EASTERN SUFFOLK BOCES SUCCESS STORIES|
Eastern Suffolk BOCES Trade Electric Program graduate
A member of a hard-working family that includes carpenters, masons, and plumbers, Nick Buttacavoli thought the Trade Electric Program at Eastern Suffolk BOCES seemed “very appealing.” About one month into his first year in the class, he knew he had made the right choice.
The combination of hands-on skill development and technical training prepared Nick for entry-level or higher employment and upon graduation two years later in the Class of 2001 he went right to work. “Everyone needs an electrician, carpenter, and a plumber sooner or later,” he said with a smile, as his former teacher Mr. Charles Servedio, a former union electrician, nodded in agreement.
Currently employed by Double Pole Electric, Inc., in Nesconset, Nick visits Mr. Servedio’s class as a guest speaker. “ESBOCES was the beginning of my education, the start of my career by giving me the foundation I needed. I wish more high schools would push information about these courses. I know electricians who graduated from trade schools and college who have lots of debt and who are now unemployed. I’ve never been unemployed and I have no debt.”
“Education is the key to success and hands-on instruction is the key to learning,” Nick recently told a group of educators at a curriculum breakfast meeting at the Edward J. Milliken Technical Center (MTC). Nick received an invitation to share his expertise and ideas because of his professional success and his eagerness to help up-and-coming electricians.
“ESBOCES Career and Technical Education Program is terrific.” Nick said. “Employers like to see ESBOCES on resumes, and the education and experience come at no cost to the student. What could be better than that?” he asked rhetorically.
He added, “If you’re good at what you do, you will be successful. I’ve never been unemployed and there’s never been a time when I questioned my choice of Trade Electric. If you’re trained by ESBOCES and are willing to work hard, you will succeed, and succeed well. There is no better start than at ESBOCES.”
Eastern Suffolk BOCES Welding/Metal Fabrication Program graduate
John Candito remembers watching “American Chopper” when he attended Connetquot High School. He said, “The show was cool and I was fascinated with building things.” A high school friend told him about the Eastern Suffolk BOCES Welding/Metal Fabrication program. “I thought it would be interesting to work with welding tools and I heard that there was a lot of hands-on work in the class,” said John.
John attended ESBOCES for two years, was a member of SkillsUSA, and the only student in teacher Chris Servedio’s Welding Program to pass the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) welding test. The test measured competency and skill in nine areas: safety, welding symbols and blueprint reading, arc cutting, physical characteristics and mechanical properties of metals, oxy-fuel cutting, weld fit-up and quality, shielded metal arc welding, gas metal arc welding and gas tungsten arc welding. A special seal noting this accomplishment was affixed to John’s ESBOCES Certificate of Completion. While at ESBOCES John had the opportunity to attend workshops on aircraft and industrial welding, as well as structural steel and construction welding. Additionally, he learned how to read blueprints.
For two years, John traveled from his home school district to ESBOCES. He said, “I was learning something productive. I was learning a skill but I also learned life lessons and I made friends along the way.” John thought that Mr. Servedio was a great teacher. “I would always seek him out for advice; ask him questions and he would help me. Even after I graduated, he left the door open for me to visit and offered assistance.”
John graduated from Conneqtuot CSD in 2006 and continued his education at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) in Old Westbury. He recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architecture and aspires to create high-end residential mansions.
“One of the most important things I learned is that first and foremost, a building has to be safe,” said John. Workplace safety, tool operation safety, and industry safety were emphasized throughout the welding program. He found this knowledge beneficial when taking courses at NYIT that focused on aspects of structural systems, the construction process, and mechanical systems.
A life lesson he learned was coping with the passing of several friends. “I was a member of SkillsUSA but didn’t compete because I was very affected by the passing of one of my friends.” Throughout four years of high school and five years of college, John lost ten friends. He said, “It was difficult going to school each day. I was in a fog. Mr. Servedio helped me through. Having something to focus on, like welding, having something productive to do every day was very beneficial to me.”
“Attending ESBOCES was good for my resume. I’ve gone on job interviews and companies have an appreciation for the background knowledge I acquired. I think it makes me more well-rounded and allows me to do many things. I can work on cars, fix machines, and the knowledge is personally beneficial to me when I do my hobbies. I would recommend this program because it can open the door to so many things,” said John.
