Spence students inspired by district alumnus at annual Career Day


As local hip hop artist Tru Def freestyled over a looped cello riff and an impromptu beat made by a middle-school student, one thing was clear: this Career Day at Alex W. Spence Talented and Gifted Academy was something special.

Following the performance, Jordan Cleaver—a Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts grad and classically trained cellist—Tru Def, and members of Tru Def’s entourage, which included a publicist, event organizer, and videographer, talked with students about their careers. They answered students’ questions about how they got to where they are today and shared advice.

“There is truly more than one way to be successful in this music industry,” Cleaver told students.

Cleaver decided to appear at the school’s annual career day after she visited her mom, a Social Service/Community Advisor at Spence, and overheard a student talking about quitting cello because he didn’t think the instrument was “cool.” As Cleaver’s career as a cellist can attest to—she has opened for George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic, played with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and performed for Prince Edward of England and former Prime Minister Tony Blair, to name a few accomplishments—playing the cello can lead to incredible things.

“I want to encourage these kids to follow their passion, regardless of what someone else might think,” Cleaver said. “You’d be amazed at where you can wind up.”

The talk and performance from Tru Def and Cleaver was just one part of Spence’s Career Day, which also included appearances and talks from everyone from police officers and firefighters to employees at Texas Instruments and members of the Armed Forces. Spence Principal Deardra Hayes-Whigham credited the school’s counselors, Krista Pierce, a Skyline grad, and Angela Belton, for bringing together professionals from a variety of careers and the students for asking specific, relevant questions of the guests.

“We want to afford the kids the opportunity to learn about various careers,” Hayes-Whigham said. “We want every student to be college and career ready, and by giving students insights into the working world, we are one step closer toward meeting our goal.”


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