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Alumni return to WHS as guest speakers  

picture of alumnipicture of student audience

As seniors prepare to graduate and move to the next phase of life, they had an opportunity to hear about college life from alumni who visited WHS classrooms in December.

Recent graduates share advice about college


Five alumni – four of them fresh from their first semester of college ‒ returned to Watervliet classrooms to share their experiences and some advice with high school students in December.

James Creaser, Charles LaBelle, Kyleigh Sawyer and Sidney Slate who graduated in June 2016, and Tyler White, a June 2015 graduate, spoke to high school seniors in Scott Emerson’s “Government & Economics” classes about college academic work, extracurricular participation, professors, sleep and campus life in general.

The alumni strongly encouraged students to take as many college level courses as possible while in high school. Sawyer, who studies biology at Hartwick College, graduated from WHS with 32 college credits, which will allow her to complete college a year early. It also allows her to concentrate on the courses required for her major rather than having to take general education classes to fulfill requirements as most college students do during their freshman year.

LaBelle lamented not taking more college level courses while in high school. “That’s one thing I would have done differently because it saves time and money in the long run,” said the accounting major. “I am taking statistics now, but I could have taken college-level statistics here instead, like James [Creaser] did. The credits would have cost a lot less and I’d have one less course to take.”

Sawyer and White spoke about the benefits of attending to smaller colleges where it is often easier to build relationships with professors.

“If you aren’t doing well in a class, professors aren’t going to track you down and offer to help you out like teachers do in high school,” Sawyer said. “I recommend introducing yourself to your professors during the first week of classes, so they will know who you are, if you need to talk to them about a grade or about your work later in the semester.”

White suggested stopping by professors offices to meet them. “I have gotten to know many of my professors pretty well,” he said. “All of them have office hours and I stop by to talk with them, so they know my name and face.”

One senior asked about balancing athletics and academics in college. LaBelle and White, who were standout wrestlers in high school and currently wrestle on their respective college teams, emphasized that academics take priority.

“You have to make time for studying and prioritize what you need to study,” White said, “because it’s important to make it to practice every day.”

“Most coaches will understand if you have a big test coming up or an assignment due,” LaBelle added, “At the same time, it's not good to take advantage, like when you have plenty of time to work on an assignment but leave it to the last minute.”

The alumni described a typical day at college, differences and similarities between four-year and two-year schools, study habits and the importance of sleep, especially for those living away from home for the first time.

“You are going to get a lot less sleep as a college student,” Sawyer cautioned.

Roommates, campus food and other advice

“When you go away to college, you will receive a roommate questionnaire to fill out,” Sawyer said. "Make sure you answer the questions honestly.

Creaser, a business/economics major, offered recommendations about food: “Make sure to buy plenty of snacks!” he suggested. “Stock up on food from the cafeteria when you can.”

Slate, who studies early childhood education at community college, shared this advice: “Just don’t buy food on campus. It’s expensive,” she said. “There are better, less costly alternatives off campus.”

Four of the five alumni attend college out of the area. “I would definitely recommend going away to school,” said White. “You learn to be independent, and start feeling like an adult.”

Thanks to our alumni:

bullet graphicJames Creaser – Class of 2016 – Major: business economics, SUNY Oneonta

bullet graphicCharles Labelle – Class of 2016 – Major: accounting, Niagara County Community College, Sanborn, NY

bullet graphicKyleigh Sawyer – Class of 2016 – Major: biology at Hartwick College, Oneonta, NY

bullet graphicSydney Slate – Class of 2016 – Major: early childhood education at Hudson Valley Community College, Troy

bullet graphicTyler White – Class of 2015 – Major: finance/economics, Washington & Jefferson College, outside Pittsburgh, PA