Eastern Suffolk BOCES Plumbing and Heating Program graduate
When Plumbing and Heating teacher Ray LoFrese nominated graduate Frank Esposito to be a 2012 Success Story candidate, he explained, “Three months ago, this master plumber opened his own business and I’m very proud of him.”
Frank listened closely to his Middle Country CSD guidance counselor and enrolled in the two-year Plumbing and Heating program for high school juniors and seniors at Eastern Suffolk BOCES Brookhaven Technical Center (BTC). He already knew that plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters constitute one of the largest groups among the construction occupations and that salaries are among the highest. With graduation on the horizon, he needed to make a choice: go to college or begin working. His mother voted for college, but he opted for the latter. He went right to work as a licensed New York State master plumber, having earned the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health (NYCOSH) certification. Recently he said, “It was the right decision for me. Even my mother agrees now.”
Following his 2005 graduation, Frank worked at his uncle’s plumbing business and then moved on to another company. Earlier this year he decided to “shoot for the stars” and open his own business. “It’s better to try and fail than not to try at all,” he explained. Recently, he declared, “That, too, was the right decision.”
“Plumbing is something I can take anywhere I go; sooner or later everyone needs a plumber, and no computer can do this job.” he told a visitor. He added that his ESBOCES training included developing good people skills, making a nice appearance, and becoming articulate. He learned trade math, in addition to local and national plumbing codes, hydrostatic testing of assembled systems, and installion, service, and repair of domestic sanitation systems, water heaters, and home heating units. “My job is very interesting,” he said.
Frank’s latest goal is to expand his business. Currently, he has one employee at Frank Esposito Plumbing, Inc., Centereach. “I like what I do. Thank you Mr. Lofrese for everything you taught me."
Eastern Suffolk BOCES Carpentry/Residential Construction and Home Improvement Program graduate
As a child, Michael Fitzsimmons loved designing and building things. At the age of 15, he helped his father build a den. Those experiences led the Connetquot CSD student to enroll in the Eastern Suffolk BOCES Carpentry/Residential Construction and Home Improvement program at Brookhaven Technical Center (BTC), where he met teachers Francis Nilsen and (the late) Mr. William Korzerski. He realized early in his junior year that carpentry would be his career path and he did not miss a day of school. “I loved it,” he said, “the learning, the hands-on projects, the team of teachers, and the teacher’s aide, Ms. Brenda Lariccio. It became more than just school; we became a family.”
While in high school, Mike’s first paying job was to build a deck onto a private home. “It was during spring break and my friends laughed at me because they had plans to have a good time and I wanted to go to work.” Through ESBOCES, Mike secured a renovations and siding job “that gave me great experience.” Mike learned more about the industry when he met William Macchione, State Director of the Empire State Carpenters Apprenticeship Committee, and Jim Hayes, a guest speaker from the union. Both men are strong supporters of ESBOCES Career and Technical Education programs.
Mike, a Ronkonkoma resident and Eagle Scout, graduated after two years in the class of 2005 and enrolled at Suffolk County Community College (SCCC) in the certification program for drafting and construction management. He is currently, working at the Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington, building a Microsoft store. In the fall, he will be a SCCC evening student working toward an associate’s degree in architectural studies. “What ESBOCES means to me is a good start.”
Asked how it feels to be a professional in the field, Mike replied, “I build on Long Island, I build in New York City, and I’m a union carpenter. I love it.” He proudly wears a carpenter’s union patch on his shirt, along with an American flag. “I credit ESBOCES for me being where I am today,” he concluded.
Eastern Suffolk BOCES Photography Program graduate
Among the area’s well-known photographers is Ken Hild. Recently sitting at a long table featuring dozens of cards from newlyweds praising his work, he talked about his path to professional success. His website states, “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs,” a comment from the late Ansel Adams, one of the most respected photographers of the 20th century. Like Mr. Adams, Ken is an artist who pays attention to every detail and enjoys exploring out-of-the-box ideas and angles. His work displays the love he has for the profession.
Ken took photography seriously before the age of 14. While a teenager, Newsday published his work. By the time he was a junior in Shoreham-Wading River CSD, he was ready for the next step and enrolled in the Eastern Suffolk BOCES Photography program at the H.B. Ward Career and Technical Center (WCTC) for his senior year. “I was in awe of the ESBOCES equipment,” Ken recalled. “ESBOCES had it all, and I thought, ‘this works for me. The class assignments were creative, the projects challenging, and the teacher, Paul Vandercreek was dedicated to the students. In addition to fine-tuning their skills and talent, he showed the class how to create professional portfolios, practiced job interviews, and to write resumes.”
