portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary portland metro

actions & protests | education | youth

Help! Is college worth my time?

I'm a first year student at PCC, and I'm feeling a growing anxiousness to get out and be a full time activist. What can I do?
I'm feeling lost.

I graduated from high school last year, and now I'm in my first year at Portland Community College. I enjoy some of what I'm learning, but I'm having an urgent, recurring struggle in my mind and conscience.

With all the problems in the world right now, and with all the work that needs to be done in Portland alone, I feel as though I'm wasting my time at PCC. I feel like college is a waste of time. I need to get out, take action!

I already volunteer/work with several citizen groups and non-profits. I'm told that I need to go to college, though, if I plan on moving up. Someday I'd like to be a director of a non-profit, or perhaps get involved with community politics... But I fear that skipping college would be a huge barrier to that.

Also, I'd like to find a paid position right now with some sort of non-profit... Especially any sort of work revolving around youth and/or queer issues.

Does anyone have any advice?
not opposed 22.Apr.2005 11:49

local

Hey There
Full time political work and school are not totally oppposing options. I went to college for 2 years, dropped out for 2 years to do political work full time, then went back when I was ready and finished my degree. If you really want to take time off, do so, college isn't going anywhere. You'll know to return to college when you feel a desire to attend.

good luck.

Stay in School 22.Apr.2005 11:49

better of educated

You are better of considering being educated or not from an educated veiw point.

take the summer off 22.Apr.2005 12:08

mom

the great thing about being in school is that you can take the summer off without getting behind in school... and be as actve as you like...
stay in school as long as you can. the job market in non profits is tight. college helps, but don't get frustrated and let your grades go --- better to take a year or two off --- and remember that those who stay in school may come into your line of work later and step in ahead of you even though they are your peers now.
enjoy the summer. i wish i could take it off from my non profit job!!!

be yourself 22.Apr.2005 13:36

jason

For me personally, college was the right choice. It opened my mind and allowed me time to grow tremendously as a person. It is also where I became a dedicated activist and not just a critic.

However, I grew up in white bread suburbs, you are in Portland, and have access to many more ways to be involved.

On the other hand if you really want to someday have a strong roll in a non-profit, you will probably need a degree--eventually.

My advice is to do what feels right for yourself--that is where you will be most effective, just try to take the long view as much as you can if you want your life's work to have maximum effect.

Take time off and then go to Evergreen State College 22.Apr.2005 13:43

TESCADIAN

i would recommend plugging into the cool stuff happening in Portland for a year and then going up to Olympia to study at the Evergreen State College.

The whole purpose of Evergreen is to Unschool you: to make it so that you learn things for yourself and have the skill to do that, rather then do it for someone else's expectations.

it's a great school.

make sure that your first year is NOT in a first year program. Sign up for an "ALL LEVEL" program, they are fucking incredable. I especially recommend Sam Schrager: and excellent mentor.

Self employed 22.Apr.2005 14:06

BS

I got a BS which I've never used, but I wish I wouldve taken a few business courses (if youre interested in being yo own bossman). I also wish I wouldve taken more history. A world history course at least. Biology and anthropology courses can also be invaluable for "broadening the mind".

Good Luck!!! 22.Apr.2005 14:20

You'll need it...

I spent a lot of money and time getting a bachelors degree in electronic imaging and design. I have over 5 years experience working in this field. I have been looking for full time work in Oregon for the past 2 years. I have applied to well over 100 jobs and have only had maybe 5 interviews and 2 of those jobs where part time. It didn't matter because no one offered me a position. The last job I applied to was for a graphic artist position at REED COLLEGE. They said they had over 300 letters of interest in this position they said they appreciated my application and wished me the very best in my career endeavors. Over 300 people trying to get the same job! You can't like those odds. Today I went to a job fair at a local highschool. The Army, Navy, Marines, Coastguard, Police all had tables and where talking to the highschool kids. Local businesses didn't have much to offer. I'm feeling pretty jaded right now so I probably can't offer you the best advice. If you want to stick around Oregon but you don't want to join the military you might want check into learning a trade like dealing black jack. Seems like that may be one of the only options left. HIT ME!

Stay In School 22.Apr.2005 14:24

Retired College Teacher

Since you already have excellent written communication skills, you'll probably do well in college. Why not combine activism with your course work? College campuses need articulate progressives more than ever before. Go for it!

Try the library 22.Apr.2005 14:28

kljgdf

"You dropped a hundred and fifty thousands dollars on an education you culd have gotten from the library for a $1.50 in late fees."


