Carl Edwards usually sends a clear message to his NASCAR opponents by passing them at 170 mph. On Monday, Edwards slowed down to give Oakland Junior High students a different message: “Follow your dreams.”
A former student at Oakland, Edwards spoke at the school Monday at an assembly.
Edwards attended Oakland from 1992 to 1994 and graduated from Rock Bridge High School in 1997. After briefly attending MU, Edwards began professional racing. He now races as part of the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series and the Craftsman Truck Series.
Edwards joined the NASCAR weekly racing series in 2000. Racing pro-modified cars, he won 13 feature races and was named rookie of the year.
In 2003, Edwards had three Craftsman Truck Series wins along with 15 top-10 finishes, finishing eighth overall for the season.
This season, Edwards had three wins and 17 top-10 finishes on the Craftsman Truck Series. In the Nextel Cup Series, NASCAR’s top circuit, he had five top-10 finishes in 13 starts.
Doug Harl, director of guidance at Oakland, taught Edwards when he was a student at the school.
“He was involved in good, positive things in school but also involved in racing outside of school,” Harl said. “He had an interest in pursuing this dream that he had. You don’t have to forsake one for the other. You can do both.”
Eighth-grader Emily Kummerfeld said she enjoyed the assembly and liked Edwards’ message.
“We got to get out of class, and you don’t meet famous people very often — especially people who went to Oakland,” she said. “Sometimes if you want to be something you can be it, even if it’s hard.”
Edwards gave the students background about his career in racing and encouraged them to follow their own goals.
“I’m here to tell you whatever it is you want to do, whether it’s being a racecar driver or a doctor or a lawyer, that I hope you pursue it with 100 percent of your heart,” Edwards said.
Edwards told the students he is still working on his degree from MU, even as he competes on tour, because he believes education is of vital importance. Edwards said he is studying anthropology and psychology and needs 34 credit hours to earn a degree.
Helen Cope, a teacher at Oakland, said students were responsive to the assembly.
“I think it went great. He’s someone kids could relate to,” she said.
Eighth-grader Dan Greenhoe came away from the assembly with more than just a positive message. Greenhoe collected six autographs from Edwards, and even had him sign his sneaker.
Cope said it was important for students to see an Oakland graduate who is successful.
“Success starts here at Oakland. They can reach their goals with hard work, discipline and dedication,” Cope said.