Trumbull High School hosted the superintendent’s third annual College and Career Readiness Forum Wednesday evening.

In front of a more than half full auditorium, moderator and Social Studies teacher Eric August introduced three guest speakers who offered thoughts on what it takes to succeed, and led four current and four former THS student through questions about how and why they are succeeding.

The forum was sponsored by the Trumbull ACE Foundation and the Trumbull Business-Education Initiative, Inc. Dan Neumann, executive director of ACE and BEI, helped organize the event along with Social Studies teacher and We The People advisor Katie Boland.

The audience was comprised largely of students, eighth grade and up, and their parents, there to gain insights from the forum’s speakers.

Superintendent Dr. Gary Cialfi led off, encouraging students to “find your passion in the classroom” and to take advantage of THS’s academic teams and clubs that can help them explore interests and learn about who they are.

He was followed by Donald Gibson, dean of the Dolan School of Business at Fairfield University.

Gibson stressed the need study hard and earn high grades, to “gather skills around learning and adaptability,” and master both career skills and the softer liberal arts skills, including the ability to communicate clearly and persuasively, build relationships and work well in groups, exercise ethical judgement and think critically.

Resume game

Tom Tesoro, vice president of human resources at Standard Motor Products, offered the post-college, company perspective. He put perspective on the job market by telling the audience that for a recent mid-level accounting opening his company received 1,500 resumes.

As a result, they give a resume three seconds to sell its writer.

To get to that resume to the next stage, Tesoro said grades are more important than the college itself: “I’d rather have a 3.0 student from UConn than a 2.0 student from Harvard… (and) It’s not important what you study, but that you study.”

Beyond that, his firm looks for problem solvers with strong communications skills who work well on teams.

Student panel

August, who’s an advisor to the school’s mock trial team, then turned to the student panel and who spoke about the importance of extracurricular activities — chiefly, academic-related competitive teams.

Nicole Wittstein, a 2013 THS graduate, said she was active in mock trial for two years and found her passion towards law through the activity, which pointed her towards a scholarship in the honors program in pre-Law at the University of South Carolina.

“If you see something you think you’ll like, go for it,” she said.

Phil Reardon, a 2014 grad, offered a contrast.

A football player at THS, he early on determined “college was not for me,” took wood and auto shop classes, along with “every business course THS offers,” and is today an apprentice electrician in his father’s business, learning what he will need to know to take the business over.

Ian Maloney, a THS senior, gave the audience another perspective. He told them that he had his “heart set” on the University of New Haven since the eighth grade, where he will study law enforcement in preparation to become a federal law enforcement officer.

He joined the Police Cadet program as a freshman, and said he is not science oriented, but joined THS’s Forensics Team to “broaden my horizons.”

Doctors and farmers

Elsewhere on the panel, Fred Tamarkin, who graduated from the AgriScience school in June, spoke about a coincidental two-hour conversation he had with a Cornell professor at a Future Farmers gathering.

As a result of the dialogue, he made up his mind to combine his life science interest with business and is now an applied economics and management major as a freshman at Cornell.

Another current student, THS junior Anush Sureshbabu, said he is pointing to medical school. He used THS’s job shadowing program to see what doctors at St. Vincent’s Hospital do, then became a volunteer there. All the while, he’s strengthening his soft skills as a part of the Debate Team and the Model Congress.

Back to the chalkboard

Senior Emily Ormond said she job shadowed a speech pathologist, and found that was not her passion.

She joined the Kids-4-Kids and Connections clubs and found working with autistic children was an area of interest that she will pursue in college.

Meanwhile, UConn junior Marissa Piccolo, spoke about being the captain of the soccer and track teams, co-editor of Trillium (THS’ yearbook), and a member of We The People and the Model UN teams while attending Trumbull high School.

After a summer internship with Congresswoman Rosa DiLauro, she found her passions drawing her toward law school — something she didn’t originally intend on pursuing after college.


The youngest speaker in the forum was Daejah Woolery, a THS sophomore, who talked about seems exploring a lot of clubs, and chose the Academic Decathlon Team because “it encompasses a broad range academic skills.”

The sophomore is also apart of the Tech Club Web Team. She told the audience she wants to become a computer science or electrical engineering major.


After the eight students spoke, August opened the floor for a question and answer period and heard one audience question that encapsulated the evening’s theme.

A young student asked Tesoro “How do you start networking?”

He responded “Join clubs, job shadow, ask adults what they do and how they got started…Don’t be shy, advocate for yourself.”

Dr. Gibson added “People like to tell their stories to students.”

Tesoro added, “They’ll talk to you all day.”