Students at Brooklyn Lab Charter School took part in a “Success Looks Like Me” career day on Feb. 15. The event brought some 20 Black professionals to the school to speak with 6th through 12th graders about how their education can chart a path for the rest of their lives.

Brooklyn Lab’s CEO Dr. Garland L. Thomas-McDavid started the day out by telling students her own story. She was raised in Brooklyn, in a family without many financial means, and later became a teen mom and high school dropout. It wasn’t until she worked toward a college degree that she realized her life could be different. 

“There were days when we didn’t seem to have enough food and everybody else seemed to have a better life and things going on and we just were always walking around with these secrets,” Dr. Thomas-McDavid told the students assembled for the career day. “So, if there are any of you who might be going through things…I just want you to know enough about me that I still made it here. Even with the things I didn’t know and even with the things I was going through, I still made it here, and you can still make it here. So, don’t count yourself out. Don’t buy into any belief that you can’t make it.”

Brooklyn Lab invited several Black professionals from across New York to speak to its students about the experiences that led them to chart career paths they had never thought they’d turn to. 

“I ended up going to South Korea and teaching English for two years,” The Honor Roll Foundation’s Tabatha Williams told the students. “While I was there, I was able to start making apparel as a hobby and I pretty much connected with manufacturers in Korea, and I was also able to connect with manufacturers in China.” Williams went from making apparel clothing to mentoring students and creating the Honor Roll Foundation whose mission is to help high school students transition to successful college students.

Garçon Couture co-founder Ilbert Sanchez spoke about how he and his friends created their company after looking to create a line of clothing that was authentic to their culture. Tasha Hilton, BET’s marketing director, spoke of how BET makes the effort to target the Black community with programming they want to view. Andre McDonnell noted that his non-profit, It’s From The Sole, has provided 37,000 free sneakers to people with no access to footwear in 16 countries and 43 cities around America. Meanwhile, the National Action Network’s Dominique Sharpton talked about being an actress and producer while trying to help run a civil rights organization: “Whenever a big injustice of some sort happens, we really go in and have organized demonstrations because there’s a strategy involved,” she explained. Demonstrations are meant to affect legislation, she said. “We want to change the laws [which were how we] got to this point, for this injustice to possibly happen.”   

After hearing from an initial panel, students broke out into smaller individual group conversations where they could talk intimately with Black professionals who came to spotlight how being open to exploring could help students as they head toward creating life-careers.

Brooklyn Lab Charter School sponsored its career day program to further push its students toward college enrollment and future careers. 

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