FAIRFIELD, NJ — Nearly 300 fourth, fifth and sixth graders from Fairfield’s Winston Churchill School recently participated in Career Day, where approximately 35 presenters from local businesses and organizations inspired the kids.
Principal Raymond Santana thanked the presenters sharing their experiences and knowledge with the students. He also said the students were "phenomenal" as they rose to the challenge of posing intelligent and interesting questions to presenters throughout the day.
“Career Day is one of my favorite days of the school year,” said Santana. “It gives the students the opportunity to see how all our content areas play a part in careers that they are thinking about exploring.”
Dorian Nazarian, fifth grade teacher and member of the Career Day committee, explained that Churchill’s Career Day is “a wonderful opportunity for the students to learn about a variety of vocations to which they would not otherwise be exposed.”
“Hearing about the day-to-day lives of these professionals and the training or schooling that is involved is incredibly motivational for our students,” said Nazarian. “We are so grateful to the volunteers who took time from their busy schedules to present today. We hope that they can use it as an opportunity to network with other professionals to grow their businesses as well.”
Nazarian’s class was given extra credit for dressing up according to the career they were interested in pursuing. Students thought that this idea added to the excitement and fun of the day.
Santana explained that the students were given a choice of which presenters they wanted to hear from. The presenters included a banker, yoga instructor, sportscaster, FBI analyst, author, engineer of cranial implants, CPA, funeral home owner, police officers, firefighters, cost analyst, business owners, electrical engineering manager, hairdresser, certified flight instructor, football coach, research analyst, veterinarian, personal strength trainer, video producer, scientist, financial due diligence investigator, director of the Jets ticket operations, counselor, photographer, veterinary technician, physical therapist, zoo worker, chief of staff of Essex County and more.
The sixth graders were granted their top three choices, and younger students were granted at least one. Fifth grader Ryan Pierce was one of the students who was granted his first choice of hearing from the veterinarian, explaining that a veterinarian is what he would like to be when he grows up.
Mark Salemi, the veterinarian, informed the students that a vet has to be very dedicated.
“It’s a great responsibility,” he said. “Your work schedule can change in an instant.”
He also explained that if an animal comes in with a serious injury, a vet must stay until the animal is out of danger. In order to engage the students, Salemi brought in a sample of a dog heart that was infected with heartworms and a jar of ticks. From this, students saw firsthand why it is important to give a dog heartworm and flea and tick medication.
Funeral home owner Dori Stellato got the attention of the students by bringing in props, including a full outfit that was worn by her father many years ago that included a top hat and the stripes traditionally worn by funeral directors.
Sgt. Christopher Oswald showed the students his bulletproof vest with its trauma plate and explained how it is made and why it works. He also showed the students training guns, a long gun, a compact machine gun and a medical bag, including an automated external defibrillator (AED), since the police are often first responders in medical emergencies.
Oswald also gave students a tour of the inside of his police car with its recording system, mesh shield, seat belts and other features that protect police officers and the public by hindering offenders from escaping.
The officer told the students that when their school is having a lock down, it’s not only a drill for teachers and students, but it is also a training session for the police. If things go wrong, the police are able to evaluate what occurred and make changes on how to better handle the situation, he said.
Students were also interested in stories sportscaster Dave Popkin, who told about working with famous athletes like Patrick Ewing and Bernie Williams. Popkin made it clear that although his job is fun, it also takes a lot of hard work preparing for games and doing interviews.
Also speaking about jobs in sports were Michele Spadavecchia, director of ticket operations for the New York Jets, who fielded several questions from students about the players and the teams, and football coach Chet Parlavecchi, who gave a motivational talk on working hard to achieve goals.
“You need to be passionate about what you do and work hard,” said Parlavecchio, adding that if things do not work out, it’s important for the students to look in the mirror and see that if they have done everything possible, then they have not failed. “You cannot lie to the guy in the mirror.”
Steven Smith, FBI analyst, made it quite clear to the students that his work is not like the FBI shows on television.
“On television, the case is solved in an hour. Sometimes it takes years,” he said as he explained the selection of an FBI agent, why college is meaningful, why speaking a foreign language is important for securing a job in the intelligence community and that many agents are former lawyers, engineers and computer systems analysts.
After hearing Smith’s presentation, said Churchill student Peter Barcia is was “so cool to learn about what these people do.”
“Career Day is fun,” he said. “It leads up to what we want to do when we get older.”
Barcia said that he has been writing books since he was in third grade, including his latest, “The Alien Teacher.” During Career Day, Barcia especially enjoyed hearing from award-winning children’s author Doug Snelson, who wrote “The Fable of the Snake Named Slim.”
“One word leads to another and another, and it is a journey,” said Snelson, who encouraged students to use a dictionary and a thesaurus to broaden their vocabulary and to always stretch themselves to use the new words they learn. “If you want to be a good author, you must read, read and read.”
Career Day committee members emphasized that all of the presenters are volunteers, and expressed their gratitude to the presenters for taking the time to provide the students with information and handouts.
The HSA provided breakfast and lunch for the presenters and staff.