Markieta Carter was the 2003 valedictorian of Kentwood High School, a senior high school that is a part of the Tangipahoa Parish School System. Carter, who lives in Denham Springs, is now a consultant who specializes in human resources and employment law.
When you were in high school, was becoming valedictorian something you actively pursued?
No, it actually wasn’t something that was top of mind, honestly. I guess with the school being so small — there were only, I think, 49 people in our graduating class — I enjoyed the school work and put in my best effort. It may have only been during my junior year that there was a formal conversation about it that let me know ‘Hey, I’m probably in the running for this.’ So it didn’t really cross my mind until then.
How big of an accomplishment did it feel when you were named valedictorian?
My parents were very proud. I was excited — there was one other individual who was in the running, but she was from a different school and when they recalculated our grades I got word I was officially valedictorian. It was very exciting, knowing there was some competition and I won.
Did you go to college after high school? If so, what did you study?
I went to LSU the summer after graduation, in August 2003. I started off as pre-med, but I changed to, I believe, business, then at the two-year mark I met my now ex-husband and took a break from school. It was a break for years.
I went back and completed an associate degree in business in 2015, then in 2017 I completed a bachelor’s degree in human resources management. In 2019, I completed a master’s degree in labor and employment law.
What was your first job?
In college I worked at a call center. Outside of college I worked at a car dealership as an administrative front desk person, which eventually rolled into my first ‘big girl job’ working in retail as a manager trainee. This eventually brought me to HR-related duties. From there I moved to a series of human resources jobs starting at the entry level and moving into leadership. Now I’m a human resources manager.
Was HR on your radar at high school, or early on in your career?
Not at all. I’d never really heard of it because the jobs I worked for I didn’t have a standalone human resources department. At my retail job, my manager saw my strong suit was working with people and in the office … at the time I didn’t realize they were HR-related duties, I thought they were part of being a manager. But as I transitioned into my first HR role I was able to hone in on that past experience.
What was your goal as a high school student?
I thought about being a doctor, a dentist or a lawyer, though I settled on pre-med. But I realized as I was taking courses for it that, no, it wasn’t something I was interested in.
What are your future career goals?
I have an employment law consulting business, M.J. Carter-Williams, where I consult smaller and mid-sized businesses. It’s part consulting and part life coaching: I help people who have had similar journeys to mine, where they maybe got a little turned around in life, and help them reach their life goals. (That includes) clients going back to school, managing stress, changing careers, those types of things.
How important was being named valedictorian in terms of your career?
I don’t know if it was super important … although it it did serve as a motivation. After I left school, I knew that I was capable of anything I put my mind to. I would think about the fact I was valedictorian in high school during times where I was feeling not as fresh out of school, or as motivated, and it would let me know, ‘Hey, push a little bit harder — you did that, so now you can do this.’
Interested in learning more about Louisiana’s 2003 valedictorians? Take a look at our introduction story here.
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