Tag Archives: Victoria Capozzi

Say Thank You. Please.

Right after graduation last year, I posted this story on “06880.” I’ve had requests to run it again — this time a bit earlier. Done!

It’s a big, important — and time-consuming — part of a Staples guidance counselor’s job: writing college recommendations.

With 45 to 55 seniors a year — and each one taking 30 minutes to 2 hours to compose, based on feedback from the student, teachers, coaches, music and drama directors, community members and others — that’s a lot of work.

Because their school days are full, counselors often write recommendations on their own time, at home.

However, writing college recs is not part of a Staples teacher’s (or coach’s, or other staff member’s)  job description.

Officially, that is.

But students often ask. And — because their job is helping teenagers succeed — those teachers often oblige.

On their own time.

The most popular teachers are asked to write dozens of recommendations (and other references — for scholarships, summer programs, etc.) — a year.

You’d think that students would show their thanks with a note — or at least a heartfelt email.

You’d also think that students would eagerly share their acceptances — and final college decisions — with the folks who played at least a tiny role in helping them get in.

Some do.

But nowhere near as many as you think.

Victoria Capozzi

Victoria Capozzi — a longtime Staples guidance counselor, who like her colleagues works hard to craft every recommendation to each student’s personality, accomplishments and goals — describes the ins and outs, ups and downs, rewards and disappointments of college rec writing.

“Kids may not realize, but adults are truly invested in them, throughout the entire process,” she said.

“The teenage brain doesn’t see it that way. They just see it as a checklist item on their college application.”

Once a student completes the application, Capozzi explained, “the teenage brain shuts down. It’s done.”

It’s important, she noted, for adults to remind students of the importance of “a gracious thank-you.” Email is “the minimum.” The best option is a handwritten note, delivered in person.

Those are “old school values,” Capozzi admitted. But they exist for a reason.

She showed an example of a great note. It meant so much, she stuck it on her file cabinet.

But a thank-you like that is rare. Capozzi had 48 seniors last year — young men and women she started with as freshmen. Only 8 wrote notes.

“I don’t need accolades,” Capozzi stressed. “I’m their counselor. I know where they’re going. But teachers pour their hearts and souls into their letters. It’s just common courtesy to let them know where you’ve decided to go.”

She added, “I don’t want to sound negative. These are great kids, and great families. I just want to stress the importance of this.”

Staples’ guidance department tries to educate students and parents about the value of this courtesy. It’s in the PowerPoint presentation made during junior and senior years. Counselors also mention it in face-to-face meetings — including the senior “exit interviews.”

“Don’t forget to thank your teachers!” they say.

Sadly, many do.

Shane Lozyniak Lights Up The Workforce

It’s not exactly stop-the-presses news: Westport is a town of high expectations.

Parents expect that their kids will go to college — the more prestigious, the better. Kids expect that they’ll spend time in high school polishing their transcripts and resumes.

Everyone expects the “college process” to be a stressful time. They’re right.

There seem to be few options for young Westporters who want a different path. Fortunately for Shane Lozyniak, he found his own.

His family has lived in Westport for generations. Shane went to Greens Farms Elementary School, Bedford Middle and then Staples High. From a young age he loved using his hands. Motors, old electronics — if he could mess around with them, he did.

At high school he was not involved in extracurricular activities. He did not have to be. He had Mike Sansur.

Shane Lozyniak wired this electrical panel in Mike Sansur’s class.

Shane had heard about the Technology Education class from his older brother. As a freshman, he took TechEd 1. Sansur’s course introduced him to things he’d never had a chance to do in school. He turned a lamp on a lathe, and built a shelf.

Shane took Sansur’s classes every year. During free periods and other extra time, he headed back to the lab.

When Shane’s school counselor, Christine Talerico, mentioned to her colleague  Victoria Capozzi that Shane looked her in the eye, and said he was not interested in a traditional 4-year college — he preferred something more hands-on — both women took note.

That’s rare at Staples. It’s also important, and refreshing.

Capozzi — who calls herself “a hands-on girl” — asked Shane to take the lead role in building a mobile cart. The department uses it around the school, as a “branch office.” It’s a hit with everyone.

Vicki Capozzi, Shane Lozyniak and the mobile cart he built for the school counselors.

Capozzi notes that she and her fellow counselors sometimes hear Staples graduates say they’re leaving college to pursue a trade, enter a certificate program or do other work.

