Post-Secondary Spotlights: Week 1



Rylie Weber will attend Mitchell’s School of Hair Design in the fall. She is one of our first post-secondary spotlights.

Leading up to the graduation ceremony for the Highlands High School class of 2021, The Hilltopper Online and HHS Film and Broadcast will feature three seniors and highlight their post-secondary plans.  

As the school year winds to an end, yet another batch of Bluebird seniors prepare to leave the nest. The class of 2021 has a diverse array of students, and their post-secondary plans reflect that. While some may envision college as the logical next step following graduation, there are a variety of other options available to students. Whether it be enlisting in the military, attending a trade school, taking a gap year, or going straight into the workforce, there is something fitting for everyone. There also proves to be diversity among students attending college in the fall, as some are pursuing art degrees, participating in college athletics, or studying very specialized fields.

Julianna Russ

This week, three seniors detail their decision-making process as it pertains to their post-secondary plans, offering advice to younger students along the way.

Senior Sarah Redden will attend the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in the fall as a member of their women’s rowing team, and she is currently undecided about her major.

Redden reflected on her decision process as a student athlete.

“[Rowing] was another thing I had to consider when I was thinking about where to go. At first, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Just taking college visits at vastly different sized institutions, like a small one and a super big one, just kind of helped me whittle down and eventually I settled on Chapel Hill.”

Redden also advised students who hope to compete at the collegiate level to start early in their college search and consider what they want their athletic experience to look like. There are many different options for student athletes, such as Division I, Division II, and Division III, but each division is different and research is required to fully understand the pros and cons of each.

“I would also say to consider the school and academic components first, because anything could happen. You could get injured, and you want to like the school without the sport.”

Another senior, Peter Laskey, will be attending the United States Naval Academy in the fall. The USNA is a federally run service academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where students train to be naval officers. Laskey plans to pursue a mechanical engineering degree, which he will put to use as a midshipman.

“It is like a four-year college, but you also make a commitment your junior year to serve the Naval Academy.Four years of school, but a five-year commitment in the navy.”

Two of Laskey’s older sisters attended military academies, which piqued his initial interest in this path. 

“I think it was definitely helpful having [my sisters] go through that process. I’ve been to the naval academy as a little kid, my sister was married there, in the Naval Academy chapel. I’m definitely very familiar with the place and I wanted to serve my country.”

In addition to all of the typical components of a college application, such as receiving letters of recommendation and writing essays, applicants to military academies must acquire a nomination from a Congressperson and complete a

physical/medical assessment. 

Laskey advised, “It’s a lengthy process, so stay on top of it, get it done early, and talk to people who may have completed the process before. It was helpful having a sister who had completed the application, she was my go-to person if I had a question.”

While Redden and Laskey will be off to four-year universities in the fall, not every student feels that the college path is right for them. Senior Rylie Weber will be attending Michael’s College of Hair Design to eventually help her pursue a career in cosmetology.

“I’ve always been a hands on learner. I’m decent at school, but I know that I’m better when it comes to working with people and being in a social environment. I’ve always liked doing hair and makeup and I’ve been into beauty since I was younger, so I just thought it would be a great choice for me.”

Attending a trade school is becoming more popular amongst Highlands students. With the looming idea of college so central to the high school experience, many find it refreshing to enter the workforce and begin a career in something they are passionate about while also saving money.

Weber said that while some were initially confused by her choice, she has had significant support. 

“Honestly, a lot of people have told me, ‘That suits you, that’s such a great idea.’ So yeah, I feel like people have supported me.”

Every student has their own unique path, and Weber emphasized that incoming seniors should not feel pressured to have it all figured out.

“Just do what you feel is best for you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to go to college. That’s not your only option. You need to do what makes you feel comfortable.”

Regardless of their path, whether it be in athletics, the military, or a trade, all three seniors are looking forward to the next chapter of their lives.

Laskey said, “[The Naval Academy] is a very team-oriented environment. I’m definitely going to struggle there with school and whatnot, but I’m excited to work with the students and grow.”

Redden had a final piece of advice for younger students as well.

“Enjoy your high school experience, and don’t be too concerned with what’s to come. Pretty soon, you’ll be in the second semester of your senior year. It goes by so fast!”