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Westchester High School Students Learn About Career Opportunities

Chef John Damiano, an instructor in the BOCES Culinary Arts Program, talk to the visiting students at a career conference.
Chef John Damiano, an instructor in the BOCES Culinary Arts Program, talk to the visiting students at a career conference. Photo Credit: Sam Barron

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- More than 1,700 10th-grade students from the lower Westchester are, flocked to the SWBOCES Career Conference recently to learn about different careers from a vast array of experts.

The recurring theme throughout the conference -- Show up, work hard and do a good job.

The annual event is intended to give juniors an in-depth look into the different types of careers they may be interested in pursuing. The half-day initiative was broken into two sessions, with students switching classrooms in several buildings throughout the Valhalla campus.

The experts came from a plethora of different industries, including accounting, business, dentistry, engineering, law, medical technology, nursing and many others.

Lisa Rudner, the owner of Abby's Dessert Bar, told a group of students interested in becoming entrepreneurs they should be prepared to work hard and possess good social skills.

“Everything is word-of-mouth,” she said. “The way you talk to your customers does matter.”

Dr. Traci Gardner, a pediatrician in White Plains, reassured the attendees that they didn’t have to major in science to become a doctor. A disc jockey before going into the medical field, Gardner told students: “You should go to college to do the things you want to do."

Veterinary science instructor Amanda Bechtel took groups of students on a tour of her eclectic classroom, which contains a whole host of animals, including a female Syrian hamster, two guinea pigs, a male rat, a chinchilla, a couple of rescued Northeastern box turtles, bunnies, ferrets and more.

In addition to studying animal science, the students are required to feed the animals and maintain their living environments, she said.

Thomas Juell, a mechanical engineer, said that engineering is a flexible field of study, but students should have a good understanding of pneumatics, hydraulics and electrical engineering, in addition to understanding the strength and property of materials.

In an ever-changing economy, Juell warned the students to be prepared for change.

“You’re not going to work for one company,” he said. Having a degree of any kind shows employers that one can learn.

In Carmen Galiano’s fashion design/merchandising classroom, students had the opportunity to see a slideshow of Galiano’s work as a fashion designer in New York City. Many of her designs were sold in Macy’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Barney’s, Saks 5th Avenue and more.

“When you see people wearing the clothes you designed, that’s very exciting,” she said. “It’s a thrill that never goes away.”

She went on to explain the importance of acquiring sewing and pattern-making skills, but also knowing how to use Adobe PhotoShop and Illustrator, the primary software programs that are used to sketch fashion designs, she said.

Students interested in TV and video production had the chance to meet News 12 anchor and managing editor Scott McGee, who emphasized the importance of hard work and diligence in any career.

“Show up and do a good job; it’s the big secret to life,” he said.

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