After graduation, Ken attended the NYS Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) where he developed business expertise and earned an associate degree in photography. “Being an ESBOCES grad made a difference when applying for scholarships. Mr. Vandercreek’s photography course was my start toward a successful career, and I mean that from the heart.”
Ken’s first paying job was as a sports photographer, working for the New Jersey Nets. He worked for Macy’s shooting jewelry, silverware, and bedding ads, and became interested in architectural photography, shooting interior and commercial sites. His work has appeared in House Magazine, Hamptons Cottages and Gardens, Kitchens and Baths, and other publications. He opened his Mount Sinai studio in 2004. “I love people. I love to photograph weddings. I love to capture the specialness of the day through my camera lens and then sharing it with the couple,” Ken explained.
Eastern Suffolk BOCES Marine and Outdoor Power Program graduate
Brandon Langdon owns a Kawasaki I KLX 110 dirt bike and likes to work on the engine as much as he likes to ride it. His passion is diesel engines. He said, “I like diesel engines because they have power. They put out more torque. Some people are afraid to work on them but I really like it and I was told I could get a higher paying job working on those types of engines.”
When Brandon was in his sophomore year at Eastport/South Manor High School, he told his parents that he wanted to attend the Eastern Suffolk BOCES Motorcycle Technology program. He was introduced to the Marine and Outdoor Power Equipment program by ESBOCES Guidance Counselor Caroline Stuke. She suggested that he might get more out of the Marine program because he would work on inboard and outboard engines. Brandon said, “I decided on this program because I knew I would gain more knowledge about engines and get more experience working on different kinds of engines.”
It was going to be a challenging two years for Brandon because he was an honor student and carried a rigorous academic schedule.
Brandon shared that there are numerous good reasons to attend ESBOCES. “I recommend it because there are so many opportunities. We went on field trips such as to the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City where we were introduced to new technology. My teacher, Mr. Jason Pickerell, was always very helpful. I knew he was always there for me; for advice, and to answer questions. He taught me what to expect when entering the real world of work. I learned many good habits related to classroom work and shop work. ESBOCES is a great place to learn and gain great experience. I made new friends with the same interests as me and the teachers assisted me in making connections with regard to job opportunities.”
With the assistance of Ms. Stuke, Brandon enrolled and was accepted into the Diesel Technology program at Pennsylvania College of Technology. In addition to the Elizabeth Nalewajk Memorial Scholarship he received at ESBOCES, Brandon also received a Caterpillar Excellence Scholarship. Ms. Stuke said, “Brandon has a strong passion for diesel engines. The ESBOCES program sparked his interest and once he opened the ESBOCES door, options and opportunities were made available to him. He has character, he’s polished, and he’s a gentleman. I can see him going into a managerial program affiliated with diesel technology.”
“I got more than the basics from the Marine and Outdoor Power Program. I learned concepts and I gained hands-on experience.” Brandon felt that having attended ESBOCES helped him in college as he had knowledge and skill.
After he graduates from Pennsylvania College of Technology, Brandon is contemplating furthering his education with an advanced degree in Business Management. Ultimately, his goal is to own his own company.
Brandon’s parents are very proud of Brandon and are staunch advocates of ESBOCES. Their daughter Ashley also attended ESBOCES. She graduated with a private pilot’s license from the Aviation and Professional Pilot Program and is presently attending Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology, Oklahoma.
ESBOCES student enrolled in the Premm Learning Center
Mack Mongillo is 8 years old and attends the Eastern Suffolk BOCES Premm Learning Center (PLC) in Oakdale. The ESBOCES staff members who provide related services as identified in his Individualized Education Program (IEP) describe him with one word—motivated.
Mack is a multi-developmentally disabled student who came to ESBOCES three years ago. The Patchogue-Medford UFSD Committee for Special Education (CSE) determined that PLC was the appropriate placement for Mack. He struggled to walk, was non-verbal, didn’t smile, and could not feed himself. The CSE had a plan for Mack; ESBOCES had a vision and a mission: to transform his life.
