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Career Night Inspires Minds

On a frigid winter evening at Massapequa High School, hundreds of students from 7th- to 12th-grade with their parents in tow attended the annual career night where they had an opportunity to meet with 30 vendors representing various businesses that students may have an interest in as a future career.

The vendors, coming from different parts of New York State and Long Island, gave the students and parents an opportunity to speak with people who are in the profession ranging from aviation, culinary arts, medicine, technology, banking and many, many more.

“Every year we do two career fairs, one during the  day for 9-12 graders and one in the evening for 7-12 and we invite the parents because we feel that learning about careers should start early,” said Susan Thompson, coordinator of the event and chairperson of career technology and education.

One of the highlights of the event was keynote speaker Joe Sala, the co-owner and founder of Swirls and Twirls, a self serve yogurt company. The son of a bricklayer, Sala started working with his father at the age of 13 learning the trade. Just after he graduated college at 22, Sala’s father died. Sala shared his rags to riches story with the students, telling them how he had to help support his mother and siblings by working seven days a week. He had a dream of retiring early and after turning around a failing Toyota dealership and making it profitable, he retired at the age of 46. Getting bored at home, he started this new venture of Swirls and Twirls and now is a motivational speaker for students.

“Nobody is going to hand you a million dollars. People don’t give you anything,” he said. “You need to make your own success. It’s not that people won’t help you along the way, it’s just that you need to create your own good fortune. No one is going to hand you a happy basket or a success basket.”

One of the life lessons he imparted on the students was to learn to observe everything around them.

“Be a better listener than you are a talker,” he said. “Right now you seem to know everything and you have all of the answers, but trust me, your parents know a thing or two. One of the things that made me successful was that I knew I didn’t have all of the answers so I surrounded myself with people who were better than me at doing their job.”

Both students and parents were very impressed with Sala’s speech. Caroline Gibbons, a 10th-grader who was there with her parents, Maureen and Joe, has an interest in medicine and the navy.  

“His speech was straightforward and inspirational,” she said. “You need to get a grasp on what you want to do because your parents aren’t going to be there forever to support you, you have to support yourself. I think this event offers you a lot of opportunities and give you a push in the right direction and helps you decide what you want to do.”

One of the vendors who understands hard work is Massapequa High School graduate Rob Koemm, who started as a junior firefighter and now is on a full scholarship at Nassau Community College from the fire department

“When I’m not fighting fires I am making the bagels at Town Bagel,” he said, adding that he has a full course load and holds down two jobs.

Tina Becker who was with her 10th grader Andrew was very impressed with the event.

“It’s a great opportunity for kids and parents to understand what is out there in terms of colleges and careers,” she said.  

As parents, students and vendors shared thoughts on career opportunities, Sala mingled with the crowd imparting his wisdom.

“If you want something you need to work hard and push yourself to accomplish your goal,” he said.