Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

A couple generations ago the adage that the surest path to a prosperous career is to earn a college degree was, by and large, an accurate one.

Today the situation is rather more complicated.

A degree will still give you an advantage in certain professions, to be sure. In many cases that diploma is a necessity.

But there are plenty of other jobs that require postsecondary training, but not necessarily a traditional university degree.

Adding to the complexity, of course, is that quite a lot of

18-year-olds have no idea, when they stride across the grass wearing

gown and mortarboard, what they want to do for the next 50 years or so.

And many of the teenagers who think they know end up changing their mind - sometimes several times.

All of which makes the ASPIRE program immensely important. And we're

pleased that it's coming this fall to Baker High School, Baker Middle

School, the Learning Opportunity Center, Baker Web Academy and Baker

Early College.

ASPIRE stands for "Access to Student assistance Programs In Reach of

Everyone." The program was created by the Oregon Community Foundation

and the Oregon Student Assistance Commission.

The basis of the program is a cadre of volunteers who serve as mentors

for teenagers, helping them understand career options and how best to

go after their dream job.

ASPIRE works.

At Stanfield High School near Hermiston, for instance, which started

the program in 2008, more graduates from the past two classes enrolled

in public universities in Oregon than in the previous five years


Baker City volunteer Ken Humphrey figures local schools will need about

50 volunteers to ensure a reasonable mentor-to-student ratio.

We encourage everyone who has a passion for helping young people

consider becoming an ASPIRE volunteer (visit www.aspireoregon.org for

more information).

Although we're leery of injecting a note of selfishness into a plea for volunteerism, consider this:

ASPIRE could benefit Baker County's economy as well as our students.

By helping channel graduates' energies toward a specific goal, the

program could show them that, despite the familiar cliche, there are

jobs available here to people willing to acquire the required skills.

We're certain local employers would be pleased to receive resumes from

people who not only want a job, but who value the quality of life Baker

County has to offer.