Fifteen Jenkins High School graduates from as far back as 1971 returned to their alma mater on March 29 to share their post-high school journey with current students.
Although JHS Career Day allows students to attend four different presentations based on careers they are interested in, JHS principal Kim Hogan said the annual event is more about hearing personal stories of how the alumni got to where they are today, and for students to recognize their potential to be successful in whatever they choose to do after graduation.
Spokane School Superintendent Shelley (Taylor) Redinger, of the Class of 1985, said she has worked with a lot of different high school students in her career and that the students at JHS are “just as competent and capable” as any of them. She said as long as they make the effort and put the work in, anything is possible.
“You can compete with all those students,” Redinger said, “They don’t have an edge over you.”
Anna Ludwig, Class of 1996, has a doctorate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and is now a DNA Research Scientist at UC Davis School of Medicine. She said since taking biology with Jim Biancardi in high school, she knew she would go into molecular biology research to study DNA, and the Ph.D. track came with the career choice.
On the other hand, Ariel Carter Belzer (Class of 2002) said she had no idea what she would do after high school and that she would end up as the advertising director at KREM 2 News. She made sure the students understood that it is OK to not to know right away.
“I was clueless, even all through college,” she said. “I’m still clueless but at least I am happy.”
Redinger said she did not know that she would end up as a school superintendent but knew she wanted to get into teaching and education. She was a teacher for five years then served as assistant principal and principal for 13 years. During that time, she was encouraged to continue her education to become a superintendent and now leads Spokane School District 81, the second largest district in the state covering 50 schools and 3,000 employees.
Ludwig, who resides in California, said she really enjoyed coming back to the high school for Career Day. She expected that there would be students acting immaturely toward the guest speakers in high schools, like TV depicts, however, Ludwig said she was impressed at how engaged the students were in what she had to say. She even taught three periods of biology the day before with Mr. Biancardi and discovered her love for teaching the subject she knows so well, again through his influence.
Belzer said she was excited to be invited to the Career Day and liked the switch of roles not to have to be the student anymore. Coming back into the school and hearing the bell ring still inspires anxiety, she said, making her feel like she was back in high school again especially with the “specific smell” she recognized when she walked back into the building.
The day ended with a reception in the JHS library where the alumni, staff, students, and community members enjoyed snacks provided by the Food Science class. Past students and staff could be heard commiserating about their high school years and telling stories of the past.
“Lots of memories here,” Redinger said. “Everything seems so much smaller now,” she added. She had not been back in the high school building in over 20 years.
Redinger enjoyed discovering the students who had parents she went to high school with and had mentioned to the students that the classroom she gave her career presentation in was the same class she took Mr. Hogan’s Current World Problems during his first years of teaching.
The other presenters for the day were: Brett Sweet (2003), Joel Rosenberg (not from JHS), Derek Main (1994), David Zibell (1980), Diane Zeihen (1971), Steve Skok (1980), Tedra Morris (2002), David Yarnell (1997), Jessica Carpenter (2002), Justin Shamion (2000), Cindy Stroyan (1985), Charles Lester (1987). They come from a wide range of careers from pharmacy, to firefighter, to software engineer, to survival instructor.
By Kellie Trudeau
The Independent Staff
In This Photo: Superintendent of Spokane Schools Shelley Redinger (JHS Class of 1985) shows students at JHS how important her smartphone is in her line of work. Kellie Trudeau photo