August 2016

Class of 2012


After throwing your cap into the air at graduation and counting your blessings that high school is finally over, the world is at your fingertips. Or is it? Few people are doing what they thought they’d be doing after graduation day. If you are, please teach us your ways!
Hilton Head Island High School’s class of 2012 is four years out; some are recent college graduates, some are traveling the world, others are continuing on with school, and some never left the charming island life. Common topics that thread through many of their stories is the importance of travel; that they aren’t in much of a rush to grow up or settle down; they have a love/hate relationship with technology and being a millennial; and they love Hilton Head, but needed to spread their wings for job security or to pursue other adventures. As the Class of 2012 enters the so-called “real-world,” we caught up with them to ask what motivates them, their thoughts about being part of Generation Y, and what their futures hold.

“To Travel is to live.” ~ Hans Christian Anderson
Caroline Thee is no stranger to immersing herself into cultures and customs apart from the familiar. As a self-described “quiet girl” and high school band member, she now says she is an adventurous nomad. She attended USCB for a few semesters and spent a brief time at Clemson where she participated in the marching band. After that, Caroline was off to volunteer in Morocco teaching English. She then moved to Laos to continue teaching and worked to renovate a hospital and school for blind and deaf students. She said, “It really was a cliché ‘life-changing’ experience. Through my volunteer work, I was able to see for myself what people needed help with the most throughout the world. I realized I could easily continue to do international aid work for the rest of my life.” After returning home for a bit, she moved to India to teach 9-12 year olds. “If your life can be changed twice, this would be the second time my life has changed.”

Thee recently enrolled at The American University of Paris, where she will earn a degree in International and Comparative Politics with a concentration in Human Rights Development and journalism. When asked how being a millennial affects her life, she said, “I think being a millennial has given me the curiosity that has allowed me to push myself to do the volunteer work I have done. Some of my closest friends are people I never could have imaged I would cross paths with.” Her 5-10-year goals are to be in the Peace Corps or to have a management position with a nonprofit that would allow her to travel and help others. Her long-term goal is to open a school for girls in India. “It really amazed me to see how a large percentage of girls who complete primary school never return to school because it is not safe for them to walk to school anymore; they are expected to take care of their family, work, or are married young. I would love to provide a safe place for them so they can get the education they want and deserve,” she said.

Thee enjoys going to the gym, running, wandering around with her camera, watching foreign movies and doing nothing in her spare time. “I feel like I should enjoy those days while I can,” she said. To see what Caroline has been up to recently, follow Walking Lightly Travel on Facebook.

“Life is a journey not a destination.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sabrina Drammis was an athlete and International Baccalaureate (IB) student in high school. She continued on to MIT, where she played basketball and was a member of the MIT dance troupe. She also conducted research in the MIT media lab and the computer science and artificial intelligence lab (CSAIL). She said, “I learned how to learn. MIT is the hardest four years of work in your life. I came in unprepared, having never experienced the workload that MIT classes give. The homework assignments (or, as we call them, problem sets or p-sets for short) were very challenging, and nearly all were impossible to complete without working with a group or going to office hours. This was intentional from MIT classes. The institute does this purposefully to teach students how to work together, because that will be required in the real work.”

Drammis was recently accepted into the MIT masters program in computer science, concentrating in computer systems. She deferred to work at Second Spectrum in Los Angeles as a software engineer, and isn’t scared for what lies ahead. “I’m excited. I’ve been in the ‘real world’ before during summer internships, and I’ve already interned at Second Spectrum,” she said.

She emphasizes her openness to any possibilities in her future. “I’ve never really set predictions for what I’ll do in the future, but I can say that I’m happy with where I am now.” She says she doesn’t know where she’ll be in 5-10 years, but she might still be in the same industry or doing research in computer systems or networking. Essentially, she’s open to pretty much anything. “I don’t have any specific goal, but there is so much in the world I want to learn about.”

“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” ~ Steve Jobs
For Jean-Luc McMurtry, technology and its fusion with his faith in people has become necessary within his schooling and career. He recently graduated from New York University, where he majored in acting. He is now collaborating with friends and partners on original work and auditioning in New York City. “Acting is hard, because every audition is like dating: You either fit the idea of what a project needs or you don’t. The solution: audition a lot,” he says.

