I don’t think it’s good because (students) have to pay for their education and other things,” said Brennan Gaudry, who wants to be an electrician.
Praveen Gladstone already feels there will be “tough challenges ahead,” particularly for classmates who are planning to work instead of furthering their studies.
Available jobs tend to be low paying as it is, said the teenager, who’s “honoured” to be part of the 2019 Hunting Hills graduating class and plans to study to become a civil engineering technician.
Ethan Walters will pursue geophysics studies at the University of British Columbia, as he anticipates oilfield drilling will kick into higher gear once the price of gas increases.
“The hope is that things will pick up,” he said.
Although technological change threatens the future of many jobs, students know health care will be a high-demand field as the population ages.
Sara Golby is planning to study nursing, while her classmate, Brielle Saunders, intends to work in the pharmaceutical field, studying cellular, molecular and microbial biology.
“I’m excited about the future — but also not too sure,” admitted Golby, who wonders about things like climate change and environmental degradation. But she remains optimistic that her generation, which is not so invested in the status quo, will do what it takes to turn things around.
“We’re more open-minded and aware,” agreed Saunders, who looks forward to meeting new people at university and having different experiences in the next chapter of life. She figures she can still get together with high school friends during Christmas break.
Bailey Anderson, who intends to study towards a business degree, feels graduating students are facing more pressure, as higher grades are needed to get into university, while Eric Shackleton sees this as a time “to get your life straightened out and start off on a good foot…”
He plans to continue learning to become an aircraft maintenance engineer through a trades program he started in high school.
Like many of her classmates, Megan Kobasa is “excited and nervous about what the future will hold.”
As a student with cerebral palsy who’s thinking of taking vocational/life skills training at college, she’s optimistic success can be had through hard work and determination.
“I will miss my teachers, though…”
For the third year, more than 340 Hunting Hills grads visited nearby Mattie McCullough school on Thursday to high-five the elementary students. It’s a way of looking back at “how far we’ve come” and also to inspire young students to work hard, because the end of Grade 12 comes sooner than you think, said graduating student Keanna Richards.
Hunting Hills principal Darwin Roscoe said the idea was started by a Texas school, and “we thought it was a great way to motivate kids… It’s also something (the grads) really look forward to.”
Terri Smith, an educational assistant in pre-kindergarten at Mattie McCullough, and parent of a graduating student, considers this a bittersweet time.
“This is a really reflective time for the grads,” she explained — and it’s special for the younger students “to see them finish their education out to completion.”