Class of 2022… thoughts and afterthoughts

Jon Meade, Career Support Librarian, weighs in on the April 29, 2023 graduation ceremony of the Career Online High School Class of '22.

Many of us do things the difficult way. We adopt a six-year-old after being married for less than a year. We voluntarily purchase a Ford Contour. We choose to cut our own bangs. We spend weeks or months growing $3 worth of tomatoes. Some even hand-wash things that have labels suggesting hand-washing even when there’s a washing machine Right There.

And some drop out of high school.

In the vast majority of cases, that’s not a decision taken lightly. Life happens. Life can REALLY happen. Life happens to some people in large waves of drowning-level height, sticks around, includes sharks and dangerous currents, and involves many other disastrous nautical metaphors.

Life also involves a rough “Finding Out” phase. Unemployment rates for those with less than a high school diploma have consistently been much higher than all other levels of educational achievement. In most years, having a high school diploma has had an unemployment rate closer to those with a four-year college degree than it is to someone without that high school education. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Or check this link: Statista - Unemployment rate in the United States from 1992–2022, by level of education

That and many other factors can hit someone hard after making such a decision. And this is why, along with GED classes, the Pima County Public Library offers another opportunity for residents of the county 22 years and older: Career Online High School. This gives someone an opportunity to take online high school courses for 18 months or less, get a diploma, and also obtain a certificate in training for one of nine career areas such as Security Professional, Office Management, Commercial Driving, or Child Care and Education.

Also, it’s free. The cost is zero to the student. None dollars. Zilch. Less than a gumball. As much as a down-payment on nothing. Free. And what a bargain!

On Saturday, April 29, 2023 at the Sahuarita Library, we celebrated a new class of graduates from 2022. The program is on-going, so students can start year-round and end year-round, some quicker than others based on how fast they pass classes and on how many credits they started with before leaving school. For that reason, there is no standard graduation season such as there is for most schools and universities.

We celebrated 19 graduates from the past year. Not all could make the ceremony, but the room was full of proud families, a few dignitaries, and five graduates wearing caps and gowns and smiles.

Library Director Amber Mathewson was grateful for the program reaching 125 total graduates. Pima County Administrator Jan Lesher thanked the graduates and all but offered some a job. Rivkah Sass, a representative of Smart Horizons, the company that operates Career Online High School, spoke about the importance of education in the goals of libraries and of course for the graduates. Pima Library Foundation Executive Director Tom Cashman expressed joy at money well spent and read comments from the graduates’ academic coaches. Career Support Librarian Jon Meade read a letter from a graduate who was unfortunately unable to attend. And then Library Services Manager Kendra Davey and Library Associate Marisol Norzagaray gave certificates and congratulations to all the attending graduates.

And then there were photos and hats flying and more photos and cake and other refreshments. And there was also a great amount of pride and accomplishment. It was a very fine day.

Jon Meade, Career Support Librarian, now acts as a sort of principal’s secretary at the Pima County Public Library for those who enroll in the Career Online High School program. Among other things, Jon has slung popcorn at El Con when it had six screens, been a pre-press worker for a print shop (the job title was “stripper” but it was not like that), and before coming to PCPL worked as a librarian at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Tucson.