Redwood hosts Alumni Speaker Day

Rori Anderson

Every year since 2009, the Redwood Alumni Organization hosts an event for alumni to come to Redwood to speak. Every other year, only alumni who have been admitted into the Avenue of the Giants speak, and the other years it is a mix of different alumni. This year, it was hosted on May 26 and was a mix of alumni, not all of whom are in the Avenue of Giants. 

Will Helvestine reads letters that were sent to him to a packed library.

Marilee Rogers, the co-president of the organization, has been a Redwood student, a Redwood parent and a Redwood teacher. She was inspired to create the Alumni Organization since she was involved in the Redwood community. The organization hosts banquets for the Avenue of Giants members, which inspired them to do more. 

“Once we got established and had our first Avenue of Giants event we thought it would be great to have them come back and speak the same day as their banquet,” Rogers said. “But, there are so many other alumni that are doing interesting things, so we started on the alternate year of the banquet to [have the] Alumni Speaker Day.”

The event consists of 15 to 20 speakers who Rogers reaches out to. They come in and speak to one or two classes each on their specialty.

“This year I am working with Melissa Boles, who is also an alum and she has helped me with the logistics of sending out schedules to teachers and getting teachers to sign up for classes and trying to match some of the speakers to specific classes. It is a logistical nightmare,” Rogers said. 

Despite the challenge in planning what alumni goes to what class, Roger finds many benefits in learning what students are doing now. 

“I was excited to find out what kids were doing after they left Redwood. A lot of times you do all of this work as a teacher and you never know if it pays off. And it’s so rewarding as a teacher to run into [students later],” Rogers said.

Rogers is not alone in enjoying the day and being inspired. A lot of the alumni give helpful and insightful information to students. The each introduce themselves and then explain their transitions from Redwood to college to their career. After that, the alumni talk about a certain subject and then answer questions. 

Eric Schmitt, an alumnus that came back to speak to multiple classes, has gone on from Redwood to be a Pulitzer prize winning journalist and writes for the New York Times. He is currently covering the war in Ukraine, and his journalism career began at Redwood.

Eric Schmitt explains his life story to multiple different classes.

“I got kind of into journalism by accident. Through a scheduling fluke, the only English class left was journalism one on one. I was kind of resistant to it initially, because I thought, ‘Oh, this is gonna cramp my style.’ I liked reading newspapers, but I didn’t want to be a journalist. And it turned out to be just the opposite. It helped structure my writing. It was a great social group; a lot of my friends from high school today were part of the Bark. And the advisers are just really good. And so, it kind of set me on the path that I eventually went on,” Schmitt said. 

He views the Alumni Speaker Day as a time to inspire students and pass on his story to them. 

“I think it’s just important to speak to young journalists who are interested in pursuing this field to give them some idea of what the path might be like, for them,” Schmitt said. “So I am just hoping to give people the idea that journalism, [is possible in the] longer term, because I didn’t really have anybody like that. There wasn’t anybody in my family who was a journalist, I didn’t know anybody who was a journalist. So I was kind of trial by error.”

Schmitt is only one of the many notable speakers who came to Redwood. To learn more about the Redwood Alumni Organization, who plan more than just the speaker event, visit their website.