Some Ann Arbor high school students shrug off stigma to learn a trade
Recent Pioneer High School graduate Alexus Pace-Patterson used to hate school. She dreaded every single minute she had to spend in the classroom, and her grades were a direct reflection of those feelings.
Her first two years at Pioneer, her GPA was less than stellar.
“I just hated (school),” Pace-Patterson said. “I thought it was the worst thing in the world.”
Pace-Patterson walked across the stage on Thursday at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center and accepted her diploma not only in good academic standing, but ready to start classes at Eastern Michigan University in the fall.
She has a way to pay for it, too.
Melanie Maxwell | Ann Arbor.com
She plans to work as stylist to pay for her education at Eastern, where she’ll major in business.
Patterson has already proven worthy of an A in economics. Not only will she have a viable way to earn money to pay for school, she has learned her trade without spending a dime. Ann Arbor Public Schools students attend the Huron Valley Beauty Academy free of charge.
A similar program at Dougals J. Aveda Institute in Ann Arbor costs more than $18,000.
“When I talk to people who have gone the other way around, they go to school and then they learn cosmetology, they're jealous because it cost them so much money,” Pace-Patterson said. “I’m lucky because I’ll have the certification without having to pay, and I can work to pay for school.”
Joyce Williams, college and career center director at Pioneer, said very few students at Pioneer take advantage of opportunities to learn a trade free of charge while in school.
Despite its practicality, pursuing a trade still carries a negative stigma among high school students and the community, Williams said.
“It’s hard to sell in a town where college is the main goal,” said Williams, who also noted funding has been drastically cut to the programs over the years. “But those kids written off as ‘grease monkeys’, they’re out there working on your cars.
"They’re out there employed and contributing to society, so sometimes we have to just shed that elitist attitude. ... (In Ann Arbor) we have a lot of educated people that work at jobs below their education level.”
Recent Huron High School graduate Matthew Gasparovich will attend Washtenaw Community College in the fall to earn the certificates needed to become a motorcycle mechanic. Gasparovich said it's his backup plan, but he wants to have a skill in hand before pursuing higher education.
Gasparovich’s twin brother, Andrew, will attend Eastern in the fall to pursue a degree in the computer or medical field. Pam Gasparovich, the boys’ mother, said she encouraged her sons to pursue their passions and something they could see themselves becoming employed in rather than just pushing a four-year college education on them.
“People sometimes look down on the trades, but those people work in this town,” Williams said. “When you go out in town, you see a lot of our graduates employed and doing positive things.”