After three years, Mack can now walk short distances with close supervision. He displays one of the most beautiful smiles seen. Now that’s a transformation, and his motivation has secured him a place as an ESBOCES success story!
Four years ago, Mack was placed in a 12:1:4 ESBOCES program with Special Education teacher Mary Beth Weisman. The 12:1:4 program emphasizes a multi-sensory approach to learning. Emphasis is placed on improving cognition, sensory motor skills development and use of adaptive equipment to aid movement and independence. Ms. Weisman said, “I noticed something different about Mack the first time he was in my class. He picked up a crayon and turned it around so he could draw with the pointed end.” The staff members who provide related services to Mack, Occupational Therapist (OT) Liz Kerr-Smith; Physical Therapist (PT) Nel Kempton; Speech Therapist Liz Haarke, and paraprofessional Mary Neun agreed that Mack is very motivated, receptive, and “grasps concepts quickly.”
When addressing his IEP, the related service staff works as a team incorporating a variety of methods and adaptive equipment to challenge and encourage Mack to make him as independent as possible.
After his first year, Mack moved from a 12:1:4 program to an 8:1:1 program and is presently in Colette Fabrizio’s class. Mack’s cognitive abilities may have been hidden but now the team sees his skills soaring, especially when he works with technology like the SmartBoard. In his 8:1:1 class, Ms. Fabrizio said, “Mack pays attention when we are working with the SmartBoard. He likes it. He recognizes his name and he knows his colors, numbers, and shapes. He can follow simple directions. There are several goals that Mack is working towards.” Currently the team is addressing Mack’s behavior, his social skills, speech, and walking. There is structure, routine, and consistency throughout the school day. “We communicate with the family using a communication progress book. They report what’s going on at home with Mack and we share information about his daily progress,” said Fabrizio.
One goal that Mack is working to fully reach and accomplish is walking without assistance and ultimately getting on and off the school bus without assistance. Currently, Mack uses a wheelchair lift bus to travel to and from PLC. Each day when he arrives at PLC,
paraprofessional Mary Neun greets him and wheels him to his classroom. From this point, until the conclusion of the school day, Mack walks with assistance or with the use of a gait trainer. Mary said, “My role is to support the efforts of the teacher and the related service team.” Mary has been with Mack for three years, supports Mack by following up with instructions provided by the related service team, and has observing his progress.
When Mack came to ESBOCES, his mode of transportation, other than using a wheelchair, was scooting around the floor. He would pull himself along using his legs. Physical Therapist Nel Kempton started with the basics to teach Mack to walk. She said, “First, we see what a student can do, and then we challenge them.” She used the Sit-to-Stand method to work on Mack’s balance and strength. Mack advanced to using a Mobile-Prone Stander. Ms. Kempton said, “This device was used to assist Mack in standing up. This piece of equipment also improves circulation, gets his muscles moving, and gives him an eye level view of his surroundings.” Mack also used an adaptive tricycle for reciprocal movement. It forces the use of the left and right foot. Thereafter, Mack used a gait trainer which is a type of walker. Ms. Kempton said, “This device helped him work on his stride and lifting his knees to walk. When Mack first stood upright to walk, with assistance, he walked straight-legged, using only his heels and he would pitch back. After three years, he is beginning to walk heel-to-toe.”
Other facets of Mack’s IEP relate to his fine and gross motor skills. OT Liz Kerr-Smith said, “There are things we take for granted, like picking up small objects, buttoning or zipping our clothing. These are fine motor skills. I work with Mack to learn and strengthen these skills.” She also works with Mack on letter recognition and matching skills.
Classroom teacher Colette Fabrizio said, “It’s a team effort. The OT, PT, Speech Therapist, paraprofessional, and I work to apply and direct Mack in the classroom based on techniques and direction provided by members of the team.”
Throughout the day, Mack uses an augmentative and alternative communication board because he is still non-verbal. The DynaVox Maestro is a portable, electronic speech-generating device that enables those who are unable to speak communicate using text and symbols. The Maestro displays or reads aloud text or words associated with images that students tap on the touch screen.
Ms. Weisman said, “Here at Premm, we care a great deal for the students. Yes, there is therapy and academics. But, we care so much and I think it brings out the best in the students and we’ve all seen great progress in Mack.”
