Choices are as unlimited as imaginations

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 24, 2003

The nearly-6-year-old leaned over as he crinkled his nose shook his head slightly.

"You know, I don't think I want to be a jet pilot when I grow up," he whispered behind his cupped hand.

"Why?" I wondered aloud.

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"Well, those planes can crash when they land on those boats," he said with a serious frown and a knowing nod. "That looks too hard. I just want to be a regular plane pilot … then you have a runway."

Of course, that comment was shared shortly after seeing a Coast Guard helicopter and several different fighter jets up-close at a museum and watching for the third time the "There Goes An Airplane" video clip of pilots landing on an aircraft carrier at sea.

Next week, he may choose to be a firefighter again, or maybe the man who drives the street sweeper, or a construction site foreman, or even like "Mr. Johnnie" who gets to run the press at the newspaper … or maybe all of them.

In his mind, the world is full of possibilities and opportunities … and every career sounds like fun.

But what happens between 6 and 16 is a mystery. And I often wonder if he'll be as focused and as sure of his future when high school and college roll around.

Too many teenagers today are stuck in career limbo … the over-achievers are often focused and driven towards their ultimate goals. The underachievers are, if you listen to sociologists and educators, often resigned to exist and accept whatever job comes along.

And everyone else? Well, so many of the rest of the students are left to fend for themselves to decide what opportunities are available, and what they need to do to capitalize on those opportunities.

And the question becomes, how does the child go from the little boy whose passion is to drive a fire truck to the teenager who just doesn't know what he wants to do with his life?

And, more important, what can any of us do to help him?

Perhaps the answer is a simple as giving him opportunities and ideas … exposure to the real world and the possibilities it holds.

That's what programs like the Schools to Career efforts here in Pike County do. And its what parents and teachers do each day in their efforts to help shape and grow young minds.

The results of all those efforts will come to fruition this month, as hundreds of Pike County teenagers graduate from high school. Some may still dream of being jet fighter pilots or firemen. Others are headed for college, and careers in technology or business or marketing. Others, perhaps seek a lifelong long of the arts or a trade - even agriculture and farming.

Their choices are as unlimited as their desires and their drive to succeed.

And while we may not know today what impact our efforts as parents, educators, role models and a community will have, we can only hope we've given them the education and the confidence to succeed

in whatever path they choose.

Stacy Graning is publisher of The Messenger. She can be reached at 670-6308 or via email at