A collage of STC staff and ACIE students during a virtual recognition ceremony

The Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers program honored students who completed the Advanced Career Immersion Experience internship program this school year with a virtual ceremony on Monday, May 4.

Herkimer BOCES School to Careers liaison and work-based learning coordinator MaryBeth Napolitano opened the ACIE Virtual Recognition Ceremony by asking students and guests to envision an illusion of what the fourth annual event would have been like if it had taken place at Herkimer College as it did the first three years.

Napolitano described students arriving with their presentations in hand; signing the guestbook and taking a Hershey’s Kiss; setting up their displays; sampling an impressive spread of food; feeling laughter, excitement, happiness and nerves filling the room; guests arriving to offer congratulations and well-wishes, and everyone moving into the amphitheater to begin the ceremony.

“Of course, that was pre COVID-19,” Napolitano said. “Post COVID-19 suspends us from doing so, but it doesn’t suspend us from recognizing these fine young interns and their efforts put forth this year.”

During the 2019-20 school year, 25 students from five Herkimer BOCES component school districts completed internships with local businesses and schools. Some internships got cut short due to concerns about the coronavirus, but the students, ACIE organizers and local businesses stayed in contact through various forms of communication.

“And most recently, Google Hangouts – featuring Fearless Fridays, Makeup Mondays, Wellness Wednesdays and even a Thoughtful Thursday because where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Napolitano said. “Because it is important to stay connected for social and emotional support and continuing to nurture that relationship.”

Napolitano also thanked parents, other family members, school officials and local business partners for supporting the program.

“It has been a true pleasure working with this group of interns – often referring to them as our rock stars,” Napolitano said. “They continue to amaze us and inspire us. We have before you tonight individuals that have committed themselves to new experiences, challenges and growth opportunities. We have before you tonight the best of the best because being part of this internship program takes dedication, effort, time management, character, integrity and grace, and that is exactly what each one of these students have embedded within them and will drive them to achieve their dreams, goals and aspirations.”

During the virtual ceremony, Napolitano read off the names of the students who completed ACIE internships. The students are listed below under their school district along with where they did their internships:

Central Valley students:

  • Keagan DesJardins: EveryBody Physical Therapy with Dr. Jonathon Small, Herkimer BOCES Physical Therapy Department and SECO Physical Therapy.
  • Madyson Drury-Lennon: WKTV with Jeremy Ryan and the crew.
  • Branden Gokey: New York State Police Herkimer Barracks and Herkimer Police Department with Chief Michael Jory.
  • Addison Guido: Bassett Little Falls Hospital Radiology Department with Joe Serrano.              
  • Kylee Karpowich: Mohawk Valley Health System St. Luke’s Campus and St. Elizabeth's Hospital.
  • Brianna Lynch: Mohawk Valley Veterinary Services with Dr. Thomas.        
  • Emily Madison: Herkimer BOCES WEB Complex School Nurse Office with registered nurse Melinda Culver.
  • Anna Markwardt: St. Elizabeth's Hospital with Dr. Sara Giorgi and Bassett Little Falls Hospital with registered nurse Mike Brien. 
  • Elizabeth Morgan: The Treehouse Reading and Art Center with Joanna Robertson.         
  • Brennan Murray: Herkimer College Athletic Department with Mr. Don Dutcher and staff and the city of Little Falls Police Department with Chief Ron Petrie.
  • Daniel Paddock: Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School with Mr. Scott Clarke.         
  • Jianna Scalise: Herkimer Elementary School with Mrs. Melody Couchman.              
  • Claire Schoff: Herkimer BOCES Speech Therapy Department with Mrs. Ann Margret Bouska.

