As graduation ceremonies close, parents are flooding social media with the smiling faces of young people who are college bound. While furthering education is certainly a commendable plan, it is critical not to shame the student whose passion led to embracing an alternative path. Young adults who opt to deviate from the “American ideal” could be tomorrow’s union leader, a budding colonel, or an entrepreneurial guru who carves as path as the next Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, or community trailblazer.

While college life offers exciting academic and professional opportunities, we should clap just as loud for the young person whose solid plan is clear, although it may not be the village’s first choice. When a relative decides to lace up combat boots, learn a trade, or dive into business, we should not behave as if their intended personal investment is not prestigious. Do not skip the sendoff party. Do not forget to send a ‘good luck’ token or congratulatory card. Clap. Encourage. Support. Repeat.

A central point is that an ambitious young person chooses to leave the nest to courageously try something productive. Anyone who managed to graduate during the world’s dark pandemic deserves a double fist bump. The pressures of learning online for several years, living life in social bubbles, and feeling the weight of caution to move when someone coughs or sneezes has been a heavy emotional load for new graduates.

Even colleges are recognizing the need to change the landscape of postsecondary education.

“SAT and ACT scores will now become optional after a meeting was held by the University System of Maryland’s Board Regents on Friday, June 17,” according to WMAR.

Linda Gooden, who is the Chair on the Board of Regents, cited a cultural shift as a reason for the diminution of score importance in the news report.

“The system is moving from a university centered perspective to a student centered perspective,” Gooden said, per WMAR.

If college requirements are changing, so can our views to decide what is best for a young person who embraces his or her authentic interests. Maybe we should let them grow and learn with peaceful support.

One of the most successful and financially stable people that I know wears a hard hat to work. While I am juggling student loan debt, he can return to college because his military service will cushion the cost of it. This savvy entrepreneur is now benefiting from military benefits and excelling in a trade. He loves his job. The long hours and heights rarely bother him. I look up to my personal hero who reshaped my previous mentality.

 And in yet another case I know, a young man dropped out of college to head to the military, then become a writer. That man was my uncle, author Alex Haley. His father, my Grandpa Simon, certainly was disappointed when his son first left college. Even so, sometimes we must take a deep breath, leave destiny alone, and just clap.

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