Last Wednesday I attended career day at Overbrook High School, my Alma Mater. At first, I thought of a whole bunch of reasons not to go, one reason being that my high school years sucked and I absolutely hated that school. After much thought, I put my own insecurities aside and decided that giving back to the young people was way more important than the bad experiences I had as a student.
When I stepped inside those walls after twelve years, I was overwhelmed with so much emotion. This was the place that it all started; my dreams and my ambitions to become a writer were planted in this very school. I was taken aback when my old guidance counselor greeted me at the door with a huge hug and a bright smile.
As all of the Alumni participating in the event parted ways to our perspective classrooms to discuss our career paths, I thought about what message I wanted the youth to receive from my experience at Overbrook and my chosen career path. Yes, I work with youth daily, but these particular students were sitting in the desks I used to sit in and were being taught and nurtured by the same teachers that helped shape who I am today.
When it was finally my time to speak, I decided to not only discuss my career, but the mistakes and mishaps that led me to where I am today,too. I wanted to show them that no, I wasn’t perfect, I didn’t come from a rich two parent household from the suburbs, and that I took some of the bad habits that I acquired during my years at Overbrook and thought it was okay to bring them to college.
In talking with the young people, I noticed that they too shared some of the same frustrations I had when I was a student there: no extracurricular activities, staff/teachers didn’t care and most importantly lack of encouragement. This caused me to reflect on my own experience as a student and it was then that I realized while I may have felt as though I didn’t learn anything or that I didn’t have the encouragement of my teachers, I did. It was evident when I walked through the doors that morning and the same counselor that helped me get into college was still devoting her career to helping urban youth break the mold.
The advice I offered the young people was quite simple: Take today as a day to be inspired. Dream big and big things will happen. It may seem that you are not cared for, but look at the little things: a teacher telling you to sit down and pay attention, correcting your work when it is wrong, and holding accountable for your actions. Those were all ways (subliminal messages) that confirmed that the teachers cared about them. I wanted them to know that they possessed the power to determine their own success and that nobody was able to take that away from them unless they let them.
Although high school was not the most memorable time of my life, attending Overbrook gave me character. In a sense going to Overbrook gave me the determination I needed to be consistent in my goals and everyday life.
The day after, I wore my Overbrook Pride T-shirt. This Alum has a new love for her past and overwhelming optimism for her future. GO PANTHERS!
What was your fondest memory of your high school career? Who was the most influential teacher/counselor you encountered during high school and why?
Although Anya Nicole grew up in a drug and crime plagued household and neighborhood in Philadelphia, she strived to break the mold and became the first person in her family to graduate from college. Anya uses the world around her as a palate to create chilling street stories such as Corporate Corner Boyz (2008) and Judgment Day (2010). Divas, Diamonds & Dollars (June 2010) is Anya’s first project under her publishing house, Black Reign Publications. When she’s not writing, she’s counseling young people who have dropped out of high school and are seeking their GED.
© 2010, Shalena D.I.V.A.- Author| Speaker| Life And Business Coach. All rights reserved.