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Eighteen: A Teenager Considers His Options For The Future

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Basim Blunt
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WYSO
Ben Zienko

It's time for parties and celebrations as the class of 2021 gets ready to take on the world, and it's also time for many of our teenagers to turn 18. In our next Dayton Youth Radio season finale, a story from a Centerville High School senior reflecting on independence and becoming an adult.

I'm Ben Zienko. I'm an 18 year old, I'm a redhead. I play a lot of video games, I like to build computers and I'm really into technology. I'll probably go into some sort of computer engineering type of field.

A lot of kids nowadays in high school may think once they graduate, they're off to college, but in reality, there are lots and lots of options. My parents always made it seem I needed to go to college when I was younger, and I've always planned on going. But then I got a sense of independence with my job where I can afford to live on my own and pay for my own things. I work landscaping and do some remodeling work, and it's helping me learn some real life skills.

Colleges are expensive and they leave the average student in around $30,000 in debt. I'm not saying that college is a bad idea or that you shouldn't want to go. I'm saying that you may as well weigh your options out. I'm taking the cheaper option by going to Sinclair, a two year community college that many of you listening in the Dayton area may have heard of. There are community college like these all over the U.S. I will save an incredible amount of money by doing this. Going to Sinclair or a community college is only going to cost you around $5,000 or less compared to a college like the University of Dayton. They cost around $45,000.

There are plenty of trades to pick up that can have you earning anywhere from $25 to $50 an hour or just regular salary, paying jobs that are perfectly livable. The median salary for a plumber is $55,000, and the top ten percent $97,000. There are different types of mechanic jobs. They can have you earning $50,000, plus an electrician's median salary is $65,000 a year. And there are so many others.

I think in five years I will have a new car and possibly be living in an apartment. The big goal is a house.

A lot more young people also need to start taking advantage of the stock market and start learning about passive income. Passive income is making money without really doing much. Index funds like the S&P 500 are great for steady investments or stocks that pay dividends, which means you get paid every month off of them.

My brother Josh just graduated basic training and started making $17,000 a month, his first day there. My Uncle Joe also dropped out of college to pursue a career in the Armed Forces. These are just some of the options you have if you are maybe thinking college isn't the best for you, or at least not right now.

I know a lot of people think also that even though they're 18, they're still on a leash by their parents. maybe you don't have freedom, like how you wish you would. If your parents both went to college, then they're most likely going to want you to go. Maybe they want to see you living like what they wish their life would have been. I think that's pretty messed up as a parent to do that to one of their kids. It doesn't make sense to me, it's your life, not theirs.

If you're working somewhere is enjoyable to you, then it's going to feel like you never worked a day in your life. You're going to be able to pay your bills, have a car place to get around, you know, like where you can sleep, just do what you love and enjoy your life. I just want people to really understand that you can do what you want to do and what you think is the best for you to do. And just hope it's the right decision.

You're 18, you're an adult. You can do what you want.

Ben Zienko is a student at Centerville High School. Special thanks to Tricia Rapoch, teacher for the Communication Arts Program at Centerville High School. Learn more at the school's website: http://www.centerville.k12.oh.us/CHS. Dayton Youth Radio is supported by the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council and the CenterPoint Energy Foundation.

This story was created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.