Students, counselors share tips for success at Great Neck forum

Willis Lin, Nicole Hicks, Ramya Kumar, Jo-Anneyre Cruz, and Michael Neary share tips for student success. (Photo by John Nugent)
Willis Lin, Nicole Hicks, Ramya Kumar, Jo-Anneyre Cruz, and Michael Neary share tips for student success. (Photo by John Nugent)

By John Nugent

Before a large audience at the Great Neck Main Library on Tuesday evening, a panel of faculty and former students of the Great Neck schools discussed the challenges faced by students and parents before, during, and after college.

“The Many Formulas for Success, High School, College and Beyond,” was the subject of a forum sponsored by the United Parent-Teacher Council and the Great Neck Chinese Association.

In his opening remarks, Stephen Lando, the assistant superintendent of secondary education, said of the student panelists that, “Their paths to success, though different, have much in common.”

Each student gave a brief background of his or her personal experience and then outlined the path they have taken to where they are today.

Ramya Kumar was born in New Zealand, moved to Tennessee and came to Great Neck in the 8th grade. She graduated from Great Neck South High School in 2016.

Kumar spoke of how she had to consider her interests versus those of her parents as she set her career path. She said she had a great interest in art and science and wanted a college with a strong program in research. She chose Stony Brook University after asking herself, “What experiences do I want from a school?”

“Doing research and art kept me going in high school,” Kumar added.

Nicole Hicks went through the Great Neck schools from kindergarten, graduating from South High School in 2014 – where she said she had “no idea what I wanted to do.”

Undecided on a college, she said, she enrolled in Nassau Community where she earned a 3.9 GPA and went on to graduate magna cum laude from Adelphi University.

Seeing many of her friends go away to college was difficult for Hicks but she decided the right path for her was to stay near home.

“Going with my gut on not going away,” as she put it, proved to be the right decision as she excelled in college and later found a very rewarding job at ADP Company.

After spending his early years in Queens, Willis Lin came to Great Neck as a freshman. He is a 2014 graduate of North High School.

“I always had a passionate love for science” Lin said, adding that he hoped to go to medical school.

That led him to St. John’s University where he was offered a full scholarship. He stressed the importance of “self-discipline.”

“Paint a picture in your mind of where you want to be later,” he advised the students in the audience but also said, “Keep the future in your mind but do not miss out on the present.”

Lin has been accepted at two medical schools and is awaiting word from others before making a final decision.

Currently, a U.S. Army officer, Lt. Paul Lee joined the discussion via FaceTime from the New England School of Medicine where he will earn a DO in 2021. Lee, a member of South High School Class of 2011, graduated from SUNY Geneseo.

He advised parents to “Let your child make the final decision on college” and stressed to the students the value of being “persistent” when seeking a goal.

In looking for the right career path, Willis Lin remarked, “Try to seek out as many opportunities as you can. Do not be afraid to take risks.”

“You will encounter failure before success,” Ramya Kumar added.

Michael Neary, the director of guidance at North High School, emphasized the “big picture” in searching for a college and a career. He also said he and his staff use a “holistic approach” when guiding students and that finding “the right fit” is critical.

Neary encouraged students to be involved in school studies and activities. “The students who completely engage in high school go on to success,” he said.

“Have conversations with students about who they are,” commented Jo-Anneyre Cruz, South High’s guidance director. “If students don’t know who they are, how can they know what’s a good fit? College is not the end goal, it’s just one piece to the puzzle.”

Cruz added, “Education is the ability to find a passion that will find a path to success.”

Lando closed the evening by speaking of finding support systems to help students deal with the stresses of moving away and encountering new relationships. In addition, he said it was important to find the right balance between studies and extracurricular activities.

Ultimately though, Lando noted, “There is no one formula for success.”

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