Life After High School Fair for 11th and 12th grade students

Staff at Unity Reed High School hosted the Life After High School Fair for 11th and 12th grade students who are English language learners, exposing them to opportunities and examples that could help them achieve, succeed, and keep their dreams alive. In addition to exhibits about community organizations and resources, Amanda Thomas, ESOL teacher, and Marcus Lawrence, career counselor, invited 20 culturally diverse professionals from the local community to attend. These volunteers shared personal life examples to illustrate that there are many individual paths to success and show what is possible.

The event's keynote speaker was Juan Lizama, administrative coordinator for translation and interpretation services under the Student Opportunity and Multilingual Services Department, who presented his amazing immigrant story and path to success.

"For a few years as a young child there was not going to be life after high school for me because of an ongoing civil war that caused schools to close in the rural area where I grew up," shared Lizama. "Following some daunting trials, I was forced to flee my home country of El Salvador and I came to the U.S. by myself at age 16.

"Sharing my story with the Unity Reed High School EL students was special because I identify with them, and they identify with me, not only at the level of having to learn English and advance academically, but also, for some of them, being forced to flee their home countries. I also wanted them to hear how education has broadened my horizons to the world, and that it has been key in my life and employment opportunities," Lizama added.

The community volunteers included small business owners, and members of the Prince William County Government, emergency service providers, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, military service members from the U.S. Army; and some former Unity Reed graduates who were ESOL students and are now successful professionals.

After the fair, each student created a concrete plan for what they will do after high school. Using the information gained from the fair to guide them, they proposed which schools or careers they wanted to pursue and created steps to help them achieve it.

"The event was a success and proof of what can be accomplished when we come together as a community!" said Maria Anderson, assistant principal at Unity Reed High. "This is the first time this event has been held at Unity Reed. To enhance for next time, we would love to broaden our volunteer base to include more occupations and schools for students to gain more of a balance of information."

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