Seniors head toward unconventional paths

Students pursue art, fashion, flight and faith


Courtesy of Jacob Pfister

Senior Jacob Pfister is attending Arizona State University’s Professional Flight program in Mesa next year.

With the school year drawing to a close, the Class of 2021 is gearing up for the next step in their lives.

But while most students will attend traditional colleges in the fall, some students found that more specialized programs better fit their passions.

Senior Jessica Laurente will be studying advertising and marketing communications at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City. Laurente said she always knew a traditional university was not the right fit for her.

“I didn’t want to go to a normal college… that’s not my thing,” Laurente said. “I want to create and start my life, start my future job, my journey.”

Laurente had always been interested in art school, but she did not want to devote her time to traditional art. During her senior year, she found that fashion school was a perfect fit for her.

“I like being creative and doing a lot of arts and crafts,” Laurente said. “I don’t see myself doing that, but I see me and my art skills incorporated into fashion through advertising.”

Similarly to Laurente, senior Julia Sung hopes to pursue a more creative path. Sung will be studying illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence, R.I.

Sung grew up with quite a few artistic figures in her life, with her mother being a graphic designer and her grandmother being a traditional Korean calligrapher. Ever since her first art lesson as a child, Sung has been an artist as well. 

During her sophomore year, Sung decided that she wanted to pursue a career in the arts. Throughout high school, she spent a lot of time exploring and expanding her artistic skills.

“I started doing regular art just to get credits in,” Sung said. “Then I went to an outside studio and started taking summer classes, like animation at Otis College.”

Regardless of her passion and experience, Sung still had some difficulty making the decision to pursue art.

“It was kind of hard because I don’t know if art was a stable career,” Sung said. “I just decided to [pursue art] because you should just do what you want to do in life.”

Senior Charlie Max Reynolds, who will be studying Christian Ministries at Azusa Pacific University in Los Angeles County, also struggled to decide on his next steps. 

“It was like a long process for me, choosing a college, because I had aspirations of playing college football,” Reynolds said. 

Reynolds received offers to play football from Division I schools, such as UC Davis and Dartmouth University. Azusa was a Division II school at the time of his decision, which means the football program was smaller and less prestigious.

“Everyone thought I was going to go to one of the other schools I was deciding between,” Reynolds said. “But I really knew my outlook outside of college. I wanted to go into ministry.”

But after Reynolds committed to Azusa, the football program, along with Reynolds’s athletic scholarship, was cancelled in December 2020. Reynolds was able to get some of his offers back, but Azusa wasn’t completely out of the picture.

Azusa’s athletic director heard about Reynolds’s desire to study ministry. Inspired by Reynolds’s passion for his faith, Azusa decided to honor his scholarship despite the cancellation of the football program.

“That was huge. That was another big decision,” Reynolds said. “I either have to sacrifice football and pursue this major which I really want to do, or go play football.”

With offers from more prestigious colleges and the loss of Azusa’s football program, Reynolds felt both internal and external pressure regarding his college decision.. Halfway through his senior year, Reynolds decided to follow his heart and pursue Christian Ministries at Azusa without football.

Like Reynolds, Laurente initially struggled to decide on her next steps after high school and did not make the decision to go to fashion school until after the start of her senior year. While this initially caused her some stress, she eventually combined her love of art, creativity, and style and decided on a career in fashion.

“Fashion is one thing that really inspires me to be myself and be creative and unique in what I wear,” Laurente said. “The thing about fashion is that it always changes so you don’t have to stick to one thing, it’s just doing what you like.”

Laurente advises students that are stressed and unsure about their futures to spend their time exploring the activities that they truly enjoy.

“Pretty much no one knows what to do. If you’re worried, find your interests and see what you can do with that in your future,” Laurente said. “Your basic interests can lead you into your career.”

As far as senior Jacob Pfister can remember, he has always had an interest in flight and aircrafts. 

“I’ve pretty much gotten into airplanes through being in an airport as a child and flying to Wisconsin [to visit] my grandparents,” Pfister said. “I just loved anything to do with it because I find it really cool, the ability to fly.”

In the fall, Pfister will pursue that interest professionally through Arizona State University’s Professional Flight program in Mesa, which is partnered with ATP Flight School, the largest flight training company in the nation. 

“First semester, [I’ll] do ground school, so [I’ll] learn the basics of basically everything to do with flying a plane,” Pfister said. “Second semester, I’ll actually be flying a plane.”

Pfister fully decided on a career in aviation in elementary school and became a published aviation photographer with AirTeam Images in London during high school. Through the years, he never had too much difficulty with his decision to pursue flight and aviation.

“I’d say knowledge-wise it’s a lot to take in, but it wasn’t necessarily difficult because I loved it,” Pfister said. 

After finding programs that best fit their passions, these four students are excited to channel more of their time into their respective interests.

“I’m looking forward to just being able to dedicate all of my time to art,” Sung said. “In high school, you only have to do one class of art. If I go there, everything is just going to be art.”

Although each of their paths are different from one another, they all echoed the same advice.

“[You] really have to decide despite what other people would say, despite how good it would look in your mind, despite what it would look like to others,” Reynolds said. “Know where your heart is at, what you want for your future. If that’s pulling you towards an unconventional path, then I say you go with it.”