Robert and Barbara Mongillo agree. Mack is one of 13 special needs children the Mongillo’s have adopted. Mrs. Mongillo said, “We are one big family. Six of the children attend ESBOCES.” The Mongillo’s also have six biological children.
Mrs. Mongillo said, “The atmosphere at ESBOCES is filled with life and joy. Mack has made phenomenal progress because of ESBOCES. When Mack came into our lives he couldn’t walk and was being fed through a tube. The ESBOCES staff has opened up Mack’s world a little at a time. We believe that love makes miracles happen. We celebrate every moment and are thankful for the ESBOCES teachers who are patient and kind and never say our children can’t do something.”
Eastern Suffolk BOCES Law Enforcement Program graduate
Lee Pulliam is a Southampton Village police officer. The starting point on his route to this position of respect and authority was in the Eastern Suffolk BOCES Law Enforcement program. Lee and some of his friends shared the same interest - they wanted to be police officers. Their guidance counselor at the Comsewogue UFSD told them about the Law Enforcement program at the Edward J. Milliken Technical Center in Oakdale. Lee said, “I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t enrolled in the Law Enforcement Program and I certainly wouldn’t be working in Southampton but for the advice and guidance I received from my teacher Claire Kessler.”
Ms. Kessler said of Lee, “He participated in the Law Enforcement Program for two years. One day, I wrote on the board, Traffic Control Officer position(s) at the Town of Southampton Police Department for the summer season.” Lee was one of a few students who followed up, applied, and got the position.”
Lee started working as a Traffic Control Officer in 2006. He directed traffic and wrote tickets. He commuted 32 miles each way from Port Jefferson to Southampton but he liked the work and he had one foot in the door to his dream job of police officer.
Lee had a great deal of respect for Ms. Kessler because she had been a police officer. He said, “She gave us first-hand knowledge of her experiences and her best insight of police work.”
The ESBOCES Law Enforcement program is a broad-based program for students interested in criminal justice, law enforcement, public safety, and other related legal careers. As a New York State Approved Security Guard program, students who qualify are provided an opportunity to pass the Security Guard certification exam as well as the International Federation of Protection Officers (IFPO) exam and Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) exam, which is a national telecommunicator (911) certification. Both the IFPO and APCO certifications are nationally recognized and are offered as part of the second year of the program, which also includes forensics and crime scene investigations.
One of the best experiences Lee had was when he participated in the Suffolk County Police Department’s Youth Academy. He spent five days of training at the Police Academy at Suffolk County Community College (SCCC) in Brentwood. Students participated in military drills, training, physical testing and conditioning, personal responsibilities, and appearance, in addition to classroom lectures, and field trips to the Aviation Section, Firearms Training for observation purposes, and the Special Patrol Bureau.
Lee also had an internship with the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department. “Once a week we would go out with a Deputy Sheriff and visit the courts, the jail, the morgue; we even took a trip upstate to a federal prison,” said Lee.
“I would really recommend the Law Enforcement program to students especially if they have an interest in the field of police work. It’s an eye opening experience and the ESBOCES program gives you a great deal of insight into what an officer does.”
During high school, Lee worked two to three jobs to support himself saving money to go to Suffolk County Community College (SCCC) and thereafter SUNY Stony Brook. While attending college, he took the police exam, passed, and was accepted into the Police Academy.
Lee now lives in Riverhead much closer to his job in Southampton Village. His goal is to move up through the ranks to detective or sergeant status. He said, “I had the desire to be a police officer but I was provided so many opportunities, information, and hands-on experiences at ESBOCES. I’m grateful to Ms. Kessler and ESBOCES. I love my job.”
Ms. Kessler said, “I always tell my students, if they drop the ball in life, pick up yourself and the ball and just keep running. There may be setbacks along the way. I am very proud of Lee. He followed his path all the way through and now he’s a police officer, working in his chosen career field.”
Eastern Suffolk BOCES Nurse Assisting Program graduate
For Joe Recca, working in the medical profession is a family affair. He became interested in taking care of sick people when his grandmother was seriously ill and he realized that helping her gave him a very satisfying feeling. His older sister, a 2007 Eastern Suffolk BOCES Nurse Assisting graduate, loves her job at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, and her success provided a good example. It was then that Joe decided to be become a nurse assistant, rehabilitation aide, and/or home care/hospice/hospital employee.
