Today, my youngest child celebrates her 18th birthday.
Wow! Time sure has flown. She is 18, a senior in high school, and planning for college.
After much discussion, I have finally convinced her that she should start here at Merced College and at the very least get her transfer courses done.
Thankfully, my cousin has been telling her the same thing.
I tell her that I wish I had been wise enough five years ago when her older sister graduated from high school. My older daughter went directly to Universal Technical Institute to become an automotive technician.
After a year, she left UTI with a certificate of completion, a $6,000 student loan for herself, and a $20,000-plus parent loan for me. She isn't working in that field either because all the employers she applied to prefer a year of experience.
If I had known before she signed up for UTI that she could get a better education in that field here at Merced College, I would have had her go here.
I didn't know about Merced College's auto program until I began working here four years ago. Merced College's program partners with Toyota, and many of the students work for a Toyota dealership while they are attending classes. They gain not just knowledge but hands-on work experience as well.
Yes, sure, it would have taken at least two years, but it most certainly would not have cost us $26,000.
I'm proud of all four of my girls. My oldest just graduated from school to be a massage therapist, and my second is beginning college to study journalism.
In the four years since my third left UTI, she has gotten a job, not in the automotive industry, but one she loves and enjoys and has changed her mind about what she wants to go back to college for.
Because of the UTI debacle, you understand my reluctance when my youngest pops up and informs me that she wants to attend the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
My youngest wants to be a graphic artist, designing characters for video games and doing computer graphics for movies. It's exciting, both for her and me. One day I may be sitting in a movie theater watching a movie with my beloved valentine and seeing my daughter's name in the credits. That would be really cool.
But this is why I tell her: Begin your education at Merced College.
Many of the classes she's looking at taking at the Academy of Art University are identical to ones offered at Merced College. Merced College began offering graphic design classes a few years ago, as well as a digital arts class.
It is definitely a growing industry, and the art teachers at Merced College realized this several years ago. The three graphic design courses are included as electives in the visual arts AA requirement.
Plus, all four of these classes are pretty much identical to classes she would take at the Academy of Art.
I am proud and supportive of all my girls. It's tough to know beyond the shadow of a doubt what you want to be when you grow up, when you have no real life experience to go on, outside of high school.
For my older three, it took being out of school and in the work force before really deciding and moving forward with their educations.
My 18-year-old isn't one that I suspect will change her mind too easily. She has always loved drawing both on paper and computer. She's tenacious -- but as she's gotten older is becoming more reasonable and logical. She knows what she wants, at least for now.
She may surprise me and want to change direction ever so slightly. After all, why not? Even I realized once I began taking classes that I wanted to go another direction eventually. It happens. But better to find out in community college than in university.
So for now, I'm happy to say she will begin her college education at Merced College. And then when she wants to move on to the university, her father can foot that bill.
Kristi Wolf is a full-time secretary and student at Merced College, majoring in administrative office management, with aspirations of being a writer.