Derrick Gainsforth joined The Signpost staff this fall. (Source: Derrick Gainsforth)

I’m nearly 30 years old, happily married and I have two children in grade school. I have a union job, a mortgage and plenty of big boy toys. I’m living the life of an average, American middle-class family man. I’ve also been a college student for the past five years.

I’m currently winding down a bachelor’s degree in teaching journalism. With my nights spent working, my days spent in class and the piles of homework that fill my weekends, I’m often asked why I torture myself by staying in college. “Why fill your glass when it’s already full?” they’ve asked. They seem to believe that I will not make the same kind of money working in my degree field as I do in my average, blue-collar job. It seems many of my critics do not think it’s “worth it” for me to finish my education.

During adolescence, I was never too fond of school. I was that distracted kid in the back of the classroom, desperately trying to grasp the concepts being taught but then — hey look, a squirrel. I eventually just stopped caring. I got myself too far behind then I simply stopped listening. I discovered my affinity for writing and found that it was the one area I could actually focus on. I subsequently spent the remainder of my high school class-time writing.

In my early 20s, I enrolled in a drafting program at a local trade school. I had understood that obtaining a degree would automatically equate to a higher paying job, but as I sat during my first semester in that drab classroom, attempting to again learn a subject I didn’t care about, I instinctively fell into the same pattern as I had so many times before. I zoned out and could not focus on the subject matter. I began to realize that I was not going to survive in college if I wasn’t doing something I loved.

Being a student should not automatically mean that one is seeking a professional career. What it should convey is that one is seeking knowledge. This could be done for a myriad of reasons, but the curiosity on the part of the students’ peers should not fall on the question of why they’re in school, but the understanding of what it means to the student.

For me, obtaining a higher education means following my dreams to the top and having fun while doing it. The college experience has allowed me to push my writing, both academically and journalistically. I’ve worked on staff at two different college newspapers, interned with a popular, Utah-based magazine and created pieces with true informational value. At the top of this dream sits the tools that allow me the ability to teach my craft to others — tools that say I am qualified to responsibly pass on the information I’ve obtained. To me this means I have value.

It’s inadvisable to heckle or detour someone who wishes to pursue a higher education. I also think it’s socially irresponsible to assume that higher education is a waste of someone’s time. A college education is entirely left up to the student, and so is the intended outcome. If someone chooses to go to school, for whatever reason, they should be encouraged, not hindered, to do so.

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