On Feb. 15, the “Wildcat Wisdom Series” kicked off via Zoom with graduates from the former Albion High School. The panel, moderated by Leslie Williams ‘86, featured Kimberly Lee-Tesmer ‘88, Brian Thompson ‘85, Reginald Robinson ‘86 and Yvette McCauley ‘80. All panelists are products from the 49224 ZIP code area. Members of the panel have gone on to succeed in different career paths, such as entrepreneurship, information technology and education.
Williams, currently the head of candidate experience at electric vehicle automaker Rivian, began the series in 2021 during the pandemic as a way to showcase the alumni from Albion High School and what they’re up to today. The series takes place during Black History Month in order to celebrate, highlight and learn about the successes and the lessons Black students of Albion High School learned.
“There’s a lot of us that are successful out in the communities, where we lived, where we worked, and so the series was an opportunity for me to give back, do my part, and to help others present themselves to do that as well,” said Williams. “It was a way to recognize successful Blacks from Albion from the 49224 ZIP code who have gone on, utilized their foundation from Albion to be successful today.”
To find all the panelists, Williams found individuals through LinkedIn while Williams’ husband was part of a Facebook account that reached out to Albion High School Alumni.
The Wildcat Wisdom series allowed Albion College students and Albion residents to speak with Black alumni, learning more about how Albion High School and the city laid the foundation to who they are today.
Lee-Tesmer, owner of Kimberly’s Yoga and More, developed an entrepreneurial spirit while a student at Albion High School. Lee-Tesmer also believes that the city laid out a good foundation of not being afraid to try new things.
“I believe that I can do anything because I saw so many people that looked like me doing so many things,” said Lee-Tesmer. “The whole community took a part in raising us all.”
Thompson, part of the MiLogin Support Team for the Michigan Secretary of State, was a self-proclaimed “knucklehead” but had supportive professors at Albion High School.
“(They) said I was one of the smartest kids, period, ‘if you apply yourself’, making me believe in myself and that I can achieve big things out of life,” said Thompson.
Robinson, a team leader at General Motors and owner of Capital City Soul Food in Lansing, believed that Albion High School prepared students before the next milestone.
“When they believed, they stayed on you and kept you posted,” said Robinson. “My education there has let me go far in many places. You’re prepared when you get there.”
Williams, the first female to earn an athletic scholarship to the University of Michigan, felt like Albion High School provided a foundation to be successful after high school. Through the Wildcat Wisdom Series, Williams wants people to see success that began in the community.
“Being from a small city didn’t inhibit my success in a bigger city,” said Williams. “I wanted people to know that we can survive in any location, any situation, because of the foundation (Albion High School) and the village laid for us.”
This article is the second in a set of four published today in honor of Black History Month. To read the others, click here.