Grad series part one: Alumni on the road to success

By Meghan Gutzwiller
Times Correspondent

Another group of bright-eyed graduates is getting its send-off from Monticello High School next week, and the commencement marks another 298 sets of wings poised to stretch out and find that next step on their respective journeys. Invariably, each group of departing MHS seniors covers a broad spectrum of skills, passions and goals that will lead it in many different directions after the mortar boards are tossed.

The success stories of Monticello’s grads are too diverse and numerous to cover even a small percentage, but here’s a small sampling of some MHS grads who have taken on new challenges far from home.

AbuAyed in Dubai

One such high flyer is 2004 graduate Yasmin AbuAyed, a standout soccer player and high-performing student who found her niche in mechanical engineering during her time at North Dakota State University’s School of Mines and Technology. AbuAyed’s college experience included a trip to Chile with Engineers and Scientists Abroad, where her group worked to design and build a unit that would bring a power source and water to a school for orphans located in a remote part of the Andes Mountains.

AbuAyed’s globetrotting didn’t end with her college career; after graduation she went to work in the oil industry, moving to Dubai three years ago after working in various locales for her company’s rotational program. AbuAyed currently works as a project manager, supplying full land rig oil packages. Translation? After an oil rig package is sold, she oversees construction, testing and installation of all pieces of equipment.

“Originally, when I came to Dubai, I thought I would return long before now,” she said, “but I really love it.”

Ewert in Seattle

Shane Ewert is just six years out of high school, but already he has a number of impressive companies on his resume and some big goals for his future. While earning a B.S. in mathematics and computer science at North Dakota State University, Ewert said he was “lucky” enough to get internshipopportunities at both IMB and Cargill before his entrepreneurial spirit kicked into high gear. While still in college, he and a friend developed and launched a free textbook exchange program for the students of NDSU.

“It was a lot of fun and it provided us with some great experience launching and marketing a product,” Ewert said, adding that they ended up passing off the service to the student government to ensure its continued use after they graduated.

According to Ewert, “luck” struck again when he was hired by Polaris after college to work as a software developer, but he was soon lured away by a unique opportunity with Beckman Coulter’s engineering leadership development program that he said gave him a chance to meet incredible people and work on challenging projects while living in four different locations in the U.S. Only a few months into his permanent placement with Beckman Coulter, online mega-retailer Amazon was knocking on his door with the opportunity to live in Seattle, Washington, and work in digital and mobile products, which happened to be the industry he most wanted to pursue. Ewert said he is grateful for all the people he has met and the support of his parents as he learns as much as he can to run his own company one day.

“Do I plan to ever return to Minnesota? Well, I guess I never planned on moving out here!” Ewert said. “But yes, I would like to come back someday. I’ve lived in a few places and they’ve been great, but the cliche is true: There’s no place like home.”

Stockham at Disney/Pixar

As a 2008 high school graduate, Meghan Stockham is just now stepping out into life beyond schooling with an “animated” path ahead of her. Stockham got off to a great start in her goal of entering the animation field when she gained acceptance into one of the best animation schools on the continent, the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Fla. During college she got her dream internship at Pixar Animation Studios, an experience she said she wouldn’t trade for anything.

“It was truly the most incredible experience of my life,” she said of her time at Pixar. “Being surrounded by such amazing artists and filmmakers every day was so inspiring, and also extremely humbling.”

Now that college is over for Stockham, she has gotten another internship. This time, she will be working for Digital Domain’s Tradition Studios, which is working to debut its first feature film in 2014. The film, called “The Legend of Tembo,” tells the story of a young African elephant who is captured and taken to India. Two Walt Disney Animation veterans, who joined Tradition Studios after more than 20 years with Disney, will direct the film. Stockham hopes to be hired by Tradition Studios after the internship; otherwise she will seek employment with Pixar or Disney.

“I’m so extremely happy that I took a chance and went to a far-away school,” she said. “I really missed my friends and family, but in the end the opportunities it’s provided me have been so great and one-of-a-kind.”

Editor’s note: This was the first in a three-part graduation series by the Monticello Times. Next up in the series is a spotlight on some past Monticello graduates who have focused their time and talents in our own community.