Students in Mrs. Woytowich’s Personal Genetics class at Colonie Central High School have heard from professionals in several fields in preparation for their midterm assessment on careers.
Woytowich has worked with the College and Career Planning Center to arrange for a variety of guest speakers. From genetic counselors to forensic scientists—industry professionals visit with her students and share their personal experiences and individual career pathways.
“This was very helpful for us to gain insight about what each profession does on a daily basis,” said CCHS senior Kaya McAuley.
One of the goals of Personal Genetics is for students to research a career that interests them. Sometimes, students are pleasantly surprised about what they learn regarding a particular career, and some students discover that they would actually have no interest after finding out the details of what qualifications are involved and/or a day in the life of the profession.
“I tell my students that at this point in their lives, finding out what they don’t want to do for a living is just as important as figuring out what they do want to do,” said Woytowich. “Volunteering, talking to people currently in a career of interest, and work experience are all things I encourage my students to pursue at this point in their learning journeys.”
Continuous learning is key to success
James Marzano, a principal field medical lead at Medtronic, one of the world’s largest medical device companies, visited the students recently.
“I’m so glad to have the opportunity to speak to high school students to help them navigate their way through trying to decide what career to pursue, Marzano said. “I wish I had something like this when I was going through this process in high school.”
Genes and tracking health history
Summer Duffy, a genetic counselor, and CCHS biology teacher Kelly Coppola, not only came in to speak to the students about their careers, but they provided significant professional and personal perspectives regarding a lab that students performed called the Cancer Gene Detection Lab. Using simulated DNA from a hypothetical patient and pedigrees, students tracked the family health history of a patient and performed gel electrophoresis to provide evidence for diagnosis.
As a genetic counselor, Duffy shared the process for how she communicates with her clients about diseases that they may have and how to interpret the results of a genetic test should her clients move forward with one.
Coppola on the other hand shared her personal experience with getting a genetic test as well as related emotions and familial considerations.
“The way that the speakers were timed with teaching us different perspectives of genetic testing and how pedigrees are used before and after we did the lab was impactful,” said CCHS senior Ava Pearson.
Colonie Alumni shares personal experience with students
Greg Aidala, a 1992 CCHS alum, producer, and entertainer, awards the Knock, Knock. Who’s There? Scholarship at CCHS every year for students entering the arts.
Aidala was asked to come in to speak to students to share his family’s personal illness and cancer experience as it relates to Colonie’s NL Industries. Aidala also shared his career path and journey as a Raider.
“I was thrilled to have been asked back to speak at my alma mater, Colonie High,” said Aidala. “Every time I interact with the students I am truly inspired by their passion to make a difference in the world. It is my hope that this program continues to foster a mentorship atmosphere between alumni and students. Go Raiders!”
“When these professionals come in to discuss their career pathways, common themes that emerge include: trying new things, learning from mistakes, staying positive, and more. We have been so fortunate to make these connections for our students through the generosity of the time our guest speakers have been willing to spend with us. The speakers have been so honest and candid about things like salary and benefits, their workday, and travel requirements,” said Woytowich.
“It really has opened the door of opportunity for students by just knowing these career pathways exist, and that life’s trajectory is not necessarily a fixed path.”
Gaining valuable insight from local law enforcement
Students were also paid a special visit from Chief of Colonie Police Michael Woods, School Resource officer Pat Germaine, and retired Lieutenant Henry Rosenzweig.
“I want to thank Mrs. Woytowich for the opportunity to reflect on the intrinsic motivation that drives one to pursue a career in law enforcement and the challenges that come with the job. I hope that my story helps someone choose the right path for them” said Rosenzweig.
Chief Michael Woods left the class with some life advice stemming from his own life experience and over thirty years in law enforcement advising students that “your attitude is your choice and determines your actions; remember that maintaining a good attitude is easier than regaining one.”
Women in leadership make an impact
Melissa Judge, a familiar face that our students see daily is a female leader at the high school.
“Going in and speaking with Mrs. Woytowich’s class proved to be an enriching and rewarding experience for me,” said Judge, associate principal at CCHS. “The students asked thoughtful questions, and I felt inspired and hopeful after I left.”
Personal Genetics is a semester-long course at CCHS. Students learn scientific, ethical, and legal issues surrounding the genetic revolution while earning dual credit through the University at Albany.