Career expo connects students on path to success
Industry professionals share insight, inspirational tools at Surrattsville High
In an effort to provide networking opportunities and help students learn about the various jobs of industry professionals, Surrattsville High School held a “My Story, My Journey” career expo April 8 in Clinton.
The event featured about 10 different speakers — including local representatives from the Prince George’s County state’s attorney’s office and sheriff’s office — who gave one-on-one pre- sentations to students, at their assigned booth, in the school’s gymnasium.
In addition, students met in separate classrooms to hear from other speakers who attended the expo, including Circuit Court Associate Judge Herman C. Dawson.
“The students go and hear speakers talk about what they do for a living,” said Kirsten
Simpkins, chairwoman of Surrattsville’s counselor department. “We talked to the students about trying to glean something from every presenter because the power is in the story. And that was our theme today... They can learn something from every person in that room. Each of [them] had a different journey to where [they] are right now.”
Simpkins said students were able to learn about Dawson’s journey, being that he didn’t go to college right after high school.
“Someone would assume because he’s a judge, that that was his path but it wasn’t. And he was able to talk to the students about what that path looked like,” she said. “Every one of us has a different journey and I think the kids were blessed hearing that. So that was the main reason we wanted to do [this career expo] — to have that impact for them to understand that there is no perfect way to do it but you got to get moving.”
For Dawson, education is the key to every young person’s future. He said he will go out of his way to make sure education is a top priority, especially for high school students.
“I believe they’re going to be the future and I want to be a part of helping them,” Dawson said. “I want them to see that they can become lawyers … and have mentors who are young black professionals in the community.”
When it comes to helping young people in the community, Dawson has his own Saturday academy which provides tutoring and mentoring services for kids in juvenile court. He said all of the kids who have participated in his program received help with their academics and even got into college.
“We actually work on college applications, essays for college and getting them ready for the SAT and the ACT and then we find some money for them to go to college,” Dawson said. “For me, doing whatever I did with them in court, they probably would not have been where they are today. And that really makes the court and the judge feel good — to be a part of helping turn their lives around.”
Another person who is helping to turn the lives of young people around is Alicia Adams, founder and CEO of Beautifully Brown Me. Adams said her company is about celebrating and empowering “brown girls and women” to understand that they are beautiful and have important contributions to make in the world.
“We don’t always get those messages through the media, through television, through the magazine and all of the visuals that they see. So I wanted to be a part of the positive images that our young girls see,” Adams said. “I want to make sure that there is no doubt in their mind and I know that it’s very hard. I have to be very intentional about that message. I can’t just assume that they’re going to get it without me being very explicit in showing them examples of other women who look like them doing amazing things. That’s what inspired me to start this venture and I’m glad to be able to touch other women and girls.”
As a former high school teacher and administrator at Friendship Collegiate Academy in Washington, D.C., Adams said inspiring girls has to start “from day one” at birth. Even the kids who seem the most confident “do not value themselves in a way that they need to” deep down inside, she said.
“I just see the impact of the choices that young ladies make when they don’t value themselves. It’s so important to start from an early age to instill that confidence and that sense of importance so that they know ‘you have a purpose in this world to be fulfilled and you need to stay on the path toward that,’” she said. “A lot of our girls just internalize messages and they may not say it, so you may not even know. … Deep down, they don’t see themselves in college [or] doing great things. But there’s so much greatness in them and it’s really a shame. So we have to send that message to them.”
Adams’ goal with Beautifully Brown Me is to spread the true message that young girls and women are beautiful because God made them that way. Anything that tries to make them feel otherwise is a “lie” and is wrong, she said.
“Once they start to have that confidence and see success, then the confidence and success becomes a cycle and then they propel themselves to higher levels,” said Adams. “I want to make sure that all of our girls get that message as early as possible.”
Prince George’s County Circuit Court Associate Judge Herman C. Dawson speaks to a group of students and staff during a career expo on April 8 at Surrattsville High School in Clinton. Dawson has sat on the bench since Dec. 21, 1998, and is a member of the Problem-Solving Courts Committee.