Above: Codey Therault, EGHS Class of 2020, got a farewell parade before entering the U.S. Army Oct. 26.
By Suraj Sait
With COVID-19 interrupting most parts of everyday life, even the traditional education system has been turned on its head. Instead of continuing on with the traditional step of higher education, some EGHS students (including myself) have taken the oft-considered – but less-taken – gap year, while others have turned to the armed forces.
Generally speaking, students who take gap years are few and far between. It’s not easy to break from the conventional path – it felt almost wrong to leave the Class of 2020, a bunch I had spent the last 12 years with, behind. Not going to school was just different, almost foreign. My initial reaction was that it was a lousy idea for me.
But as I learned by speaking with Carly Stange, a fellow EGHS graduate who’s taking a gap semester before starting her first year of college, that’s not necessarily so.
“For me, online classes aren’t really my thing,” said Stange. “DL [distance learning] was rough especially because I was so sad about losing the end of senior year. I just thought I would do better in school if I took some time off for myself.”
Another newly minted EGHS alum taking a gap year had concerns regarding COVID-19 and how that would affect his ability to perform in school.
“In addition to the fact that I felt it likely wasn’t worth the risk of going to school and getting sick, I was worried that having multiple classes online would negatively impact my academics,” said Owen Hirshorn. “By taking a gap year, however, I am now able to pursue many other opportunities.”
Already, it seems that many gap year students have jumped right into their plans, undeterred by the prospect of a new wave of COVID-19. For Hirshorn, his gap year plans center around the creation of a tutoring company, which he decided to do alongside a fellow graduate, Matthew Tactacan, and me.
The company, POG Tutoring, aims to differentiate itself from other tutoring companies through two main principles: 1) being student-centric, and 2) being affordable. The company aims to do this by providing round-the-clock, on-demand tutoring to students, where students can easily tack on additional time and only pay for what they need.
Hirshorn and Tactacan see a lot of promise in POG, both for their own personal development and as a way of exploring their mutual passion for entrepreneurship.
“I did a lot of entrepreneurship and business-related activities in high school,” said Hirshorn. “And I learned a lot from those activities, like how to start a business and make it successful. Even though I’m not an expert, I had enough knowledge, and with my two friends, I thought I could start a successful business this year.”
Tactacan also felt much of the same way, but harbored other reasons for pursuing an entrepreneurial endeavor over his gap year. As a student who switched from dreams of white coats and stethoscopes to those of innovation and entrepreneurship, Matt was quite confident in his decision.
“The reason I pursued entrepreneurship over my gap year is because it’s what I want to do for a future job. Entrepreneurship provides so many paths to succeed; it’s not like you need to go through a certain path and get a degree, it’s more so based on your work ethic and your ambition,” said Tactacan. “That’s a lot more appealing to me since everything in high school was so structured and college-oriented; doing a gap year would give me the feeling of growing up a little bit early and gaining more perspective.”
This business-oriented mindset is also shared by Stange, who has taken on a full-time job of her own while also taking a few classes.
“I’m taking a few classes at CCRI and I’m working full time at Chipotle,” she said. “I saw this [time] as an opportunity to make money before I start my college journey.”
A Different Path
As for another pair of students, business was foregone in favor of the armed forces. Both Brenda McKinney and Codey Thereault have decided to enter the army after graduating East Greenwich High School this year.
“It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Thereault when asked about his decision. “I just wanted to do something to help this world out, make it a better place.”
For Thereault, academics were never really his thing. His focus was always on the real world and entering the workforce. Yet upon making his decision to enter the army, Thereault said he still felt a mix of emotions.
“I felt a mix of happy and nervous,” said Thereault. “And a separate sadness. I’m leaving some of my best friends and family, [but] I’ll be back. It’s not a goodbye, it’s a see you later.”
That same conviction appeared when I prompted Codey about what he’ll miss most about EG.
“The people,” said Thereault firmly. “They’ve taught me how to be the man I am today. Without the people I’ve grown up with– my coaches, teammates, friends, family– they’ve all played a role in EG and so I don’t think I ever want to leave. When I come back, I might want to live in East Greenwich.”
Time will only tell how the future plays out for Codey, Brenda, and these gap year students. Owen, in particular, feels grateful for the time he’s been given.
“I feel very fortunate to pursue POG,” said Hirshorn. “This break from school is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I think it will be very beneficial for my co-founders and me, as well all of the families and students who could use our help.”
You can find out more about POG Tutoring by viewing their website (pogtutoring.weebly.com), visiting their Facebook and Instagram Pages (both @pogtutoring), or by clicking on either of their two sign-up forms (bit.ly/pogtutoring for school subjects, and bit.ly/pogtutoring2 for standardized test preparation/college applications assistance).