Monday, December 5, 2016

Students Seeking Their Paths

The season has been a tad busy, between deadlines for work, traveling to Franciscan meetings in Rome (Italy), Orlando, and Baltimore, and helping out at Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen; so I was looking forward to spending a morning with some bright high school seniors.

The occasion was the 16th annual School and Business Alliance (SABA) Breakfast, held Dec. 2 at Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES on Middle Settlement Road in New Hartford.

SABA breakfast
SABA Breakfast. BOCES Photo by Cheri Derdzinski
Scores of students from various school districts got to talk careers with business and government leaders. I hosted a table for those interested in communications, media and photography. It was fun.

Two at my table were studying performing arts. A third student aspired to be a graphic designer. A fourth wanted to be a baker, and the fifth student was studying welding, which I found perplexing until he explained that for him, welding was an art form.

Dr. Attilio
Dr. M. Attilio. BOCES Photo / Cheri Derdzinski
The guest speaker at the breakfast was Dr. Michael Attilio, who pointed to one’s career and life journey as a line that may start out straight but soon veers off at angles and may even swing back on itself. There are influences along the way – such as mentors and people having a special impact. A beloved professor didn’t see biology major Attilio as a biologist, which prompted him to consider medicine. An Army colonel put him in charge of a clinic in Texas that demanded more administrative attention than practicing medicine – a skill he didn’t know he had and rather enjoyed and became quite good at. Then he was deployed to Afghanistan and started “dodging bullets and plugging holes,” getting to save lives and practice medicine like nowhere else in the world. And then his wife thought maybe he should move on to practicing medicine where he could be with the young family they had started. When they visited the Utica area as a possible relocation site, he immediately got a sense of community – a great place to raise a family. And now he is medical director for the Mohawk Valley Health System Medical Group.

To get a sense of the twists and turns along one’s life line, he offered a quote by World War Z author Max Brooks:

“Sometimes you find your path, sometimes it finds you.”

In other words, he said to laughter: “Everything important in life you can learn preparing for the Zombie apocalypse.”

Student. Photo/ C. Deredzinski
Zombies or not, the youths at my table were delightful; some came with an easy smile and a hint of joy in their demeanor; others were more serious, but with subtle humor behind their words. Virtually all of them were honor students, involved in a variety of school activities (from playing sports to cheerleading to performing in marching bands to serving on student councils). One enterprising young lady was holding down three part-time jobs. They also were active volunteers, especially at their churches.

SABA Breakfast
SABA Breakfast. BOCES Photo by Cheri Derdzinski
The SABA program shared their resumes in advance, and I was pleased to discover that the future baker spent part of the summer volunteering at Mother Marianne’s soup kitchen.

“I helped serve food… cleaned tables and swept the floor,” he noted on the resume. “It was a good learning experience.”

Yes, it is. it’s an experience where volunteers learn something about themselves and about people in need.

Not unlike SABA, they learn about finding paths and paths finding them.