Some former Laurel High School students went back to school on Friday – but this time to give notes instead of taking them.
Around 10 alumni attended Laurel’s Career Day event to share their experiences and answer questions about their professions. The career fields represented by the former students included the military, education, research and aviation, said Michelle McQuillan Thomas, a school coordinator.
Laurel principal Dwayne Jones said he has been requesting alumni speakers for several years, and would fill all the presentation spots with former students if he could.
“Who better to tell the young people that they can succeed in life if they do the right things than kids who have graduated — who sat in the same seats, have been in the same classroom and had some of the same teachers?” he said.
Rahshaan Engrum of Bowie graduated from Laurel in 1993 and is now a program manager with the Coast Guard, he said. Engrum said he has participated in Career Day for the past 10 years.
“I truly enjoy being able to outreach with the kids and give them the opportunities somebody gave me,” he said. “Somebody came back during a career day [when I was in high school] and talked to me, and it helped me figure out what I wanted to do. And now I have the opportunity to give that back and I feel very strongly that’s what I should do.”
During his presentation, Engrum talked to a class of mostly seniors about his experience fighting the War on Drugs and how skills he learned in high school — like geometry, physics and deductive reasoning — became useful during his career. Engrum also emphasized the importance of maintaining a high grade point average, being articulate and planning ahead.
“There are ways out there that you can strategize and you can get exactly where you want,” he said. “If I don’t understand something, it’s my responsibility to figure it out.”
Senior Makon Oma, 17, of Laurel said he has considered a career in the military, but is set on attending Bowie State University for a sports management degree. Oma asked several questions during Engrum’s presentation and said he found it very useful.
“I thought he did a great job on his presentation,” he said. “It just opened my mind to keep my options open.”
Grace Yang of Laurel said she graduated from Laurel High School in 2006 and that Friday was her first time participating in career day as a speaker.
Yang, a graduate student and teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, said she hoped to give students a fresh perspective about careers in education.
“Sometimes students think they know what it means to be a teacher and what it takes to become a teacher, but what I’m trying to show is that we’re not one-dimensional people,” she said. “I want to break stereotypes they might have about teaching.”
Yang said she was inspired to become an educator because of a language and literature teacher at Laurel High School.
“Aside from being skilled in her content area, she was a teacher who connected with her students and that’s what I want to do here,” Yang said.
Senior Ayrton Soumah, 17, of Laurel said he felt inspired by Yang’s description of her career and her experience at the University of Maryland, College Park.
“I’m a senior so I’m going to college, and because she told me about what college life is, I think it’s going to be easier for me,” he said. “I felt like I could achieve what she achieved.”