After the graduating seniors walk across the stage at graduation and leave to pursue their goals, their fellow classmates may be left wondering, “What are they doing now?”
After graduation, some of these students continue to follow their dreams and don’t come step foot back into the building where they spent their formative years, but some do come back to the school that helped to shape them as people. Grace O’Brien and Jason Procaccini are two such former students who now find themselves working alongside their former teachers and administrator.
Jason Procaccini, who graduated two years ago, currently attends the Mason Gross School of The Arts at Rutgers University, NJ, pursuing a career in music education. He has been working as a part-time substitute at the high school.
It wasn’t until his junior year that Procaccini discovered what he would want to study in college. It was at that time he realized he had a passion to pursue music. He was grateful to have been surrounded by so many of his supportive friends and teaching staff both in and out of the music department.
One of these influential teachers included band director Nicholas O’Sullivan.
When Procaccini was first starting to look into colleges he said he was “very worried and nervous, as a lot of people are.” Being unaware of schools that would be good for studying music, O’Sullivan helped guide Procaccini in his choice of schools.
O’Sullivan was initially surprised by Procaccini’s decision. Music programs are often very rigorous and require students to perform at very high levels of expertise. “[Jason] had to get to a level in nine months that needed to be pretty high, ” O’Sullivan said.
“There’s not a lot of difference [between students pursuing music] except for the fact that Jason knows what he wants, and it was music. He’s better because he knows what he wants and he went for it.”
Procaccini also noted how other teachers within the music department helped him along his journey, including Josef Ellis, Joe Elefante, and Kathryn Connolly. After seeing these teachers work with other students, Procaccini understood how impactful a good teacher truly is.
“I want to do for other students what they have done for me,” he said.
Looking ahead, Procaccini is still pursuing his goal of being a high school band teacher and is also considering going to graduate school. “I want to teach students that they can get joy from pursuing just about anything, and music is just one of those things.”
Grace O’Brien, who graduated eight years ago, currently works as a paraprofessional at the high school while also coaching the girls’ freshman soccer team, and assistant coaching girls’ varsity soccer.
After graduating as a 12-letter varsity athlete, O’Brien attended Kean University where she continued to play soccer. She started college with a special education major, but decided to pursue a different career path, leading her to graduate with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology.
O'Brien gives back to the community through her work and being as involved in it as she can. She loves to be able to help students within the special education department who might not have an easy time in school. As a coach, O'Brien also dedicates herself to being a mentor for young athletes.
“I feel like more than just a coach to some of these kids. I feel like I’m a mentor in school and out of school,” O'Brien said.
She is proud to be able to help people that could be in similar positions she's been in through her high school journey.
Kelly Donfield, a junior soccer player, said, “I would consider coach O’Brien both a mentor and a friend to all girls aspiring to play soccer. She always worked her hardest to make practices interactive, and truly cared about the players on the team.” Donfield said, “I always see Coach to this day around GL and she’s a constant reminder of positivity and optimism, which is what all young girls need.”
O'Brien says that the best point of her high school career was her senior year because of her many sports accomplishments. These accomplishments helped to prepare her for what she experienced in college.
She said, “GL is the reason I love working in a school.” O'Brien is thrilled to be able to give back to the school and community that has influenced her life and helped to raise her. In the future, O'Brien hopes to attain her Masters and become a social worker.
The experiences that both O’Brien and Procaccini had at Governor Livingston have brought them back to make an impact on the next generation of graduates who might do the same.