He also describes how technology affects him day-to-day while applying for acting jobs, talking with agents and managers, and how he executes his art. “The quality of cameras is ever-changing and improving. In the last four years, we’ve been able to make digital cameras look as good as film (now better). This has caused a major shift in film production, including post—after the film is ‘in the can.’”

The moving and shaking of technology and his business keeps McMurtry on his toes. “I can accomplish so much more and much faster. I can make plans just as fast as I can cancel them. The most noticeable effect is the length of a workday at least here in NYC. The workday used to begin at 9 and end at 5; now it never begins or ends. People just “unplug” when they choose or when they go to sleep. I never feel like I’m not working anymore; there are just moments where I’m not thinking about it,” he said.

As we can see from the advancements in cinematography and the elevation in quality in television and movies, McMurty’s profession is slowly blending what we see on the screen with what we see in real life. “The content we’re making is becoming more diverse, more self-aware, and more honest. The line between perception and reality is disappearing. How we’re making the content is also changing. Digital media and the Internet has opened the door for anyone to make content anywhere. To some, we all got our voice. To others, it’s lost in the fray,” he said.

When asked what scares McMurtry and what excites him about entering the real world, both his answers are exactly the same. “I don’t know where I’m going to be in a year. I always knew predicting my life as an actor would be futile, so I tried to avoid it as much as possible,” he said. Like most millennials, the future is a mystery for him, but that’s to be expected in today’s world.

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” ~ Jacques Yves Cousteau
Being part of the Class of 2012 and a member of the millennial generation, these young adults are also part of the boomerang generation, a generation that leaves the nest for a while to gain education and experience only to return home to live with their parents at home. The allure of Hilton Head Island makes this boomerang action more of an excuse to stay close to family, friends, and the beautiful beaches, than a sign of “failure” or feeling like you’ve backtracked.

Victoria Lobaugh attended Ohio University, where she was part of the nursing program. She then decided to make the move home and became a manager at Java Burrito. In college, she said she learned how to prioritize and manage her time, which comes in handy with her work. She never thought she would end up back on Hilton Head Island, but she has been enjoying her time here. Her advice to someone graduating high school now would be, “Don’t feel pressured to make a decision, and when you do make a decision, don’t feel like you have to stick with it for the rest of your life.”

Lobaugh also said she would possibly live on Hilton Head Island permanently, but would also like to see as much of the world as possible and probably live in new places. She worries about not being properly prepared to embark into the “real world,” but she is excited to experience all she can. She said she is doing almost the complete opposite job she thought she would be doing after graduating high school, but finds the opportunity to do whatever makes her happy an exciting adventure. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, shooting hoops, and hanging out with her friends and cats, Littlefoot and Cleo. Next time you stop into Java Burrito, say hello!

“The real world is where the monsters are.” ~ Rick Riordan
Jackie Venezia will see first-hand what the “monsters” of the world entail. She is headed to Charleston School of Law in the fall, and the self-proclaimed “teacher’s pet” will begin conquering another step in her education. At the University of South Carolina, Venezia was a member of the service sorority, Epsilon Sigma Alpha, and started a chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to raise awareness for those living with mental illness. She majored in psychology due to an influential high school teacher “Shout out to Mrs. Weitekamper!” who inspired her to pursue psychology. She’s learned a lot of valuable lessons at USC. “College is a rush of new experiences,” she said. “You have to balance a packed academic schedule, potentially a job, homework, extracurriculars, and a social life, all without the guidance and structure that you had from your parents. You set your own rules and limits, and sometimes you set them poorly. It will stress you out and can leave you exhausted. The most important thing I learned was to set aside some time to do the things that made me happy.”

Venezia has worked at several jobs between school breaks and during school including working at a law firm in Columbia. She learned how live on her own and that being a millennial comes along with the perks of freedom, but some confusion on how to “adult.”

