Sunday, May 11, 2014

Getting Ready to Take on the World

Carol Quinones-Smith (top right), principal of Holmes School, gives instructions to student ambassadors, who escorted the Yale Day of Service volunteer speakers at Career Day (YWAA photos)


The kids came to school all dressed up, eager to ask questions, learn and perhaps dream. They could dream of becoming lawyers, doctors, bankers, public-relations experts, or human-resources specialists. They could learn from experienced professionals, real people who have had real-world experiences, about how to get there, what to study, and what obstacles they may encounter while getting there.

Yale Day of Service hosted a Career Day at the William Holmes Elementary School in Mt. Vernon, May 9.  Yale alumni and other experienced volunteers spent a half-day speaking in classrooms to students about careers and about what it might take to become a lawyer, doctor, a teacher or a school principal. Students were fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders.  Some were designated to act as ambassadors for the day, who escorted the Yale volunteers from classroom to classroom and even provided hints on how engaged the students would be.

Carol Quinones-Smith, whose sister Mildred Quinones-Holmes '82 is a Yale graduate, is principal at the school.  YWAA board member Susan Kaminsky '86 was the Day of Service site coordinator.  Together, they organized a schedule that permitted the Yale volunteers to lead informal discussions in nine different classes to over 150 students.

Yale alumni who participated as part of Day of Service, 2014, included YWAA board member Scott Sherman '72 (law), Karen Strauss '82 (public relations), Andrew Richter '79 Ph.d. (human resources) and YWAA board member Tracy Williams '79 (banking).  Other volunteers included Phyllis Schmiedeberg (medicine), Maureen Sullivan (legal assistance), Juan Arias (law), Howie Chwatt (education, real estate), and Rick Castellito (education).

The attentive students dazzled the Yale group with probing questions, amusing thoughts, and interesting observations about what they know already about law, medicine, banking or public relations.  They asked questions about lawyers in courtrooms, about bankers who must prevent hackers from stealing money from their mothers' accounts, and about doctors who must diagnose serious diseases.

They even charmed the Yale speakers with stories of their own--stories about relatives suffering from life-threatening illnesses, about parents who discuss the risks of identity theft with them, and about their own understanding of what happens in a courtroom. One student suggested that public-service announcements about the risks of smoking could be regarded the best way to prevent lung cancer.

Another student wanted to understand thoroughly how money could be "transferred" electronically from his mother's account to parts all over the world. A few students, against the urges of teachers, dared to ask how much money they could earn in a profession.

The Yale group, thrilled by the enthusiasm of the students and amused by their clever comments and  questions, promised to return for more Days of Service and Career Days in the years to come.

Karen Strauss '82 (top) spoke about her experiences in public relations. Phllis Schmiedeberg (middle, left) told students what they can do to become doctors. Andrew Richter '79 Ph.d. (middle, right), a human-resources expert, met with students in class. YWAA board member Scott Sherman '72 (bottom) talked to Holmes ambassadors before speaking to students about careers in law (YWAA photos)

Yale alumni and other volunteers greet Holmes student ambassadors (top) before speaking to students in classrooms about careers and career steps during Yale Day of Service in Mt. Vernon (YWAA photos)

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