The Breakfast Club: Latin’s Before School Alumni Panels

Frani O’toole

At certain points in our lives, we all question what happens to us once we’re gone. Some call this pondering “the great beyond,” some call it contemplating the afterlife. The after-Latin life, that is. Though it’s true that what follows our time in high school is a mystery, Latin has been making efforts recently to ease the suspense. Last Wednesday, the Latin alumni office hosted the first of three breakfasts, each designed to give students insight into their fields of academic interest. Attended by a panel of four alums, each breakfast focuses on one of three academic areas — English and the arts, math and science, and history and the social sciences. Each alumni panelist has pursued a career in one of the respective fields, and is happy and successful in their line of work. “There’s no end to the alums that are doing interesting work and who are interested in helping students in any way they can,” Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Ms. Chu says. “It’s a benefit, we’ve got all these great resources at hand. You’re here, they’re here, so let’s have a breakfast!”

The first breakfast, centered around English and the arts, took place in the Loggia. The event was moderated by Latin alum Ryan Jacobson, an entertainment, media and privacy lawyer. Digital strategist with Ogilvy advertising Ian Sohn, award-winning film producer Michael Weber, and freelance journalist Noah Isackson also attended. Over bagels, donuts, and coffee, the alumni, students, and teachers discussed what sorts of opportunities follow high school graduation. For Michael Weber, her Latin and University of Michigan diplomas were followed by a job as a weather broadcaster in Hawaii before she began her own production company in Chicago. In the case of Noah Isackson, his post-graduation interests were guided by a knowledge of what he didn’t want to pursue: math. With that in mind, Isackson focused on his interest in English, developing the talents that would later help him as a journalist. Ian Sohn kept an open mind when looking for prospective job opportunities, and was hired at his current company after seizing an interview opening that came his way. The moderator Ryan Jacobson, unlike the other three panelists, was aware of his interest in law early on; in fact, he cited Latin’s Nazi Mind trials as a project that spurred his interest in the justice system.

All four panelists agreed that, while Latin often nurtured their interests in fields they would end up pursuing, it was Latin’s receptiveness and flexibility that was so important. “Latin didn’t force you into anything,” Ryan Jacobson said. In fact, the purpose of the alumni panel reflected Mr. Jacobson’s comment; introducing students to a wide range of career options, Ms. Chu says “the intention [of the alumni panel] is not to put more pressure on the fact that you should be thinking about your future.” Instead, it was to acknowledge that “many students in high school, starting earlier and earlier, are thinking about what they want to study in college. Usually that’s linked to what they might see themselves doing in the future, or at least things that they’re passionate about. It’s just an opportunity to start planting those seeds.”

The idea for an alumni panel breakfast began as a desire to replicate the “Career Day” Latin used to organize before switching to the eight-day rotating schedule. Though the new schedule doesn’t allow much time for half-day events like a “Career Day,” members of the Latin community were eager to give students a similar opportunity. In addition, the intimacy of a breakfast offered students the ability to talk one-on-one with the panelists, and ask personalized questions directly. One alum, Ms. Weber, was even able to encourage students to approach her for a summer internship. Ms. Weber and the panelists repeated to the group that “Latin teaches you to be proactive”; it seems with opportunities like a breakfast discussion with alumni, Latin not only teaches you to be proactive, but gives you a chance to apply it.

One quote from the morning seemed to echo the words of many Latin speakers this year, including Alice Baumgartner, another Latin alum. Regardless of what you encounter, Michael Weber said, “you have to be fearless and know that you’re going to fail, but you’re going to succeed one day.” With this in mind, I feel differently about the mystery of the after-Latin life. These breakfasts can give us clues, but it isn’t a good mystery if it’s easily solved.

(Note: The next two breakfasts will be April 19th and 25th. More information is available on RomanNet if you’re interested).