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August 27, 2021



Mr. Reyes,
I reached out recently...I'm trying to go back to college, but I don't want the vaccine and I'm afraid my school is going to mandate it. It's crazy up here, everyone is wearing masks everywhere, even outside when we had 110 degree weather, and even in their cars when they're by themselves. Any advice would be great. I've been trying to make it make sense but to no avail.

Instructor Zulu

Hi J - Thank you for the note. I understand how bad things are up there and how tightly locked down everything is. MISD is on maximum stupid setting and some parents still don't think that it's enough.

Here are my initial thoughts/questions:

1. What is college going to give you beyond the debt? Is there a credential or certification that you're wanting to attain that your current career path absolutely requires? Anthony is working, not going to school right now and is massing gobs of cash in his investment accounts with no debt. When his friends graduate with hundreds of thousands in debt, he'll have a similar amount in cash. The latter is a smart option for him. Maria is in college, because her current career path and personal interests have led her that way. It's out of state so no lockdowns and no mandates.

2. Are there online options that you can pursue?

3. What are your current career goals? Are there alternate pathways to achieve them?

I need to get ready for school, but I'll keep thinking about this.


Hey!!! Thanks so much for the response. I highly value your perspective.

So, here's the thing with school: I am in a situation where my college is paid for. This is the main reason I feel obligated to attend. If I had to go into debt, I would without a doubt be putting my eggs into a different basket. I'm very interested in natural sciences and I want my career to be at least partially outside (think park ranger or something along those lines). With a lot of these state jobs working for the DNR, they require a BA. Aside from this, my gut instinct is telling me that I'll regret not going to school because I've always been good at it.

On the other hand, sometimes I feel like my reasons for wanting a degree are primarily to impress upon my family that I ended up okay (my extended family are all quite successful college graduates, go figure). There are definitely online classes I can take...that'll probably end up being the best solution if I decide to do it (even though I don't do well with online classes...even failed a couple. Oops.)

I do think I could pursue my career goals without school, it'll just be a different route. I worked on an organic farm for a couple of summers which got me really into plants and gardening. I believe it's CWU that offers a 'master gardener' program (only 12 weeks) that I'm really interested in, and that might take me further right now than spending a few years on a degree. I'm just not entirely sure. Part of me wants to just completely do my own thing, another part of me knows I can do well in school and should try. A degree feels "safe" in my mind, even if it isn't.

Anyway, my words are getting jumbled. I hope the above paragraphs made sense, I haven't written in a while so excuse the lack of fluidity.

Thanks so much.


Instructor Zulu

Hi Again - You are in a tough spot and I completely understand. Maria would be in EXACTLY the same place if her school mandated; fortunately she is out of state and they haven't. Adding the information about the financial situation is significant - it adds a completely different layer of obligation and responsibility to the equation. I also understand the desire to complete what you've started, earn a degree (if only for the achievement of earning a degree), and at least theoretically using the degree to move you a step down your career path.

Here's a hybrid idea for you to consider - I love the Master Gardner certification idea as an intermediate step while the world continues to sort itself out. It keeps you in the game, keeps you in an area related to your passion, AND provides you with a marketable skill. Here's what I'm thinking...

When I think "Master Gardener", I think 57 year old woman doddling around in her rose garden with a pair of hand shears carefully trimming here and there; not an intelligent, vivacious 21 year old teaching me how to grow healthy organic sustainable food in my backyard. You could TOTALLY market yourself as an influencer in this area to a variety of different community groups - the doddling retirees who like to putter around in the dirt, the suburban families to want to serve healthier food to their kids without all of the pesticides, chemical fertilizers found in Big AG produce, as well as the preppers who want to grow their own food for the zombie apocalypse.

Whattya think?

Let's keep talking.


Hey!! Thanks again for your thoughtful response.
Over the last couple days, I've been considering my options. Yesterday I actually had a job interview and was hired on the spot, so that is exciting. For this reason, I think I will focus on making money this fall and maybe take one online class just to keep my brain awake. I'm working on my application for the 2022 Master Gardener Program which starts in the spring. They're asking if I'm fully vaccinated, and I'm concerned that my answer may affect whether or not I'm accepted.

I do agree that being master gardener would be totally badass. I got a lot of really good experience when I worked at Carnation Farms for a couple summers in high school, and I think I could do something cool with it. I would definitely consider going back to school after the program, as long as regulations would allow me to. I'm happy to hear that Maria is enjoying college life without getting the jab. I'm wondering if WA schools will follow that path or not.

Hopefully in the next 8 months to a year, we have a clearer idea of where all these mandates are going. It's hard to make big decisions for me right now because the state has been so flip-floppy with everything. It feels like the rules change every 6 weeks and the amount of people who mindlessly follow suit is unbelievable.

My tentative plan, if the stars align and everything were to work out, would look something like this: I would spend the next 4 to 6 months working and saving money, while taking just one online class for fall and winter quarter, to get my brain in the game. In the spring, I do the master gardener program. BAM. master gardener. At that point, i don't know which route I would take. It would depend on how the cards fall. I know if I want to bang out some credits, the best way for me to succeed in that is to have in-person classes. I've found that the work load of fully online classes overcompensates for lost time in the classroom and it ends up being a lot to manage. I do much better with hybrid or fully on campus. We'll just have to see what decision the schools make.
Thank you for the guidance. How are mandates down in AZ? How's teaching going? I hope you had a good labor day!

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