CCHS alumni shared their wisdom at a special panel presentation.

CCHS alumni panel helps ‘tone down the stress’ of the post-college journey 

April 11, 2024

By Felicity Zhang — Correspondent

What will I do when I graduate? Should I go to college? Will I get a job? Will I be happy? These questions can prompt fear and anxiety in high schoolers.  

To provide some perspective, a panel of seven Concord-Carlisle High School alumni spoke to the school’s junior class earlier this year about finding fulfillment in their post-secondary school journeys.  

Jessye Kass ’09, Chris Gouchoe ’09, Courtney Joachim ’10, Andrew Della Volpe ’13, Isabel Roberts ’14, Charlie Peachey ’18, and Charlie Robichaud ’21 visited CCHS and talked about their paths after high school, including the obstacles they faced and overcame.   

Event organizers included Dr. Alison Nowicki, CCHS guidance and counseling department chair, school co-principals Katie Stahl and Brian Miller, and other guidance department and faculty members. Nowicki said the event was prompted by an initiative with Challenge Success, which aims to help high schoolers “tone down the stress.”  

Stahl said, “Not every path is a straight line… so we wanted to make sure we were highlighting” various other roads to success. The team thought that hearing from graduates who spent their formative years in the same community, she said, would effectively convey that message to students.  

The bravery to pivot 

Chris Gouchoe.

Gouchoe said he was not afraid “to pivot and take leaps of faith.” Despite being an athlete in high school, he decided to audition for the fall play, where he caught “the creative bug.” While attending Boston College, Gouchoe won a small speaking role in the film “The Social Network” but realized that acting wasn’t for him after all.  

He pivoted again into tech and gaming, becoming the first employee of a successful startup that began in a garage. His third leap took him to where he is now: pitching his first novel, writing a second, and starting an audio-related company with a fellow Concordian.  

“In a beautiful way, when you’re in high school, you think it’s the whole world, and then your world just quintuples and explodes after you leave college,” said Gouchoe.  

“You can’t expect to get most things right, but you show up with a creative attitude and eagerness and willingness to give it your all.” 

“Embrace the unexpected” 

Isabel Roberts.

Roberts said she is “a really big planner, but one thing I learned is that you can’t plan everything.” She faced several setbacks in high school and college when suddenly “something really out of my control would happen.” She struggled with mental health issues, suffered two concussions, and lost a close friend and a family member.  

After college, grappling with the loss of her mother and being left unemployed by COVID, she moved to Providence. She found a job in marketing at the Rhode Island School of Design and later at Brown University, where she currently works.  

Roberts hopes she serves as an example of someone who “was dealt a difficult hand” yet was able “to get to the other side.”  

She said that CCHS’s Lighthouse program, which provides services to help support students with social-emotional needs, gave her a support system and taught her how to advocate for herself, manage her projects, and communicate, all despite “being in a fearful place.”  

Her message to students? “Embrace the unexpected.” 

A different direction 

Charlie Robichaud.

Robichaud knew in high school that he was not interested in college. After being diagnosed with depression and suffering football injuries, he was unable to join the military and pursue the career in law enforcement he had envisioned. But he and some friends started High Street Lawn, a local, well-reviewed landscape company.  

Although he acknowledges that it was “difficult and disappointing” to adjust to going in a different direction, he “found a new passion for both business and landscaping.”    

The panel succeeded in inspiring its audience, with several juniors saying they liked hearing “a variety of professions and perspectives” from graduates who “came from the same place as us.”

They appreciated learning about the different routes to success, even when they turned out to be non-traditional and different from what the graduates had planned.  

“It was a good reminder that no matter what obstacles you face in life, there are always opportunities to learn and do work that you want to do,” said one student.  

This is the first year CCHS has arranged such an event, but Nowicki and the co-principals are eager to continue providing this kind of information and encouragement to students.  

Stahl said she hopes to expand the assembly’s audience to include seniors and to diversify future panels by including METCO alumni.