Joe began his career in the field of nursing when he was a West Islip UFSD student. He enrolled in the ESBOCES Nurse Assisting course – the only male in an all-female class. “I loved it,” he said with a smile. He learned the basic aspects of health care, enjoyed the hands-on approach with a laboratory component, and the practical applications of theory convinced him this was his future. He passed the New York State Nurse Aide Certification exam. “I recognized that I wanted to provide patient care, such as helping someone recover from a fall or a broken hip.”
In addition to learning nursing procedures, anatomy and physiology, geriatric care, medical terminology, legal and ethical responsibilities, and infection control, he practiced job interviews and resume writing. Clinical job shadowing was available to him at Bellhaven Nursing Center, which provided hands-on training. The Nurse Assisting teacher, Ms. Deidre Kroupa, was excellent, he said. “She got everyone involved. She was kind, patient, and like a mother to us.” According to Ms. Kroupa, “Joe is very dedicated to nursing and is a wonderful young man. I’m very proud of him.”
Following graduation, Joe attended Suffolk County Community College. Currently, he works at the Parkview Care and Rehabilitation Center in Massapequa, where he is head aide. He plans to enroll at SUNY Farmingdale to get an associate degree and pursue licensure as a registered professional nurse.
Like his two aunts, cousin, mom, and sister, Joe anticipates a good career working in the medical profession. Reflecting on what ESBOCES means to him, he replied, “ESBOCES gave me a head start. What I learned there put me ahead of everyone else in college. The program taught me what I needed to know in order to succeed. I recommend ESBOCES to everyone.”
Eastern Suffolk BOCES Suffolk Aviation Academy graduate
Rebecca Scholand lives on Mount Washington in North Conway, New Hampshire which is considered to be the “home of the world’s worst weather”.
Since May, 2012 Rebecca has worked as a Weather Observer and one of the Educational Specialists at the observatory on the summit of Mount Washington. She assists with the operation of the mountain top observatory, helps maintain climate records and forecasting via weather observations, and provides educational distance learning outreach to schools via a Polycom conferencing system.
She said, “I started flying with my dad when I was three and my passion grew from there.” Rebecca learned about the Aviation program when she was in 8th grade. “I will never forget sitting down with the guidance counselor and planning out my next four years of high school so I could attend Eastern Suffolk BOCES, play sports, and still graduate with an advanced Regents diploma.” It meant everything to Rebecca to succeed. In high school, Rebecca also had an interest in weather. In college she pursued this passion and studied meteorology. “I didn’t realize that this would be my career until after my first semester in college,” she said.
ESBOCES prepared Rebecca for her future. She said, “It gave me a head start to managing my time and focusing on what was important.” She credits her ESBOCES teachers Lou Ballester, George Dzenkowski, and Flight Instructor Chris Tremblay but especially her parents as inspirational people in her life. “My mom and dad taught me that if I enjoyed something I could make it part of my everyday life. From an early age they encouraged me to explore the things that interested me and they rarely said ‘no’ when I wanted to try something.”
After graduating from ESBOCES and the Mattituck-Cutchogue UFSD, Rebecca headed to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. Six classmates from the ESBOCES Aviation program attended Embry-Riddle with Rebecca. “My ESBOCES class was very close knit,” she said, “in and out of the classroom. We were always getting together to celebrate a birthday or a recent solo flight. Some of my ESBOCES classmates are still an important part of my life to this day because of the journey we took together.”
“I always want to be successful. I decided very early to dedicate myself to my goal and my dream of being a pilot,” Rebecca said. “When I was in 9th grade, to make up for the classes I was going to miss while at ESBOCES, I took college classes at Suffolk County Community College. I struggled at times to keep up the juggling act but it was well worth it.”
ESBOCES helped Rebecca get her first on-campus job in college as a tutor in a flight tutor lab. She said, “At ESBOCES, in training we were trusted with an airplane before most of us could drive! It was our responsibility to maintain that trust and succeed in our goal of obtaining our pilot’s license with the help and guidance of our instructors.”
Rebecca said, “Attending ESBOCES provided me an opportunity to go after my dream of being a pilot and succeed in an atmosphere that was motivating and helpful.” Because of ESBOCES I knew I could handle whatever came my way in college. I learned more than I could ever realize at ESBOCES. I am this far in life because of Eastern Suffolk BOCES.”
