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Graduation season is here. As announcements pour in and graduation pictures fill your timeline and Instagram feed, there’s a definite celebratory mood in the air. Many high school and college students dream of this moment when entering school. They work hard, they have fun, and many get frustrated, but it all boils down to one glorious moment: Graduation Day.

Graduation is indeed the day graduates celebrate with family, friends, classmates and faculty members. But once the celebrations end, graduates are often left wondering: What’s next? What am I going to do with my life moving forward after receiving my diploma or degree?

More education is an option—one Maya Shelton is taking advantage of. The Governors State University 2018 graduate, Shelton received her bachelor’s degree in Theatre and Performance Art Studies. She is now preparing to continue her education at the New York School of Film and Acting at the school’s Los Angeles location.

“I’m transitioning from theater to film, having them both [bachelor’s and master’s degrees] will help open more doors for career opportunities,” Shelton shared. “This industry is difficult to go into, but with an MFA I can also teach acting and have another route to go down just in case.”

Many other college grads are searching for jobs if they hadn’t secured employment before their graduation.

Governors State University career counselor Kristina Anderson says some students are really good at mapping out a plan and securing jobs before they graduate; others do the work after graduation.

Her office helps students with resumes, writing cover letters and internships to prepare them for the ultimate graduation goal—a career. “We have mock job interviews; we assist with a lot of resumes critiques, LinkedIn profiles, we get students who come in before and after graduation anxious because they want to make sure they have a solid plan, so we’re here to help in any transition period.”

Anderson said many students she has observed are a “nervous wreck” as they look for jobs and wonder what the future holds. Knowing that this time can be hard for graduates, Anderson says, Governors State welcomes alumni to come in for job placement help or any other assistance.

The offer at Governors State is helpful because some students don’t focus on placement before graduation because they are focusing on finishing papers and getting to graduation day. Having the option to lean on the placement office after graduation—when the anxiety of completing college has subsided—can be very beneficial.

For those transitioning from high school, choosing a college can be an overwhelming task. Some students choose the community college route before heading off to a university. Depending on a student’s life circumstances, junior colleges are known to be more inexpensive and an opportunity to have the flexibility to start college life while working or tending to other matters.

Proviso West High School graduate Keierra Walker said she is going to attend a community college [Triton College in River Grove, Ill.] for two years first and then transfer over to a university. Walker plans to become a social worker and thrives on helping kids. Her family support and enthusiasm throughout high school has helped her make decisions to this point.

“I was afraid to even fail or get a bad grade at anything. I saw all my friends failing classes and cutting classes, and I didn’t like that; I knew I wanted to graduate on time. Everything you do it is going to affect it whether it’s good or bad. I felt like if I stayed on track and did what I had to do, I wouldn’t have to worry about anything. My biggest supporters were my family and my NJROTC instructors who helped me a lot and helped me become a better person, so I thank them.”

Community colleges also offer services to help students navigate the waters and explore their next steps after graduation. Keli Levesque, a career counselor at Kennedy-King College, stated, “when you walk in the door, you have to get familiar with the support services that are available to you… the transfer center, the career center, etc. so when you finish, you are walking out with that complete package. Take advantage of the resources that are available.”

Recent Olive Harvey graduate Maurice Rodgers took advantage of the resources to not only improve his grades but motivate himself. Those changes also created excellent opportunities for his life and future.

While he was at Olive-Harvey, Rodgers was in Student Government, Honors programs and he will also be taking a trip to Ghana this summer through another leadership program. In the fall he will be attending The University of Louisville in Kentucky to further his education. He wants to finish and get his master’s and Ph.D. to ultimately become a college professor to teach African-American history and political science.

“I feel like they have [Olive-Harvey faculty] prepared me to do a lot of things that I had no idea that was in store for me. They had me at Capitol Hill, at a lot of speaking engagements. I feel like they have done a tremendous job and I’m grateful to have mentors and professors who have come into my life.”

These students have triumphed and prevailed over many hurdles while pursuing their education credentials; they feel their future is bright as they continue to strive to reach goals. Even amongst those still searching for employment, the vibe is hopeful—and graduates are happy to have completed one of their goals.

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