“Having a kid like Shane know in advance of his desire to learn a trade and work is very refreshing,” she says.

(In fact, last week the guidance department held a post-secondary school planning meeting for parents of juniors. “We told them there are lots of pathways that don’t involve a 4-year college,” Capozzi says.)

Shane was particularly fascinated by electronics. It was “sparked” when Sansur — whose Tech Ed program caters to a diverse population of students and interests — introduced Shane’s class to electrical theory and schematics. They create and test a variety of circuits commonly found in homes.

The chance to work hard at something, then see it all come together — literally lighting up a room — was very satisfying.

Shane eagerly and adeptly turned electrical theories into reality. He designed and fabricated a steam generator that set a school record for greatest voltage produced.

He also tore down and rebuilt a small gas engine. He then used that knowledge to repair mowers that other students brought in.

Shane Lozyniak

For his senior internship, Shane spent a month with Yankee Electric. It was a way to see if that’s what he really wanted for a career.

It was. He liked the experience so much, near the end he asked about an apprenticeship. They were delighted to have him.

Several months into the 4-year process, Shane says he’s “really learning the basics of the trade. There are a lot of basics.”

At night, he’s taking a class at Lincoln Tech in Shelton. He’s been helped by a Mike Rowe Scholarship.

The Rowe Foundation’s mission is to “help close the skills gap by challenging the stigmas and stereotypes that discourage people from pursuing the millions of available jobs. We’re redefining the definition of a good education and a good job, because we don’t think a 4-year degree is the best path for the most people.”

Shane heard about the fund when a Lincoln Tech rep came to Staples. As part of the application process, he had to make a video.

“I’m not a big talker,” Shane says. But Capozzi convinced him to do it. He was chosen as one of 182 recipients nationwide.

The class he’s taking — after a full day of work — does not leave much time for anything else.

That’s fine with Shane. He’s pursuing something he loves.

In a town of high expectations, Shane Lozyniak is already well on the path to success.

Say “Thank You.” Please.

It’s a big, important — and time-consuming — part of a Staples guidance counselor’s job: writing college recommendations.

With 45 to 55 seniors a year — and each one taking 30 minutes to 2 hours to compose, based on feedback from the student, teachers, coaches, music and drama directors, community members and others — that’s a lot of work.

Because their school days are full, counselors often write recommendations on their own time, at home.

However, writing college recs is not part of a Staples teacher’s (or coach’s, or other staff member’s)  job description.

Officially, that is.

But students often ask. And — because their job is helping teenagers succeed — those teachers often oblige.

On their own time.

The most popular teachers are asked to write dozens of recommendations (and other references — for scholarships, summer programs, etc.) — a year.

You’d think that students would show their thanks with a note — or at least a heartfelt email.

You’d also think that students would eagerly share their acceptances — and final college decisions — with the folks who played at least a tiny role in helping them get in.

Some do.

But nowhere near as many as you think.

Victoria Capozzi

Victoria Capozzi — a longtime Staples guidance counselor, who like her colleagues works hard to craft every recommendation to each student’s personality, accomplishments and goals — talked recently about the ins and outs, ups and downs, rewards and disappointments of college rec writing.

“Kids may not realize, but adults are truly invested in them, throughout the entire process,” she said.

“The teenage brain doesn’t see it that way. They just see it as a checklist item on their college application.”

Once a student completes the application, Capozzi explained, “the teenage brain shuts down. It’s done.”

It’s important, she noted, for adults to remind students of the importance of “a gracious thank-you.” Email is “the minimum.” The best option is a handwritten note, delivered in person.

Those are “old school values,” Capozzi admitted. But they exist for a reason.

She showed an example of a great note. It meant so much, she stuck it on her file cabinet.

But a thank-you like that is rare. Capozzi had 48 seniors this year — young men and women she started with as freshmen. Only 8 wrote notes.

“I don’t need accolades,” Capozzi stressed. “I’m their counselor. I know where they’re going. But teachers pour their hearts and souls into their letters. It’s just common courtesy to let them know where you’ve decided to go.”

She added, “I don’t want to sound negative. These are great kids, and great families. I just want to stress the importance of this.”

Staples’ guidance department tries to educate students and parents about the value of this courtesy. It’s in the PowerPoint presentation made during junior and senior years. Counselors also mention it in face-to-face meetings — including the senior “exit interviews.”

“Don’t forget to thank your teachers!” they say.

Sadly, many do.