North Shore Guidance Center And National Grid Help Students Think Big

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Assistant Principal Easton Hazell; Kathleen Wisnewski, National Grid customer and community manager; Lauren McGowan, Director of Development at the Guidance Center; Juan Santiago, National Grid customer and community manager; Dena Papadopoulos, Mental Health Counselor at the Guidance Center; and Suzanne Martin, Youth Employment Specialist at the Guidance Center.

On Feb. 12, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center and National Grid launched their new partnership with a Career Day talk at the Center for Community Adjustment (CCA), part of Nassau BOCES in Wantagh.

The speaker was Juan Santiago, National Grid customer and community manager, who quickly won over the students with his engaging tale about his life and career journey, from his beginnings as a kid in Brooklyn who shared three pairs of jeans and a bed with his brother and was admittedly not all that interested in school. But he always dreamed big and went for what he called “stretch goals,” and it shows: Santiago’s career trajectory took him from a grocery store bagger to a successful Navy career to a National Grid meter reader and ultimately his current high-level role with National Grid, all while getting his degree online.

He told the students that there are many paths to success, and if they put their hearts and minds to it, they could reach the highest levels.

“Just because someone doesn’t take a traditional route doesn’t mean they are any less motivated,” said Santiago.

When he asked the students what they liked to do, many shared their interests, and he encouraged them to take those passions, make far-reaching goals, and then take the steps needed so that one day, they’d have terrific careers that they’d love.

For example, one student shared that he was good at fixing things, and Santiago told him that his skill could take him to new heights: “Think big! One day you can design and help build a bridge, or maybe you will go to Japan someday and help build the tallest skyscraper. If you can dream it, you can do it!”

Kathleen Wisnewski, National Grid customer and community manager, said that Santiago’s enthusiasm “pulled the kids in and got them engaged from the very beginning.” The kids were “all smiles” by the end of the talk, she added, and many were eager to pull Santiago aside to ask questions and share their own stories.

“While we encourage the exploration and discussion of various tracks to success within the Guidance Center and Nassau BOCES, to hear and connect with someone who has navigated the ‘non-traditional’ route to success often leaves more of a lasting impact with our population of students,” said Dena Papadopoulos, Mental Health Counselor at the Center for Community Adjustment (CCA), Nassau BOCES, which is one of three BOCES schools at which the Guidance Center runs the Intensive Support Program, or ISP. At each school, students who come from all 56 Nassau districts receive intensive mental health services
on site.

“All the students responded well and enjoyed hearing Juan’s path to success. They found it encouraging and relatable,” said Suzanne Martin, Youth Employment Counselor at ISP. “We’re very grateful to Juan and the National Grid team for bringing us this very special program.”

The event was the first of several that the Guidance Center has planned in partnership with National Grid.

“We work with organizations all over Long Island and the city to promote STEM [science, technology, engineering and math],” explained Wisnewski. “We are excited about our new partnership with the Guidance Center, and we look forward to our future events.”

—Submitted by North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center

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