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Alumni Share Perspectives and Career Advice

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Remember when you were a high school student overwhelmed about what college major to choose and what profession you wanted to pursue? Last week, a host of accomplished O’Dowd alumni returned to campus to participate in the annual Career Day event, bringing enthusiasm and passion to inspire our students.

Junior students heard from these alumni, as well as parents and members of the community, at the March 15 event. The day started off with a welcome session in the theater, where alumni presenters shared what they took away from their high school experience that guided them in their career journey.

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Each said that the long-lasting friendships they forged with fellow classmates and faculty and staff have proved invaluable throughout the years, and that the college preparatory education provided at O’Dowd gave them a leg up in college and beyond.

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Emergency room physician Chris Fee ’89 said he understood that students experience a lot of external pressure about selecting the right career path, but advised them to listen to their hearts. “Sample things. Find what you want to do and what really ignites your passion,” he said.

Fee said that as a college preparatory school, O’Dowd thoroughly equips students to pursue whatever field they choose. “I worked harder in high school than I did in college. This place sets you up for success,” he said.

O’Dowd’s longtime focus on Strength of Character made a difference for Pete May ’79. He said ethical grounding he developed at O’Dowd – “knowing when to do the right thing” – has been invaluable in his professional career as president and co-founder of GreenBiz.

In addition to presentations by individuals, students had the option of participating in Industry Spotlight Sessions, featuring multiple presenters, where they could gain a sense of different avenues that can be taken within a field or how to take an interest and shape it into a career.

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The “Health Care” Industry Spotlight Session featured Tom Abdenour (an athletic trainer who worked for the Golden State Warriors for 24 seasons), Chris Fee ’89, Cynthia Ferrari (marriage and family therapist) past parent Nora Garcia-Zepeda (pediatrician), Brenda Lewis Jackson ’84 (nursing), Sarah Johnson ’96 (Ob/GYN) and Charles Lau (radiology and medical technology).

In addition to talking about the challenges and joys they experience in their work, Health Care panel members addressed a host of pressing medical issues, including stress, gun and interpersonal violence, drug addiction, the effect childhood trauma has on health, and equity in health care.

They also encouraged students to maintain a healthy balance between their professional and personal lives. “Take care of you being you – carve in that time for yourself,” Abdenour said.

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In the “Business” Industry Spotlight Session, Peter Counts ’11 advised students to be confident about their abilities when they enter the workforce.

“Always be respectful, but speak your mind. If you are prepared and know the material, don’t be afraid to say what you know,” he said.

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Students were grateful for the advice from Career Day participants.

“I think it’s a really good resource for us and I’m glad we had this opportunity,” Gianna Lawrenz ’20 said. “Right now I’m not really sure where I’m headed in terms of college and career and today is a big part of helping me figure that out.”

After their presentations, the Career Day speakers were invited to join faculty members and staff for lunch in the theater lobby.

Career Day speakers included:

Tom Abdenour – Athletic Training Justin Brue ’09 – Structural Engineer Megan Brown – Flight Attendant/Travel Industry Al Carrasco ’76 – Accounting Caroline Counts ’12 – Financial Analyst Peter Counts ’11 – Strategy & Analytics Damon Covington ’91 – Firefighter Annie Eagan ’89 – Political Fundraising/Local Government Osahon Ekhator Osagiede – Business Development J’ron Erby -Sports Marketing/Social Media Director Sabrina Farrell ’90 – Law: Prosecution/District Attorney Chris Fee ’89 – Emergency Medicine Cynthia Ferrari – Psychology: Marriage and Family Therapist Michelle Florian ’04 – Pharmacy Tech Nora Garcia-Zepeda – Pediatrician Una Gilmartin – Structural Engineer David Green ’03 – Firefighter Kevin Greene – Sports/ Salesforce Amy Hwang – Software Engineer- Oculus VR Brenda Lewis Jackson ’84 – Nursing Derreck Johnson ’82 – Business: Entrepreneur, Restauranteur Sara Johnson ’96 – OB/GYN Annie Kersting – Environmental Science Corinne Kinczel ’90 – Culinary; Entrepreneureur Christine Klymko – Data Science Charles Lau – Radiology-MD Pete May ’78 – Green Business Patty McDonald ’59 – Interior Design Ann McFarland – Social Work Brice McKeever ’90 – Marketing Emily Murphy ’90 – Police Detective Dan Oppenheimer – Biotech /Business and Science Meredith Parry – Corporate Law Matt Powers ’99 – Geological Engineer Ana Raphael Scott – Video Game Industry Shelley Russi ’88 – ref-ology referee consultant Christie Saccomanno Ewert ’10 – Education-Early Childhood/Learning Differences Terry Scott – Aviation Tevin Tavares ’12 – Film Ayanna Ziegler ’12 – Film Bobby Thompson ’07 – Cal Athletics Michael Wallman – Google Engineer Mark Wayland ’88 – Business Dana Young ’83 – Public Relations Maria Zizska ’06 – Cookbook Author

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