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Carlisle High School’s class of 2019 graduated Thursday, entering the world of work and post-secondary education with a certain cautious confidence.

Due to the commencement ceremony being moved indoors for fear of rain, students lined up inside Dickinson College’s Kline Center before receiving their diplomas, where most seemed to have a positive outlook for their generation.

“I’m pretty confident that it’ll all work out,” said Lanie Lissner, who will attend West Chester University next year with the goal of becoming an elementary school teacher.

Like many students, Lissner said broader issues, such as the environment, social strife and others, were on the radar of her graduating class in a way they may not have been for previous generations.

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Carlisle High School Graduation
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Carlisle High School Graduation
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Carlisle High School Graduation
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Carlisle High School Graduation
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Carlisle High School Graduation

“I think we’re going to have to fix the problems that generations before us created or didn’t address,” Lissner said.

“The environment is a huge one down the line,” said Meg Lebo, who will attend the University of South Carolina next year for exercise science.

“Also sexism, racism, pretty much all those ‘isms’ have come back and are at the front of people’s minds,” Lebo said.

Like many graduates, Lebo said she’ll finance her college education with student loans, a common topic of concern, especially in Pennsylvania.

The state’s average student debt load is one of the highest in the nation, according to the Institute for College Access and Success: $36,854 for Pennsylvania’s class of 2017.

Students said they know it’s a problem, but they are confident that their finances will shake out.

“I worry about it, but I have a plan,” said Lebo, who plans to become a physical therapist with Veterans’ Affairs, which would qualify her for student debt relief after 10 years’ of public service.

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Big Spring - Elizabeth Bumbarger
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Big Spring - Bentli Burke
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Big Spring - Taylor Gibboney
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Big Spring - Hannah Hess
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Big Spring - Logan Logan

For many students, staying local is one way to cut some of the risk. Christian Kuhn is planning to commute to Shippensburg University to study communications. He initially wanted to become a pastor, but plans to take business classes as well.

“I feel like our generation already has to deal with a lot,” Kuhn said, particularly since his age bracket has never lived outside the age of social media.

“There’s so much pressure to be connected, sometimes we get disconnected from the people who are actually around us, which is ironic,” said Caleb Kennedy, who plans to attend Texas A&M’s Army ROTC program.

But Kennedy said most of his classmates were optimistic about their career choices, despite the often-cited danger of increasingly adverse underemployment among graduates who don’t end up in jobs where they use their degree.

“I think most people I know are pretty confident in what they want to do,” Cameron Keebaugh said.

Keebaugh, however, doesn’t have to worry about jumping into an uncertain career. He’s already made one for himself in the increasingly lucrative world of specialized blue-collar jobs.

An auto repair technician at Bobby Rahal, Keebaugh said he plans to keep working as a mechanic after graduation and take welding courses to expand his skills.

“It’s different for me in the sense that I think I’ll actually have more freedom than if I was going to college,” Keebaugh said.

Those students who don’t know what career path they want to take said they worried about not exploring their options.

“I feel like there isn’t enough time to explore and figure out all of what’s available in life,” said Azjanae Mountz, who plans to take a gap year to save up money and apply to colleges later.

Statistically, there is a certain disconnect between students and parents over how big of a concern college costs, and the uncertainty of career choices, really is.

A study done last year by the Leadership Cumberland program and the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corp., which surveyed thousands of parents, students and teachers in the Carlisle, Cumberland Valley and West Shore school districts, found that 59 percent of parents believe their children do not know what career they want to pursue. But only 31 percent of students said they were uncertain.

Similarly, 53 percent of parents in the Leadership Cumberland/CAEDC study were concerned about the cost of higher education, but only 36 percent of students said they were worried about it.

“I think things will work out,” said Genia Purdy, who will go to Ohio State to study marketing. “Our generation can adapt. We’ve learned to be resilient.”

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Email Zack at zhoopes@cumberlink.com.

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