Full of Spirit: Elizabeth Saraceno

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Elizabeth Saraceno, 2009, Brooklyn NY

What are you up to? I manage sales for a liquor brand in Brooklyn.

How'd you get here? I moved to New York at age 18 for college at Pace University and I spent a year in Westchester, New York, about an hour north from midtown NYC. I quickly decided it wasn't for me. I ended up transferring to the city campus and moved into an apartment. I bartended throughout college to make extra money and ended up really falling in love with spirits and the cocktail scene. I spent my free time studying liquor and flavor profiles and traveled to distilleries and breweries to learn more. I got my first job working for a distributor selling small craft liquor in the lower east part of Manhattan. It was tough, my rent was $1,350 a month and I made $400 a week.. do the math. However, being surrounded by so many successful and progressive people only made me work harder. I was the youngest and one of the few females in the industry.. I had the odds against me but it only pushed me harder. I eventually moved into a different job, working directly for a supplier. I went from managing an area in Manhattan to managing a brand in all 5 boroughs. It was great for a while but soon I left to go back to a different, yet bigger liquor distributor, which is where I am now.

What are your goals? To become a manager for an entire division at a large liquor distributor, to live alone in Brooklyn, and to have a washer/dryer/dishwasher in my apartment.

What has been your biggest challenge? Moving to NYC at age 19, completely by yourself, is a struggle in itself. I see a lot of people I went to high school with that live in New York City stick together and that’s great, but I pride myself in moving somewhere and making new friends, a NYC family, my life. I feel like when you’re a kid and you’re growing up you adapt to the life your parents chose and you know nothing else; but to move to a place when you’re so young unafraid, I think that’s a challenge in itself. I love the life that I created, but the biggest challenge was doing everything alone; finding an apartment, moving in with strangers, starting new jobs, walking into new bars and restaurants to form relationships for work, and even something as simple as making friends. I’m grateful, a lot of people give up on NYC after the first couple years but I’m going on my 9th year here.

What has been your happiest moment? My happiest moments are always when I walk out of a bar (an account for work) and feel that I nailed the meeting. The account may have placed a large order and given me a cocktail placement on their menu, and I swear there’s no better feeling than feeling like you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Advice for WHS Students? You don’t have to do what you go to college for. Your major is just a guide to get your degree and if you’re passionate about something off the beaten path, there’s a job for it. Also, move out of Watertown. Get out of your comfort zone. Be friends with people who are different than you. Have conversations with people of different races, cultures, religions, upbringings. People have some crazy stories and you learn so much when you just listen. Also, nobody cares about who you were in high school. The real world doesn’t care. You don’t put prom queen on your resume.

If you could tell your high school self one thing, what would it be? I would tell myself to spend more time caring about people that matter. I spent a lot of time caring about all of the wrong things. I also stressed myself out over minuscule things.. things that I can’t even remember now because they’re so irrelevant. I would also tell myself that I’m really proud of you, for having the courage to move to NYC, because I truly love my life.

 

Townies Talk - Opening

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"Hi everyone! I’m Colleen Murphy and I’m the founder of TOWN Mag. We’re really excited to be here and meet you guys in real life. So, who here has heard of TOWN? Okay cool so around 3 of you. For those of you who don’t know what TOWN is, TOWN is a platform for WHS alumni to share their stories with the community, specifically you guys. I don’t get paid to run TOWN and literally no one asked me to do it. It really was just my own crazy idea. I started TOWN to make a positive impact on a community that I truly loved. There are three main reasons why, to reconnect and re-energize our community, create truthful education for WHS students about life after HS, and to include everyone in the conversation. 

Reason 1: Reconnect and Re-Energize

I really wanted reconnect and reenergize our small town community. I was determined to help future generations (you!) reach new heights and discover a multitude of divergent paths in life beyond the doors of Watertown High School. I never could have even imagined when I was in high school We were navigating the rough roads of reality but at the same time doing amazing things, things that. I kept thinking, what if our community knew the potential they had? What if we could see the steps taken to success, instead of just seeing the success and finding it to hard to accomplish, something we could never attain? What if we can add just a little bit of inspiration, from people grew up in our community and came from this town. I wanted to inspire townies and show what you can really do, even being from our small little town.

Reason 2: Truthful Education

Secondly, I wanted to tell truthful stories. There is no success without some sort of failure. I wanted you to know what really happens after high school so that you can make educated decisions about student loans, moving away from home, staying home, choosing a college, studying abroad, buying a car, ultimately finding yourself. By sharing the truth in our stories, we are sharing the most important and vulnerable part of ourselves, and that is what will really inspire.

Reason 3: Inspire Everyone

Third, I wanted to inspire everyone. My mission was to tell real and raw stories of success and failure and bridge the gap between students and alumni and that didn’t just mean college-bound students. I wanted to redefine success; that success could mean many different things to many different people and you don’t have to follow the rules. Maybe success is becoming a sergeant in the army, having a baby, overcoming depression, graduating from college, starting a business, even just finally figuring out exactly what you wanted to do in life. We should value every individual who contributes to society. I wanted every student at WHS to know your are worth something and that your story will matter too.

