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Gaining Fame After Graduation: ESD’s curriculum and resources nurtured alumni into notable careers
Abby Baughman ‘24

This article was originally published in the upper school student newspaper, Eagle Edition. 

From sports to arts, and from media to social media, ESD alumni are successful and prepared for all. 

In 2009, Phil Pressey ’10 transferred to ESD after moving to Dallas. ESD won the SPC basketball championship that year through the efforts of Pressey, Coach Henderson and his team. Winning SPC again the following year, Pressey committed to play Division 1 basketball at Missouri State University. 

“Corey Henderson was one of my first coaches in high school when I was younger,” Pressey said. “He kind of developed me to get ready for college. As a whole, we don’t have a lot of students, so being able to feel connected to a community and know everybody [allows for] everybody to support you [and makes] you want to do well for your school. [Henderson] helped me out a lot for my trajectory getting to where I am now.” 

In 2013, Pressey signed with the Boston Celtics summer league. He later played for the Spanish club Movistar Estudiantes where he averaged 7.9 points and 4.6 assists per game. Now he is an assistant coach for the University of Missouri basketball team. 

“My dad played for 10 years professionally in the NBA, and he kind of put the ball in my hands,” Pressey said. “That passion kind of grew over time. My dad is an inspiration to me, and that’s a big reason I played.” 

Every summer, Pressey comes back to Dallas and helps coach an ESD basketball camp. 

“I think I am connected to ESD by constantly visiting and making sure I try to see everybody at the school, especially Coach Corey Henderson,” Pressey said. “He has a special place in my heart. He’s a key reason why I went to ESD.” 

The ESD curriculum has also guided students focused in the arts. Grey Malin ’04 began learning about photography during his junior year at ESD. He took AP Photography and worked with black and white photos in the dark room. 

“Having the chance to study photography at ESD when I was only 16 really allowed me to realize at a young age how passionate I was about the subject,” Malin said. “Therefore, my time at ESD very much impacted me and helped me get a head start before going on to minor in photography at Emerson College in Boston and eventually starting my photography lifestyle company in Los Angeles.” 

Also in the arts, Dawn McCoy ’96 began acting during her time at ESD and moved to Los Angeles after college. One of her first jobs in Hollywood was working as a voice actor for commercials for brands like Target, HGTV and Michaels. 

“In 2009, I became a voice for HGTV, for homes and homes,” McCoy said. “From that, I got other jobs, and I was the voice of Marshalls for two years, which is so crazy because I always say that we bought all of my stuff for my first apartment at Marshalls. I was the voice in stores, on TV and radio [which] was awesome.” 

During her time in Los Angeles, McCoy began her blog: Beauty, Baking, Being. A lifestyle blog that focuses on makeup, baking and life. 

“I started this blog, and it was all my favorite things, and I kind of took off,” McCoy said. “I was getting invited to these cool events, and these brands wanted to work with me. At first, I was like, ‘wow, I’m getting free product,’ then they started paying me, and then they started paying me well. And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t have to have a day job anymore.”’ 

McCoy also began working as a TV personality. She has worked on Hallmark and Family, Dr. Oz, Access Hollywood and California live on NBC. 

“I would meet people at parties, and they [would] ask, ‘have you ever thought of being a TV host?’ And I thought, well, I didn’t go to journalism school, and I’m not a pageant queen, and I thought [that those were the] people that became TV hosts,” McCoy said. “Then I started hosting TV stuff. Now I get to be in California live on NBC [which focuses on] travel, dining and experiences, it’s a great show, and I love being on it.” 

But the younger generations are more focused on social media success. Claire Groves ’20 began making TikToks during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The first time I really started to use TikTok was during quarantine my senior year, 2020,” Groves said. “I started posting as a creative outlet, and that’s why I still post on it today. I’ve never thought of TikTok as my job but more something that I love.” 

Groves posts fun, creative videos. Her most popular video is of her going through TSA at the airport before her flight with the caption, “Nothing is more stressful than these 60 seconds.” The video has amassed 16 million views and 2.9 million likes. “I dabble in all sorts of styles or trends, but my brand is created on light-hearted humor,” Groves said. “I want my platform to be a place that’s authentic, inspiring, positive and helps people smile.” 

Groves has accumulated a following of 70,000 on TikTok. 

“When I started TikTok and even now, the following is the last thing I think about,” Groves said. “I think followers just came naturally as my content became more consistent and related to a specific audience. The type of content I post is more on the humor side of things.” 

TikTok also allows for people to gain a following based on sharing and expressing their political views. Victoria Hammett ’17 has amassed a following this way. 

“I was bored during lockdown and thought content creation could keep me occupied,” Hammett said. “I started with story time and makeup videos, but with everything happening in 2020, I transitioned into creating more political and social justice-related content.” 

After transitioning into politically focused content, Hammett gained hundreds of thousands of followers and currently has 806,800 followers. 

“When I first started with the story time videos, I was definitely trying to gain a following,” Hammett said. “I was consistent, posting regularly and ended up gaining 50,000 followers in just a few months. I felt like that was a massive following at the time and didn’t have any intention on growing further. This was when I decided to start using the platform I had to talk about the issues I was passionate about. I thought, if anything, I would lose followers because of the divisive nature of politics, but, to my surprise, that’s when things really started taking off.” 


Image credits:

Photo of Pressey @PhilPressey
Photo of McCoy: Facebook
Photo of Malin:
Photo of Groves: Facebook
Photo of Hammett: Facebook