CareerDayLiturgezFormer Olympian Bryan Leturgez addressed a group of seventh grade students at Knollwood School, during a recent Career Day presentation at the Fair Haven school.

Press release from Fair Haven School District

“Have you set a goal for the year 2014?,” former U.S. Olympic bobsledder Bryan Leturgez asked members of his rapt audience. And when the question elicited no response, he countered, “Then how are you going to get where you want to be?”

This did not occur at a business training seminar but during Career Day 2014 at Knollwood School in Fair Haven. On a recent Thursday, the seventh grade students were given an opportunity to meet working professionals from the community to gain insight and guidance.

Pamela Greenhall, Knollwood School Counselor, has organized this event for the past 12 years and added an innovative twist this year. After having the seventh grade students complete an assessment designed to determine their likely career paths, Greenhall collected the data and contacted local professionals in those occupations for appearances at Career Day.

“As it turned out, we had a lot of girls looking at potential careers in some sort of counseling, so we invited Social Worker Gretchin Morgan to make a presentation,” said Greenhall.

In addition to Leturgez and Morgan, professionals meeting with students included K-9 Officer Jay Aretina of the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, Special Agents Debra Bassinder and Robert Glantz of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division, Pediatric Dentist Christine Henry, Operations Engineer Tracey Liberi, United Airlines Flight Attendant Theresa Winters, and Veterinarian Jackie Santos.

CareerDayKnollwood School Career Day 2014 presenters, standing from left to right, are Robert Glantz, Jay Aretina, and Bryan Leturgez and, seated from left to right, Debra Bassinder, Theresa Winters, Jackie Santos and Christine Henry.

“How do you eat an elephant?,” Leturgez asked a roomful of students. When some raised their hands to respond with the correct answer, “A bite at a time,” Leturgez urged them to approach their goals the same way.

Leturgez was a football and track star who joined the USA Bobsled team in the fall of 1988 and competed in three Olympics over the next ten years. He graduated from Indiana State University with a business degree and went to work for Anheuser-Busch and then Coca-Cola, all while competing in bobsled events. He joined the finance industry after retiring from bobsled.

“I knew that I could not be on the bobsled team for my entire career, and my career path was much different than those of my friends — I had to plan accordingly,” he said. “You always need a detailed and realistic plan for the future.”

Across the way, Winters was in a classroom telling students about when she knew what her career path would be.

“As a child I was always looking down the road, waiting to see what the next thing to come along would be,” she said. “That is when my mom said that she knew I would do something adventurous.”

“Being a flight attendant allows you to see the world, and believe me there is a lot to discover by exploring other cultures,” Winters said. “I have learned that people respond to kindness in the same way, no matter where they live or what language they speak.”

“Even after 17 years as a Flight Attendant, I still get excited whenever I fly,” she told the students.

In Room 328, Liberi was presenting a PowerPoint based on her experience on a recent project involving a water utility in Toms River. In addition to providing insight into the project through the use of colorful graphics, she detailed the requirements for a career in engineering.

“You need to take a lot of math classes and you really should love math,” Liberi said. “What math does for engineers is ‘brain training.'”

Down the hall, Dr. Henry was explaining how she decided to specialize in pediatric dentistry.

“I really liked the aspect of making children feel more comfortable in the dentist’s chair,” she said. “And I like the fact that my hours are somewhat flexible, which allows me to spend time with my own family.”

In the Knollwood All-Purpose room, students received a treat when K-9 Officer Aretina introduced them to his German Shepherd “partner”, Ari.

After demonstrating some of Ari’s skills and obedience training, Aretina explained the most important feature that any dog needs for K-9 work.

“The dog has to have a sense of play,” he said. “That is crucial for the training process.”

Aretina asked the students if they could name a breed that they thought might seem unsuitable for the work.

“Chihuahua,” they answered almost unanimously.

“Chihuahuas are used as drug-sniffing dogs,” he told his surprised audience.

Greenhall visited the various classrooms during the half-day event and was pleased by students’ reactions.

“Students in the hallway were asking one another ‘who did you see?'” said Greenhall. “I think this was a really great experience for them.”