And so, TOWN Magazine was born.

And here we are. And today we have 6 speakers all Watertown Alumni, whose stories are extremely diverse. We’ll each have 5 minutes to share our stories and then we will answer your questions and break up into smaller groups to meet personally."

Sponsor Highlight: The Quiet Zone

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Thank you to The Quiet Zone for renewing your sponsorship for 2018. The Quiet Zone has locations in Watertown, Bantam, Thomaston, Orange and they are opening a new location in Torrington. The best part? The business is run by WHS alumni. In 1990, the first Quiet Zone location opened its doors in Thomaston and it's been growing ever since.

They are currently looking to hire a technician full-time in their Thomaston location. Are there any WHS alumni technician's out there? Apply today and also, share your story with us to inspire some WHS townies.

 

Our Newest Sponsor - Labonne's Market

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We are super excited to announce our newest sponsor LaBonne's Markets. LaBonne's Markets is a vital part of the Watertown community, from hiring WHS students and graduates to providing important weekly groceries to the neighborhood. 

From horse and buggy, to main street butcher shop, to three stores and over 300 associates, Labonne's has an important history in our town. We couldn't be more excited that they are support us and our efforts.

"We have had over 50 marriages from people who met while working at our store, including me and my wife Shelley who a was a cashier at our original store. I tease my dad, that was his best hire ever!" - Robert Labonne Jr.

 This was an 80's (you can tell by the big hair) Christmas party with a lot of WTN students. This was most of the front end cashiers.

This was an 80's (you can tell by the big hair) Christmas party with a lot of WTN students. This was most of the front end cashiers.

Have you worked at LaBonne's and graduated from Watertown High School? Share your story today, we'd love to hear from you!

Pharma Life: Jennifer Donato

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Jennifer Donato, 2011, Oakville, CT

What are you up to? Currently, I am in my last year of pharmacy school at the University of Saint Joseph School of Pharmacy in Downtown Hartford. This program is unlike a traditional pharmacy school where you do 2 years of pre-pharmacy and 4 years of pharmacy; instead at USJ SOP, you must received a bachelors degree prior to being accepted and then do 3 full calendar years of pharmacy. I am also in the process of applying to pharmacy residency programs.

How'd you get here? After graduating from WHS, I attended at the University of Bridgeport and received my bachelors of science in health sciences. Unlike a lot of people who I knew in high school, I knew that I wanted to do something in the healthcare profession, specifically pharmacy. So during my time at UB, I took prerequisites for pharmacy school, along with your general education courses, and courses in health sciences. It was super stressful applying to pharmacy school because I had to maintain a pretty high GPA in order to be competitive, my personal statement needed to be unique, and if the school was interested in me, I had to go through an interview process. And as a young adult at the time, I had never had to go through a professional interview. While going to school, I also had a part time job at ShopRite Pharmacy in Southbury. This job really solidified the fact that I wanted to go to pharmacy school and become a pharmacist. By March 2015, I knew I was accepted into USJ SOP and was excited to continue on the journey towards a rewarding career.

What are your goals? My goals for the future is to become a clinical pharmacist in a hospital. I would love to be board certified in critical care, where I can work in an ICU. This would require me to do two years of residency.

What has been your biggest challenge? My biggest challenge was during my junior year of college. At UB they have a contract with UCONN where I could apply to their pharmacy school and I'd be looked at as a UCONN student rather than an outsider applying to their program. At the time, I did apply, but unfortunately did not get an interview. Although this may not seem like a challenge to most, I was devastated and had to decide whether or not I wanted to try again the following year and earn a bachelors degree as well. If this didn't happen to me, I wouldn't be where I am today.

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What has been your happiest moment? My happiest moment was this past September/October. I was in Arizona/New Mexico for school, working at Gallup Indian Medical Center. This hospital is for Navajo Native Americans who live on the reservation. They are underserved and struggle everyday. At this hospital, there are pharmacy run clinics where the pharmacists see the patients and change medication therapy depending on what clinic the pharmacist is working in. The clinics ranges from diabetes to asthma clinic, as well as anticoagulation (blood thinner) clinic to HIV clinic. I also had the opportunity to live on the reservation. It was definitely a culture shock. There is nothing for miles around and some people are still live without running water or electricity. It was a meaningful experience to understand how the Navajo people live. On a positive note, I did get to do some traveling and see parts of the United States that I didn't think I would ever be able to see.

Advice for WHS Students? If you know what you want to do right out of high school, go for it! It might not be easy and you may not succeed right away, but in the end it will be worth it. Work hard and don't let others bring you down for wanting to do something different. This is your life and you only get one of them.

If you could tell your high school self one thing, what would it be? Confidence is something that you gain over time.

