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Find your parachute - MIHS holds Career Day

By Mary L. Grady

A man who went from a life destined for herding goats and fetching water to attending Harvard, spoke to Mercer Island High School students about how to shape their future.

Mawi Asgedom, who survived civil war in Ethiopia, a refugee camp in the Sudan, welfare in the United States, but went on to earn a scholarship to Harvard, spoke to students at career day at the school on March 21.

``When I was 7 or 8 years old, I went from living in a mud and straw hut to a Motel 6 in Chicago,'' he told the students.

Asgedom instinctively knew he had to learn quickly about the world around him.

``The sharpest people care about a job beyond just making money,'' he said. ``Think instead, `What kind of people am I going to meet and what am I going to learn. And who do I want to be?'''

Asgedom told students it isn't skill or talent or even resources that make a difference in what college you get into, or what you want to do with your life; it is setting goals and discovering what you are good at.

The personable and charismatic Asgedom appealed to students. Afterward, many said they wanted to read his book, ``From Beetles to Angels.''

``He was cool,'' said Joel Johnson, a sophomore.

Senior Jennifer Morrison observed: ``He came to our level. He was not condescending at all.''

Junior Jack Teitelbaum said Asgedom's story was interesting. ``I wanted to hear more about it. Where he came from was about as different as it could be from here, and yet he faced a lot of what we do now.''

Students had the opportunity to hear from former Peace Corps volunteers, filmmakers, orthodontists, chefs, radio hosts and professional athletes. Other popular topics were forensic science, law and photography.

Sports and media personalities such as NFL quarterback, Brock Huard came to speak.

Others heard about teaching middle school students, about product development from entrepreneurs such as Doug MacLean, president and CEO of Talking Rain, to Pulitzer prize-winning-journalist and author, Peter Rinearson.

Most were Mercer Island residents who volunteered their time.

Students were surprised by some of what they heard.

``This filmmaker guy had a degree in Russian history,'' one student told another.

A few changed their minds about the fields they thought they might like to try.

One student, who had thought somewhat seriously about a career in professional sports, had a change of heart when Huard, an quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, talked about how often football players get poked with needles for one thing or another.

But what was applicable in one area seemed to hold true for most professions.

Recording artists Allen Vizzutti, Laura Vizzutti and composer Hummie Mann told students that a life as a professional musician requires work and a commitment to practicing every day.

``And it still comes down to finding your own uniqueness -- having it intersect with what you are good at and love to do,'' Allan Vizzutti said.

It is also necessary to be realistic about who else is out there, the three said.

``It is important to realize that you have to make a living,'' Mann said.

Part of it is talent, part of it is luck and a big part of it is selling yourself and networking with people, he explained.

``And they don't teach you that in music school.''

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