Students plan different paths for success

Posted: Wednesday, May 31, 2000

Ishmael Hope wants to go into government or teaching because both are ways to help people. Jarrett Heffner may enter the suit-and-tie world of advertising or politics. And William ``Sonny'' Pittman would like to be a filmmaker or a skateboarder because he'd be paid for doing what he likes to do.

Those three students are among about 325 expected to receive Juneau-Douglas High School diplomas this week.

Hope, 18, plans to study government, politics or history at Fort Lewis College in Colorado. It could lead to a government or teaching career, he said.

``When you do something for a person or people -- I find that searching for some kind of human connection with people has been the most intense kind of pleasure I've ever experienced,'' Hope said.

Hope, who was the high school's elected spirit representative this year, said he's taken risks and done crazy things to express his positive outlook. That meant things like painting his face for football games and cheering the team on with a megaphone.

``Typically, that type of behavior, there are people that will want to criticize it just for being out there,'' Hope said.

Yet Hope began high school as a shy person who wasn't comfortable in school, and he said he flunked two courses in his freshman year.

The high school's Students for Social Responsibility and Mediation Program, which trains students to accept diversity and help others, helped him deal with school, he said.

``I learned that expressing my opinion could actually be valued, and to appreciate other people's opinions, too,'' Hope said.

He was also affected by his mother, elementary school teacher Elizabeth Hope, who died of cancer in his sophomore year.

``I believe that from that loss, in a way, it's helped me because I've been able to cope with it and just appreciate the 15 years I had with her,'' Hope said.

``She definitely influenced me in that she allowed me to embrace myself, everything about me. She made me feel like I could do amazing things.''

Hope has been active on the track and cross-country teams, as a peer helper, and in the community as a Native storyteller.

``A lot of my friends say I act too white. That's sort of a joke. But especially at this stage of my life I find more interest in my culture,'' Hope said. ``I feel something spiritual about it. I feel everything I'm doing, whether I know it or not, I'm influenced by my ancestors.''

Heffner, 17, will study business and government at the University of Alaska Southeast en route, he hopes, to a master's in business administration someday.

``I'd like to get into advertising and politics, which is really kind of funny,'' he said.

Heffner already knows what it's like to work.

Between two jobs, ``it's usually a seven-day-a-week kind of thing,'' he said.

He's done office work for the state and helped investigate stores that sell tobacco to minors. This summer he'll switch the state Department of Fish and Game. Meanwhile, he also works at Fred Meyer as a sales associate.

The stress that comes with holding two jobs and going to school is good stress, Heffner said. ``You know that you're getting somewhere by it.''

Heffner hopes to land in a career that allows him to be young and professional at the same time. He wants to wear a suit and tie, which he associates with respect, but he wants to be a little creative, too.

Marketing may be the field. Heffner is state and Juneau president of DECA, the national association of marketing students. He and Garrett Schoenberger won the state DECA contest in sports entertainment marketing this school year and went on to the national competition in Kentucky.

DECA ``has meant a lot to me,'' Heffner said. ``It's given me the ability to get up in front of large groups of students and talk.''

Thinking on their feet at the state competition, Heffner and Schoenberger had a few minutes to figure out how to market a woman tennis player who was coming back after cancer. At the nationals, they had to get fans for a declining basketball team.

UAS doesn't have a DECA chapter, but it hasn't seen Heffner yet. And he expects to step up his work in college, both at a job and academically. ``I really want to excel in college,'' he said.

``I like the high school, but it's really social in a sense. I didn't study too much,'' Pittman said.

He's been a member of Boarderline's skateboarding team and has worked at the city's skate park for four years. That led to his new interest in video filmmaking.

Pittman said he has made short videos of skateboarders that they can show to potential sponsors, to add to their Boarderline sponsorships.

``The hardest part is going through the tapes that you have and editing out the bad parts,'' Pittman said. He's learned to use computer programs to add music and titles and adjust the sound.

``I'm only learning what you can do now, and it's pretty exciting,'' he said.

For now, Pittman would like to skateboard in amateur competitions in the Lower 48 and eventually turn professional. He also wants to go to film school someday, which he thinks may be a more realistic goal.

Pittman describes skateboarding as a free sport. ``When I work too much or school is getting to me, you can just get away and go skateboarding. It relaxes your mind. You don't need to talk to anyone,'' he said.

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