The Good Life: Paul Frohn

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Paul Frohn, 1979, Portsmouth, NH

What are you up to? Retired Air Force and currently in the FEMA Reserves

 How'd you get here? Stationed at Pease AFB 1981. Since I left Watertown/Oakville, I have had a lot of adventures. I completed the last item on my bucket list in September when I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge on a bike. February 23rd, my grandson was born, so all I have left to do in life is to enjoy life itself. I hope my fellow graduates were able to find their life adventures like I have. My military goals started when I was going to Swift Junior High and it is still going in retirement. 

What are your goals? Happiness.

What has been your biggest challenge? Don't have any.

What has been your happiest moment? Family.

Advice for WHS Students? Follow your dreams and complete your bucket list ASAP.

If you could tell your high school self one thing, what would it be? Do not worry about what others think. Follow your dreams ASAP and don't be afraid to ask. If you don't ask, you are stuck with a no.

Accepting the Unexpected: Nathaniel Habegger

Nathaniel Habegger, 2009, Manhattan, New York

What are you up to? I currently work as a Creative Coordinator for a marketing firm in downtown Manhattan. I manage social media and in-house photography. I also help with ideation of events/marketing plans and I contract talent. In addition to my full-time job, I run my own menswear blog and manage social media channels daily. On top of it all, I shoot photos professionally for clients and for my own blog.

How'd you get here? Well, before moving to New York, I wanted to be an actor. I acted in all of the high school shows, loved music, and was incredibly passionate about that career path. Six terrible auditions and college rejection letters later, I realized that acting was too much rejection for me to handle. At this point in my life, I had put all of my eggs in one basket and assured myself that being on Broadway was the ultimate goal. Also, at this point in my life, I had taken advantage of a teacher-student relationship to change my grades in the school computer system. This act of tom-foolery lead me into an emotional downward spiral (as I was almost expelled months before graduating high school.. terrifying). I fell from the pedestal I had put myself on and didn't know who I was anymore or what I was going to do. I felt like a delinquent and that I would never recover from this mistake. So after graduating in 2009, I took the summer to figure out what I wanted to do. I always loved fashion and I loved art. I went to Western Connecticut State University for a year to gain credits before transferring to a private school in Manhattan called The Laboratory Institute of Merchandising. I wish someone had told me that none of my credits from Western would transfer to LIM, but that’s ok. What’s another loan to pay off right? 

I moved to New York and thought I was the best. Come to find out, everyone in New York is the best and I was the worst of the best (or maybe a little better than the worst, but still.. small fish big pond situation). I worked for Coach as a Visual Merchandiser for about 4 years. A Visual Merchandiser is a term used in the fashion/retail industry for someone who creates window displays. I left that job to start working as a Creative Coordinator, which is what I do now. In the process of all of this, I started my own menswear blog and made insane connections with people all over the city through Instagram.

What are your goals? I want to write a book, open a restaurant, take beautiful photographs, open a ceramics studio and start a fashion company. It’d be really cool if I could do all of that, but we’ll see.

What has been your biggest challenge? Self acceptance. I think the hardest part of this journey (which by the way is still JUST starting) has been accepting myself for who I am and not who I think people want me to be. After high school, I left the comfort of home, family, and friends. I had such a strong sense of self and was incredibly confident. Moving to New York really knocked me down a few pegs. It made me see life on a much larger scale. Figuring out who you are is an ever going project that seems endless, and it kind of is. Figuring out how to love the part of yourself that has flaws and that part of yourself that you don’t like is the biggest challenge. It’s the most rewarding when you overcome all of that; when you can sit with yourself and appreciate who you are through and through. By the way - I’m still working on that…it ain’t easy kids.

What has been your happiest moment? There are a couple happy moments I've had recently. One being the day I started my current job. Another would be being featured in a digital campaign for Uniqlo. Both really made me feel like I had made it even though I’m still fighting to make it!

Advice for WHS Students? Start to look outside yourself. Start to be curious about what else is out there in the world. Watertown is an amazing town to grow up in, but I think it’s incredibly beneficial to look beyond the horizon to see what other opportunities are out there. How can you appreciate something if you never lose it? Another tidbit of advice: If your dreams don’t come true immediately, that doesn’t mean they never will. Some dreams don’t come true (like me being on Broadway because I’m not a knock out actor, but was passionate about it!) but your dreams can morph. Allow yourself to accept the ebb and flow that is life. You won’t win them all, but if you do something that makes you feel fulfilled, you’ll be happy. You can reinvent yourself everyday, and should. ALSO: You’ll realize how lovely being in high school is the second you step into the real world.. so enjoy it while it lasts.

If you could tell your high school self one thing, what would it be? I would tell my high school self to shut up and sit down. I was so cocky in high school. I thought no one could touch me and that I was the best. Turns out, I was really lazy and kind of a jerk. Don’t get me wrong, I think most people who knew me would agree I was a good kid, but I was definitely not interested in working hard in class. I’d also tell my high school self that I can do anything I put my mind to and then to actually put my mind to it instead of sitting waiting for life to happen.