Danbury, CT – With thousands of career choices, students can be overwhelmed at a time when they are often asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” To help, Immaculate High School (IHS) held its annual Career Day recently and invited IHS alumni to share information about their professional experiences with students.
Representatives from the field of aerospace/systems engineering, architecture, the armed services, education, event planning, fashion, finance, government, human resources, information technology, international banking/finance, law, law enforcement, marketing, medicine, psychology, nursing, speech, occupational and physical therapies, sales, sports marketing and small business addressed the students.
Ralph Scozzafava, CEO of Fortune 500 Dean Foods Company and a 1976 graduate of Immaculate High School and member of the IHS Athletic Hall of Fame, was keynote speaker. He spoke to students about planning for your future self: define what success means to you individually, set challenging goals for yourself, have a Plan A, B and C and remember to be the kind of person everyone wants to be around.
“When planning for a career, first think: what does success mean for you? Success will be different for everyone; it will be yours and yours alone,” said Mr. Scozzafava. “And when you think about the success you want, think about what people will think of you…you want to be perceived as a person of faith and integrity, one who does good things,” he noted, adding that “people who focus only on money are by far the most unsuccessful and the least happy.”
Setting big and challenging goals is very important according to Mr. Scozzafava. “Dreams that don’t turn into goals are just fantasy and don’t result in reality — make and commit to your goals,” he said. Mr. Scozzafava told the students that “it’s not the destination you choose as much as the trajectory – every goal you set for yourself has to stretch and challenge you.”
Mr. Scozzafava informed the students that it takes 10,000 hours to master a goal, but that as you work towards the goal it becomes fun. “Folks that don’t stick with it don’t have the fun,” he said. And having plans A, B and C are also imperative, as well as having the willingness to be flexible about your plans and the ability to transfer your skills and knowledge from one plan to another. “Sometimes Plan C ends up being the best plan,” he noted.
But perhaps most important, according to Mr. Scozzafava, is being careful how you treat other people. “Treat each other with trust, dignity and respect — at the end of the day, the most important thing about you is your character, and you are learning about this, as well as right from wrong, from your teachers at Immaculate High School right now,” he said.
After graduating from Immaculate High School, Mr. Scozzafava attended the University of Pacific in Stockton, CA where he majored in business and played college basketball. He went on to earn an MBA from the University of Rhode Island and completed the KMI graduate program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His career path included working in sales, marketing and merchandising for many global companies such as Campbell Soup Company, Clorox Company, Johnson and Johnson, Furniture Brands International and the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company. Mr. Scozzafava is currently Chief Executive Officer of the Dean Foods Company, located in Dallas, Texas and is very involved in community service for major non-profit organizations.
“Immaculate is fortunate to have the strong support of our alumni and members of the community in helping students to choose a career path,” said Denise Suarez, IHS Director of Alumni Relations. “Nearly 30 guest presenters, predominantly alumni, joined us for the event. It was another great day to be a Mustang, as our students had the opportunity to meet and learn from so many professionals who graciously shared their time and talents,” she added.
Mrs. Suarez noted that many of the presenters traveled lengthy distances and all took time off from their busy work days to serve as presenters and role models to IHS students. “The alumni presenters were happy to give back to their school and serve as advisers to today’s IHS students,” she said. The students’ overall response to Career Day was very positive, with many saying that they enjoyed connecting with the alumni presenters and that they found the keynote address inspiring.
Immaculate High School is a private, non-profit Catholic college-preparatory institution serving students from 28 communities in Connecticut and New York. Founded in 1962, Immaculate High School also allows students to focus on their spiritual development, personal moral commitments and service to others. Located in Danbury, CT, Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s parochial school system.