One of the themes of Black History month at Brush High School this year was “Bridging our Past and Future.” Brush teacher Ms. Rumae Watkins-Clark, with the support of the English Department and library clerk, Mrs. Sherri Charnock brought this theme to life by designing a showcase with photographs of Brush graduates then and now. In addition to the showcase, Ms. Watkins-Clark organized an Occupational Experience Day on February 23rd where alumni returned to Brush and spent a full day talking to students about everything ranging from high school angst to hiring practices in the 21st Century.
We are grateful to Patrice Horton ’02, Melinda Jackson ’07, Robert Hunter ’10, Airion Watkins-Clark ’10 (Beachwood and Excel Tech), and Diandre Byfield ’13 for giving up a day away from their professional responsibilities to offer powerful advice. When asked by one student how to deal with the pressure of making big decisions at a young age, professional actor and stay-at-home dad Robert Hunter expressed the importance of finding one’s passion and in order to do that, “Try everything: sports, drama, clubs. If you’re afraid to do it, then you really need to try it.” Patrice Horton, owner of public relations and marketing companies Tuff Love and Grand Central Station, added, “Once you find your purpose, the checks will come.”
All of the panelists discussed the importance of communication and networking. They stressed the need to build relationships starting in high school and to overcome the fear of failure. Both fashion designer Diandre Byfield (co-creator of UNDERGOD) and technology entrepreneur Airion Watkins-Clark (CEO of WhatzGood Inc.) discussed the danger of doing business with friends. Watkins-Clark and Horton both emphasized the importance of continuing one’s education beyond the classroom and recommended TedTalks, YouTube, and podcasts as valuable resources.
Everyone agreed that students should attack their goals now and they aren’t too young to start working toward their dreams. Melinda Jackson, Founder and Executive Director of International Youth Leadership Foundation, quoted 13th Century Persian poet Rumi in response to a student’s every day frustrations: “If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror ever be polished?” and went on to explain that we need to rise above if we are going to be our best selves. Hunter closed the day by saying, “Don’t blame others for your mistakes. Start your discipline now. Respect your teachers. Outside of [your family], they are the only ones in your life who give without expecting anything back from you. I should know. I’m in a business where everyone I talk to wants something in return.”