Finding Your Path in Life — With the Help of a Bright Green RV

The big green RV pulled onto the lawn just past the clock tower at the Osceola Campus on Thursday morning — right in the line of sight for hundreds of students attending Osceola’s Spirit Day festivities.

Just past the balloon artist on stilts and the photographer taking pictures of students in a giant chair, Christina Mitchell and her team of “roadies” from the PBS TV show Roadtrip Nation began talking about a serious subject: What message should college students send to politicians during an election year?

The answer from many of the students who stopped by was simple: Education opens doors, provides opportunities and is invaluable.

“Usually we talk about what ‘Roadtrip Nation’ is all about. We also get students’ stories and see if they want to be part of Roadtrip Nation,” says Mitchell. “But this year — because it’s an election year — we’re partnering with the College Board to remind political candidates not to forget education. We call it the ‘Don’t Forget ED’ tour.”

The bright green RV (nicknamed “Carl” by the Roadtrip Nation crew) arrived in Kissimmee on Thursday, fresh from a visit to Emory University in Atlanta, where students there were keenly aware of how budget cuts were impacting their education, Mitchell said. The next stop on the tour will be Miami-Dade College, followed by a conference to be held in Miami.

On the PBS series, teams of college students tour the country and interview successful people in many fields, from astrophysicists to beer makers. “We’ve interviewed everybody, from the president of Dell Computers to the Naked Cowboy in New York City,” says Mitchell. “The main question is: How did you figure out where you were going in life?”

During the off-season,when the crew isn’t filming the PBS TV series, teams of recent college graduates roam the country in the mammoth green RVs, stopping at college campuses to talk to students about finding their passion and a field they love.

At Osceola Campus, Mitchell and her team asked students to write messages to politicians on small chalkboards — and pose for pictures beside their messages. Those will later be posted on the Roadtrip Nation blog and website. The students left a variety of messages for lawmakers to ponder: “Flipping burgers just doesn’t cut it,” and “Education is power.”

The burgers comment resonated with Felipe Oyarzun, 25, who’s studying electrical engineering.  After graduating from high school, Oyarzun took a break from his education — and wound up working as a manager at a sub shop in Miami, before he finally decided to get back in school.

“Nobody really likes flipping burgers,” says Oyarzun. But he admits that after he was making money, it was hard to walk away and return to being a full-time student. After some nudging from his little sister — who wants to be a pediatrician — he signed up for classes at Valencia.

“I got a little too comfortable working at a job that I didn’t like,” he says. Now he knows he needs to follow his heart — and challenge himself.

“If you want to be happy,” Oyarzun says, “you’ve got to do what you love.”

Want to see some episodes from the PBS show, Roadtrip Nation? Click here to watch some episodes online.