Earlier this month, The Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation (PGSF) and Illinois State University published a joint study of the things that motivate students to pursue careers in graphic communications. Its key finding should come as no surprise: according to the study, “High school graphic communication classes were by far the strongest influence for students to choose college majors in graphic communication.” The study contains many other insights that should be taken seriously by everyone who wants to promote print industry education and recruitment. But I think that the document does its best service by reminding us that high school study programs in graphic communications are as vulnerable as they are valuable. Co-authors Daniel G. Wilson and Stacy Birk write, “With trends toward eliminating the printing equipment in many graphic communication high school programs across the nation, the pool of high achieving young people choosing graphic communication majors may dwindle.” I can report from personal experience what happens when these talent-stifling trends strike close to home. Six years ago, I served on a committee that made an unsuccessful attempt to preserve a well-respected graphics program at Bushwick High School, a New York City public school in Brooklyn. At the time, a program was under way to divide Bushwick and other public high schools into so-called “small schools” with specialized curricula. The committee formed when word got out that Bushwick’s Graphics Institute wasn’t to be one of the “small schools.” I editorialized about the situation in a piece for a graphics trade magazine I worked for at the time. I’ll quote the part that reflects the negative mindset that the committee found itself up against: “Absurd as it might seem to readers of this magazine, many school system administrators don't understand printing or grasp the need to teach it. Say ‘graphics education’ to principals, school board members, and departmental bureaucrats, and what they frequently will hear is ‘vocational training,’ ‘occupational education’ or ‘shop’—stereotypes of disdain in current academic thinking. Suggest to intermediate school guidance counselors that they try to place more students in high schools where printing is taught, and many will ignore you. Assume that your community will continue to authorize existing graphics programs, and you might discover that your community actually thinks they are as disposable as paper.” The editorial hinted at a possible solution that, unfortunately, never came about. Bushwick High School graduated its last group of students from the Graphics Institute in 2006. Today, what you’ll find there are academies for social justice, urban planning, maritime studies, and environmental leadership. They’re worthy programs, undoubtedly, but no more so than the program that their creation crowded out. The take-away message is as plain as the print-unfriendly attitudes that spelled the end of the Graphics Institute. “Many of those in our industry may not realize the high cost and time commitment required to effectively attract the best and brightest to the graphic communication industry,” write Wilson and Birk. “Print providers and supply companies must get involved in the recruiting process. Contact with high schools has to be at the ‘grassroots’ level, with support from local industry to respective schools. With a concerted, industry-wide effort, the long-term impact on the industry can be great.” Absent that effort, what we’ll see are replays of the irreplaceable loss at Bushwick High School. As an industry, we can’t afford them.