UPDATE — June 7, 2022: According to a Chicago Tribune news report, Chicago Public Schools graduate Quintin Scott will not attend college. Instead, he will enter the workforce and begin a five-year apprenticeship with the Chicago Pipefitters Local 597 (Chicago Pipefitters Union).

The end of high school is a moment many seniors look forward to the most. With graduation comes the promise and excitement of young adulthood and the freedom to decide whether to go to college, take a gap year, enter the workforce, go to trade school or travel abroad. 

With National Decision Day approaching on May 1, 18-year-old Quintin Scott is navigating those choices right now. He’s a senior at the Richard T. Crane Medical Prep High School on the West Side, and thrilled to be weeks away from his June 3 graduation.

So far, he’s narrowed his choices down to two: entering the workforce or attending a four-year university. 

“It feels good, but it also kind of feels overwhelming at the same time because I’m constantly thinking about my post-secondary plans,” Scott told The TRiiBE

Scott is a varsity basketball player and a member of the National Honor Society. He’s been accepted to Loyola University Chicago, Northern Illinois University (NIU), East-West University,  Indiana State University, the University of Arizona, Xavier University (Ohio), Marquette University, Florida Memorial University, Wilberforce University, Philander Smith College and Alabama A&M University. He’s received $215,000 in scholarship offers from Loyola, NIU and Marquette, plus a full academic scholarship from East-West University. 

Scott is not making this decision lightly. The ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic has had a lasting impact on every institution. According to an NPR news report, one million fewer students are enrolled in college now than before the pandemic.

Then there’s the price to attend college and inevitable student loan debt. In the U.S., student loan debt is approximately $1.75 trillion, and Black student loan borrowers are more likely to owe more in student loan debt than white ones. 

“A lot of times, it’s made to seem like college is like the main route after high school, but that’s not the case because college isn’t for everyone,” Scott said during The TRiiBE interview. “I just wanted to bring awareness to other pathway options besides college.”

Scott was presented with alternative career paths during two separate internship opportunities with the  Chicago Pipefitters Local 597 (Chicago Pipefitters Union) and Chicago Builds, a citywide two-year, off-campus training program open to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) juniors and seniors interested in careers in construction after graduation. 

Students enrolled in the Chicago Builds program receive technical training in carpentry, electricity, heating and cooling (HVAC), welding and general construction. They also receive high school credits upon completion of the course curriculum.

Scott was first introduced to welding through Chicago Builds. However, the program was taught virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. He got hands-on welding experience through the Pipefitters Union’s 2021 summer internship, where he learned to cut different pipe sizes and how to do stick welding, a type of welding that uses electricity to melt metals and join them together.

The Pipefitters Union was so impressed with Scott’s skill and talent that he was asked to stay on and work for the remainder of summer 2021, and he even got a pay bump to $20. He was also the only student intern and worker at the Pipefitters Union’s Mokena, Ill., training facility. 

“I learned a lot of skills. The biggest thing I would say that I learned though being in an internship, I learned about work ethic and responsibility. I had to show up every day on time, no excuses, and I had to do what was asked of me,” Scott said. 

The Pipefitters Union invited him to apply for a post-graduation apprenticeship. When the TRiiBE spoke to him in late March, he was working on his application, which includes an aptitude test. 

The apprenticeship lasts five years and provides on-the-job training for pipefitters, plumbers, sprinkler fitters, welders and HVAC technicians. 

As of April 26, Scott still hasn’t made a decision on whether he’ll attend college or enter the workforce. He’s currently undecided for a college major. But with the Pipefitters Union’s apprenticeship, he’d make $21 an hour — or between $44,000 and $45,000 annually — before any overtime pay, according to Chicago Pipefitters Local 597’s Director of Admissions Adam Sutter. Upon completion of the program, apprentices become journeymen, Sutter said, and could make up to $52 an hour, or a yearly salary in the $100,000 range. 

He’s taking his time because he wants to make an informed decision that will leave him fulfilled and not filled with regret. 

“I want to be doing something, whether it’s school or a job, that makes me happy and satisfied. I want to feel satisfied with my decision. I don’t want to be like: I should have done this, or I shouldn’t have done this. I want to be happy with the decision I make,” Scott said.

is a multimedia producer for The TRiiBE.