Mentors and student-interns celebrate with a breakfast

'The first step to success': Business partners honored for introducing Chester Academy students to their world of work

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  • Chester student-interns proudly show off their program certificates: first row: Stephanie Castellano, Kimberly Salotti, Alexis Levin, Brittney Lettieri, Marti Greco, Gail Blaine (Coordinator); second row: Kate Polanco, Christianna Scrobe, Isabella Velilla, Brianna Gonzalez, Alexis Amador, Ariana Gray, Reagan Shaw; third row: Zachery Pincus, Richard Johannas, Brandon DeSouza. (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

"What I learned here at the office, I want to do in my life. It’s helped me pick my major for college."
Isabella Velilla

By Ginny Privitar

— Chester Academy's Partner Appreciation Breakfast on May 10 honored business partners who served as mentors to student-interns from the Academy’s Workplace Learning Program.

The interns shadowed their mentors at work to see if they would be interested in a career in that field.

"Oh my gosh, it was so much fun," said Kim Salotti, who worked at Little Scholars preschool. "And considering that I attend the CTEC program for early childhood, it just added to that because I get to be with children there and at Little Scholars.”

BakeryEat this Bakery's owner Randi Green, who has served as a mentor for three years, also served breakfast. Her intern, Kate Polanco, did so well, she is now her employee. Kate helps at the counter and at parties. She learned the responsibilities of every position in the bakery.

Her favorite part of the job was “definitely interacting with the customers because some of them are very interesting to converse with," she said. "It was a really good experience socially.”

ChiropractyMentor Dr. Donald Littlejohn of Chester Chiropractic was once a teacher. His intern, Alexis Amador, said, “I knew I wanted to be a chiropractor going into it, but I had no idea what that actually meant, so I learned a lot and it was really fun. I had a great time.”

The most interesting part was “looking at x-rays and understanding how a problem actually affects patients," she said.

PoliticsNew York State Assemblyman James Skoufis and his chief of staff, Carlos Valle, attended with their intern, Isabella Velilla, who has been working with them for two years.

Isabella said the experience has confirmed her career choice: politics.

”It’s been really inspiring and eye-opening," she said. "What I learned here at the office, I want to do in my life. It’s helped me pick my major for college."

She said she is amazed at “how dedicated my boss is to his job and how dedicated everyone in the office is to helping others.”

Skoufis said, “We’re always looking for help. It’s sometimes hard to find good help and it’s almost impossible to find really good help. But with Isabella, she was really the cream of the crop so we were thrilled to have her — for such a long time, as well."

He said Isabella was "really instrumental in day-to-day help and hopefully it gives her a bit of a peak behind the curtain about how state government works and how an office like this operates.”

Police workTown of Chester Police Chief Dan Doellinger and Officer Christopher D’Agnese attended with their interns, Zachary Pincus and Richard Johannes.

“We’ve been participating with the BOCES VOTEC law and public safety program for a number of years, and last year we were approached by Chester Academy to run an internship," Doellinger said.

This year the program expanded to include two interns.

Zachary said he liked “learning from all the officers the different skills that they knew. And them just helping me not only to be a police officer but further myself as a person.”

Richard said the most surprising thing was all the paperwork he had to do.

"I didn’t realize it," he said. He said he spent hours — hours! — doing paperwork.

D’Agnese interjected with a smile: “We didn’t skimp on it either. We wanted to give him the full experience.”

He said supervising the boys “was an absolute pleasure. They caught on quick.”

Richard will be attending college and joining the police academy afterwards. Zachary will be entering the Navy.

'The second step is action'“Ambition is the first step to success, the second step is action!” said Workplace Learning Program Counselor Gail Blaine, in addressing the participants. “It isn't what we say or think that defines us, but what we do!”

Blaine is a retired teacher from Valley Central High School. Chester Superintendent Sean Michel knew of her expertise as a former business teacher and counselor and asked her to come on board to build the Work Based Learning program by adding more professional internships.

Blaine’s goal for the program was “finding out students' interests by creating specific career exploration presentations, getting feedback from the students and pounding the pavement to find internships — isn't that what it is all about?

“Due to consistent communication, our student interns were committed and accountable,” she said. “They showed a strong interest in exploring different careers, which led to several of them defining their college majors.”

The student interns came up to the podium one by one to thank their mentors and present them with plaques of appreciation. Later the interns were presented with certificates. They all expressed gratitude for the program and the opportunity to explore a career.

Also present for the ceremony were Principal Denis Petrilak and Assistant Principal Rolondo Aguilar. Student Paul Kim played the keyboard before the program began.

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