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High school students get inspiration for their goals

By Maggie Blackwell
For the Salisbury Post

Henderson Independent School and North Rowan High School had career days last week to inspire their students to think of future paths.

At Henderson, guest speakers were matched up with students’ interests. Speakers included Sam Maddix, a Rowan County EMT; John Howell, game and wildlife; George Bates, mechanic; Laretta Angle, healthcare business owner; Christy Peterson, Home Healthcare Alliance; Latoya McClunney, makeup artist; Jerry Miller, veteran; Nick Means, banker; Lisa Altman, Rowan-Salisbury Schools food services; Tonesha Turner, nurse; Lamont Savage, financial industry; Timothy Bates, Man Up Monday.

The Career Day at Henderson was organized by Courtney George. She surveyed the students, solicited community members and guests and organized the schedule for students. George is the CTE teacher at Henderson, teaching career management, principles of business and personal finance.

Speakers at North High included graduates who have succeeded despite challenges in their lives.

Jaylan Brown is a senior at Winston-Salem State University. His involvement in a car accident last December caused him to be confined to a wheelchair for a while. He’s really enthusiastic about his study of physical therapy as a result.

Jarvis Miller was born with cerebral palsy and spent most of his years at North Rowan in a wheelchair. He did not participate in sports in high school, but today he’s an award-winning basketball coach. “It’s good for me,” he said. “Being born with cerebral palsy, I was in a position to need help. Now I can help others, and it’s opened doors for me.”

Dionte Tillman, 23, graduated from North and attended Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s computer science program. He didn’t love computer science, he says, and dropped out. “I entered a field where my love of talking can earn me a living,” he says. He’s a salesman at Carmazone. He shared his salary with a group of awe-struck students.

Alexis Archie, a senior at Livingstone in business, hopes to start his own business. He had one message for the students. “Do your work, do your work, do your work. Show the utmost respect.”

The Career Day at North was organized by teacher Dominique Bates. “I hand selected all the speakers,” he said. “I asked teachers for names of students who inspired them, and, using my personal experience, called students who inspired me. It was intentional. They all have a story to tell. They have all fought through some adversity and come out to be successful.”

Bates met with the speakers privately before sending them out to speak to students. He had them develop a purpose for their talks and motivated them to put their hearts into their speeches. His father, Pastor Tim Bates, took a moment to inspire them, as well.

It worked.

Miller, Archie and Tillman spoke to a class of freshman girls. In addition to sharing their journeys and professions, the men took a moment to warn the girls to be safe, to travel in groups, and not to focus on boys.

“Young men should not be your focus right now,” Archie said. “Freshman and sophomore years are the most important. If you get to be a junior and you’ve got a 2.2 (GPA), it’s hard to pull that up.”

Later they addressed a class of 40 students in the freshman design lab.

After surveying the students on their career aspirations, Tillman pointed out practicalities.

“There’s a total of 485 people who work in the NBA,” he said. “Now what are your chances, in the millions of young people out there, that you’ll be one of them? You better be playing basketball morning, noon and night, not focusing on young women, young men.”

Archie warned the students not to waste energy trying to be cool.

“Being yourself is much better than faking for friends,” he said. “Be yourself. Be kind to everybody. If you’re too cool, you’re going to miss out on a lot of stuff. You can ask all my teachers, I treated them with respect. How do you want your name remembered?”

Jacob Mohammed is a working nurse. He helped students in the nursing fundamentals class practice their practical skills for the CNA exam.

Students were clearly affected by the event. Sangai Bombo said, “I really took in what they said when they were talking about careers. They advised us not to depend on sports and that we need to have a plan A, B and C. It forced me to think about the steps I need to take to achieve my goals. I really like how they told us about their journeys and not to take advantage of high school and how it all begins here.”

Quintin Wilson said he learned from the experience. “It was a very good way to give high school students a wake-up call. I like the fact that they focused on time management. College is another level from high school, and they advised us about the do’s and don’t’s for what we are facing now. The best thing I heard today was when Kendre Bates said, ‘You know the saying about you can do whatever you want to do is not true. He said that we can achieve whatever we work for.’”

“They gave me more information about college,” Trey Johnson said, “and some of the trials they overcame in high school. They advised me about all of the clubs and extracurricular activities you can participate in college. They told me that you cannot depend on sports to get you where you want to be in life.”

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