Frankfort-Schuyler students:

  • Myranda Belmonte: Frankfort Schuyler Elementary School with Mrs. Adrienne Watson.              
  • Sophia LoRe: Herkimer County Chamber of Commerce with Executive Director Michele Hummel and Perry Middle School with Brooke Thormahlen.       
  • Abigail Perrotta: Herkimer Veterinary Associates.             
  • Sicilia Randazzo: ADHD & Autism Advocacy with Brianna Blancovach and Central Valley Academy with school social worker Jeff Aulisi.       
  • Sofia Randazzo: Upstate Cerebral Palsy.
  • Maddison Winters: Anjolen with Michelle Tuttle and team and Capraro Technologies Inc. with Dr. Gerard Capraro and team.      
  • Kiley Wren: Herkimer County Family Court with Honorable Judge Brennan and Herkimer College Police Academy with retired Chief Mike Masi.
  • Brayden Zahniser: Mohawk Police Department with Chief Joe Malone.

Herkimer students:        

  • Joseph Carney: H.R. Hughes Elementary with Mrs. Jamie Lawson and Central Valley Academy with Mr. Mark Bunce.
  • Sarah Eastwood : Bassett Healthcare Network Herkimer with Jennifer Maine and medical staff.

Mount Markham student:          

  • Devaughn Sullivan: Herkimer Elementary School with Mrs. Sara Lamanna and Herkimer County Social Services with Linda Patten.        

Little Falls student:

  • Reese Battisti: Feldmeier Equipment Inc. with Elroy Moore.

DesJardins, Gokey, Madison, Sicilia Randazzo, Sofia Randazzo, Carney and Eastwood were able to participate and give presentations during the live ACIE Virtual Recognition Ceremony, which was also live-streamed online.

Drury-Lennon, Winters and Sullivan also submitted presentations that were read during the ceremony on their behalf. Herkimer BOCES Valley Pathways in Technology Early College High School business teacher and STC team member Andrew Carpenter read Drury-Lennon’s presentation, Napolitano read Winters’ presentation and School to Careers school counselor Rebecca Roberts read Sullivan’s presentation.

‘A different learning approach’

DesJardins spoke about her interest in a physical therapy career and how ACIE helped her confirm that choice.

“When the Advanced Career Immersion Experience was introduced to me and us for our senior year, I knew it would be a great opportunity for me to gain more exposure to my desired career choice,” she said. “ACIE offered a different learning approach. It wasn’t just learning in a classroom, but being mentored in a professional setting. I received an in-person, close-up experience, where I was able to make sure that physical therapy was a profession I truly wanted to have.”

She also spoke about specifics of her internships.

“I was assigned to three placements, where I spent my time with physical therapists and a variety of clients,” she said. “Through my experience, I saw different cases and conditions, where I was taught to look at the situation from different angles.”

Working with physical therapists through ACIE impacted DesJardins in a major way and helped her decide to attend Russell Sage College to major in physical therapy, she said.

‘I grew from this so much’

Gokey talked about going along with Herkimer police and state police as they worked and called his internship “a great opportunity” and “truly amazing.” During one experience, an emergency medical technician asked him if he still wanted to be a cop, and he responded that he did, because there are downsides but also good things such as the job being very rewarding.

“It’s amazing how rewarding it is,” he said. “You can help people, and you can give people breaks if they do something silly. We’re all human. We all make mistakes. And that’s the honor I take in my future job is helping people. Not necessarily punishing people, but helping people. Obviously I’ve still got to do my job, I’ve still got to make arrests and I’ve still got to write tickets, but at the end of the day, my job is to help people – not make people afraid of me.”

Gokey thanked school officials and all the law enforcement officials he worked with, and he said he would recommend ACIE to anyone.

“I grew from this so much, and it’s definitely impacted my decision for the future,” he said. I will be attending Utica College to study criminal justice and criminal analysis.”

‘Always dreamed about becoming a nurse’

Madison said she learned about how health conditions affect students’ lives, and she got to know students and teachers during her time with at the Herkimer BOCES WEB Complex School Nurse Office.

“Since I was young, I had always dreamed about becoming a nurse, and being part of the ACIE internship program allowed me to experience a nursing job first hand,” she said.

Madison plans to attend Utica College or SUNY Polytechnic Institute to further her education on her way to becoming a nurse.

She wasn’t able to finish her internship due to COVID-19, but that hasn’t deterred her from her career goals.

“Although many nurses and healthcare workers are putting their lives on the line during this worldwide pandemic, I still am striving to become a pediatric nurse,” she said.

 ‘Reinforced my desire to pursue social work’

Sicilia Randazzo said she will be majoring in psychology at Mohawk Valley Community College and plans to become a social worker for New York state.

Her first internship was working with students with autism.

“My most favorite part about this internship was learning about each student as an individual, connecting with them and seeing their growth as the weeks went on,” she said.

Then with Aulisi at Central Valley, she was impressed with how he facilitated a comfortable setting for students during one-on-one settings.

“It’s really important that everybody has a trusted adult to speak to – especially teenagers when they’re going through a challenging time, and I hope that one day I can provide a safe space like that for my clients just like my mentor does,” she said. “Sadly, our time together was cut short, but I’m pleased to say that this specific internship reinforced my desire to pursue social work.”

‘The best feeling’

Sofia Randazzo also plans to attend Mohawk Valley Community College and major in psychology. She enjoyed her internship at Upstate Cerebral Palsy.

“My favorite part of my internship at UCP was making connections with the aids, the teachers and the students. It made me really happy every Thursday walking into UCP, and all the kids would go, ‘Hi, Miss Sofia!’ It was like the best feeling.”

She was planning to go into a field related to behavioral therapy and cognitive therapy, but she was surprised to find out during the internship that she enjoyed the grading system, filing system and numbers aspects of the work, so her mind could be changing.

The adults she worked with were encouraging and inspiring and provided her with helpful information about collage and careers, she said.

‘Sharing my love of music’

Carney detailed various experiences he had at E.R. Hughes Elementary in New Hartford and at Central Valley.

Among his favorite experiences were getting to practice conducting at Central Valley and when a fifth-grader in New Hartford asked him a question.

“Mr. Carney, are you sure you want to be a music teacher? You’ve got to deal with kids like us,” the student said, according to Carney.

“This moment made me chuckle and realize how much I love sharing my love of music with others,” Carney said.

Carney said he would recommend ACIE to anyone who is looking not only for an internship, but for an experience with memories that will last a lifetime.

“Thanks in part to the ACIE internship, I discovered that I 100 percent want to become a music educator,” he said. “Therefore, I will be going to college in hopes of receiving a bachelor’s in music education on the choral track. My next four years doing this will be spent at the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam.”

‘Nursing is the right thing for me’

Eastwood said she enjoyed following along with nurses at Bassett Healthcare Network in Herkimer and observing what they do in various units.

“Along the way, I’ve had so many mentors, and they were so sweet and just really helpful,” she said. “They helped me learn so many things, they answered all of my questions, and they just really cared.”

The last day before her internship ended due to COVID-19, there was a meeting about coronavirus, and so much was unknown, she said. She said she was welcomed to come back sometime after the pandemic.

Eastwood said the internship helped her grow, put her in a social environment and helped her go places she had never been before. She plans to attend Herkimer College as the next step toward her career.

“This internship has made me realize that nursing is the right thing for me,” she said. “Going into my internship just felt so right, and thanks to my internship, I can now confidently say that I’ll be pursing nursing.”

‘You are our hope’

Following the student presentations, Roberts and Napolitano offered closing thoughts.

Roberts said it is rewarding to be part of the students’ experiences, and she congratulated students on participating in the virtual ceremony.

“This is certainly new to us, and we know it’s new to you, and you guys all really knocked it out of the park today,” Roberts said. “It was, again, awesome to be with you.”

Roberts said the interns rose to the occasion of staying connected and productive when meeting virtually to complete the ACIE program.

“When we say you’re rock stars, we really truly believe it,” she said.

Napolitano wrapped up the ceremony in the context of the coronavirus public health crisis by reading a couple of quotes about hope and adding her own thoughts.

“Well, ACIE Class of 2020, you are our future of the world,” Napolitano said. “You are our hope. Best of luck on your lives’ journeys, and thank you for allowing us to be part of your lives. We love you from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you so much.”