Stories of Hope: Meet Emma Warzynski, a 2017 graduate from Stratford STEM Magnet High School. Originally from Canada, Emma faced a great deal of struggles assimilating into the American classroom, and she graduated as Salutatorian of her class. She began Austin Peay University this fall to pursue a career in occupational therapy.
“I have overcome a lot of barriers to get here,” she says, “I’m originally from Canada, so I didn’t know anything about what they were teaching at all. I didn’t even know how to spell my last name in the first grade. I didn’t know how to read until second grade.”
A naturally shy person who had a lot of social insecurities, she credits her experience in JTG with giving her the social skills necessary for not only her future career but a major public speaking engagement – her Salutatorian speech: “As a person who has stage fright, it has really helped me. I actually have to give a speech at graduation, so I would be a nervous wreck.”
She says the most important part of the JTG program is the real-world applicability that the classroom her JTG Specialist, Daniel Smith, provides, “JTG to me gave me leadership skills by giving me chances at leadership positions in the classrooms. Working on leadership skills, it shows you how to work in a team better. We go through how an interview would work, how a job would work, and what you need to do, and what it really requires. They don’t normally teach you that in high school, so kids go out into the workforce and have no clue. They don’t know, “Oh, I have to go here every day, I have to dress nice, I have to know how to talk to people. JTG gives you that step to go further – and how to do it properly.”
Her favorite part of the year was learning from the guest speakers they’ve had, such as executives from Comcast and Sheraton Hotels and felt that they offered valuable information on securing a position and advancing in the corporate world.
She notes that many high school graduates who are not college-bound find themselves in the workforce with their only option being low-paying fast-food jobs, which she is quick to say, “There’s nothing wrong with that. But unless you have long-term goals of working over years into the management sector of that company, you’re not really going to go anywhere. It doesn’t give you the chance to move up to find stability.” She believes that JTG’s program opens students’ horizons by giving them the skills and confidence needed to secure high-paying jobs with large-scale corporations right out of high school, something that she believes many of her peers do not know or recognize.
She says, “JTG helps students learn skills they need for their lives and to get out of whatever environment they are in, especially if it is not the greatest. You’re given an opportunity that high school classrooms don’t normally teach you.”
Seeing her own life and the lives of her fellow JTG graduates change over the course of a year makes her believe that if it were offered to all her peers, they also would recognize their own potential to strive for jobs that would enable them to move up in their careers.
***Editing note: In the original post, it stated that Emma did not learn to read until middle school. It has been changed to accurately say second grade.