AlumNow: SEM grad embraces new adventures and challenges


As an alumnus of the Science and Engineering Magnet at the Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center, Clinton Blackburn, Class of 2004, found himself with an advantage over some of his peers at MIT thanks to SEM’s tremendous effort to prepare and challenge students to excel. Today, Blackburn is a senior software engineer at edX/MIT who’s not afraid of new adventures as is evident when he’s involved in a favorite, yet daring, pastime.

AlumNow, The Hub feature that profiles district alumni, connected with Blackburn who shared advice for students to push themselves beyond their comfort zones and embrace new adventures.

What are you doing now?

I’m a senior software engineer and technical lead for ecommerce team at edX/MIT.

Briefly list a few of your career and/or personal highlights.

  • Volunteer as a director of the MIT Federal Credit Union
  • President of the MIT Club of Boston
  • Founded the Blackburn Foundation to support my family’s community service and education initiatives in Dallas
  • Photography business owner (specializing in headshots)
  • One of my pastimes/workouts includes circus training (aerial silks, trapeze, acrobatics)

What was your favorite subject or activity/involvement in high school?

I was on SEM’s computer science team. I actually have a letter jacket for winning the district UIL competition! I started on the team freshman year, learning C++ and basic problem solving. Those skills gave me an advantage over some of my peers at MIT.

Who was your favorite teacher?

Charles Tuttle. No one challenged and pushed me more than him.

What lesson did you learn in high school or beyond that has served you well through the years?

Get out of your comfort zone. My freshman advisor at MIT gave me this advice when I was making decisions on majors/career paths. My desire to embrace new adventures and challenges has led to my traveling on various projects around the world and taking on leadership opportunities in my career and community.

What advice, if any, would you offer to high school students today?

Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy. Hopefully most of you recognize this from “The Magic School Bus.” It’s the unabridged variant of “get out of your comfort zone.” Embrace new adventures and challenges. If you’ve never left your home state, go see more of the country. If you’ve never left the country, go see some other part of the world. Keep an open mind, and never stop learning!


B.S. in computer science, MIT, 2008

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