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Embarking on the “Pursuit of Happyness”: Graduating High School Seniors Journey into Career Fields

student shaking hands with chris gardner

April 17, 2024 – Choosing a path after high school is unique for every student, as endless possibilities exist.

With graduation quickly approaching, Columbus City Schools seniors may be trying to figure out what life looks like after their principal proudly hands them a diploma. For those still unsure of a clear path, one opportunity of interest may be to explore a career in construction and trades. 

In an effort to expand student perspectives, “Pursuit of Happyness” award-winning author and producer Chris Gardner shared his invaluable students, superintendent and board members standing together and smiling insight with East High School and Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center students on being resilient and pursuing their dreams. 

“Pursuit of Happyness” is an autobiography about Gardner’s life and unwavering determination. In 2006, it was adapted into a movie starring actor and musician Will Smith.

“For those of you who want to go to college, go – do your thing,” Gardner said. “But some of us want to learn a skill, a trade, a craft that will allow us to create generational wealth in our families for the very first time, and do work that cannot be outsourced, and to do so with no student loan debt.”

Gardner’s journey from homelessness to success has inspired millions, and now that number includes the students at both East and Fort Hayes.  

“There's no better person to talk about hope, the ability to dream and to reach a higher height than Chris Gardner,” American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond. “His life was built on determination – on a dream that he had to be the best in his profession. And he rose to the top of the financial investment firm throughout this country. He became globally renowned around the world.”

Redmond touched on the Federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and encouraged students to consider a career in construction and trades seriously.

“This legislation is putting billions of dollars into the U.S. economy to rebuild our roads, bridges, infrastructure, but also to rebuild manufacturing,” Redmond said. “[These opportunities] are life-changing because growing up on the south side of Chicago, I didn't have those options. They weren't available, at least not to the people in my neighborhood.”

The Columbus/Central Building and Construction Trades Council attended to share information about their pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship initiatives with interested students. These initiatives provide essential skills and training that lead to thriving careers in the construction and building trades.

“When you go through your apprenticeship, there's no cost at all,” said Executive Secretary-Treasurer at Columbus/Central Ohio Building & Construction Trades Council Dorsey Hager. “The only thing that it costs is your time. You're also receiving college credit while you're going through your apprenticeship.”

Above all, the event’s message inspired graduating senior students to follow their dreams, no matter what field they choose.

“Skills, talent, and expertise are transferable,” Gardner said. “The key is transferring those things into doing something that you are truly passionate about.”

Power of One

Priority 1 - Whole Child FocusedPriority 2 - Equitable Opportunities for AllPriority 3 - Strong Learning Communities in Every RegionPriority 4 - Authentic EngagementPortrait Attribute 1 - AdaptabilityPortrait Attribute 2 - CommunicationPortrait Attribute 3 - CreativityPortrait Attribute 4 - Critical ThinkingPortrait Attribute 5 - Global EmpathyPortrait Attribute 6 - Technology