Athletics and attendance: Eugene Randall joins Wilson team


Mia Boris

Maya Wilson

Last week, walking down the stairs, Eugene Randall was vividly reminded of his time as a student at Ballou High School. “There were so many students coming up that I just stood there and I waited for everybody to come up, and it made me reflect on my high school years,” he said with a laugh.

Having only joined the Wilson staff as 11th-grade attendance counselor this past August, Randall is still adjusting to some aspects of life at Wilson. Other parts, however, he’s used to.  Despite being new to the school, “I’m old to the position,” he said, having served as an attendance counselor at HD Woodson High School for 15 years.

The majority of Randall’s professional life has been spent working in DC, which makes sense: he’s a self-dubbed Washingtonian. “One of the few,” he said with a laugh. Randall recalls a lovely childhood here. Raised by a single parent, he was often cared for by aunts and uncles, spending lots of time relaxing and traveling with extended family. “It was a lot of fun. On the weekends I spent a lot of time with my cousins,” Randall said.

As a high schooler, Randall made two pivotal discoveries about himself. The first was a profound love for athletics, which he nurtured playing football for Ballou. His career as an athlete, however, was short-lived. “I was a realist—I realized that I was not big enough, fast enough, or strong enough to make the NFL, so I said ‘High school, I will retire my football career,’” he explained, chuckling.

The second important discovery Randall made was his own appreciation for academics. “I know it’s kind of late, but high school was where I really learned the importance of education,” he explained, describing summers working for DC’s Summer Youth Employment Program in the court system. Randall was drawn to the type of work he saw, which helped provide him direction. “I talked to certain people and they said if you want to do this type of job, if you want to work behind a desk or something like that, you need to go to college. Decide on what you want to major in, get your degree so you can decide what you want to do in life. So I did that,” he said. Randall attended the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), and loved it.

“I attended UDC right at the moment that they were opening the Van Ness campus, so it was a brand new campus, it was a big thing. I was thrilled to go there, learned a lot, and it really did prepare me for life.” Inspired by some of the parole officers he worked with during his summer jobs, Randall decided to major in criminal justice and law enforcement. His senior year, he was able to work part-time as an aide at Woodson, which made him regret his choice focus.

“Working in the school, I really found a love and a passion for education and it really made me reflect and say, ‘Wow, maybe I should’ve majored in education,” he said. “Fortunately for me, degrees are very versatile.”

Upon graduating from college, Randall stayed at Woodson as an attendance counselor. His love for education and watching positive growth drew him to the position. “I realize the importance of attendance, it has a direct effect or relationship with grades, your academics,” he explained. “Those are the things I learned over the years while I was in school, so I try and share those experiences with any of the students I work with. I just like to see positive outcome.”

Woodson was also where Randall was able to continue cultivating his passion for athletics. When he started working there, he was asked by one of the P.E. teachers to assist coaching the girls softball and volleyball teams. “I didn’t know much about it, but I said ‘sure, I’ll help you out with it.’” This ended up igniting Randall’s love for coaching, which also comes from his desire to help others grow. “It’s just a wonderful thing, knowing that you were a part of their success. It might be a little teeny bit, but maybe one thing you said might’ve been very inspirational in their future,” he said. After that, Randall quickly became the head coach for those teams, and he continues his athletic involvement here at Wilson as head coach for the swim team. He also helps out (off the field, of course) at Wilson’s football games.

After 15 years at Woodson, Randall decided it was time to put his degree to use and he worked as a parole officer in general supervision, which involved helping adult parolees through transitional housing. “I did enjoy helping people, but I felt that I was more successful working with kids. Many of the adults I was working with, they had already established themselves and were set in their ways,” Randall explained. “The younger generation can receive more, accept more and be more objective… they’re more open to ideas and experiences.” 10 years later, he was ready to return to education.

After brief stints at various charter schools working in administration and with special education, Randall was ready to come back to attendance counseling. “I realized attendance was a really big problem in schools in the past couple years, and like I said, I felt like I could make a positive impact,” Randall recounted. Many schools in the DC area were hiring for the position, and Randall applied to several. “Wilson was the first to call,” Randall said. “This is where I am. I love it,” he continued, citing specifically how respectful and mature he’s found Wilson students to be.

Though there are obviously going to be things, like crowded hallways, that take a bit to get used to, it doesn’t seem that Randall has had much trouble finding his spot in the Wilson community. His office is stationed in the third-floor counseling suite, and during STEP, students filter through with an array of questions and requests. He greets them all with warmth, helping them locate whoever they’re looking for, taking doctor’s notes, and gently reminding students they can’t hover in the office. One student looking for a social worker looked at his fridge and said “Do you have food?” “No,” Randall replied, a bit concerned. “You don’t have any food in the fridge?” the student continued, gesturing at the mini fridge tucked in the corner of the room. “No, why? You hungry?” Randall said, smiling and shaking his head as he realized the kid was joking with him.

Outside of school, Randall enjoys spending time with his family at their home in Prince George’s County, toting his son, who’s a senior, back and forth from baseball practice to trumpet lessons and watching sports games of teams with anything to do with the DMV. He looks forward to being a Wilson tiger for years to come—“I get a kick out of every day.”