MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Whitehaven High School students took a break from their normally scheduled classes on Thursday to think about their futures.
The school held its fourth annual Empowerment Expo -- an event created by Shelby County Schools employee Tiffani Perry, and Whitehaven counselor Traci Townsel.
"When you talk to kids, when you talk to the youth today, they have such amazing dreams and aspirations,” Perry said. “But they don't always know what it takes to get there.”
The event aims to help thousands of students prepare for life after high school by showing them the path they need to be on to achieve their goals.
“All of our former alumni are coming back to Whitehaven, showing and sharing what it takes to be happy and successful in life,” executive principal of Whitehaven Empowerment Zone Vincent Hunter said.
The school’s auditorium was filled with more than 1,700 high schoolers and eighth-graders.
They started the day with an open discussion about mental health.
"Many of our children are seeing challenges at such early ages that -- especially a guy my age now -- that I didn't realize and experience until I was an adult,” Hunter said. “But now we're trying to have coping skills where our children can be able to address those challenges at early ages."
The students then broke out into training sessions, where they were able to speak more openly to those who have been successful post-high school.
"They’ll share their journey on what it takes to be happy, what it takes to be an attorney, what it takes to be a physician, what it takes to be an accountant -- this will all be shared by former students who sat in the chairs where they’re sitting now,” Hunter said.
Shelby County Schools Chief Academic Officer Antonio Burt said he hopes this event will provide students with the information they need to succeed.
“Information around what will it take to really make them globally competitive,” he said. “Not only in Memphis but throughout the entire country."