OC’s First Career Symposium

Meghan Pavlick '21, Staff Writer

On January 24, Oakland Catholic hosted its first annual Career Symposium for ninth and tenth graders. This event introduced all of us to various career paths and gave us career options to think about. We all started the day with a presentation from the guidance counselors about professional etiquette, business dress, and interview tips. Later that day, we heard a keynote address by Demeatria Boccella, a woman working hard to broaden the fashion industry, who founded FashionAFRICANA. She spoke to us about her upbringing, career, projects, and goals for the future. Ms. Boccella was such an inspiring woman to listen to because of all of the glass ceilings she has broken in the world of fashion and modeling.

My first session was “Women as Entrepreneurs.” This was my favorite session because of the way all of the women presented and their unique careers. Alexis Allen, a wedding and event planner, told us about her various career aspirations through high school and college, ending with how she ultimately came to be a wedding and event planner with one of her good friends. Cassie Mabee (OCHS ’07), an interior designer, talked about her college life as well as what exactly she does as an interior designer. While she was speaking, she played a slideshow featuring some of her recent projects, impressing the girls with her talent for design. Also present was Alison Mears, the owner of Steel Revolution, a Pittsburgh spin studio where Ms. Mears operates the business and teaches classes. Ms. Mears taught spin classes in college for extra money, but never thought she could make a career out of something that she enjoyed, leaving girls with the message that they can find work they love. Brenda Murphy (CHS ’83), president at BGW Consulting and Associates, also presented during the Women as Entrepreneurs session. All of these women were very inspiring and honest about their experiences finding their individual careers.

My next session was “Medicine: Doctors, Research, and so Much More.” The first speaker was Jodie Martin Vento OCHS ’01, a genetic counselor. She educated us on the specifics of her job and the schooling she experienced to have that career. Next was Sarah Daniel, co-owner at Shape Training. She helps her clients get in shape and become their best selves. Then Carlie Totten OCHS ’07, a physician assistant, presented. She talked about her experience at Oakland Catholic and her schooling to have this career.  Lastly, we heard from Dr. Rowena Pingul-Ravano, MD, director, Centering Pregnancy UPMC Shadyside Family Medicine Residency Program. She talked to us about her heritage and her individual experience going through medical school. She also talked to us about what it is like being a mom and a doctor and the challenges that come with that rewarding experience.

My last session was “Advocacy and Community Development.” The first speaker was Shannon Vukmir OCHS ’97, a partner at Sitko Brunner. She told us about her experience of being a real-estate lawyer in this day and age where so much happens online and the worry that there will be less of a need for physical buildings in the near future. Next was Caroline Fitzgerald OCHS ’08, a business development manager for the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon. She presented the requirements to have this kind of job and what she does on a day-to-day basis. The next presenter was Melissa Cooper, the vice president of Girl Scouts in Western Pennsylvania. She spoke about what Girl Scouts does for the community and some of their upcoming events and goals. The last presenter was Giovania Tiarachristie OCHS ’09, a neighborhood planner in New York. She presented us via Skype, so her presentation was hard to understand at times, but she talked about exactly what she does for a living and how much of a need there is for urban and neighborhood planners.

Overall, the Career Symposium was a success. I spoke to girls who attended some of the other sessions who also gave great reviews of the presenters. One of the big messages was that no one knew what exactly they wanted to with their lives, but they all found their calling. All of the women were very inspiring and had interesting careers. The day was very enjoyable for the students and had very positive feedback.