By Sophia DeJesus
Alumni Day. A day where graduates from Smithfield High School are excitedly welcomed back and encouraged to spill to current seniors about how they ever managed to make it out of high school alive. From class of 2009 to 2019, each graduate had a piece of advice to offer to the 2020 seniors. An excited buzz ran throughout the auditorium as the group settled into their seats. Guidance counselors and teachers ran to greet the alumni and happy whispers could be heard as hugs were shared. This day was to share about life after high school, the struggles of being a new adult, as well as important lessons and experiences they’ve faced since graduating.
To start, a microphone was passed around as the eleven alumni introduced themselves. The 2020 seniors sat attentively as the speakers shared some background information about who they were in high school.
As the speakers started to share advice, 2017 graduate, Kayleigh McElroy, emphasized, “if you feel college is not for you, don’t feel pressured to go to college because you will have so much [debt].” A murmur of agreement was passed around the auditorium, and it was at this point the supervising teachers mentioned for the alumni to “be more realistic” and “comment more like that”. This comment got John Hawkins’ attention, –who graduated in 2009– and inspired him to reminisce about his high school days.
“School wasn’t for me.” He started off. The seniors laughed, many of which could relate. Hawkins smiled as he continued and said, “if schools not for you…it’s not the end of the world, there’s plenty of other opportunities out there for you.”
Like plenty of seniors are currently considering, John Hawkins didn’t go to college. However, he now has his own successful hardwood flooring business. Hawkin’s Hardwood Flooring was not his initial plan after high school, however, he made sure to stress to the students that they “won’t always end up doing what [they] think [they’re] going to do,” and that’s okay.
The mic was passed around the table once more, and when it was 2011 alumna, Bailey Saddlemire’s turn, she spoke more about academics and her experience in college. She was an involved student with interests in music, however, she commented on how in high school, she was also an anxious student. Though she noticed in college, things were much different. “College professors are so understanding…if you’re working hard in college, typically you’re able to get through.” Saddlemire wanted the seniors to know that college is about putting in effort and managing time properly. She also stated, “the best students are the ones that [can] advocate for themselves.”
Remy Sands, a 2014 alumna also wanted to emphasize the beauty of tech schools. Like John Hawkins, college wasn’t for her. Now the owner of Lovely Lash –a salon in Smithfield,– she’s creating a name for herself by doing eyelash extensions. “When you’re 18, it’s so crazy to be expected to know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life,” she said. The students nodded in agreement as Sands continued to speak. Though owning a business isn’t what she imagined for herself, she laughed as she said, “you have to learn how to pay your own bills! Bills are real, and they creep up on you.”
Alumnus Shane Briggs, who’s a recent 2019 graduate, also decided to offer his story and some advice. He described himself as “that guy,” and to anyone that knows him personally, will understand exactly what he means. He was highly involved in high school, a friendly athlete, as well as a good student. Trying to get through college with as little debt as possible, his original plan was to attend RIC. However, upon further thinking, Briggs took advantage of the Rhode Island Promise, and through the joint admissions program, he will eventually transfer to URI. His final piece of advice was, “college is just as much about not knowing what you want to do, as much as knowing what you [actually] want to do.”