Eastern Suffolk BOCES Cosmetology Program graduate
Marissa always knew she wanted to be a hairdresser. When Marissa was a toddler, she would accompany her mom, Donna Singer, to work. Marissa said, “I always loved the atmosphere of the hair salon.”
“Someone once told me, when you find your passion, when you find what makes you smile, you have to go for it,” said Marissa. “My passion is cosmetology. With the assistance of my guidance counselor I was able to attend the Eastern Suffolk BOCES program located at the Brookhaven Technical Center (BTC) in Bellport.”
“I had the best time at ESBOCES,” Marissa said. “I always felt at home there. It seemed that all the students studied really hard because they wanted to be at ESBOCES. And, the programs all worked together on projects. The students from cosmetology, carpentry, culinary arts, and electrical would collaborate on a school project. Because of that, I met and made friends with kids from other school districts.” Marissa attended the ESBOCES Cosmetology program for two years. “It was almost like going to college,” said Marissa, “but I was in high school.”
Cosmetology, in addition to poetry, was a way for Marissa to express herself. She loves books and literature and has won poetry awards. She always set high standards for herself and ESBOCES was no exception.
Marissa was president of SkillsUSA at BTC, captured first place at the State SkillsUSA competition, was the first recipient of the National SkillsUSA scholarship award, graduated with a 100 GPA, and was inducted into the National Technical Honor Society. She says going to ESBOCES was the right path for her. “I have a skill, I can sustain myself financially, and I learned about real work experiences from my teacher, Ms. Wendy Joyce.” Marissa has high regards for Ms. Joyce. “She shared real life experiences with us and she was always there for us. She was a phenomenal teacher,” Marissa said.
After graduating from high school, and while working ten hours a day, Marissa attended and graduated from Adelphi University. “Cosmetology was a good option for me while I was in college.” I have a bachelor’s degree and I have a following in the cosmetology world. The skills I learned in addition to cosmetology, like resume` writing, creating a portfolio, and working on collaborative projects, were foundational skills I learned at ESBOCES.”
Melissa Van Horn
Eastern Suffolk BOCES Adult Education Dog Grooming graduate
If your dog or cat is a fashionista or a handsome devil, you probably know about The Groomery in Stony Brook. The all-breed/all-size dog and cat grooming shop features everything a pampered pet may need from Swarovski crystal food bowls and specially designed cookies, to designer travel bags, elaborate beds, and tiny shoes, sneakers, and boots, which the owner finds during annual animal trade shows. Your pet can also be dyed another color. One woman, upon entering The Groomery recently, simply stated, “Wow!”
Owner of The Groomery, Melissa Van Horn, holds a pink-dyed poodle.
A Dog Grooming course graduate from the Eastern Suffolk BOCES Adult Education program, The Groomery owner Melissa Van Horn attended Suffolk County Community College’s (SCCC) liberal arts program for two years following graduation from the Three Village CSD in 1997. “In hindsight,” she said, “I should have gone to ESBOCES first, not after college.” Her first venture into pet grooming was in a rented space in a nearby community. In 2006, she purchased The Groomery. This year, she bought property on Jericho Turnpike, Centereach, where she plans to open a second shop. “I need more space, larger quarters,” she explained, “and hopefully I’ll have it all set up before Thanksgiving. Currently, she employs seven certified groomers, all members of the National Dog Grooming Association of America, who specialize in hand scissoring and drying. On one particular weekday, 15 dogs were in the shop, some boarded, some groomed or awaiting their turn, and all pampered. During weekends, she has appointments for 35-40 pets a day.
“ESBOCES was the turning point for me,” she recently explained. “It pushed me in the right direction. There are very few opportunities like ESBOCES.” In appreciation of her success “in this recession-proof business,” Ms. Van Horn participates in the agency’s Career Days during which she meets with students and provides advice based on her enormous success. She also hires ESBOCES graduates and college students home during the summer to help with the store’s busy season.
Ms. Van Horn started a non-profit agency Post Consumer Pets Rescue and One Love, One Life, One Fight, which offers free boarding of pets owned by victims of domestic abuse (shelters will not take animals). She has also started an organization, O2 For Pets Too! that donates pet oxygen masks to fire departments. “This business can be stressful,” she stated, “because there’s always something happening. It’s also a seven-day work week. But, if you love dogs, this is a great way to earn a living. I wouldn’t change a thing; I love what I do.”