More than 60 former students returned to West Oak Lane Charter School (WOLCS) for the school’s second annual alumni day on Tuesday morning.
The “Staying Connected: Our Past, Our Present and Our Future” event featured a panel discussion with professionals from STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields who recommended that students pursue a wide variety of educational subjects to better prepare for their future careers.
Dr. Debbera Peoples-Lee quickly reinforced their message that STEM skills can translate to other fields. She told those assembled that she spent 30 years in healthcare before becoming the Stenton Avenue charter school’s CEO.
“When you don’t know the road you are going down, you never know what direction it may take you in,” said Peoples-Lee. “So, what’s your plan if it takes you where you didn’t think you would go?”
That is a challenge with which George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science freshman Haneef Abdul-Had is coming to grips, as he struggles to balance academic and athletics.
While he said his main focus was playing basketball, he walked away from the panel discussion realizing that he has to think long-term.
“I learned that I need to plan my life early while I can and take school seriously,” said Abdul-Had. “I also learned that you can keep going to school and there is no time when you are just done, you can keep going and learning more.”
He and fellow high-school basketball player Keinan Oxner both said they would like to emulate their engineering teacher who was an oil-company civil engineer.
However, Jonah Anderson, a junior at the Academy at Palumbo High School in Bella Vista, didn’t buy into too much pre-planning as career inspirations can come up unexpectedly.
“When you walk out the door. anything could happen,” he said. “You could find your career when you walk out the door. It doesn’t matter if you have it set, you just have to make sure that you keep trying to do something and it will happen.”
The event agenda
Current and former students broke into small groups and spoke with STEM professionals. In one such workshop, called “All the crossroads of electrical engineering and technology,” students conducted a basic experiment to produce light using only a lemon, penny, nail, LED light and small cord.
The presenter, Sherise Crosby, encouraged them to be intellectually curious, maintain good grades and be wise about finances including scholarships and beyond.
“Nobody teaches you how to be grown and handle your finances,” said Crosby.
Eunice Kelome, a high-school junior who wants to pursue a career as an OB/GYN, said she enjoyed the workshops.
“I love working with women and being able to help women because we are aren’t equal [to] men,” she said of her goal to empower a gender.
At the end of the event, current students asked the alumni questions about high school. Twenty students also received book scholarships.