Common Ground: Helping launch youth in the right direction

I visit my high school alma mater several times a year, sometimes eating lunch in the cafeteria, talking to students during career day programs or covering their school events for the newspaper.

Those encounters remind me that being visible and active in our community schools is important and meaningful to students and faculty.

It’s a small gesture for the four years I spent learning and growing under the tutelage and guidance of instructors at Scotlandville Magnet who helped prepare me for life in the career world.

Last week, I met a Baton Rouge Magnet High School graduate who is helping her alma mater lure alumni back to the campus through a series of brown bag lunch workshops for students.

The Career Life Launch Series is the brainchild of librarian Betty Brackins and the Baton Rouge High School Foundation, headed by Lauren Ford, a 1980 Baton Rouge Magnet graduate.

“Our goal is to bring our alumni back,” Ford said. “We want our students to see the people who are running businesses, and we want the alumni to come back and speak to the students.”

Thanks to Facebook and other communication streams, their efforts appear to be working. They have signed up community participants and alumni to head up 17 different Career Life workshops this year.

At last week’s workshop, Julie Laperouse, of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber , helped 20 students break the silence and learn the benefits of networking.

“Young people are so focused on communicating through technology that they need a reminder on communicating face to face and shaking hands,” Laperouse told them.

She demonstrated how students can network during shopping trips, family events, and lunches or dinners.

“During the holiday season when you’re visiting with your relatives and they ask you about school, don’t just say ‘fine’ or ‘I don’t know.’ Come up with something to say.”

Brackins, who is leading the scholarship workshop, said the series is a hit so far.

“It’s something we know they need,” she said.

Students who attend her workshops will receive a scholarship application packet.

Baton Rouge Magnet High alumnus Tyler Reames will visit the school in November to speak with students about “What I Wish I Knew Then,” and a local credit union will lead a workshop on “Financial Smarts.”

If I may, I’d like to throw in my own two cents about what I wish I knew then.

For starters, I would not have accepted one of those high-interest-rate credit cards that come through the mail as soon as you graduate from high school.

Secondly, I would have spent my junior and senior years searching and applying for scholarships instead of relying on costly student loans that take years to repay.

While there are plenty of us who have made mistakes on the journey leading to our career or job paths, now is a good time to visit our community schools, meet the students and help them realize their possibilities for the future.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at