Ben Davis students graduate with more than just a high school diploma

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AVON, Ind. — A new study shows there are viable career paths even for those without a college degree. However, there’s still a major benefit in having more than just a high school diploma.

A group of students at Ben Davis High School will graduate ahead of the game. The students were honored on Wednesday at IU Health West as they prepare to graduate as certified pharmacy technicians.

“It’s neat to see because pharmacy technician, that whole profession is expanding fast,” said J.R. Billman, a Clinical Staff Pharmacist at IU West Hospital.

Billman says he has seen major changes in the profession with more demand for people and more demand for skill.

"It’s really no longer you can walk into a pharmacy and say 'I want to be a pharmacy technician,' which is the old paradigm, it’s totally changed," Billman said.

Now, a pharmacy technician must get a certification—a trend not only seen behind the pharmacy counter.

"There are a great deal of job openings that require a certification or certificate and people are not able to fill these jobs because they don’t have the skills or certifications they need," said Courtney Brown, Vice President of Strategic Impact for the Lumina Foundation.

The Lumina Foundation, along with Strada and Gallup, polled thousands of high school graduates without degrees. They found that those with certifications still had viable careers, even without attending college. They had a median income of $45,000 a year, compared to $30,000 for those with just a high school diploma or G.E.D.

"It really shows the value these have to people’s lives," Brown said. "They are a great opportunity for people who don’t have the time or don’t have the resources to pursue a four-year degree."

For the students in the pharmacy technician program at Ben Davis, they'll be going one step further by also receiving an Associates Degree. While many of these students are using this program as a springboard into more education, they are now able to work a job that pays substantially more than minimum wage while they're in college.

“It makes me feel good that I have a stable job to be able to use throughout college,” said Jasmine Mitchell, a graduating senior at Ben Davis.

As these students celebrate their accomplishment, they’ll crack a smile, or maybe even shed a tear. They know their future is already shining bright at a fraction of the cost.

“To have that knowledge and that background that they’re learning through career and technical education is absolutely huge,” Billman said.

As the students prepared to take their exam, pharmacists with IU Health not only donated their time to tutor the students, they also purchased study guides and paid their exam fees.

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