Everything I have is because of career-tech

The True Pursuit website was developed by career-technical graduate Shelby Elliott, owner of Corner Market Media. As the True Pursuit campaign presents a new vision and value on the importance of career-tech as an option for all students, it is worth highlighting a story behind-the-scenes of it. Shelby graduated from Ohio Hi-Point Career Center (Bellefontaine, OH) after studying information technology. Her pathway after high school didn’t follow all the straight lines our society likes to believe exist. Instead, life happens. We asked Shelby, now a successful entrepreneur and business owner, to share her voice for True Pursuit. Her story is below.

I’ll say it again, for those who breezed past that sentence, or think I’m prone to hyperbole. Everything I have is because of career tech.

In my junior year of high school, I made the unconventional choice to go to, what was colloquially referred to as “JVS.” I got a lot of sad looks from people who didn’t understand my decision. I could tell that many thought I didn’t belong at “the JVS,” but instead, at my local high school. I was “good” at school, and my public school was top-rated in the county.

Here’s what most don’t consider:

Any education is what you make it — including career-tech education (which is the proper name, by the way). I know it’s easy to see career-tech as an “alternate” option for people who “need it.” (Whatever that means.)

The truth is, career-technical education has put me at an insane advantage career-wise, and life-wise.

So, let’s explore those a little. Here’s my story:

I’m a 23-year-old entrepreneur and business owner with seven (yes, seven) years of experience in my field. And no, my business isn’t my “side project” or “some freelance work”. It makes up all of my income, and supports my family. Which, brings me to the fact that I’m also a single mother to a beautiful little boy, but we’ll come back to that in a minute.

I went to Ohio Hi-Point Career Center and studied information technology. I was exposed to a broad range of career skills in this field, and got to tailor my education to further suit my interests within that field (in high school, mind you). After a brief stint at Arby’s, I got my first design/communications related position working in a real estate office, at the ripe old age of 16. At that job, I made 27% above minimum wage at the time. I haven’t worked a minimum wage job since. I also tested out of about six classes in college, was able to work from home when I needed more flexibility, purchased my own home just over a year ago, and I get unsolicited job offers (even as I run my business), all because of my career-tech education.

And now, let’s get real real. My life has also been rather tumultuous. I’ve made a lot of mistakes out on my own, all of which I don’t have time to get into now. Here are the highlights: I haven’t finished a college degree (and I’m doubtful that I will), I got married young, I had a child really young, and now I’m a single mother raising a fantastic three-year-old.

Point being: I’ve made mistakes, I’ve fallen down, I’ve had obstacles (both self-imposed and otherwise) placed in my way, but it’s never crushed me. Because of career-tech, I have always had the ability to recover, without having to borrow money from relatives, live with my parents or do anything drastic. I’ve also never had to remain in any situation which wasn’t completely healthy for me in order to avoid these types of situations. Because of career-tech, I can be a 23-year-old, single mother, degree left unfinished, and doing well.

My mom often says that if she had to raise my siblings and I again, she would make us all go the career-tech route, because, worst case, you end up with skills that allow you to make a living wage, even if you decide to change your trajectory down the road. There is no downside to being a skilled worker. If you’re lucky like me, you might even be starting an amazing career that helps you build a life you absolutely love.

Shelby Elliott