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Poland alumni share their stories to benefit junior students

 

Poland alumni speaking to juniors


In front of the room, from left Poland Central School District 2017 graduate James Kattato, Poland Guidance Director Janice Watrous and Poland 2015 graduate Tristan Abend speak to Poland juniors on Thursday, March 31.


 

 

POLAND – Two Poland Central School District alumni who graduated in the last several years recently returned to share their career journeys with junior students who are preparing to make decisions about their own college and career paths.

 

Poland Guidance Director Janice Watrous said students are likely to relate better to a message from recent graduates closer to their age than if she was just giving students advice on her own.

 

“I think it’s just more relevant,” Watrous. “They came back to speak to students about what their lives have been like since they left Poland and what it’s like to transition to college.”

 

Poland 2015 graduate Tristan Abend and 2017 graduate James Kattato visited on Thursday, March 31, to speak during English teacher Tracy Theilmann’s 11th-grade class.

 

Asking alumni to return to speak to current students is something Watrous has done in the past as well – including earlier this year on Jan. 6, when 2021 graduate Isabella Mowers spoke to students in social studies teacher Karen Oczkowski’s government class about her freshman year at SUNY Fredonia.

 

Making connections

 

Abend graduated from SUNY Polytechnic Institute and is working on a master’s degree in economics from Purdue University. He is a mechanical/cost engineer for Carrier in Syracuse, oversees a group of engineers and travels all over as part of his job.

 

Kattato graduated from the SUNY Oswego communications/broadcasting program and is working on his master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He is also doing freelance reporting for WKTV.

 

The students explained their personal paths to where they are in their education and careers and talked about the perseverance and resilience needed along the way and the need to take advantage of opportunities.

 

“They said to find something you’re interested in and like to do, and take an active role in that,” Watrous said.

 

Watrous hopes the visit helped students get thinking about their own futures through hearing the alumni’s stories. In late April, juniors had an SAT at Poland and a college fair with more than 50 colleges at Herkimer College.

 

“It’s a pivotal time of year and part of their high school career,” Watrous said. “It’s a good time to get the students to really think about what they want to do.”

 

After the visit, Poland junior Nick Robinson emailed Watrous asking for contact info for Kattato so he could talk to him for further advice.

 

“He went to school for broadcasting, and I want to go to school for sports broadcasting, so I thought that was interesting,” Robinson said.

 

Watrous was happy when she received the email from Robinson about contacting Kattato.

 

“That’s the exact type of connection we’re trying to make,” Watrous said.

 

Robinson wanted to learn more about Kattato’s experience finding his way to his dream school of Syracuse University, he said.

 

“I think it’s great to have students who have graduated from the school come back and show you that someone from a small school in Upstate New York can go on to be successful,” Robinson said.

 

‘The next big steps’

 

While visiting, Abend and Kattato also were able to tour changes to the school facilities that were made during Capital Project 2020, after the students graduated. Abend, who was a member of the Poland Board of Education when the capital project was planned and approved by voters, got to see a capital project plaque with his name on it and took a photo with it. Kattato, who was involved with Poland Drama Club productions while in school, enjoyed seeing the new stage in the renovated school theater.

 

Abend said he wanted to give back to the school by speaking to current students because of how fast the world is changing and how complex the world is.

 

“Based on what I have learned, I love to come back and try to better prepare kids for what the world truly is, so they are empowered to be ready for the next big steps they are about to take,” Abend said.

 

Abend thinks it’s helpful for students to hear from alumni.

 

“Being a recent graduate and especially someone who has been traveling around the world due to work, I find that a recent perspective like mine is much more in tune to what kids are about to start facing once they leave the halls of Poland,” Abend said.

 

Abend was happy to provide students with information about what his experience has been like after high school.

 

“The big take away I hope students take is that you have to have a sense of what you really want to do, and sometimes that may not exist yet, and you will have to create it,” Abend said. “You may not realize you are on the path towards your goal at times, but as long as you keep your nose to the grindstone, you will reach the goals you set for yourself.”

 

‘What you set out to do’

 

Kattato also wanted to give back to current students.

 

“When I was a Poland student, I always enjoyed having people with real world experience come back and tell us about what they were doing,” Kattato said. “Obviously, the teachers have real life experience that was valuable to learn, but having someone as relatable as a student maybe five years or less out of school made a huge difference for me. I could connect with what they were saying a little more, and that's why speaking to these students matters so much to me. If I can help them in any way, I want to be able to do that.”

 

Part of the reason Kattato wanted to share his experience was because he had to adjust to being a college student and doing full-time work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

“I moved to Boston to pursue my broadcast passion in January 2020,” Kattato said. “When the pandemic hit in March, I had to finish my college degree online and make ends meet, while trying to continue my broadcasting career virtually. I felt stuck; like I was running out of time. I just wanted these students to know that if you're 16, 22 or 32, you have time to figure it out. Just sit back and take a breath, and know that if you work hard, when you do find the thing you're passionate about, you will be successful.”

 

Kattato hopes that juniors take away from his story the message that you can follow your passion and still making a living.

 

“Don't let anyone tell you that a career isn't practical,” Kattato said. “If you want to do it, do your research, ask questions, be curious and attack it head on. Make goals, and ask yourself where you want to be five years from now. If you make milestones for yourself and chip away at it, you will accomplish what you set out to.”

 

 

Tristan Abend talking to students


Poland Central School District 2015 graduate Tristan Abend speaks to Poland juniors about his college and career path on Thursday, March 31.


 

 

James Kattato speaking to Poland students


Poland Central School District 2017 graduate James Kattato speaks to Poland juniors about his college and career path on Thursday, March 31.


 

 

Poland alumni speaking to juniors


In front of the room, from left Poland Central School District 2017 graduate James Kattato, Poland Guidance Director Janice Watrous and Poland 2015 graduate Tristan Abend speak to Poland juniors on Thursday, March 31.


 

 

Poland alumni speaking to students


In front of the room, from left Poland Central School District Guidance Director Janice Watrous, Poland 2017 graduate James Kattato and Poland 2015 graduate Tristan Abend speak to Poland juniors on Thursday, March 31.