Class of 1979 alumni return to inspire female students

February 09, 2016
Alumni return for Girl Power event

Thirty-six years after they graduated from Stillwater Area High School, six alumni returned to inspire the next generation of female students. The women - all from the Class of 1979 - are some of the top leaders in the workforce. They have a wide range of backgrounds and professions and shared their experiences and advice at a Girl Power event hosted by the College and Career Center.

The speakers included:

  • Sally Beske Chial: Former Senior Vice President with Capella University, who recently started her own successful business, Chial Executive Coaching and Consulting LLC
  • Tracey Galowitz: Attorney with her own firm, who declined more prestigious offers to practice locally
  • Polly Dix Hart: Artist, Owner of Trippin with Dixi and Lila and Claudines Yarn and Gifts
  • Michele Lau: HSN and JTV television host
  • Karen Preston: Engineer with a Ph.D, who has lived all over the world

Fellow alum Keri Bischoff came up with the idea. She said she thought about the amazing women she knows who graduated from SAHS in 1979. She wanted them to share their success stories to inspire today’s girls to dream bigger.

“Even in 2015, as a teacher who tutors young students, I realized when I asked the question, "If you could be anything in the world, what would you be?" Bischoff said. “Most female students responded with a teacher or a nurse - all very noble and respected professions but also very traditional.”

About 70 students attended the event. The speakers talked about how they became successful in their careers and what they needed to do to achieve their dreams. Later, the panel broke up into small groups to have more personal conversations with students.

“I believe that we need to incorporate more personal stories to motivate our students - getting them to temporarily disconnect from their phones and reconnect with people - discovering the infinite potential that is possible,” said Bischoff. “We need to share our stories to inspire growth and hope. We need to keep it personal. We need to keep it real.”

The two hour event left many students inspired.

“It was neat to hear their stories and think that they were just students here like me and now look where they are,” said sophomore Katie Freichels. “It makes me think about what I need to do to follow my dreams.”

The alumni hope to come back again and share their stories with more students and they challenge other alumni to do the same.

“What better way to give back to our community and to the students than through our experiences: our stories of successes, failures, perseverance and hope,” Bischoff said. “Local people. Local school. Local community. Our dreams started here 36 years ago.”