As the new Head of School at Obridge, I am excited to exchange insights with colleagues and students throughout this shared experience. I am passionate about the education of our youth, and about what it takes to help all students be successful. Having spent a good portion of my career in higher education, I have witnessed first-hand the unsettling decline in college enrollment. There have of course emerged several theories as to why this is happening. Factors that impede a student’s choice to pursue a college degree often include financial strain, the need to begin working, or the necessity to contribute to other family responsibilities. But perhaps the most concerning is the seeming lack of in interest students have in pursuing post-secondary studies, a strong shift in academic mindset. Much of this has to do with fear of the future, of not being strong enough or flexible enough to “make it.” The majority of this generation of college students has witnessed a parent, guardian, or older sibling struggle with a combination of the rigors of college academics, the albatross that is student loan debt, and the increasingly competitive job market. No wonder they are afraid.

The conundrum here is that college degrees, particularly advanced degrees, are more necessary than ever; equally so are marketable skills that students feel can be more quickly and efficiently learned on the job, straight out of high school. Students are getting caught up in the rush toward financially lucrative careers and are skipping the crucial step of strengthening a core of general intellect, a commodity that will only increase their chances of long-term marketability. So where does this critical shift in mindset take place? Long before the college years, secondary school students become accustomed to the immediacy of access to information, a quickness with which traditional schooling cannot always keep pace. This compounds existing fear with a sense of urgency.

Students want and need accessibility, efficiency, and flexibility in the pursuit of education, otherwise the option is not perceived as valuable enough. With the advent of online learning and growing popularity of alternative delivery methods such as synchronous, asynchronous, and blended, students can access what need to complete diplomas or degrees anytime, anywhere. As technology advances and professional careers require correlated skills, tools for preparedness acquired in high school become paramount. With a hyper-focus on state testing and accountability, traditional schools have little room for creating futuring strategies for students, thus diminishing interest, engagement, and graduation rates.

Obridge Academy offers a fully accredited and flexible option for students to complete a diploma, take credits that will transfer into their respective district diplomas, or get a jump-start on the first year of college. We believe that what our students will do with a high school diploma is just as important as completing it. The academic subjects and technological skills learned through our curricula and delivery methods will prepare our students to become lifelong learners, successful professionals, and global citizens. By offering flexibility, we strive to eliminate some of the fear and add back some excitement about the future.