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High School Graduates Look to the Future Despite Tough Job Prospects

Study finds 37 percent of high school graduates from years 2006, 2007 and 2008 are employed full time, compared to just 16 percent that graduated during the recession.

After walking across the stage and receiving their diplomas, many high school students will attend college, get a job or both. But no matter what direction life takes them, most experts agree these graduates will face a difficult job market.

According to a recent study released by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, three in 10 high school graduates are employed full-time. The study also points out that 37 percent of graduates from years 2006, 2007 and 2008  are employed full time, compared to just 16 percent that graduated during the recession. 

The survey further characterizes high school graduates’ first jobs as “low-paying, temporary jobs.” So in an unstable economy, many graduates may be looking for other opportunities, like college. But while college graduates are employed at nearly twice the rate of high school graduates, they often find themselves in debt for years after graduation.

Osbourn Park High School (OPHS) graduating senior Seth Opuku-Yeboah will attend the College of William & Mary in the fall and says he has confidence in his future.

“In regards to loans, there's the saying 'there's good debt and bad debt.' To some, college is good debt. Regardless, you want to leave college with as little debt as possible,” he said.

Opuku-Yeboah believes another good approach is to find scholarships. He says  most students don't appreciate how helpful scholarships are until they are older.

Opuku-Yeboah was the president of Invisible Children and editor of the Yellow Jacket—OPHS's student magazine.  He also played soccer and participated in  forensics and debate, Model UN, Yearbook and National Honor Society.

As an active student, Opuku-Yeboah has advice for rising seniors.

“To those who have yet to graduate, I want you to make the most of senior year and try to be involved and make a difference,” he said. “You have 10 months to enjoy your last year as a high school student—and as a student. When you're a senior who's finished with AP exams, SOL testing, and final exams, this is when it hits home. You realize you are done, not just with high school, but your childhood. There's a sense of excitement coupled with a fear for the unknown world you are now a part of.”

When asked what he wants to do he said he's thought about doing many things such as becoming a soccer player, lawyer, teacher or the president.

But what he knows for sure is that he wants to be happy.

“A wise man once said, 'You only live once.' I agree...so make the most of what you do,” Opuku-Yeboah said.

While times might be difficult for high school graduates, Opuku-Yeboah says he still plans on looking to the future with hope as he walks across the stage Friday.

start today (Friday). Locally, in the 2010-11 school year, Prince William County had an on-time graduation rate of 88 percent. Statewide, the Virginia Department of Education said in October 2011 that on-time  to 86.6 percent, and the statewide dropout rate fell one point to 7.2 percent. However, Osbourn High School (OHS) in Manassas City lost its accreditation due to its low graduation rate.

The on-time graduation for the city's only high school , according to the Virginia Department of Education.

"A one-point increase in the graduation rate means that nearly 1,000 more young Virginians are beginning their adult lives with the diploma they need to pursue further education and training or an entry-level job," Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright said in a prepared statement.

The drop-out rate for OHS is currently 13 percent—almost double the state's average.

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