Oh, the places area grads will go!

SANDUSKY They'll go to work, to boot camp, to years of classes. They'll be mechanics,
May 24, 2010



They'll go to work, to boot camp, to years of classes.

They'll be mechanics, teachers and entrepreneurs. Nurses, biologists and social workers.

They'll settle down in the Firelands or in Arizona or overseas.

They spent 12 years together in classrooms, buses and locker rooms, but life after high school for the students in the Class of 2009 will mean charting their own courses -- often moving in very different directions.

In a survey by the Register, 1,284 seniors at 16 high schools detailed their post-graduation plans.

Fall will find local graduates living in at least 30 states and five foreign countries, studying everything from advertising to zoology.

Despite the diversity, the survey results revealed a few broad trends.

Graduates seem to be getting the message about the hot jobs of tomorrow and the training they require.

"They are told that there aren't many jobs in the area," said Barbara Straka-Kenning, a counselor at Sandusky High School. "They're looking at further training and expertise in an area (that) might help them land a job. They're listening."

More than 95 percent plan to seek post-secondary education.

Three-quarters want to earn a bachelor's degree or higher.

One-quarter of the respondents said they plan to enter the health care field, predicted to be a growth industry as the population ages.

By contrast, only 20 students said they plan to seek the kind of manufacturing jobs that were once the basis of the Rust Belt economy.

Education, business and engineering are among the other top choices for college majors and career fields.

Most graduates will stay relatively close to home. Thirty-seven percent will work or attend school in north-central Ohio, while 48 percent will be elsewhere in Ohio.

About 14 percent will head to other states, mostly neighboring ones.

Dale Morgan, a counselor at Edison High School, said the Class of 2009 seems more inclined to stay close to home than some of its predecessors, possibly in part because of the shaky economy.

That's a boon for BGSU Firelands, the most popular college option.

"They can take two years there and take anything with them to any other school in the state of Ohio," Morgan said. "They might as well use the valuable resource that they have."

Firelands dean James Smith said affordability is a lure -- the school has the lowest tuition of the state's 24 regional branch campuses -- along with course offerings.

"The availability of a program of interest is critical to the decision," Smith said. "We have worked hard to align our academic offerings to demands in the state of Ohio."

Job losses, depleted college funds and an uncertain future have affected graduates along with everyone else.

Fourteen percent said they've changed their plans because of the state of the economy. Many weigh the earning potential of various jobs, some chose public schools over private, and others will spend the first two years at community colleges.

"We are borderline on not sending me to college," one Huron High School student wrote.

But many others are optimistic.

Vermilion High School senior Ronald Brugnone, who has his sights set on the Marine Corps, may have captured the feelings of much of the Class of 2009 in two sentences.

"I can't wait for this year to end," he wrote. "I'm nervous but excited."