Stevenson’s Spectacular Speakers

Stevenson Styler, Animal Welfare, Sports Broadcasting Club host guest speakers, club members gain professional knowledge and inspiration.

Mary Restis ’23 logged onto a Zoom call for an Animal Welfare Club meeting on Tuesday, October 13, at 3:30 p.m. Instead of a usual meeting, the club had a guest speaker that day: Paula Fasseas, the founder of Pets Are Worth Saving (PAWS) Chicago, a no-kill shelter. Her awe heightened as Fasseas discussed her experiences with running a no-kill shelter and the work she has done in her community to improve the welfare of animals. Like Animal Welfare Club, many clubs at Stevenson High School had guest speakers throughout October.

At Stevenson, many clubs utilize speakers as a way for students to learn about people who became successful in career paths that relate to the club. Clubs such as Stevenson Styler Fashion Club, Sports Broadcasting Club and Animal Welfare Club allow students to explore their interests deeply by inviting speakers to share their career advice. With the COVID-19 pandemic, guest speakers have moved to virtual presentations on Zoom.

“I think [Fasseas] was actually pretty inspirational. You know, she was just an ordinary Chicagoan and she’s able to come out and [run PAWS Chicago] and create such a big impact on the community,” Restis said. 

Having a guest speaker come to a Stevenson club offers students the opportunity to apply the work they do in their club to real life. For many students, listening to a guest speaker gives them ideas about what they want to do in their future and what they can do as high schoolers to get there. 

“I think the guest speaker kind of made me realize that I want to do more work with the animals and how I want to find new places such as PAWS to volunteer at,” Restis said. 

Students’ opportunity to broaden their opinions on the topics utilized in their club is why sponsors like Kathleen Sassan invite guest speakers. Besides Fasseas from PAWS, Animal Welfare has also had staff from the Shedd Aquarium, veterinarians, and staff from Orphans of the Storm come to present throughout the past couple of years. 

Sassan believes what makes a speaker influential is if they go above and beyond with creativity to keep the students engaged in what they are saying.

“Last year we were in a pinch because of COVID-19 and Dr. Lim from All Creatures Animal Hospital came to talk to us virtually,” Sassan said. “Not only did he give the students a tour of the surgical suite, he created his own powerpoint for the presentation part and also found time to include an interactive lesson teaching everyone how to do sutures by using shoelaces.”

Christina Erickson, the sponsor of Stevenon’s fashion magazine, the Styler, also believes that speakers can be influential on broadening students’ views. The club had a costume designer from the Netflix show, Outer Banks, speak to them on October 21.

“Sometimes students think that if they want to go into fashion, their only choice for college is to go to a fashion school,” Erickson said. “That’s not the case. There are a lot of avenues to a fashion career, so I always ask guest speakers to tell the students how they got [to] where they are now.”

Styler contacted this speaker from Outer Banks through a connection that one of its members has with a writer on the show. However, club member connections are not the only way that Styler finds its guest speakers; Erickson also loves to have alumni members who are now working in fashion come back to present. 

“Later in the semester, I have a past student coming who now works in public relations for the fashion brand Chloe,” Erickson said. “I also have a student coming who works at a company that focuses on sustainability in fashion, which will be really cool.”

Although this process for finding speakers is still generally the same as it was before the pandemic, the way speakers can come to talk to clubs has been disrupted. Both Animal Welfare and Styler have had their presenters come virtually, joining the Zoom session for the club. 

Jason Carlson, the sponsor of Sports Broadcasting believes that this virtual setting actually makes guest speaker presentations more accessible to students and gives them more opportunities to learn. He believes his students enjoyed hearing from sports broadcaster Adam Amin on October 13.

“All the students know who Adam Amin is, they watch him, they listen to him,” Carlson said. “So I think that was really exciting that they just got to chat with this guy for over an hour.”

Carlson’s students have still been able to get the same impact from listening to Amin virtually as they would have in person. He was able to see the influence this speaker had on them in the discussion they had after watching the presentation.

“I asked [the students] ‘okay what’s a takeaway?’” Carlson said. “What’s one big thing that’s gonna stick with you?’ and they each brought up something different that’s gonna stick with them so there’s something that he was able to give to everyone who was there.”

Despite the challenges the pandemic has thrown at them, Sassan believes that the Animal Welfare club is also still able to get the most out of what their speakers have to say. They are always looking for ways to make a difference with what past speakers have taught them.

“Right now ideally I would like to see the Animal Welfare club members  take the information they have been given by our speakers and continue to be engaged through taking action steps and giving back in anyway they can,” Sassan said.