Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, DC
Although his eyes seemed to dance around the room, I would later learn that Antoine was indeed paying attention. Seated at a small table on the third floor of Robert F. Wagner Middle School on New York’s East Side, the soon to be high school junior’s mind was aldreay dreaming of places far beyond the walls of room 302 this past Saturday.
Antoine was attending Let’s Get Ready’s Career Day. It’s a day that gives a diverse mix of high school students the opportunity to learn about a variety of careers from about 50 professionals who volunteered their time to share their knowledge with more than 250 young people who attended. Founded in the summer of 1998 by Jeannie Lang Rosenthal, an undergrad at Harvard, Let’s Get Ready is a nonprofit organization serving communities in and around New York City and Boston whose mission is to expand college access for motivated, low-income high school students by providing free SAT preparation and college admission counseling.
“You think that one day I could have a job like you,” the young man from west Bronx asked me after I finished my presentation.
“Absolutely. How are your grades?”
“Okay, I guess.”
“What’s that mean?” I asked him trying to get a sense of how he was doing in school.
“Well, last year I did real good: an A and mostly B’s.”
The 16-year-old, whose real name I changed to Antoine for this article, is one of 3.1 million young people this year who will be faced with the decision of whether or not to attend college after high school. If you evaluate his situation based solely on drive, there is no doubt in my mind that he will go on to college. He’s thirsty to know more and asked several excellent questions during the seminar.
I co-led a variety of sessions focused on helping the students understand their career interests through a personality assessment, interactive sessions about college, and tips on how to build and maintain a professional network so that they can land a job after college. Originally I was only to be a speaker at the half day workshop, however, when their photographer wasn’t able to make it, I offered to stand in and try to capture some visual images of the day as well. Click here to see the images I captured from Career Day.
The thermometer nearly broke the century mark that afternoon and there was no air-conditioning in the room that I was assigned to. Exhausted and covered with sweat, I wrapped up my session and headed to the closing session in the main auditorium. I got the chance to meet and exchange business cards (Let’s Get Ready supplied the students with cards that they filled out to serve as business cards for the day) with dozens of tomorrow’s leaders.
It was inspiring to talk with them and hear their dreams.
“I want to be a pediatric oncologist.”
“I want to be a social worker.”
“I want to work in television.”
“I want to start my own organization to help underprivileged kids.”
“I want your job!”
After the event was over I stayed and spoke with several young people who patiently waited to introduce themselves to me. I hope they all keep in touch, I will be checking in on them periodically too to see how things are going. When the last student had left, I grabbed my bags and headed for the front doors. Now dim and voiceless in the school, the heavy metal doors rumbled as they gave way to a sun-drenched sidewalk filled with the sounds of the Big Apple.
The success of Let’s Get Ready depends greatly on volunteers and donations. If you would like to support this organization and help prepare our next generation of leaders, please visit their website and get involved!