EAST HANOVER, NJ – Students from West Caldwell’s Essex County Vocational Technical High School were recently among the more than 100 high school students with disabilities to participate in the 10th annual Disability Mentoring Day program, hosted by Novartis for students from 14 area high schools in honor of National Disability Mentoring Day. 

The annual event at the company’s East Hanover campus helps students with special needs learn about opportunities to successfully transition from high school to college and the workforce. The theme for this year’s program was tenacity—the quality or fact of being very determined.

Gerald, a student at Essex County Vocational Technical High School, said, “I’m excited about finding my own job and getting paid.” 

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Students engaged in an interactive college and career fair with area colleges and universities with strong inclusion practices and companies that hire people with disabilities. Students also heard from a panel of a Kean University student and alumni with disabilities who discussed their experiences in college and seeking employment. A college advisor accompanied the students and described all of the resources and support that the university provides.

Keynote speaker Dr. Paul Wichansky, a motivational speaker and author who was born with cerebral palsy and a hearing loss encouraged the students.

“You’ll hit obstacles you’ll need to go around or over to achieve your goals,” he said. “Stay focused on positivity and hope. Don’t give up; find another way to reach your goal. Challenge yourself to be the best you can be. Your perseverance and tenacity will guide you through the fiercest storms to the brightest sunshine of life.”

Reflecting on the day, Caryn Parlavecchio, US Country Human Resources Head, NPC said that Disability Mentoring Day celebrates students with disabilities and the tenacity that they exhibit every day.

“Their determination and persistence are the keys to their success,” she said. “We hope that the students are excited about the opportunities available to them and were inspired by Dr. Wichansky and the Kean University student and alumni.”

Diversity & Inclusion US Pharma Lead, Kellie Molin Kenol, said that the students are “motivated and energized by the belief that this day can make a difference in the life of these students.”

“We are very proud of the core group of dedicated, hardworking associates who spent months planning this event and the one hundred associates who volunteered to execute the many parts of this successful day,” said Kenol.

National Disability Mentoring Day is sponsored nationally by the American Association of People with Disabilities.