She is very practical about the monsters of the real world and says taxes are what scare her the most. “I’m a firm believer that every high school or college should require students to take a personal finance and tax class,” she said. “Do you know how many times since I graduated high school that I’ve been asked to use the quadratic formula? If you said zero, you would be correct.”

She has also realized that although she has always been a “change the world” kind of girl, that “If I can change one person’s life, then for that person their whole world is changed. I want to use all of my knowledge and talent and privilege to make a difference in somebody’s life who hasn’t had all the opportunity and experiences and blessings that I have.”

“Millennials don’t just want to read the news anymore. They want to know what they can do about it.” ~ Ian Somerhalder
Nick Evangelista is in a constant state of rebellion against the complacent term “millennial.” He has spent his high school and college years as the “band and choir nerd who was ‘actually pretty cool.’” He participated in choir, band, and an a cappella group called Cockapella at the University of South Carolina, volunteer work, and the marching band. He is always moving and shaking, with two majors, in international business and management with an entrepreneurship track and a long list of extracurriculars.

Evangelista recently returned from a five-month study abroad program in Marseille, France and then went backpacking in Europe for six weeks where he visited Morocco, Scotland, England, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, and Slovenia. “I cannot stress the immeasurable amount of happiness and experiential knowledge that awaits you when you are launched into a trip of that caliber. Do it now. Do it young,” he said. He also suggests that learning a foreign language is paramount to understanding the world. He says he met people in Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Morocco who speak better English than most Americans.

It’s hard to catch Nick, as he is currently working in Wisconsin and searching for a full-time job in sales or marketing, preferably at international firms in larger cities in the Midwest.

He said, “Being a millennial means having enough potential to make a life-changing application or innovation, but instead, regressing into a state of laziness in which one’s day is made complete by the “dinging” of a microwave and the scent of pizza rolls wafting through the living room. This is a ridiculous metaphor, obviously, but my point is that the millennial generation is becoming increasingly complacent. This is not saying that the majority or even most of the generation is lazy or complacent, but it does imply that we should definitely be working towards a higher level of involvement.”

Evangelista emphasized these key points to his fellow millennials graduating high school:
You will try.
You will fail at least once but probably more.
You will never quit something early.
You will never give up.
You will always try again.
*P.S. Learn a foreign language

“There really is no such thing as ‘the future,’ singular. There are only multiple, unforeseeable futures, which will never lose their capacity to take us by surprise.” ~ Niall Ferguson
Nick Zarra sees first-hand the effects of being young in the unsteady financial market, with many unforeseeable futures. He recently graduated with a finance and statistics degree from the University of Pennsylvania and is joining the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia as a research assistant in their macroeconomics group. “I have never really considered myself to be a millennial. I have always been quite pedantic and more caught up in the past, so it just never hit me that my generation is different than any other,” he said. “Professionally, I have had to come to terms with the idea that I will have many different jobs and roles in my life, which can be intimidating due to uncertainty, but also very exciting.”

Zarra, describes himself as a “geek” and is actually doing what he thought he’d be doing after graduating from college (we found one!). However, his path was a little bumpier than intended. “I came to Penn wanting to focus on financial economics and work for the Federal Reserve. Four years later, I am there, but the path I took surprised me so much: I spent time in the Senate working for Senator Scott, jumped through multiple majors, and then spent time in investment banking in NYC,” he said.

Zarra also sees the increase of technology needed in today’s world and said he is always working on his computer or phone to crunch numbers or doing research. “I remember having a conversation with a professor who was educated in the best boarding school in New England and then was the valedictorian at Harvard, and we were discussing various Islamic intellectual movements of the last millennia. He was surprised that I could carry the conversation and asked where I learned this. I realized that it was through the Internet. So I guess I view the Internet as one form of technology, as a great equalizer in knowledge,” he said.

He isn’t sure if he will make his way back to Hilton Head Island permanently, but starting out here has given him great opportunities for success. “I think we often forget how great the local public school system is; however, when it comes to permanent economic opportunities in the fields that interest me, they just do not exist there now,” he said. As for advice to high school graduates: “Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Take some time off and really contemplate hard where you want to go. Then let life take you there.” 

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