Growing up in Elk River, I always imagined a college degree as my pathway to a great career. I started out as a nursing assistant and personal care attendant — a job I loved — but soon realized I’d never earn enough to put myself through college. With Minnesota’s student debt adding up to a staggering $29 billion, loans didn’t seem like a viable option.

So I chose a nontraditional but financially pragmatic approach instead. I took my dad’s advice and followed him into the finishing trades as a painter. I applied to the Finishing Trades Institute of the Upper Midwest (FTIUM). When I started the apprenticeship program, I realized that painting was really the path I wanted to take. After I finish, I’ll go on to the school’s Associate of Applied Science in Construction Technology degree program, where I can access multiple scholarships and financial assistance plans.

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