The Atlanta Hawks and CareSource hosted an interactive panel called, “Your Future: A Panel Highlighting Future Careers” for 400 Meadowcreek High School students on March 20.

The panel discussed the importance of mentoring, open-mindedness, and the panelists’ journey to success.

Left to right: CareSource Population Health Engagement Specialist Elida Lopez, Atlanta Hawks Uniform Manager Silvia Ascencio, Atlanta Hawks Premium Membership Services Manager Lauren Foster, and Atlanta Hawks Basketball Operations Front Office Assistant Jay Rodriguez III were panelist Monday, March 20, 2023. Photo by Isaiah Singleton/The Atlanta Voice

Earlier this week, the Hawks announced they will celebrate their “Hispanic Heritage Night presented by CareSource” when the team hosts Cleveland at State Farm Arena on Tuesday, March 28. The night will celebrate the cultures and contributions of Hispanic and Latin Americans through various in-game elements, music, dance, food, and an exciting night of Hawks basketball.

The Hawks and CareSource team members engaged in conversation with the students to prepare them for future success in the workplace and lifelong career management.

CareSource also presented a $5,000 check towards the Meadowcreek High School’s Student Scholarship Fund.

CareSource Population Health Engagement Specialist Elida Lopez said as a proud Latina, and especially during the Hispanic Heritage events at the Hawks, it’s important to deliver the message of being a minority and coming from a certain background shouldn’t keep someone from their dreams and educational aspirations.

“Having that collaboration with the Hawks and CareSource, brings together the opportunity that is two big entities and organizations the responsibility to give services to schools like this one,” she said.

As advice to high school seniors who may not know what to do after graduating, Lopez said it’s okay to not know.

“We don’t expect to have our life resolved from one day to the other. I know that there’s always that pressure and expectation to know what you want to do once out of high school,” she said. “I’m much older than a high school graduate, but it seems to me that it’s taken so long to identify what I want to do in life. So always keep an open mind and be persistent and continue with your education.”

Atlanta Hawks Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Alexis Roe said they champion diversity and inclusion on all fronts of their business.

“We understand that there are systemic barriers that get people to their careers, and we want the students to feel empowered and to know that they can achieve the same success that we all have achieved,” Roe said. “We also wanted students to feel like there is a network they can reach out to if they have questions regarding a career in sports, entertainment, and healthcare. So, for us, it really is just empowering them for their future careers.”

Roe also said one thing she learned during the panel is “career paths aren’t linear”.

“Within my own career path, I was all over the place because I didn’t have that clear vision, but I knew I wanted to marry my passions and purpose,” she said. “What we saw from the panel is that all the panelists married their passions and purposes and found true synergy. So, when times are stressful, they’re able to lean on the fact that this is something they love doing.”

Panelists, Atlanta Hawks Uniform Manager Silvia Ascencio, Atlanta Hawks Premium Membership Services Manager Lauren Foster, and Atlanta Hawks Basketball Operations Front Office Assistant Jay Rodriguez III discussed with students their journey and advice to being successful and how students can prepare for the future.

Furthermore, Roe said mentoring is critical, especially because job markets are competitive.

“If you have a mentor who has chartered their own path and understands what it takes to get there and then can pour into you, provide resources, tools, and advice on how they can get to their career, it really helps make things feel achievable,” she said.

Often, Roe said, when someone doesn’t know anyone in the space that they want to be in from a work perspective, it can seem daunting.

“It seems when you apply for roles and you keep getting declined, you want to give up and settle for a different career path, but if you have a mentor actually believing that it makes a difference and helps get to your dreams, then you are thinking you’re on an island by yourself,” she said.

This article is one of a series of articles produced by The Atlanta Voice through support provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Word In Black, a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media outlets across the country.