Local News

Students, parents explore higher education options

SEBRING - Students and parents lined up Monday evening for information about colleges, universities and financial aid at the School Board of Highlands County's annual College Night at Sebring High School. In Sebring High's Smith Center, at the right front, a long line of parents and students formed to talk to representatives from the University of Florida. At the left, they lined up to hear about financial aid and Bright Futures Scholarships from a Florida Department of Education representative. Throughout the room, representatives from colleges and universities from near and far and the military offered brochures and information about their institutions.
Sebring High junior Damian Foster and his father, Ron, gathered information on the colleges and also checked on the military schooling options. Damian said he may look into going into aviation mechanics in the U.S. Air Force. Ron said he didn't go to college, but he is encouraging his son to further his education. "I use my wife and me as an example. My wife is a registered nurse; I'm just a high school graduate so I work a lot harder than she does," Ron said. "Let's get to college; let's get a good degree; land a good job and have a bright future." The college admissions representatives touted the academic programs at their institutions. Retired Sebring High teacher Alan Kent represented the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. He stressed it gives students five years of "guaranteed employment," as opposed to calling it a five-year "military commitment." Kent also stressed that the Naval Academy is in a city, whereas it is more than a 30-minute drive to the city from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, in New York and U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. One of the more distant universities with a representative at the event was the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The university has 90 majors among its eight different schools and colleges, said the college's Assistant Director of Admissions Sarah Papale. The engineering, business and nursing programs are the most competitive. Papale said the university recently created an admissions position strictly for the state of Florida. Previously, one person covered Florida and California. South Florida State College had representatives at the event. Data from 2011-12 showed that the majority of Highlands County college-bound high school seniors, nearly 80 percent, furthered their studies at SFSC. Sebring High senior Grace Biron said she has no idea where she wants to go to college and is also undecided on a major. Her mother, Loraine, said her daughter had ideas in eighth-, ninth- and 10th-grade of what she wanted to do. But, she has "let go" of all of them. "She is going to finish her first two years and then start making a decision by talking to other students to see what they are doing," Loraine said. "Maybe another two years of growth will help her make a more informed and mature decision." Sharon Selander and her daughter, Kayla, who is a freshman at Warner University, gathered information for Sebring High sophomore Ansley Selander, who was unable to attend the event. Sharon said her daughter wanted information from the University of Florida because she is interested in premed. School District Director of Secondary Programs Ruth Heckman said many seniors attended the event, but all middle and high school students were encouraged to come. She noticed a few middle school students attended the event. "It's never too early to start thinking," about the future, she said. mvalero@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5826