Linden’s George P. Austin School hosts first career fair

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 27, 2005

“It is said a job is something you go to to get paid, but a career is something you choose to do.” That was just one piece of advice given to sixth- through eighth-graders at George P. Austin Junior High School in Linden Tuesday during the school’s first Career Exploration Fair.

School counselor Gwendolyn Rogers planned the event, which she said she hopes to make an annual event.

“We want to give these students a push in the right direction toward a career path,” Rogers said of the fair. “This is the first one we’ve done, but I think it went extremely well.”

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The students were treated to a panel of nine professionals ranging from law enforcement to education to Barrown Lankster, who was the first African-American district attorney in the state of Alabama.

“Mr. Lankster is a hometown man,” Principal Terry Gosa said. “He walked these same halls that you walk now, so I hope you’ll listen to what he has to say.”

Lankster did not focus on what it took to become an attorney, or his near-celebrity status of the first African-American DA. Instead, he talked to the students about perserverance.

“Don’t let someone tell you that because you come from Linden you can’t do something, or because you come from an empoverished area or because you’re a certain race,” he said. “Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something, because you can do anything you want to do.”

Lankster’s speech came on the heels of National Education Association representative Lebaron Mack, who spoke of motivation tempered with reality.

“You must be motivated and you must be on the job,” he said. He asked how many students had been on time to class every day this year; how many students had not been suspended this year; and he asked how many had been on the honor roll.

“You are on the job,” he said of those students. But he reminded them that only with hard work can they achieve their goals.

He asked all the boys to stand up.

“One of every four of you young men standing right now will end up in prison,” he said.

He asked the girls to stand up.

“One of every three of you young ladies standing will be pregnant before the age of 20 or will contract HIV,” he told them.

“You can laugh it off and say ‘not me,’ but society may say different,” he said. He encouraged the students to focus on what is important – their grades and ethics – and stay away from the things that will harm them.

Lankster was followed by his own brother, Frank Lankster, who admitted his journey through college paved the way for his younger brother to attend. He said he had one message for the students gathered, and if they didn’t hear anything else, he wanted them to hear him.

“I’m going to say this out loud and I want you to say it silently,” he said, then with a booming voice he bellowed “I am somebody! I’m going to say it again, I am somebody!”

Lankster told the students that everyone has something they are good at, and all it takes to succeed is hard work and faith in oneself.

“It doesn’t matter if someone does this better than you or does that better than you,” he said. “As long as you know you are somebody, that’s all you need.”