Largest turnout at YRU alumni luncheon


Courtesy Shorewood School District

Students and speakers attend the alumni luncheon hosted by Youth Rising Up. This was the third annual luncheon.

On May 15, Youth Rising Up held their third annual Alumni Luncheon. The event invited students to meet Shorewood graduates and learn about how their experiences at SHS prepared them for life after high school. This year was their most attended event yet, with around 100 students and 25 alumni participating.

The club makes an effort to bring varied guests. The luncheon showcased alumni from a variety of years and fields.

“Throughout the years there have been maybe 50-60 different alumni who have come” said Nelson Brown, staff advisor of Youth Rising Up. “[This year] we had a couple doctors, some bankers, obviously some students, those were the main [alumni].”

The event was held in the North Gym. At each table there were 12 guiding questions. Students were able to guide their discussions using those questions, or by ask their own questions regarding other topics. The meeting lasted multiple hours and provided opportunities for students to talk with the guests and satisfy their curiosity.

“We got to ask a lot of questions like, ‘Where did you go to college? How was college life? What do think was the most valuable thing was you learned in your school community?’” said Naya Funn, sophomore.

The tradition of the Alumni Luncheon is important to help prepare high schoolers for their future. By relating to people who have gone through similar experiences, the event helps give hope to students who are unsure of what to expect in their own futures.

Jacey Gray-Hall, freshman, supported this.

“I feel like after high school things can be scary, so hearing about how Shorewood helped them be successful in life made us feel better about graduating,” Gray-Hall said.

Hearing about how Shorewood helped them be successful in life made us feel better about graduating.

— Jacey Gray-Hall, freshman

“The goal is to get our students around some other people who have walked these same hallways,” Brown said. “They had some of the same teachers and actually give insight into what they are going to see when they go off to college and give them hope like ‘Hey guys, there is hope after high school; it’s not that bad.’”

The prospect of meeting successful African American Shorewood alumni also appealed to many students. Aaron Wilder, senior, attended the event to see and hear about some of the alumni that are of color and successful in their careers today.

“[The event] was to show [students] a representation of people of color who graduated from Shorewood and were successful in their endeavors after high school,” Wilder said.

The goal is to get our students around some other people who have walked these same hallways.

— Nelson Brown, staff advisor of Youth Rising Up

The Alumni shared inspiring stories and each student took away powerful messages from the event.

“I really liked how a person at my table said, ‘Do what you like; don’t waste your time. If you like doing sports you can turn that into making a small business,’” Gray-Hall said.

Some of the alumnus are continuing to stay involved with the school district.

“Someone graduated two years ago [and] they had their own business that was pretty successful. The lady I talked to … graduated from Southern University, and she’s really still committed to the Shorewood School District,” Wilder said.

At one of the tables, the discussion revolved around how student action in civil rights has changed.

“One of the girls at my table was talking about how a lot of the stuff we are doing now, like the rallies, they couldn’t do as kids. They had to keep their mouth shut and live with it, while right now we are allowed to voice what we think and what we want,” Funn said. “When she was in school she said they weren’t allowed to do that because [it] wouldn’t really matter because it wouldn’t make a difference.”

One of the Alumni, Alexis Beverly, had an especially moving story. During her senior year she became pregnant. While speaking at this year’s Alumni lunch, she talked about how having a child changed her life.

“She was able to shed light as to how that experience allowed her to grow up a lot faster, and without that she wouldn’t be the person she is today,” Brown said.

As long as the Alumni Lunch inspires students we can expect to see this event for years to come.