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updated: 5/29/2013 2:38 PM

South Elgin teen chooses GED, college over high school

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  • Kevin Lopuszanski, of South Elgin, left high school after his sophomore year because he did not like the structure. Instead of graduating from high school with his peers last weekend, Kevin is halfway through an associate degree at Elgin Community College. He got his GED last summer.

       Kevin Lopuszanski, of South Elgin, left high school after his sophomore year because he did not like the structure. Instead of graduating from high school with his peers last weekend, Kevin is halfway through an associate degree at Elgin Community College. He got his GED last summer.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 

Kevin Lopuszanski didn't like high school -- so he got out as soon as he could.

The South Elgin teen stopping attending at the end of his sophomore year at St. Charles North High School, opting instead for a fast-track GED program at Elgin Community College.

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When he finished the program, Kevin was still too young to legally take the GED so he took courses at ECC and worked part-time until he turned 17. He was biding his time and racking up credits toward his associate degree while his peers were in school seven hours per day.

"I do appreciate high school and I think it's valuable," said Kevin, now 18. "I just don't think that it's valuable for everyone."

Kevin, though smart, didn't always do well in school. He got a perfect score on three out of five GED tests but the eight-period day at St. Charles North didn't suit him.

He says he has fairly generic complaints about high school, including resentment toward standardized tests and the way they consumed the entire learning environment.

Sometimes he'd get caught up in art projects and miss his later classes. Or he'd focus on chemistry for a few days and get in trouble for neglecting the other subjects.

At ECC, he has the same tendencies but no one seems to mind.

"That's something I find really valuable with college," Kevin said. "I'm able to do that and it's not seen as irresponsible."

Kevin would have graduated high school last weekend with his original class but took part in the ECC GED ceremony May 17 instead. He's already one year into his associate degree and would have been further along had he been able to take the GED and enroll at ECC full time as soon as he completed the fast-track course.

When he finishes his degree next spring, Kevin plans to transfer to a four-year university and get his bachelor's degree.

In his race to be done with school, Kevin has found college isn't so bad.

"It's not that I don't like to learn," Kevin said. "But it's a different kind of learning (at college). There's more liberty in what you get to learn.

"I feel like it's more practical."

Plus, his savings account is doing pretty well. Kevin has had a fair amount of time to work over the last couple years. He may have seen his friends a little less than he would have otherwise, but he said it hasn't been too much of an issue to keep up a social life while working and going to ECC.

Kevin credits his success in his uncommon path through school to the support his family gave him. He thinks the GED should be presented as an option for more students who aren't doing well in the standard high school environment but he says he doesn't think it's his place to recommend it to others.

"It worked for me," Kevin said, stopping there.

ECC also offers GED courses online and in Spanish. Visit elgin.edu for details.

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