This week’s Alumni in Motion column features Miss Ali Killam. Though many of you may already know Ali personally from her youth in the Lake Forest community, you may not have realized just how involved she was while a student here at LFHS. Ali dabbled in many different activities, including cross country, volleyball, Young Idea, Women’s Club, and National Honors Society. She even started a small, non-for-profit with a few friends called Out of Doors, which helped raise money to send underprivileged children to participate in outdoor summer programs. When she did have some free time you could find her at Portillo’s with her group of friends enjoying a chopped salad with a side of fries or listening to some tunes in Market Square. Ali graduated in 2009 from LFHS and headed to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to continue her education. There, she studied Journalism and Strategic Communications and participated in Greek life as a Gammi Phi Beta.
She graduated from UW in ‘13 and landed her first job as a news reporter, producer, and anchor at the local NBC affiliate station in Rochester, Minnesota. In that role, she covered everything from local and state politics, human interest stories and crime, to the happenings at the nearby Mayo Clinic. You could say Ali did it all. Even with her immediate success in the field, she still sought a change in scenery from the great state of Minnesota. Ali moved to San Francisco, California and is currently working as a public relations manager for Airbnb. In her new position, Ali manages and creates content for the Airbnb Newsroom (Airbnb’s media press center) and works with several media outlets to tell Airbnb’s story. If you haven’t heard of Airbnb, it is a community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world from your fingertips. Airbnb allows you to experience being a local in a new place, no matter the location.
I was fortunate enough to get in touch with Ali recently about her experiences at LFHS, her road to San Francisco, and the advice that she would have wanted as a student here.
Are you doing what you thought you wanted to do when you were in high school?
Ali: “Not at all! In high school, I thought I would be a news reporter for a newspaper, which was somewhat fortuitous as I wound up as a reporter for broadcast for a couple of years. I always had my eyes set on San Francisco as a destination for myself at some chapter in my life, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would wind up working in public relations for a hospitality/tech company a couple of years into my career. Still, I’m so glad I wound up where I did.”
What things have you seen or heard change about at the high school since you graduated in ’09?
Ali: “The rise of social media, especially in the palm of your hand, has far surpassed what we were using in high school. Back when I was in school, it was still common to leave your phone in your locker–I can’t imagine that’s the case now! I also think the audacity to be different and create an identity that’s authentic to you is a cultural difference I see evolving at the high school now that was not prevalent when I was in school and I think that’s very exciting.”
What would you say to your senior in high school self?
Ali: “Live in the present and take every moment in. Have confidence that you have the power to make your life what you want it to be.”
Who was your favorite teacher that you had or favorite class you took?
Ali: “Ms. Eccleston was one of the best teachers of my high school career. I frequently think about her class and what I learned from her to this day–sending a huge thank you to her!”
Any advice to high school students ?
Ali: “Don’t waste time trying to be someone you’re not, and embrace what you have. Life is too short to be glued to screens (this is applicable as an adult, too), and give your parents a hug–they deserve a lot of credit for putting up with us.”
What is a fun fact about you or may not a lot of people know?
Ali: “Not sure how fun this is, but I have a pet snake named Caesar!”
Ali is a great example of someone who embraces hard work and sets goals for herself to get ahead. We can all find inspiration in her advice to embrace who you are and what you have. At some point, we all have to step out of our own comfort zones to discover the best self that we can be. She stepped out of her comfort zone moving to Minnesota after college and then to sunny San Francisco even more recently. How will you push yourself to new heights today? How will the decisions you make today impact your story for the future?