Alumna Courtney Sutton Strosnider pulled into the same parking lot where she parked so many times before, but this time the nervous energy she felt was not due to a test or paper, but connected to her speech she would make to students as a graduate.
Strosnider is one of several alumni who are taking part in a speaker series organized by three faculty members: librarian Allison Heath, co-athletic director Hez Butler and English teacher Beth Andersen. Strosnider, like many other alumni have embraced this opportunity to give back.
“I was beyond excited to have the opportunity to talk to current PGHS students. Truly, so much of where I am today started at PGHS. The teachers never gave up, the staff took the time to know my name, the coaches supported me on and off the field (well, track), and everyone bleeds green and gold,” Strosnider said. “I wanted the students to know that PGHS is home. It is comfortable, it is safe, and it is family. That being said, I wanted to let the students know that you get what you give. I tried my best to give my all to PGHS and I am still benefiting from that.”
The main goal of the speaker series is, “to establish an opportunity for students to see that there are other [opportunities] beyond this building,” said Butler.
Organizers Butler, Andersen, and Heath schedule one speaker per month. Students are able to attend this event during A and D lunches. Students with B or C lunches can attend during their ETEH, while students with A or D lunch will need to eat during their ETEH block. The series is in its first year of taking place.
“Ms. Anderson, Mr. Butler, and I all are graduates of PG, so we wanted to start a program to see what [other graduates] are accomplishing,” Heath said.
Butler acknowledged that Heath is the mastermind behind the program of speakers.
When deciding the next speaker, the organizers take into consideration the success of the alumni, the interest level of students in the speaker’s vocation, the speaker’s recognition of Prince George’s influence in their life, and the availability of the individual. The organizers have a growing list of potential alumni who could speak at the events.
“We look for successful alumni (as speakers),” said Butler.
The most recent speaker, Strosnider, a 2007 PG graduate is a professor of Kinesiology and Health in Atlanta at Georgia State University. Strosnider’s areas of specialty include sleep apnea and a variety of heart studies, according to Georgia State University’s website. During her talk in October she was asked a variety of questions from students.
“I loved hearing the questions the students asked, ‘How do you make note cards for Mr. Britt’s tests?’ ‘Is it possible to pass Mr. York’s anatomy class?’ ‘What is the best way to study?’ ‘Is college hard?’ I enjoyed talking to individual students about their plans after PGHS…some of them sound so much like I did,” Strosnider said.
The main goal of the program is to inspire students by providing them with a valuable outlook for their future. The second goal is for alumni to see their connection to this county and to appreciate how the school has helped to mold them into who they are today.
“The best part is seeing that my favorite parts about PGHS are still there today. The teachers are still fully supportive; I was overwhelmed by the number of my teachers who attended my talk.” Strosnider said.
The program also helps students to become aware of their decisions.
“What we’re doing now, is important in the future.” Butler said.
Recently, Jackie Bradley, Jr, a major league baseball player, visited the school although not to officially speak. This event caused excitement throughout the school. It was an exhilarating experience for fans of baseball and those who just wanted to meet a celebrity. The excitement required that the session be moved to the gym.
It also serves as a way, “to stay better connected with alumni who called PGHS home, but have now gone out into the real world,” Andersen said.
The speakers will often cover a variety of topics, including their experience as a High Schooler. This includes various class advice, one example being, “how to survive Mr. Britt’s class,” said Heath.
The final objective of the speaker series is that it will inspire students to, one day, return to Prince George as speakers themselves.
“It’s easy for our students to get bogged down in the mentality that this is just Prince George… or feel their opportunity is limited by being in a rural area,” said Andersen, “but they can see that former students have gone on to do exciting and varied things.”