- Matt Damon to Harvard yuppie in the film GOOD WILL HUNTING

One big question 22.Apr.2005 14:47

I would

ask myself is how am I going to pay for my college education? Be very wary of student loans. The bankruptcy laws have changed. Entry level jobs for "new grads" seem to grow scarser by the day. Most employers want five or more years experience. If you have to take out student loans to pay for school, how will you pay them back if you can't find anything more than a minumum wage job flipping hamburgers? Think about it!

If you are interested in community affairs, look into starting a community business of some sort. You can take necessary business courses as you go along, and even write them off as business expenses! Also, remember that the Internet is a tremendous tool for educating yourself. Seek advice from as many sources as you can in your local community.

It would not hurt to get opinions from your local community about what education THEY think is necessary to support the community. Last of all, don't write off faith based organizations - whether you confess a faith or not - there are a lot of good people in faith based service organizations, and they usually don't charge for their advice.

my advice... 22.Apr.2005 15:40

do neither

Peak oil will send us all into upheaval in the next 5 years or so. Being an activist, or a grad, won't help you then.

Teach yourself how to compost, grow organic crops, forage for food, and hunt. That's going to be the golden knowledge!

if you want the paper 22.Apr.2005 15:57

stick with the process

If you're doing well in school now, and you think you even MIGHT want the credential in your future career, I'd say finish it out. You don't know what might happen to your health or your financial situation. You might not be able to do ten things at once when you're older, and the more time out from the education world the longer it will take to reacclimate and catch up. Three years is nothing in the history of the world's problems, and you're in no danger of missing out on the struggle ...

And frankly, "full-time activism" may not be good for your sanity ... other things besides college can come to seem like a "waste of time," and then what have you got?

If you're not independently wealthy, it would probably be a good idea to do some research about where the jobs actually are (middle-class opportunities are greatly exaggerated in the MSM) ... for all I know, a welder's certificate or a commercial driver's license might be more valuable than a liberal arts degree ...

Stay in school 22.Apr.2005 16:24

Jenni S.

As someone who volunteers hundreds of hours a month in the areas you're looking at, I would highly encourage you to stay in school. If you ever want to be the people with the paid jobs as opposed to a volunteer, you're going to want that degree.

In the meantime, I would continue working with local non-profits. Keep an eye open for training and such for college students. The Bus Project is doing some of this training,, and I belive you can apply if you'll have enough credits to be a sophomore this summer:

 http://www.busproject.org/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=45

There's always trainings like this going on, with the majority of them limited to college students.

Get all the training and experience you can while you're in college, and you'll be much more likely to get a paid job upon graduation. With money being so tight in non-profits, they will typically only hire those with experience, training, and a college degree.

Also check out Democratic Gain,  http://www.democraticgain.org/. They have job listings for campaigns and non-profits working in the progressive/democratic community. Pretty soon you'll have to pay to use their site to fund a job, though.

Hope this helps!

Complex Answer 22.Apr.2005 18:41

a college teacher with lots of experience

Yes, not going to college will be a huge barrier, even in nonprofit work. My sister (now 52) skipped the last part of college but can't bare to repeat her entire undergraduate career. She has regretted that she didn't return to college sooner.

The good thing about college is that it's always there. So I don't encourage anyone to go who isn't into it. You can always go back 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, or 10 years later.

Unless, of course, for some reason it becomes more difficult to attend--such as if our government eliminates grants and loans . . .

The other question is what approach you want to take to college. Especially if you are getting loans, do you want a practical degree that will guarantee an income? Or do you want the knowledge, realizing that the degree won't get you a job, though to a certain extent, just having a degree will enable to you apply for certain positions? Having an income can facilitate activism--not that I'm supporting one approach over the other but that fact is often overlooked by young people.

Regardless of your approach, I heartily support taking a break, getting refreshed, checking out the world. You'll return more knowledgable. Think of it as a break (or enrichment process) and don't let anyone tell you differently. I don't know why people are so . . . weird. I took a 9 month break before my last year of college when I got married. I worked in a restaurant and my coworkers chided me saying I would get pregnant and never return to college. I returned for 12 more years (part-time), received my PhD and never had kids. You can construct your own life no matter what people tell you--and I don't know why folks think you can't. Unfortunately, you can't construct the trends in society that may necessitate how and when you reassess your priorities.

banality is a fucking whore 22.Apr.2005 20:05

independently NOT wealthy

That is right... resist by totally surrendering yourself to a system that propagates dehumanization, live for money get that "PAPER". Wow, what incredibly inciteful advice for a young person who is looking for direction... COMFORM!!! ASSIMILATE!!! DO NOT RESIST" RESISTANCE IS FRUSTRATING". You know what... go to school get educated, default on those shit loans, and try to make the world a better place. To those who say things such as "If you want to get the money", and talk about the frustration of activisim... you are a fucking brown shirt, eat shit and die... there is no spirit in money, and no spirit in living to work.

