Approximately 400 high school students packed the gymnasium at Bellport High School on Monday for the school’s annual spring college and career expo. Over 100 businesses and colleges were set up, ready to chat with students about potential post-graduation paths.
As the students made their rounds and explored life after high school, guidance counselor Jenna Restivo reflected on the annual event’s success. “We’ve had students find summer jobs and apply to colleges represented here,” she said. In the lobby, culinary students prepared and served hors d’oeuvres, a new addition this year. “Now, it encompasses all students,” Restivo said. “We used to use a small fund to get food from a deli, but realized we have students taking advanced culinary courses right here at the high school,” she said of the decision to have the students “cater” the event.
Both in-state and out-of-state private and public colleges were represented, and prospective students, many of them juniors, signed up for more information. All career paths were represented, from the U.S. Armed Forces to the South Country Ambulance to Long Island businesses like Splish Splash, wanting to recruit seasonal employees. Restivo noted the importance of having career professionals along with college reps to allow students to make connections between choosing a major and earning a degree and landing a job in the real world. “This allows the students to tie in their post-college plans with their pre-college prep,” she said.
Knowing that many students enroll in the Advanced Placement Government course, some government officials also talked with students. Terri Ann Malloy, a congressional aide for Lee Zeldin, discussed internship opportunities with students that are available in their Washington, D.C. and Patchogue offices. “We’re a very busy office,” she said, noting that congressional interns do more than grab coffee and make copies. “We try and involve them with casework so they get a good feel for the job,” she said. Legis. Kate Browning’s chief of staff, Josh Slaughter, handed out applications for the 2017 Suffolk County Legislature Page Program. The internship is open to Suffolk County students 18 or older who have a high school diploma and want experience in leadership, policy and government. “The program really gives you a look at what it’s like to work in government,” Slaughter said, adding that he wished a program like that existed when he was that age and looking for experience.
Students walked around the gym with this advice in mind from Restivo: “I tell them to not be shy, to talk to each representative and ask as many questions as they can think of,” she said.
Nick Felix and Gabrielle Consetti from Suffolk County National Bank set up a table with goodies and giveaways. Though in the process of merging with People’s United Bank, Consetti explained that they were happy to answer any questions students might have about what majors they might go for and their experiences working in a large bank. Felix was happy to offer general advice: “Do something you love,” he told one student grabbing candy. “If you do, it’s not really work.” That advice was comforting for junior students Nicole Gomez, Kai Hatcher and Molly Honce. “This whole process is overwhelming,” Honce said, feeling the pressure. “But I talked to a lot of cool people today.” Gomez admitted that she has some research to do. “It feels like reality is hitting me,” she said. Hatcher agreed. “I don’t know what to do with my life,” she said, laughing nervously. The career fair, she said, helped her realize that there are tons of options out there.
“Whether our students are leaving for college, the military or straight for a career, all have great opportunities,” Restivo added. “I hope today’s fair showed them that.” (Reprinted, courtesy of Long Island Advance 3/9/2017)