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The Episcopal School in North Philadelphia
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Author Lorene Cary brings animated stories to the classroom

On Wednesday, February 24, St. James School welcomed 13 professionals for the second annual Black History Month Career Day. Students had the opportunity to hear career and life advice and connect with black leaders from different industries, including medicine, business, the arts, law, engineering and more.  

Career Day at St. James School is one of many Black History Month activities designed to increase understanding of the struggle and sacrifice people of color endured to achieve equal rights and tolerance in American society.

Each professional spoke to classes about their background and career path. Students were full of questions, ranging from what activities they participated in during middle school to their personal role models and how to set and reach goals.

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Neighbor and friend Brucelee Sterile talks about retirement planning through his work at Vanguard Group

Vanguard Flagship Sales Consultant Brucelee Sterile led students in a lively discussion of investment and retirement planning, asking if they would prefer to work their entire lives or save enough to retire. Eighth grader Joseph, who already has plans to earn an MBA in the future, learned a lot from his presentation, “Mr. Sterile taught us how to manage money and get through school. He shared his words of wisdom with us and influenced me to get better grades.”

Author Lorene Cary delivered a spirited presentation that had many students asking questions and getting involved. Ms. Cary brought copies of her book for middle school readers Free!: Great Escapes from Slavery on the Underground Railroad for each student. Aspiring writer and 8th grade student Aashiyah said that, “you can tell that Ms. Cary really loves her work and I can’t wait to read her book”.

DSC_2189Actress Melanye Finister got students up and moving with interactive theatrical exercises that students loved. “Ms. Finister was active, joyful and funny. She told us not to give up, even when we get frustrated. I want to be an actress, just like her”, said sixth grade student Aaniyah.

Lawyer Anita Friday’s engaging presentation made a big impression on eighth grade student Justin. “I had never met an African American female lawyer. She inspired me that anything is possible and that I should pursue my dreams.”

School nurse Madeia Jacobs spoke about the joys and challenges of nursing. Thanks to her presentation, eighth grade student Samira is now considering a career in nursing, “Nurses do more than just help people to get better. Ms. Jacobs takes care of a lot of her patients’ needs, like clothing them and making sure that they stay healthy.”

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Blane Stoddart talks about business and more.

Blane Stoddart, CEO of BFW Group and Co-Founder of Better Living Center in Chester, PA, spoke passionately about the great need for education and jobs in the city of Chester. He told students about his help in founding the center as a way to get food to families in need. He also talked about his life as a business and marketing professional, inspiring students to think beyond the dream basketball job to establish a life that will provide enjoyment, give back, and help others as well as their family.

Some of the visitors joined us for lunch following their presentations, where they were highly coveted table members. The lunchroom on Wednesday was filled with students discussing all that they learned and the new dreams our visitors sparked. Sixth grader Cherrelle said, “Ms. Latty’s presentation inspired me to a journalist. I didn’t know that job existed.”

Students were engaged and entertained by all speakers

Students were engaged and entertained by all speakers

One eighth grade student also shared that hearing the visitors’ stories “reset my whole life.”

Special thanks to our presenters:

  • Deborah Anthony, Chef, St. James School
  • Brian Beard, Allstate Agency Owner
  • Lorene Carey, Author; Professor, University of Pennsylvania
  • Julian Dimery, Global Sales Director, Transperfect
  • Melanye Finister, Actress
  • Anita Friday, Lawyer
  • Gary Friday, Neurologist, Mainline Health
  • Greg Grant, Coach, Uth Fitness, Inc.
  • Madeia Jacobs, Nurse, School District of Philadelphia
  • Yvonne Latty, Journalist; Author; Documentary Film Maker, New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute
  • Lex Peters, Software Engineer, Asset Map and Motion Design Acrobatic Yoga
  • Brucelee Sterile, Flagship Sales Consultant, Vanguard
  • Blane Stoddart, CEO, BFW Group, LLC