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Four Members of NECSD Board of Education Present to NFA West Scholars
Newburgh Free Academy’s West Campus welcomed four members of our Board of Education as panelists to discuss their experiences with career and as members of the board.
Ash Gonzalez, 11th grade scholar at NFA West introduced the panelists, president, Ms. Carole Mineo, vice president, Ms. Susan Prokosch, and board members Ms. Ramona Burton and Ms. Sylvia Santiago. The Board members answered general questions and questions posed by scholars in the audience.
Each week, scholars learn from school and community members about career paths, allowing scholars to discover opportunities to reflect on for their future path. Board members shared personal and professional experiences as well as their support of the Big Picture Learning program.
“Each one of you have an open door today and tomorrow - to be whatever you want.” Ms. Carole Mineo, Board of Education president
Ms. Carole Mineo informed students that women had three options at the time of her high school graduation: to become a teacher, secretary, or nurse. Ms. Mineo became a teacher and then principal for the Newburgh Enlarged City School District. After retirement, her husband encouraged her to continue her involvement and love of education by joining the board.
Ms. Ramona Burton discussed the social climate at the time of her graduation from high school. She discussed the climate of the 1960s and the movements of people of color elevating themselves. She gave credit to her mother, a teacher, and her father, a minister for encouraging her involvement with social justice. Ms. Burton worked as an engineer for five years at IBM, but quickly discovered that she wanted to work with people in a different way. Ms. Burton transitioned her career and worked at SUNY Orange for 25 years, part of which she was preparing students for career exploration, discovery, and attainment.
Ms. Burton encouraged scholars to take advantage of being at NFA West, “big picture thinking is about exposing yourself and embracing all opportunities. When you’re in your internships - it may not be what you like, but there is something there that will lead you forward - even if it’s just figuring out what you don’t like and exploring more of what you like and learning what is out there. Take every opportunity to learn something different. Put yourself in roles where you are going to stretch yourself - go for it all.”
Ms. Susan Prokosch reminisced about entering NFA West for the first time as a Kindergartener - 65 years ago. She credited the then elementary school for setting the foundation for the path she took to the person she is today. Ms. Prokosch wanted to be a sheet metal worker because that’s what her father and brother were. When she graduated in 1966, women were not allowed to go into the trades, especially not sheet metal and her father wanted her to go to college. Ms. Prokosch eventually became a teacher and taught at the junior high level for 33 years. Ms. Prokosch encouraged scholars to find motivation within themselves, “the biggest thing toward rebuilding this community - is you.”
Ms. Sylvia Santiago has been working in accounting as a comptroller for a small business. Ms. Santiago described her journey as a difficult one that presented more challenges than she experienced in high school. Ms. Santiago discussed how the involvement of her parents in her own life inspired her to be very involved in the lives of her own children and the activities they were a part of.
Ms. Santiago’s biggest piece of advice for students was, “your experiences are only yours. Don’t go by what other people’s experiences are - they are not the same for everyone. Your character is your most important thing to you. Make sure you can always look yourself in the mirror.”
Scholars had the opportunity to ask questions. Scholars took the opportunity to ask about the idea of bringing the non-traditional approach of a Big Picture Learning school, their experiences with running for an elected position, and how they will know if NFA West is a success.
Ms. Prokosch mentioned that people within the state and on a national level have approached the district about the unique program with interest of implementing a similar program in their districts.
Each board member welcomed visits and emails from students about their thoughts on their education and proposals for the district to improve.
TEACHERS: Are you and your students doing something great? Please contact your Communication Strategist. We’d love to attend or post your pictures and recap to highlight the amazing accomplishments throughout our district! Grades PreK-5 Amanda McDowell (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Grades 6-12 Cassie Sklarz (email@example.com).