Alumni Return for Career Panel

Alumni Return for Career Panel

Job fulfillment and success come in many forms, your career path could be a straight line or a twisted and unexpected journey, do internships and be involved in extracurriculars, and talk to trusted friends and family to help you guide you on your education and career choices – this was just some of the advice Saint Mary’s High School’s junior class received during the annual Alumni Career Panel program on Thursday, March 23, 2017.

Six alumni from different career fields – Jonathan Baburka ’07, an EMT; Jaclyn Bonomo ’08, a licensed veterinary technician at Garden City Park Animal Hospital; Julianne Bonomo ’07, a real estate attorney at Lewis Johs and former Assistant District Attorney for Nassau County; Pat Buckridge ’01, an entrepreneur who works as a promoter, sports agent, coach and professional wrestler; Cori Bulgrin ’07, a gemologist and training and development specialist for the Gemological Institute of America; and Angelo Giokas ’08, a data project manager for an advertising-technology company and a self-taught, mixed-media professional artist – gave advice and answered student questions regarding college and careers: what they went to school for, how they started and advanced in their careers, what a day in the life of their careers is like, as well as life lessons they’ve learned over the years.

This is the eighth year St. Mary’s has offered the program to its eleventh-grade students, and this year was the youngest panel ever, with all the panelists graduates of the 2000s. “It’s really a great cross range of interests, skills and directions in life,” Vice President of Development Sean Collins, who moderated the event, told the students, adding that because this was a panel of young professionals, “this conversation should really resonate with you.”

The alumni talked about the different paths they each took that led them to their present day careers. Mr. Baburka noted that “after I graduated from Saint Mary’s, I went to college for a little bit but it wasn’t really something I enjoyed.” He ended up pursuing a career as an EMT for New York Presbyterian/Queens Hospital, which required him taking a six-month course to get licensed. “Being an EMT gave me an opportunity to do a lot of things. As an EMT, you’re really like an extension of the doctor’s arm. A normal day could be a lot of down time, just sitting around waiting for a call to come in. Some days will be really hectic where you’re just constantly going back out. So sometimes you’ll get car accidents, sometimes you’ll get heart attacks, it could run the gamut.”

“I guess every girl likes diamonds,” Ms. Bulgrin joked about how she got into her field, “but my mom worked in the diamond industry, so in high school I spent a lot of time in her office in New York City and I just got to be in that environment. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do – I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher, I didn’t want to be a doctor, but I always liked listening to the conversations I heard when people were looking at the stones and talking about the different types of inclusions or things inside of diamonds. It started to interest me, so when I went to college this was kind of stuck in the back of my head.”

“I always knew what I wanted to do, and it was not well-received,” admitted Mr. Buckridge. “I was very active when I was here – I was president, I was on every sports team and a lot of teachers and administrators would ask me, ‘Well, what do you want to do when you grow up?’ and I would tell them I wanted to be a wrestler and they would laugh at me and go, ‘No, really.’ Some people supported it, some people laughed at it. Some people were like, ‘Well, as long as you go to college, pursue what you want to do.’” He was accepted into the professional wrestling equivalent of the farm system or minor leagues, “where you work on your skills and get practice to hopefully be called up to the big leagues. Problem was, I never got my call up, and I started to realize I’m in the minor leagues and I’m never going to get called up. After 10 years of chasing a dream, even though I had a college degree in hospitality, even though I had a backup plan, I felt like a failure. So instead of walking away from this thing I have a passion for, I came back here to New York and I started my own wrestling business. I started running shows. I now run 20-30 shows a year. That then segued into opening up a training academy in New Jersey and New York where I train up-and-coming wrestlers. I’m an example of, it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to but it actually put me in a better position for life, working for myself.”

Julianne Bonomo joked that playing basketball at St. Mary’s and in college, she thought she was going to the WNBA, “but I’m 5-foot, so that wasn’t happening. I didn’t think about law school until I was probably 21.” She described the long process of becoming a lawyer, including studying for a passing the LSATs, paying for and attending law school full time for three years or part-time for four years, and then sitting for a two or three-day bar exam.

Mr. Giokas described how he works two jobs – he has his day job at an advertising-technology company, where they create software to help ad sales professionals. And that day job helps support the thing he is passionate about, his art. “I’m a mixed-media painter, a hybrid painter,” he explained. After a long day in the office working in advertising, “I go home and I continue to hustle; I go into my studio. I put my bags down, change into my paint gear and then I work until about 9 or 10 at night.” He also does a lot of networking, he explained. “If I’m introduced to somebody who is into art, I communicate what my goals are and what my art is about; I attend art events, go to galleries, I put my work into shows, I put my work up on Instagram and social media. Unfortunately, nowadays it’s very difficult to make a living solely as a painter, which is why I’m motivated to work both careers.”

Jaclyn Bonomo was another panelist who didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do after college. “I was a little lost. I’ve been horseback riding since I was nine and I always wanted to go into that, so I pursued a career in veterinary nursing. I picked up all these internships in small animal medicine and just fell in love with it because it has so many opportunities and levels to it. So I went into that and I’m so, so happy I did.”

The panelists answered a variety of questions from the students, including whether or not Mr. Buckridge is friends with professional wrestler and actor John Cena – “we’re not friends but we travel in the same circle and know of each other” – and what the weirdest animal was that Jaclyn Bonomo ever worked on – “probably a skunk.” And each panelist had lots of advice for the junior class, including doing research on student loans and financial aid options, being involved in extracurricular activities to make your college application stand out, and doing internships to figure out if a career is the right fit.

“I studied abroad in London in my junior year of college,” noted Mr. Giokas. “Prior to going to London I didn’t really have this intention of being a painter, but when I was there, it really opened up my perspective to cultures and other ideas. I do recommend, if you guys have the opportunity to study abroad, when that time comes in college, please take advantage of it. It was the most enriching thing I ever could have done for my career and myself.”

“When I worked at the DA’s office, it’s amazing what you can find out online, so just be aware that whatever you’re putting on the internet, whether it’s Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, it’s always there,” Julianne Bonomo cautioned. “I used to find the craziest things from defendants and victims. So just be aware that your colleges and jobs are going to be looking into that. Be aware that whatever you’re posting should be reflective of you in a positive way.”

“As much fun as you have in high school, as much fun as you have in college, be aware that high school will end, college will end,” added Ms. Bulgrin. “Make sure you take advantage of these days but also make sure you’re making the decisions to set yourself up for success in the future. High school is four years, college is four years, but your career and the rest of your life is a very long time, so you want to make sure that you set yourself up and explore all your options and have some kind of plan in place.”

“Communicate your ideas to your families, your guardians, your friends,” Mr. Giokas encouraged. “You don’t have to undergo this experience by yourself and keep all your thoughts to yourself. So yes, it seems like an overwhelming, very important step in your life: ‘Oh, what am I going to do? Where am I going to go?’ but share those thoughts with the people you love and trust because one, you’ll be able to find out more about yourself in doing so and two, they can help you make the right decision.”