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Career paths bring Kenston grads back
Career paths bring Kenston grads back
By SUE HOFFMAN
One experience that influenced him to choose his career occurred in a people's courtroom in Moscow during college. Another was watching the World Trade Center fall on Sept. 11, 2001, Justin Herdman told juniors and seniors at Kenston High School last week.
Mr. Herdman, a 1993 Kenston graduate who is now assistant U.S. attorney in the National Security Unit for the Northern Ohio region, recalled the details of those incidents.
"Plaster was falling down out of the ceiling, and the defendant was chained to a cage," he said of the Russian courtroom. The three judges were sitting at a card table, and there was no jury, he said. The defendant was accused of embezzlement and faced a long prison sentence. "The judge had already made up his mind," he said, even before the trial began.
For Mr. Herdman, who started his Russian studies at Kenston, the courtroom visit gave him a new appreciation of the American legal system, he said. He attended Harvard Law School after graduating from Ohio University and studying abroad at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.
He was working in downtown Manhattan when the twin towers were struck. Evacuated from his building, which was no more than 1,000 feet away, Mr. Herdman said, he was affected on a personal and professional level by the terrorism he witnessed. "I became much more interested in terrorism," he said.
Today he is a federal prosecutor for cases of terrorism. Last year, he was one of the prosecutors involved in a case in Toledo, in which three people were convicted of conspiring to commit terrorist acts abroad. He said he has another case regarding terrorism coming up in Toledo in February.
Mr. Herdman, who played football and ran track at Kenston, was one of three alumni who returned to the high school for the career-day program. The others were 1989 alumnus Mark Vogley, a Bainbridge dentist, and 1986 graduate Douglas Bryant, an engineer at Kent State University's Liquid Crystals Institute.
Kenston had organized a career day about a year ago, but school was canceled that day due to snow, Principal Nancy Santilli said. "We wanted to make sure that we would bring the program to the students this year."
The program was coordinated by school counselor Michael Murphey and the Rotary Club of Chagrin Valley.
"We work hand and glove" in presenting the program, said Ulrich Koch, who works on a Rotary committee on career programs headed by Richard Pitcher. In addition to helping with career programs, Rotary awards several scholarships each year for vocational education and college.
Mr. Herdman received a Rotary ambassadorial scholarship to attend the University of Glasgow.
"There needs to be focus on opportunities after Kenston High School," Mr. Murphey told students in his introduction of the speakers. He told students to determine their interests, set goals and plan steps toward them. Career planning is lifelong, he said, with review and revisions necessary along the way.
"When I was a high school student, I knew nothing about engineering," said Mr. Bryant, who played basketball and ran track at Kenston. "It's easy to look at folks with established careers and say they really knew what they wanted. Generally speaking, that's not true," he said. "The more things you get exposed to, the more opportunities you have."
Mr. Bryant majored in engineering and physics at Cornell University and went to graduate school in electrical engineering at the University of Southern California. He was most interested in optics and lasers, but it was difficult to find a job in that field at the time, he said. He joined the Liquid Crystals Institute and "found it was something I love," he said. People from around the world visit the institute to learn about liquid-crystals displays, which are used in televisions and other electronics.
"I encourage you to expose yourselves to as many things as possible," Mr. Bryant said. "Be prepared for the unexpected."
Dr. Vogley, who ran cross country and played tennis at Kenston, said he received advice from his father during high school. "Find something you love to do," his father told him.
His motivation to be a dentist came from a rather painful incident, he recalled. One day in third grade, when his class had relay races, he collided with a classmate and lost a front tooth.
"It was the very reason I turned out to be a dentist today," said Dr. Vogley, who attended Ohio State University's college of dentistry and did his residency in general dentistry at Medical University of South Carolina. Having the dental work done was "very pivotal and influential for me," he said. His dentist told him that, if he liked science and was artistic, dentistry is a good career, he said.
As a junior in high school, he shadowed several dentists, Dr. Vogley said. The experience "further fueled my desire to pursue dentistry," he said.
"You already know your direction," he told students. "Inside of us, a little voice tells us each day, these are my strengths and these are my interests."
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