As a high school student, Chad Rountree was more sure about what he did not what to do than what he did want to do.
“I was adamant about not pursuing college right out of high school,” Rountree says. “I didn’t have a strong understanding of my strengths and assets, and I didn’t have strong conviction for what I wanted to do after I got a high school diploma. The financial commitment couldn’t be justified.”
This past spring, Jaida Robins was preparing to graduate from high school in Philadelphia. Her school had a strong focus on college preparation, and Jaida and many of her classmates had already completed some college courses. But Jaida was uninterested in moving on to college. She was passionate about starting a career, and she didn’t want to wait years to do so.
Fortunately, Jaida’s school counselor had recently been in touch with Laura Jakimowicz, Propel’s program director for New Jersey and Philadelphia. The counselor connected Jaida with Laura, and today Jaida is a Propel fellow training to become a medical assistant.
“It was kind of hard to find things that I liked that I didn’t have to do four years of college to get to,” Jaida said. “Not only is [Propel] something that would get you right into a career, but it’s only six months.”
Jaida’s interest in the medical field is personal. In 2016, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
“I’ve always been in and out of the hospital, and I’ve always found comfort in medical assistants,” she said. “They always stuck out to me.”
Jaida’s health challenge influenced her post-graduation plans. The college classes she attended were “kind of stressful,” and the stress exacerbated her Crohn’s disease. “With Propel, we have a lot of help and support, so that made me think of college a little differently,” she said.
Jaida completed bootcamp this summer and is now attending classes online in the Certified Medical Assistant program through National Louis University through the middle of October. Then she’ll transition to a month-long externship at Penn Medicine in downtown Philadelphia. From there, she’ll interview with Penn about a potential job.
Ultimately, Jaida hopes to become a diagnostic medical sonographer or ultrasound technician.
What advice does Jaida, now 18, have for high school students considering different options?
“To not follow everybody else,” she said. “It can be tempting, everybody going to college. You don’t necessarily have to. Do what makes you feel comfortable and do what makes you feel like you’ll achieve your goals. Don’t follow everybody else.”