Press release from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School
On November 28, five distinguished guests participated in the second annual “World Language in Our Community” panel discussion, hosted at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School. This year’s panelists were Sue Finley, Taylor Forry, Mark Jeffers, Gianna Maita, and Greg Thomas.
Student attendance was optional, and – in a repeat of last year — there was a “standing room only” crowd. The panelists shared their career and life experiences as they related to world languages and cultures, and participated in a follow-up question and answer session.
“If I could go back in time, I would be sitting right where you are and taking the study of language very seriously,” said Thomas, who is a Supervisory Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). “The World Language program you have here at RFH is amazing, and I agree wholeheartedly that a forum like this is highly beneficial.”
Taylor Forry, who works with Thomas as a Special Agent for the FBI, speaks Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. He immersed himself in the Chinese language and culture by studying abroad in Beijing while in college.
“All of the success that I have had in my career can be traced back to a single point in time – the day that I decided to begin studying Chinese,” he said. “Speaking the same language as someone else gives you an instant connection, that spark that shows trust and understanding.”
Mark Jeffers is an RFH alum and President of Zodiac Aero Evacuation Systems in Wall Township. Zodiac is a major supplier of aircraft seats, evacuation slides, oxygen systems, and more to aircraft manufacturers in the U.S., France, Germany, Russia, China, and Brazil.
“Don’t ever think that you won’t be using world languages in your work,” said Jeffers, who once assumed that knowledge of a second language would not be crucial in his chosen field of engineering. But when he traveled internationally in his work with the F16 aircraft, he met colleagues who spoke at least three languages — and some as many as seven.
Jeffers had attended French classes at RFH but did not continue his study of French in college. At the age of 40 he signed up for classes at the Language School in Red Bank, determined to be a star pupil and help ensure his social and career success.
Sue Finley was encouraged to pursue language studies by her father, a high school French and Spanish teacher who served in World War 2 and became trapped behind enemy lines in Italy.
“For some of us, not knowing the language may be a matter of ‘how do I order a cup of coffee?’ – but for my dad in the war it was literally a matter of life and death,” she said. “He spoke no German or Italian, and he never forgot that feeling of not being able to communicate.”
“He studied language upon his return and then advised me to do the same.”
Finley began studying French in seventh grade and graduated with degrees in French and Journalism from New York University, where she was named the school’s top French student in 1984. She is the co-founder of an international newspaper, the Thoroughbred Daily News, which is now read by thousands of people in 180 countries. Finley travels to Normandy and Paris several times a year on business and speaks French fluently.
Gianna Maita is a member of the RFH class of 2011 and a 2015 graduate of Georgetown University where she majored in Justice and Peace Studies with a minor in Arabic. She recently completed a research fellowship in Nicaragua where she used her knowledge of Spanish to conduct interviews with students and staff at the Universidad Centroamericana in Managua. She also has varying levels of proficiency in French, Italian, and Afrikaans.
“If you can, take the opportunity to study abroad,” said Maita. “It will not only help you build language skills but also broaden your world view.”
The second annual “World Language in Our Community” panel discussion was organized and presented by the RFH World Language Department.