College Day provides glimpses of future

Posted: Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Travel, technology and transmissions. Homer business professionals visited Voznesenka School on Thursday to talk to high school students about the importance of post-secondary education and the breadth of career opportunities available after high school.

Sue Alexander of Aurora Travel discussed her home-based family business, where she helps people identify and purchase vacation options and gets paid for her work.

Mike Scruggs, owner of Scruggs Automotive, told students about the need for well-trained automotive technicians and the high wages such workers can earn in his industry.

Michael Smith, who works with Super Software and Printworks, talked about the range of options working in the high-demand field of technology.

And a former Voznesenka graduate now attending Kenai Penin-sula College's Kachemak Bay Campus shared her experiences with higher education and the opportunities available just a few miles from home.

The Voznesenka College Day and those like it at the six other Project GRAD Kenai Peninsula schools are an effort to bring knowledge and inspiration to students in the program's "at risk" schools.

Project GRAD, a Houston-based reform program, aims to increase high school graduation and post-secondary education rates by supporting teachers, enhancing curriculum and providing scholarships to students at participating schools.

But yet another aspect of the program is the effort to bring awareness to students. Summer institutes, scholarship counselors and college days help students see what opportunities are out there, said Stephanie Smith-Arce, the director of site support and new site expansion for Project GRAD USA.

"You start seeing interest from students who may not have thought college was a possibility," she said.

That was indeed the case Thursday at Voznesenka.

"(This) is good, because you can see, make plans for the future and stuff," said Olga Kuzmin, a 14-year-old freshman.

"I think college is important, because I don't know what I want to do," agreed Klava Kalugin, a 17-year-old junior. "So when people come talk to us, I have a better understanding of what's out there."

Of course, the opinion wasn't shared all around.

Junior Trofim Martushev, 17, said he doesn't believe college is necessary.

"You have to pay for college, rather than finishing high school then getting a decent job," he said. "I have a job in high school. I still want to pass high school instead of being a dropout, but I work in commercial fishing and construction. That's what I was born into."

Trofim's point of view is a common one among some of the Old Believer communities on the peninsula, but his peers demonstrate it also is a changing perspective.

Klava, for example, said she would like to be a lawyer but does not believe it's possible because of her religion. Nonetheless, many careers wouldn't have been possible for a woman in her community just a few years ago.

"The demographics of this community are changing quite a bit," explained Voznesenka principal Ray Hillman. "As changes come, they see more of a need to mix with the outside community to be able to sustain their own family life. A lot of mothers are getting their GEDs or going back to work. Because of that, they encourage their kids to stay in school more."

Varvara Kalugin, a 15-year-old freshman, said she wants to finish high school and go on to college.

"I want to be a doctor or nurse," she said, laughing. "I think college is good because you don't get stuck being a housewife. You can get a good paying job and make the husband be the housewife."

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