Graduates delay college to experience real world

Future: Teens search out ways to grow - and that doesn't have to mean college.

August 07, 2005|By Joni Guhne | Joni Guhne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When it comes to getting an education, high school graduates with the means traditionally think college. But some recent Anne Arundel County graduates are taking very different paths in preparing for their futures.

Seventeen-year-old Cal Westergard, a 2005 Annapolis High School graduate, will be packing his bags next month, but he's not heading straight to college. He'll be on his way to Nova Scotia to learn to build boats.

Katherine McEvoy, a 2005 Severna Park High School graduate, reports Sept. 6 to the Military Entrance Processing Station at Fort Meade, where she officially leaves civilian life and becomes a member of the U.S. Air Force. She plans to pursue her "obsession with language."

Another Severna Park graduate, Vittoria DeAngelis, surprised herself when she signed up with the nationwide service organization AmeriCorps*NCCC, or National Civilian Community Corps.

"I always thought it would be `high school, college, work,'" said DeAngelis, 18, of Stewart's Landing. Since she wasn't sure what she wanted to study in college, she said, "I might as well take a year off, but not a year off from work, doing something that will really benefit me."

Here is a look at the plans of the three recent graduates:

Watery wanderlust

Westergard, who considers himself "a normal teenager, kind of laid-back," likes to skateboard and play his guitar, strumming in musical styles as diverse as Jack Johnson, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Grateful Dead.

But it was living around water all his life, sailing a Sunfish and a Boston Whaler as a kid, that have given the teenager his direction.

He will spend the next couple of years in Tuskett, Nova Scotia, a little village near the port town of Yarmouth, a two-hour ferry ride across the bay from Bar Harbor, Maine. He'll be an apprentice to his father's brother, Dave.

In the shop next to the house that his uncle built, Westergard will learn the art of building custom wooden sailboats.

In a land where a single rope tied to a pier can attract enough sweet black mussels to steam up for dinner, the carpenter and his nephew will continue the boat-centered traditions of maritime Canada.

And Westergard can't wait. This summer the 5-foot-10-inch teen is helping his father, Chris Westergard, an inspector with the Maryland Department of the Environment, put a new roof on the family home.

His mother, Nancy, is a nurse who lives in California; his brother, Jon, is a student at the University of New Haven in Connecticut; and his sister, Kelsey, is 11.

When he's not building, Cal Westergard works at the Great Harvest Bakery, "sometimes at the ovens and other times at the counter."

After a year or two with his uncle, Westergard sees himself going to college for a business degree. In Maryland? Not exactly.

He wants to study in another water-oriented locale: Hawaii. Then he plans to build his own boat and live on it.

"I have one [son] in college and one who wants to be a traveler," said Chris Westergard. "I like the idea that he's pursuing a dream. It's a parent's job to support everything they do, as long as it's not illegal."

Ear for language

When deciding just where she would pursue her "obsession with language," Katie McEvoy, 18, of McKinsey Woods was faced with the high cost of going directly to college or finding another way to finance her education.

"I researched the military," says the 5-foot-6-inch, brown-eyed Texas native. "I liked the Air Force benefits."

McEvoy's father, Roger McEvoy, had served in the U.S. Navy, and she originally considered that branch of service. But when she saw firsthand how hard six months at sea can be through the eyes of her 21-year-old brother, Brian, a Navy petty officer, she decided in favor of the Air Force.

Another factor in her choice was the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., the Air Force's linguistic school. Four years of Spanish and one of German in high school were not enough for the aspiring linguist.

"I really want to learn Arabic because I think it's kind of a pretty language," said McEvoy, whose mother, Sue is a vascular stenographer at the University of Maryland Medical Center. "I like unique languages; Arabic and German appeal to me."

But a part-time job almost changed her academic focus. McEvoy said she gave up one of her favorite pastimes, being on her high school dance team, to work at the Severna Park branch library.

She enjoyed the work so much, she said, she would have considered becoming a librarian if she had not enlisted. After three years at the library, she said she feels as though she'll be leaving a second family when she has to say goodbye in two weeks.

"They're amazing," she said of the library staff. "They understand school comes first. It was a great job to have as a person in high school."

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