Organize students while you are a student! 22.Apr.2005 21:38

college graduate and activist

When I was in school between 1980-1984, I spent a good deal of my time utilizing the resources of the college to promote progressive political goals and to organize fellow students. Joining the student newspaper, yearbook, student government all effectively utilize resources that you will not have access to once you leave school. Students are a key demographic to organize, they will be the cannon fodder of the next wars. Student activism energized the entire culture of the US in the 1970's into the 1980's. Now campuses seem to have no political stirings; please become the militant student who takes over the administration building demanding the US get out of Iraq!

Stay in School! 23.Apr.2005 00:09

The flying Rivet

Stay In school and organize with your fellow students. There is a growing movement around the country in colleges, for example at Seattle Community College, to kick out military recruiters.
Get involved with these kinds of struggles. But never lose sight of the fact that it is only the working class that has the capability of changing society.
So what ever field you go into when you leave college you can still agitate and make a difference.
Books=knowledge.
Knowledge=power.
Power to the people!

honest too your self 23.Apr.2005 05:27

memyselfandi

I think if it is self gratifacation you want , do what your heart desires, I also incurage you to rethink the corperate structuring of acadimia teaching in colleges or universitys, after all its only literature real education will come throught comon sence and experience , most libaries offer more text that even the highest ivy leage schools, you have too know were your values are, if it is a chance to be schooled exactly on how to propagandise and proffit fron corperate elietist than go to school, but if you have control of your own mind use it , and dont waste your time with the fashist academics of college, untell they become activist in the truth of knoledge and provide you free will to study the feild on your own terms of content and creative abilities , alowing them selfs to be suportive and provide you with the resources of subjects in ereas you wish to study, and not restricking you too there said provine requirements of subjest with no real evidence of applyed proof, in other words dont let them get away with feeding you mind with mind controling structurized propaganda, desinged to turn you into another corperate dummy puppet, voyage outside the BOX... go be active??????..

Become a Nurse! 23.Apr.2005 06:54

Eco-nomix

And don't let your lust for activism steer your career choices. Saving the world doesn't pay enough to live on, and you might even come to hate your enlightenment and wish you were like the rest. Nurses have their pick of jobs anywhere they want. This will make you a lot better off for activism in your spare time and not always worrying and working on what you are going to do next.

Organize at school 23.Apr.2005 11:32

Michael b

Maybee you could organize at school. Think about the amount of time you have for organizing, the amount of time you have for work and or school, and determine what a balance would look like. There are ways of combining goals. Getting a laptop might help you make fliers and communicate with organizers at in between times in school. Look at linking efforts and building common cause between struggles you're interested in. Then you can focus on finding a balance of work that will have the most effect. It's my observation that some of the most effective efforts are efforts that combine the resources or efforts of more than one "issue." It's easier to organize at school because the common commitment to be there creates a kind of captive audience. Whatever you do don't get discouraged in adversity lies oppurtunity, and if you look hard enough, there's always somone that shares your concerns and hopes. Schools have resources, as a student you have access to those resources one thing that is good is to help get those resources to people that need them more. Don't get caught up in the middle management, or ego trippin and you might be able to get some good work done in the time you have.

Cheers,
mb

Crucial to check out Peak Oil before making a decision 23.Apr.2005 21:10

Peak Oil aware

I fully agree with the poster who pointed out that Peak Oil will turn our society inside out within 5 years at most. I urge you to google Peak Oil and read up on it. You can also read Richard Heinberg's book _The Party's Over_.

Take a look and seriously consider the liklihood of Peak Oil and its consequences as you choose the direction of your life and what sort of skills you pursue.

Good luck!

living off the grid sucks 24.Apr.2005 20:05

the banality of having a decent life

You can "resist" full time if you want, and you can sink lower and lower in the economic food chain as you decide more and more of it is stupid accommodationist prostitution, and eventually you'll be living under a log in the woods eating out of dumpsters. AND I KNOW THIS BECAUSE I DID THAT. If a kid looking for "direction" wants to try going THAT direction, all I can say is get it over with as quickly as possible. It'll suck even worse when you're 50. You wanna bet your life on the success of the Revolution, go for it. You wanna exist in society with money in your pocket, you need SOME kind of a plan to put it there. "School" is not the only plan, but it's a plan.