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BRAD ROBICHAUX — Seize the moment; get an education

“Not everybody gets the opportunity. So whenever you do get the opportunity, seize the moment and finish college.”

That’s what former Memorial High School basketball coach Antonio Cooper said Friday when Kenneth Lofton Jr. officially signed his letter of intent to play for Louisiana Tech.

It would be nice if everyone could have the opportunity to go to college. I believe in education, and not just because it opens more doors for more opportunities, though it certainly does that too. Education fosters knowledge, critical thinking and a lifelong ability to learn. All of this allows a person to acquire a deeper understanding of the way nature, society and people work together. At the very least, education puts people in a better position to solve complicated problems, and there’s no shortage of those.

Beyond that, those opportunities that attending college can unlock are life-changing. Growing up, students will hear a constant refrain from teachers and parents — “Work hard to go to college” — and there’s plenty of good reasons for that. A Pew Research Center study from 2014 found that college graduates ages 25 to 32 working full time earned $17,500 more annually than people with just a high school diploma.

The same study also found that the income gap between people with degrees and those with only high school diplomas has widened over time.

Never mind the immeasurable value of simply having an education — having an education can also elevate you from the bottom rungs of the income ladder.

College is also infamously expensive. More than 44 million Americans still hold outstanding student loan debt, which totals more than $1.5 trillion, according to an Aug. 27 piece on solutions to college debt from Time Magazine.

It makes sense, in a way. Becoming educated takes an enormous time investment. It requires teachers, who have likewise made that time investment, to invest even more time preparing curricula and teaching classes. Good ol’ supply and demand has made an already costly education even more valuable, as degrees are seen to be more and more the ticket to better earnings, something everyone wants.

Like Coach Cooper said: If you get the opportunity, seize the moment because not everybody is going to get one.

Lofton has one such opportunity at La. Tech, one he’s earned through hard work and lifelong dedication to basketball. He was helped along the way by a whole village of loved ones, teachers and coaches that pulled together to give Lofton this opportunity.

“At the end of the day we appreciate everything, we appreciate all you guys that have helped groom Junior into the man he is today,” Cooper said on Friday. “We still have a little ways to go, but at the end of the day, we still want this guy to get an education and graduate from college, not just go there and play basketball but actually finish college and get a degree.”

In the face of absurd costs and increasing demand, Lofton and his community at Memorial High School have done everything right. Lofton goes to La. Tech with a valuable chance to make a better life for himself. It’s up to him to seize it, but he should know he has a whole community behind him.

Good luck, Junior.

Brad Robichaux is a reporter for The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at brad.robichaux@panews.com