Returning to inspire

STEM alumni career panel fosters student opportunity


Michael Sinde

Amazing alumni: South STEM students attend the 2019 career panel to learn about different STEM career fields and jobs.

Ella Naugle and Caroline Ohlandt

Returning to the high school where his engineering aspirations began, 2019 South alum Amil Dravid hopes to empower the next generation of students. Now a junior at Northwestern University studying computer science, he is sharing his experience with current South students at the STEM alumni career panel in order to help students explore new career paths in the science field.

“I hope the students will feel empowered [after] hearing the speakers’ stories,  and gain confidence that they can pursue what they want [to do in their future],” Dravid said. “The panel [is] a way to expose these students to the diverse range of opportunities they can pursue after graduating from South.”

Held annually before winter break, the STEM alumni career panel is an opportunity for alumni to share their experiences and answer the questions of South STEM students, Engineering Teacher Michael Sinde said.

Since the panel was cancelled last year due to Covid-19, Sinde is excited for its return. Students can ask a wide variety of questions pertaining to STEM, colleges, and careers in the science field with the goal of visualizing possible pathways for their futures, Sinde said.

“[The career panel] gives current students an opportunity to hear from former students [about] what path they took, whether it be college or work,” Sinde said. “[The alumni] can give current students a goal and [it lets them] see what is available in the field.”

Students will also have the chance to ask questions in smaller breakout groups as well as hear from a panel of alumni, Dawn Hall, Instructional Supervisor of Career and Technological Education, explained. The event will be held during Blocks 1 and 2 on Dec. 17, where students will first spend time in a large group panel, and later participate in smaller discussion groups with the alumni, Hall explained.

“We will have a panel with moderators to share relevant information and advice, and will also have small groups for follow-up questions,” Hall said.

Sinde said that the career panel helps create the vital link between high school and future careers for students, and will provide students with examples and experiences that others had in the past. Ultimately, Sinde hopes the event will be inspiring for students.

“[The panel is] part of that science and engineering community that we build,” Sinde said. “I hope current students can actually get to see previous students and the path they took. Everyone is going to forge their own path, but I want [students] to see that it can be done.”

Freshman Emily Lein looks forward to hearing the advice of the moderators as she believes they will be able to connect with students because of their past experience in the South STEM program.

“I want to know more about what different careers in engineering look like,” Lein said. “Coming out of this program, [the panelists] know what parts of the [South STEM] program helped them most in their career, so that is going to be interesting [to hear about].”

Excited to pursue engineering beyond high school, freshman Alex Barzyk wants to hear about potential careers in the science field.

“I like being creative and expressing myself with [science] projects and problem solving,” Barzyk said. “I may want to be an engineer when I grow up, so this is a really good learning experience.”

After taking part in the discussion two years ago, senior Adam Pawlik encourages students to take advantage of the career panel to explore new pathways in engineering.

“It was really interesting to see everyone diverting into different career paths while staying in the same branch of general engineering,” Pawlik said. “It [highlighted] the fact that there are endless possibilities in the world to go out and achieve.”