As I walked up to Roosevelt High in South Dallas, I checked in with the security guard, walked the school grounds and saw students chatting. I was at the school volunteering with a group of Celanese ladies from the Women’s Impact Network (WIN), an employee-led group who were there to share college and career advice with the students. Returning to high school, I was reminded of the struggle I had for a long-term vision for my life at that age and hoped that I might inspire a few freshmen to dream a little more purposefully this summer.
I remember being a 15-year-old girl who bused tables part-time at a restaurant, ran track and enjoyed writing and photography. Later, I became the editor of our school newspaper and a student director for our drama club. I was most “in my element” working behind the scenes. I grew up in a military family that loved to travel, emphasized hands-on learning and giving back. My older sister and I would be the first generation to attend college and I didn’t know what I wanted to do or what to expect.
My parents would have told you I would have made a great teacher, but I couldn’t see myself working in a classroom. I enjoyed my journalism class and after a six-month internship at the local city newspaper, I decided to pursue my Bachelors in Communications with a concentration in Mass Media. I made good grades but admission into the local state university was competitive, so I registered with a nearby junior college and later transferred.
In preparing for this volunteer event, I was impressed with how many college options are available to students in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Living at home throughout college is a reality for many, including myself, and more affordable. With the Dallas County Promise program, students are also eligible to receive up to two years paid tuition! Money is a concern and this program removes financial barriers, but some may not be aware of these resources.
We began our session at Roosevelt High School by leading students through a personality test. Based on the results, students broke up into small groups with those who had similar results. To help break the ice, I shared my results and how I was an intuitive “Blue” with feelings and a need to be authentic. I see possibilities in others, making a difference in the world and like to people watch. I’m empathetic, a communicator and I was imaginative and creative as a child. Suggested careers included being a social worker, a counselor, or a journalist. Being a reporter and working in corporate communications has been a great fit for me. I serve as the company’s social media expert. Every day I share stories about the great work we do as a company and how we’re making a difference in the local communities where we work. Now I manage multiple communication channels for a global chemical company. Maybe the next famous foodie blogger or celebrity public relations assistant was sitting in our midst?
Helping students to see they bring their own unique talents to the table, and to think about doing something they enjoy– while making money doing it–is a powerful (and exciting) “aha moment.” We went around the table and students shared what they thought of their color grouping career suggestions. Many responded positively and found the exercise helpful. We then discussed how things they like to do can also translate into a career. One of my students shared how they like to be in charge of people and wanted to be a lawyer. On the activity chart this was a perfect match. Another liked working with their hands and was interested in becoming a technology application developer. It was neat to watch them connect the pieces together and form their own conclusions.
We also discussed vocational, trade and military careers, and the pros and cons of various higher education programs (BA, MA, PhD, etc.) For many the idea of being in school for another eight years to become a physician is overwhelming, but they would like to work in a hospital. We shared how a radiology technologist uses special equipment such as an EKG machine to test the heart and lung functions of medical patients — incredibly important work in the medical field that’s deeply engaging with less schooling and good pay. We encouraged students to reach out to their career counseling office to learn more.
At the end of the session we invited students to participate in a volunteer project with us making care kits supporting Promise House, a charity that helps students facing homelessness. Many had never done a volunteer project before. In one simple act of charity a conversation took place and a greater impact was made. We had everyone’s attention and they were proud to be able to care for others. And in giving back, it’s something they as students can include on their resumes and one day may even get to volunteer with their company like ours beyond the office walls.
I had a great time visiting with the students and working alongside my City Year Dallas team member Alexis. My final career advice to students would be: have a good attitude, be curious, and let your good work shine; and build relationships and gain experiences that help you to find a satisfying career that you can be grateful for. Maybe someday they’ll be the next volunteer mentors giving back a day of their time to inspire others to make a difference with their gifts and talents.
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