Inspiring Lansing’s Youth: My Experience as a Career Speaker at Sexton High School

Apr 15, 2024 | Career, Personal

I had the privilege of speaking to students at Sexton High School in Lansing about their career aspirations for the JA Career Speaker Series.
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One day, while browsing my LinkedIn, I got a message from Jazz D Scott inviting me to be a career speaker at Sexton High School in Lansing, MI on April 5, 2024. The event was part of Junior Achievement (JA) of Mid Michigan’s Career Speaker Series teaching students about different jobs and professions, made possible by funding from Jackson Gives. Being someone who has always been passionate about guiding and mentoring young minds, especially those in Michigan, I jumped at the opportunity. In this post, I’ll share a reflection on my experience.

What is Junior Achievement of Mid Michigan?

Junior Achievement (JA) of Mid Michigan is a regional branch of Junior Achievement, a non-profit organization that focuses on educating students about financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and work readiness through experiential, hands-on programs. JA of Mid Michigan specifically serves the Mid Michigan area, offering programs and resources tailored to the needs of students in this region. These programs often involve volunteers from the local business community who share their expertise and real-world experiences with students in schools or through other educational initiatives.

Arriving at Sexton

Walking into the school on April 5th, I was met with a blend of excitement and nervous energy. High school students can be a tough crowd, after all. However, armed with my own experiences and a desire to make a difference, I stepped into the classroom ready to connect.

After getting checked in with the JA staff, a student escorted me to the first class that I would be speaking to.

The First Class

When I got to the first classroom, they were playing a game of Pictionary while they waited for me to arrive. Since I got there in the middle of a round, I joined in the game. While everyone was struggling with the drawing on the board, I correctly guessed the clue, hairspray, which excited the student that was at the board at the time. Once the round was over, the teacher asked my name and introduced me to the class.

This was a class of 12th-grade seniors. When I started talking, the students seemed a bit reserved at first, but I wasn’t deterred. Instead of launching into a monologue about my own career journey, I decided to flip the script. After briefly telling them who I am, what I do, and how I got to where I am, I asked them about their dreams, aspirations, and what they hoped to achieve beyond high school and gave them advice to help them get there. The shift was palpable – suddenly, they were engaged, eager to share their hopes and fears about the future.

By the end of the session, the classroom buzzed with energy and excitement. Some students lingered behind, asking questions and soaking up every last drop of wisdom I could offer.

The Second Class

After the first class, I was directed to another. This time, I was speaking to a 9th-grade freshman class, so they were much more active than the first class initially. Since I had already spoken to one class, I walked into the second class with a game plan in mind.

When I got to this class, they were finishing up a “Do It Now” activity. The teacher was the same one from the previous class that I’d spoken to, so she already knew who I was. Once the class finished their activity, the teacher gave me a warm introduction and released the class to me.

Since this was a 9th-grade class, the students started out pretty rowdy, so it seemed like it would be a challenge to get them interested in talking to me. There were two other teachers sitting in with this class who occasionally chimed in to get the students to quiet down and pay attention. I figured that since these students were younger, I had to approach them differently. I had to tap into my camp advisor bag and I showed them some big sister energy, they quickly started to straighten up after that.

Once the students were engaging with me, things went by much smoother. Just like the first class, the students shared their goals and aspirations with me and I gave them advice to help them along the way. After I wrapped up speaking, one of the teachers approached me to commend me on my speaking skills and handling the students. We also exchanged contact information and she welcomed me back if the opportunity presented itself. There was also one student who came up to me to show me that she’d drawn a picture of me while I was speaking—it was the highlight of my day!

Looking Back

It was a humbling experience, listening to these young minds share their dreams with me. From aspiring doctors to budding entrepreneurs, each student had a unique vision for their future. And while I may not have all the answers, I knew I could offer something valuable – advice, encouragement, and a listening ear.

I shared snippets of my own journey, peppered with anecdotes and lessons learned along the way. But the focus remained on them – on empowering these students to chase their dreams fearlessly, to embrace failure as a stepping stone to success, and to never underestimate the power of their own potential.

As I left Sexton High School that day, I couldn’t help but feel grateful for the opportunity to make a difference – however small – in the lives of these future leaders.

To Jazz, JA of Mid Michigan, and the team at Sexton High School, thank you for inviting me to be a part of something truly special. Together, we can empower the next generation to reach for the stars.

Final Thoughts…

My time at Sexton was a reminder of the power of mentorship and the importance of giving back. As I reflect on this experience, I’m filled with gratitude for the opportunity to inspire and empower the next generation of leaders. And who knows? Perhaps one day, one of those students will be the one standing in front of the classroom, paying it forward to the next generation of dreamers.


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Desiree' M. Slaughter

Desiree' M. Slaughter

Creative Professional, Solopreneur, Digital Creator

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