Valley View High School held a Signing Day ceremony Tuesday to celebrate graduating seniors’ plans to enter college, the military and careers. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

Principal urges students: Now is the time to build life plans

As Valley View schools head into the final weeks of the academic year, the district took time out Tuesday to put special emphasis on the many paths its graduating seniors will take after they leave.

More than 100 seniors were presented to high school underclassmen at an assembly in the gym, with Principal Todd Kozarec calling out where the seniors are going to college, what sector of the workforce they’re headed to, or what branch of the military they’re joining.

The point was not that any student’s plan was better than another’s, but to emphasize how important it is for each student to make a plan that fits their own goals for the future.

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“This day has been set aside to celebrate our graduating seniors and their postsecondary plans, but also to encourage you, the underclassmen, to prepare early for whatever plans you may be thinking of,” said Valley View High School Principal Todd Kozarec. “The possibilities are endless. Now is the time for you to begin to think about your path.”

Those paths are very diverse. Members of the Valley View Class of 2018 are heading to college everywhere from Notre Dame to Sinclair, and Miami-Middletown to Southern Cal. Graduates are joining the Navy, the Air Force and the Marines. Those heading straight into the workforce have plans to become electricians, work in salons or take jobs with construction contractors.

Learn to Earn Dayton helped launch these Signing Day events at Montgomery County high schools a few years ago. They bring the celebratory focus of college athlete signing ceremonies to the entire school, such as at Valley View.

“When they’re juniors, I start meeting with each kid individually and ask them what they are thinking about,” Valley View guidance counselor Heather Keating said. “If they’re not sure, we have an embedded counselor through Sinclair, and I set them up so they can run career assessments and personality inventories, so we can get them on a path.”

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Emma Hutchison, who will study biology at the University of Southern California in the fall, said input from Keating was especially helpful, because she’s not sure where she hopes to be in 10 years.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to go to California, and I have a bunch of relatives out there,” Hutchison said. “But I wasn’t sure about what school or major until I decided last week. It was going to be either biology or physics.”

Makenzi Combs decided earlier, enlisting in the Navy on Sept. 25. She said a lot of her relatives have served in the Navy, and she hopes to make it a career, serving 20 years. She said Keating and teacher Shannon Longman are “big influencers” in making sure her classmates have a plan.

“A lot of us know what we’re going to do,” Combs said. “Some are still deciding whether they’re going to college or the workforce, but a lot of us do have a plan.”

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On Tuesday, Kozarec read off dozens of those plans, from students who will study engineering and paleontology, nursing and education, computer science and occupational therapy.

Chris Boyle already has a running start in the workforce, serving as a technician with his father’s HVAC company, while running a landscaping business with his brother. He hopes to become a salesman for the family business, saying he’s always loved trying to outdo a competitor or win somebody over.

“Me, my brother, our friend group, we want to go into the workforce and work for our fathers or for a big company, make our money, buy a house and get established in life,” Boyle said. “The college life ain’t for me. I never liked school and I’m not a big fan of college debt. I’m happy to graduate so I can go out and go to work.”

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Keating said the graduating seniors dropped in on the district’s primary and intermediate schools before Tuesday’s event, and the district will continue to work with students of all ages.

“We do this in front of freshmen, so they will say, hey, I want to be up there someday, too,” she said. “We just want them to have a plan.”

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