Editor’s note: This is the fourth and final article in a series regarding declining enrollments. The series included what the statistics are in the areas of  school enrollments to building the community of Pekin. This final piece takes the issues to the five students of Pekin Community High School.

There was a time when children got to see bright color photos of exotic places and interesting cultures in textbooks and magazines, but in all likelihood, they would not travel the world as their counterparts do now.

The internet is a lure. Not only can people see the pictures of far away places in the United States and abroad, they can speak to people, see video footage of major events and beautiful landscapes and feel the draw of the big city. Small towns like Pekin are no longer competing with other communities and states to bring home the talent of their graduates as doctors, lawyers, chiefs of industry and so much more — they compete with the world. Many students today have already traveled the nation and abroad because of better transportation or they have visited it on the internet.


1. Katie Curtis, 17, Pekin Community High School senior, of Pekin. She was born in Peoria and moved to Pekin five years ago, but she attended Pekin schools since the fourth-grade. The family moved for better schools. She plans to attend a four-year college in Illinois to prepare for a career in medicine as a physician’s assistant in a small office setting.

Pekin Daily Times:  What are your plans after college — where will you live?

Katie Curtis: “Definitely around here. Ever since I moved to Pekin I really have liked how close knit we all are together. It’s not that small of a town, but it feels like it is.”

PDT: People say there are not as many students returning to Pekin after college. Do you think the atmosphere has changed over the years to the point that hometown doesn’t appeal to young people as much?

KC: “That’s a good question. I feel living in a big city could definitely give good opportunities to those who want something in a big city. There are definitely lots of job opportunities and different schools, but personally, I like the small town. But I can see why someone would like to live in a bigger city.”


2. Quest Dobbelaire, 18, PCHS senior and lifelong Pekin resident. Plans to go to Illinois Central College for his general education requirements and then transfer to a four-year college in Illinois. He wants to be close to his family in Pekin while in college. His goal is to be a mediator. He recently visited Europe.

PDT: What are your plans after college?

Quest Dobbelaire: “It depends on the job market, what’s available in the field I want. I’m not really tied down. I would stay in the states — I don’t know any foreign languages. I guess I could learn one. Illinois is fine, but I would be comfortable anywhere.”

PDT: People say there are not as many students returning to Pekin after college. Do you think the atmosphere has changed over the years to the point that hometown doesn’t appeal to young people as much?

QD: “People I’ve talked to don’t seem too inclined to stay in Pekin. Job opportunities, occupations — we always set higher goals for ourselves. Doctors — there’s not a huge demand around here for doctors or lawyers or engineers. Those are usually bigger city occupations. As the youth of America today, we all have that eye set in the American Dream — go for the big jobs.”

PDT: Does the ability for families to travel the world and view things on the internet play a role in the desire of young people to leave their hometown?

QD: “Oh yeah, I think so. If you can view something, it’s kind of like comparison shopping. See what you want versus what this other place has. You just pick based on what you like and dislike. I think the internet is a resource to see living conditions in certain countries or even throughout the United States.”


3. Quinten Frisch, 17, PCHS senior, Marquette Heights. Life-long resident of this area. Both of his parents were raised in Illinois.

PDT: What are your plans after high school?

Quinten Frisch: “I want to try to stay close to family since I’ll still be in school, but I think there’s a possibility that I would move out of state after I graduate from college, move on to a different life. I want to be a network administrator. That’s something that might take me out of the area — there’s a little more need for it in larger cities.”


4. Josh Utley, 17, PCHS senior, of Pekin. Born in North Carolina. Later moved to East St. Louis. Has been in Pekin since third grade. He is applying to Princeton University, “a pipe dream, but may as well go for it”; the University of Chicago; Cornell University; and the University of Illinois, his “safe option.”

PDT: What do you like about Pekin?

Josh Utley: “It’s a pretty close knit community. People usually have a tendency to know each other. Things are not hard to find — that’s nice. You don’t really have to go far to get anything.”

PDT: What about after college? What do you hope to do?

JU: “I wanted to do something with physics, more specifically aerinautical physics and engineering. That really catches my attention — that kind of thing. That’s been the most consistent plan so far. As far as who I work for, it will probably be some commercial airliner like Boeing or Airbus or something like that. If it was Airbus, I would probably be in France.”

PDT: What specifically is making you look outside of Pekin?

JU: “It’s a big world, and I’m not exactly interested in staying in one spot. While I’m not biased against Pekin, it’s not the prettiest city in the world, and there’s some very pretty places in Germany, which I am visiting this upcoming summer — it’s known for its beautiful landscapes.”


5. Tori Spiker, 17, PCHS senior, of Pekin. She was born in Arizona, lived in Taylorville for 13 years and moved to Pekin two years ago. She hopes to go to the University of Chicago and major in psychology and minor in French. She hopes to go to medical school.

PDT: You have lived here for two years. What attachment have you developed to Pekin, if any?

Tori Spiker: “I don’t really know. I don’t have any attachment to Arizona or Taylorville. I don’t really have one here. I’ve always known I wanted to move to a big city — New York, Chicago, one of the bigger cities. I want to study abroad in France sometime during college and hopefully live in France for a couple of years but not completely leaving the country. I’ll probably come back.”

PDT: Do you plan on settling down anywhere?

TS: “No, I love to move around. I love change — I think it’s really fun. That’s why I was really excited when my parents told me we were moving to Pekin. I had wanted to move from Taylorville for a long time, so when I got the news we were moving and I got to come to this bigger school that had more things that I could do with it, more classes and a better education — I was very excited.”

PDT: What plays a role in the decisions of youth to leave small town life, the hometown life? Is it the internet?

TS: “I don’t really think for me personally it has much to do with the advances in technology. The main thing right now is social media. I don’t really do social media. I don’t feel the need to share my life with the world. I think the main reason is that my parents have moved around a lot, and they have so many stories. I have two older siblings. My sister traveled and studied abroad in Spain, so she was able to share her experiences with me, and it made me excited for those experiences for myself.”

Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin