New York state Forest Ranger Rob Piersma speaks to Central Valley students

During the recent Journeys Beyond Jarvis Career Exploration Day, New York state Forest Ranger Rob Piersma told Central Valley students how important it is to find a career field you’re interested in.

Piersma, who was the keynote speaker for the career day, told students about his five years working in Long Island before the past 16-plus years covering Herkimer and Oneida counties. His career has taken him from respond to 9/11 in New York City to fighting wildfires in New York, Montana, Oregon and California.

“I didn’t like school very much, but I knew what I wanted to do, and I went and got it,” Piersma said. “It’s the greatest job I could have ever asked for.”

The Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers program put on the Journeys Beyond Jarvis Career Exploration Day in cooperation with Central Valley staff on Friday, Nov. 19, at Gregory B. Jarvis Middle School.

The event featured 31 career speakers plus Piersma as the keynote speaker. Over the course of five sessions, students got to visit Piersma plus four other career speakers, who were local professionals from a variety of career fields and Herkimer BOCES programs.

‘Where I am today’

Herkimer BOCES School to Careers liaison and work-based learning coordinator MaryBeth Napolitano welcomed students to the auditorium before each of Piersma’s keynote speeches. Napolitano pointed out that it had been two years since she last saw the students in-person for a career event at Barringer Road Elementary.

“We are so happy to be back and have you think about your future and what you want to do,” Napolitano said. “That’s what we’re here to do today. We missed you.”

Napolitano encouraged students to think about what the speakers were saying throughout the day and to use that knowledge to help inspire their own careers.

“I want you to strive to be everything you can be because each and every one of you have that potential,” she said.

Piersma started off his keynote speeches by talking about his upbringing. His grandparents were one each of African American, Dutch, Native American and Swedish, and this led to experiencing racism and problems between sides of the family. Piersma experienced poverty and both his father and then stepfather dealing with alcoholism.

“My childhood wasn’t the greatest, but it brought me to where I am today,” he said.

Piersma graduated from Mount Markham Central School District in 1992, earned an associate degree from Paul Smith College and then a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University.

He thought he wanted to become a conservation officer and did an internship with one. When he went to apply for the conservation officer civil service exam in 1998, there wasn’t one available at the time, but exams were being given for forest rangers with the New York State Police, so he applied for that.

He has been a forest ranger even since – for almost 22 years.

“I really love this job,” he said.

Piersma described other aspects of his job including conducting search and rescue operations, working incident command and having the authority to do anything other state police officers can do. He answered a variety of student questions and discussed the job’s salary, retirement and hours that allow him to spend time with his family and make it to his children’s sporting events.

‘Find their passion’

Students had the opportunity to learn about a wide range of career fields during their visits to the 31 other career speakers.

Sara Grisolini, director of nursing at Foltsbrook Center in Herkimer, talked to students about her job and answered detailed questions from students. She asked students if they are familiar with superheroes such as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.

“Well, let me tell you, I think I every person who works in a medical field is a superhero,” she said.

Grisolini said she would like to see students take away from the career day some extra motivation to determine their career paths.

“I hope they find their passion and do what they love to do,” she said.

Another session featured Karen Jones, director of the physical therapy assistant program at Herkimer College, and Amanda Kajtazovic, mentor of physical therapy assistant students at Herkimer College. Students tried out physical therapy equipment and commented that they were enjoying themselves, as they also learned about a potential career in physical therapy.

Jones and Kajtazovic said one goal was to increase awareness of the two-year physical therapy assistant program at Herkimer College and the other was to help students discover more career opportunities.

“Really so that they get an idea of the different career options they have locally,” Jones said.

They spoke to students about athletes and others recovering from injuries.

“We work with those people to get them back to what they want to do,” Jones said.

For those interested in sports, doing hands-on work and being active, physical therapy could be a career to consider, Jones said, to students.

“There’s another option for you,” she said.

‘Knowledge and skills’

Many Herkimer BOCES programs were also represented at the career day.

One of them was Valley Pathways in Technology Early College High School, and VP-TECH teacher Nathan Purinton talked to Jarvis students about how VP-TECH focuses on technology, project-based learning and real-world work situations. Students can spend four to six years in the program to earn a Regents diploma, an associate degree in quality assurance from Herkimer College for free, a certification in advanced manufacturing and connections with local businesses.

Purinton highlighted fun aspects of the program such as drones, 3D-printers and the ability to become a college student and get a Herkimer College ID card when they start the programs as ninth-graders.

“When do you think you take your first college class?” Purinton said. “Your first day with us in ninth grade.”

Herkimer BOCES Supervisor of Equity, Diversity, & Curriculum Initiatives Patricia Wilson presented about the new ReadiTec program at Herkimer BOCES. ReadiTec is a pre-vocational exploratory program for 9th- and 10th-grade students.

ReadiTec gives students access to all 14 Herkimer BOCES Career and Technical Education programs, the ability to learn trades jobs and the opportunity to then join one of the CTE programs for 11th and 12th grade.

“So that’s how you expand your high school experience,” Wilson said. “When you graduate from high school, you have the trades knowledge and skills that you can immediately go out and apply for work because you have those skills.”

 

 

New York state Forest Ranger Rob Piersma speaks to Gregory B. Jarvis students in the auditorium

New York state Forest Ranger Rob Piersma speaks to Central Valley students during the Journeys Beyond Jarvis Career Exploration Day hosted by the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers program on Nov. 19 at Gregory B. Jarvis Middle School.

 

Closeup photo on New York state Forest Ranger Rob Piersma as he speaks to Gregory B. Jarvis students in the auditorium

New York state Forest Ranger Rob Piersma speaks to Central Valley students during the Journeys Beyond Jarvis Career Exploration Day hosted by the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers program on Nov. 19 at Gregory B. Jarvis Middle School.

 

MaryBeth Napolitano speaks to Gregory B. Jarvis students in the auditorium
Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers liaison and work-based learning coordinator MaryBeth Napolitano speaks to Central Valley students during the Journeys Beyond Jarvis Career Exploration Day hosted by the School to Careers program on Nov. 19 at Gregory B. Jarvis Middle School.

 

Sara Grisolini speaking to Gregory B. Jarvis students in a classroom

Sara Grisolini, director of nursing at Foltsbrook Center in Herkimer, speaks to Central Valley students during the Journeys Beyond Jarvis Career Exploration Day hosted by the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers program on Nov. 19 at Gregory B. Jarvis Middle School.

 

Amanda Kajtazovic and Karen Jones show physical therapy techniques to two students
Amanda Kajtazovic (far left), mentor of physical therapy assistant students at Herkimer College, and Karen Jones (far right), director of the physical therapy assistant program at Herkimer College, demonstrate physical therapy techniques with Central Valley students during the Journeys Beyond Jarvis Career Exploration Day hosted by the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers program on Nov. 19 at Gregory B. Jarvis Middle School.

 

Patricia Wilson presents about the new ReadiTec program at Herkimer BOCES
Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Supervisor of Equity, Diversity, & Curriculum Initiatives Patricia Wilson presents about the new ReadiTec program at Herkimer BOCES to Central Valley students during the Journeys Beyond Jarvis Career Exploration Day hosted by the Herkimer BOCES School to Careers program on Nov. 19 at Gregory B. Jarvis Middle School.

 

Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Valley Pathways in Technology Early College High School teacher Nathan Purinton talks about VP-TECH to Central Valley students during the Journeys Beyond Jarvis Career Exploration Day hosted by the Herkimer BOCES School to Careers program on Nov. 19 at Gregory B. Jarvis Middle School.