BEVERLY — After attending his 30-year class reunion last year, Percy L. Julian High School alumnus Jerry Wade started thinking about how he could give back to current students at his alma mater.
The goal, said Wade, is to reach out and help kids striving to go to college.
With that in mind, Wade set out to organize an event to help students learn about financial aid and career options. It is set to take place Friday, Feb.8, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., at Percy Julian High School, 10330 S. Elizabeth Ave., according to Careda Taylor, Julian's principal.
"We wanted a function that would uplift the students and provide them resources that may aid in the college and career decision," Wade said.
He added that while Percy Julian has a strong alumni base, it does not have an alumni association, and he is hoping the career day will change that.
"We want to provide positive reinforcement and school spirit. It is our desire to create such energy that an Alumni Association will be created and a network of Percy Julian administration and alums," he said.
Wade said showcasing the accomplishments of Julian alumni will inspire current students.
"Listening to guest speakers come to the school is nothing new for students. But when the speakers are alumni of the school, then it takes on a special meaning," said Wade, 49. "Youth better relate to people they can identify with opposed to a group of strangers who have never walked the same line as them. That's why it is so important to have alumni as the guest speakers."
Speakers will address various student groups about their careers, college and life experiences, as well as talk about what Percy Julian was like when they were students, Wade said. The event will also serve as a networking opportunity for students interested in establishing connections in various industries, said Arletta Stennis, a 1982 Percy Julian graduate, who now works as a project manager for Northern Trust Bank.
"Unlike other graduating our classes, our class (class of 1982) have remained involved with the school and are a close-knit bunch of folks," Stennis said. "I work on the Reunion Commitee with Jerry (Wade) and I share his passion to serve as a role model to youth and help those who want to be helped."
Another thing Wade wants to do at the career day is raffle off 10 Netbook computers. He sponsored an alumni Christmas party and raised $4,100, but $7,495 is needed to purchase the computers, he said.
"I remain optimistic that the necessary funds we need will be raised by career day and then some" he added, referring to scholarships he hopes to also award if additional monies are donated.
Lynitra Payne, another member of 1982 Percy Julian Reunion Committee, said the event could go a long way in helping students seeking opportunities after high school.
"From what I hear Julian is a 'bad' school and the kids there need all the help they can get," Payne added. "What Jerry and Arletta are doing is wonderful because somebody needs to help 'our' kids make it in life, especially our black males."
As a 1982 graduate Wade said he knows the financial struggles many inner-city youth experience while attending college. According to Chicago Public Schools data, 89 percent of the students attending Percy Julian come from low-income households and 55 percent of its graduates were enrolled in college in 2011, the last year data was available.
After graduating from Percy Julian, Wade earned a Bachelor's of Science degree from Roosevelt University and began his career as a compliance officer for a Chicago company.