Career Day Event At Crestwood Middle School Inspires Students

Former student Lourdes Casanova, now a defense attorney, with Crestwood civics teacher Jacqueline Alves.

It’s not every day that middle school students are provided face-to-face access with artists, scientists, programmers, politicians, martial arts professionals or the global compliance officer for a multi-national retail chain.

About 65 professionals turned up for Crestwood Middle School’s annual Career Day on Friday, Dec. 13, where students were provided access to a wide variety of professionals all offering information, advice and encouragement for students when it comes time to choose a career.

“Last year, on Career Day, I was greatly influenced by the professional who told us about 3D printing. It actually might have influenced my decision to apply to Suncoast High School next year, where the emphasis is on math, science and engineering,” eighth grader Kimia Soltani said.

The National Junior Honor Society member added that she is leaning now toward a career in psychology. “But I remain open-minded about careers,” Soltani said.

Assistant Principal Melissa Kaliser helped organize the Career Day.

“This annual event is all about providing kids with options and new ideas,” she said. “It’s about planting seeds and exposing kids to career paths that might inspire them to work hard and study even the subjects that might not seem like the most exciting things to learn right now.”

That was a piece of advice suggested by many of the professionals.

“I wish I had paid more attention in math,” said professional kickboxer Jose Fernandez, who owns Black Lotus Gym and specializes in a martial art called Muay Thai. “As a young student, I wasn’t interested in math and never knew that math skills would be so important to a martial arts professional. Let me tell you, as a business owner, profits and losses are all about math. Thank God my wife paid attention during math class.”

Mindy Moore liked math as a child, went on to become a CPA, and is now global compliance officer for the retail chain Claire’s.

“While my core job requires intense numbers skills, my job has me traveling the world and dealing with a wide variety of people,” she said. “Communications skills are almost as important to my job as accounting skills. My advice to students is to learn as much as possible and take learning seriously. Knowledge is power.”

Rebecca Tew agreed.

“While I am the chief financial officer for the Town of Gulf Stream and manage a budget of about $7 million, my job is not all math-related. We are a small town, so I also manage the IT department, direct human resources and administer our permitting activities,” Tew said. “The thing I love most about my job is stewardship. I feel like the residents of our community have trusted me to take care of their assets. It’s a responsibility that I respect and take very seriously.”

Veterinarian Dr. Jacquelyn Buzzerd loves helping her clients.

“The best part of my job is the gratitude of the families of my patients,” she said. “Pets are now seen as part of the family, and I really enjoy that aspect of my job.”

Buzzerd said that every subject she ever studied helped her become the best veterinarian she can be.

Jennifer Wink manages a women’s health and medical practice of 120 employees. “Never give up. That’s my advice,” she said. “I went to school for half my life. Now it’s finally paying off.”

Shannon Burrows is a fitness professional who owns Get in Shape with Shannon.

“I am a breast cancer survivor and have turned lemons into lemonade,” she said. “I help other cancer survivors gain back the self-respect and good feelings that come along with being as fit as you can. I believe that just changing one little thing in your day, each and every day, will get you one step closer to your goals and a happier and more fulfilled life.”

Lourdes Casanova is a Crestwood Middle School success story. The successful criminal defense attorney now owns her own legal practice after graduating from Crestwood Middle School and Royal Palm Beach High School. She spoke at Career Day to share her story and aspirations with students.

“My message is that we are not in competition with anyone else,” she said. “I urge students to ignore outside pressures and run their own race. To thine own self be true.”

Crestwood civics teacher Jacqueline Alves remembers teaching Casanova.

“I love my job,” she said. “I just do the best I can teaching every day, whether the kids seem to be paying attention or not. It’s wonderful to see success stories like Lourdes come back and pass down their wisdom and experiences to students while reminding me and other teachers that we are making a difference.”

Eighth grader Rohani Laliman wants her career choice to reflect her spirit of pioneering individualism. “The overwhelming majority of IT professionals are men,” she said. “Most girls won’t go into it. I want to be a change agent in my family and become a computer engineer. I know I can do it.”

Crestwood Principal Dr. Stephanie Nance was very pleased with the success of Career Day.

“This is a chance for students to see how their present educational journeys align with their future careers and goals,” she said. “I want to thank all the professionals who took time out of their busy lives to share with our students.”