The Power of Persistence and Planning

Guest Correspondence

Photo courtesy Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

To listen to the news today, to wade through the deluge of uncertainty, can be paralyzing. For many high school students, the current situation has indeed had a detrimental effect, evident in declining college enrollment numbers. According to a recent ABC News article, Common App, a college admissions application used by numerous colleges and universities, notes a 4% decrease in unique college applications received through Nov. 16, down from 2019. More alarming, Common App notes a 10% decrease in applications of first-generation and economically disadvantaged students. 

Now is not the time for our young people to postpone postsecondary goals, and I am heartened to hear stories of students in Sarasota County Schools who continue to pursue their plans even as the college experience may look incredibly different than it did before the pandemic hit.

Recently at LaunchPad4U, a community space where College Career Advisors and mentors support students of Sarasota County Schools, one of my colleagues shared a story about a young man named Kaivon Moran, a senior at Sarasota High School. His story shows how persistence and planning can keep alive important dreams.

Kaivon has always wanted to fly. Undaunted by the numbers (2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that African-Americans make up 3% of the U.S. commercial pilots), he has been pursuing his pilot’s license, which he is on track to earn. While learning how to fly, he also plays forward on the Sarasota High School varsity basketball team, and he is enrolled in the AICE diploma program, a rigorous honors program, maintaining a 4.04 weighted GPA.

Because Kaivon wants to be a pilot and few colleges in America provide Professional Pilot degrees, his choices are more limited. This year, he began working with a College Career Advisor at the Student Success Center at Sarasota High to explore his options. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a private university in Daytona Beach, showed promise.  

Kaivon hopes to continue playing basketball, but earning a scholarship to play at the college level is challenging, more so when the list of schools is limited by such a specialized degree. To help Kaivon realize this dream, his advisor reached out to the Embry-Riddle basketball coach and discussed the possibility of Kaivon playing as a walk-on. She then spoke to his coach at Sarasota High and asked him to send Embry-Riddle footage of Kaivon.   

Kaivon was recently accepted to Embry-Riddle. His persistence in the classroom paid off, and he’s waiting to hear about a spot on the basketball team. Now Kaivon is searching for ways to pay for school. He has completed his FAFSA, and while a Bright Futures Scholarship will provide some assistance, he will need to secure national and local scholarships. Knowing this, he continues to work with his advisor to find the best opportunities. He embraces the unknowns as he pursues the ultimate goal of piloting planes.   

While courses on Zoom and a socially distanced dorm experience may limit the sense of community that college students crave, it is important that our young people follow their postsecondary goals. It’s not too late to formulate a plan for a pathway after high school. Parents, grandparents, mentors, even neighbors—you can help. Please encourage our students to keep planning for their future. Encourage them to persist. To break barriers and to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing, increasingly uncertain world, our young people must follow their dreams. And we must empower them with our support.

Jennifer Vigne is executive director for the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.

Photo courtesy Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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