"The materials that we produce and the stories that we share, can be easily applied to guidance councilors helping students figure out college decisions or teachers helping a student cope through a tough time. Many alumni are open to connecting with students and answering questions about career choices and student loans."
Teachers, councilors, administration, reach out to us! We're here to help.
Read more here:
We're so excited that CrossFit Reload has sponsored us for the second year in a row. CrossFit Reload has been in the Watertown since 2007 and is the Watertown community's first CrossFit gym. The best news: they are growing! They'll be moving to a much larger box this May, and to be true to their Watertown roots, of course they are staying in town!
Our first inaugural Townies Talk 2018 event was superb and we couldn’t be more excited. Around 40 Watertown High School students filed into the assembly room while alumni caught up about their lives. Alumni told their stories about vastly different paths in life and gave great advice while students listened (we didn't see one single cell phone pulled out). It was so awesome to be offline and in reality. We really appreciate the teachers who encouraged students to attend the event and we think the 90 minutes was valuable time that not only helped students understand specific careers paths, but also life in general.
Some great advice given:
“I realized how easy it was to apply myself.”
“Contact your college for expectations ahead of time.”
“I regret not working harder in high school. You may think it’s funny to forget your homework and say a stupid excuse to make the class laugh, but it’s just not.”
“Even if you love something, you still need to fight for it.”
“Take your time, there is no rush to figure out what you want to do.”
I was surprised to hear that many Watertown High School students didn’t know that TOWN existed and it really got me thinking about our strategy. We strive to be a vital resource for teachers, guidance councilors, and the administration. The materials that we produce and the stories that we share, can be easily applied to guidance councilors helping students figure out college decisions or teachers helping a student cope through a tough time. Many alumni are open to connecting with students and answering questions about career choices and student loans. Teachers, please feel free to reach out to TOWN and use us as a resource. Join our e-mail list so that you will receive updates when new TOWN stories are published, ask us questions, print these stories out, let your students know about this important resource. In the mean time, we’ll be working on a strategy too. One thing I’m hoping is to be able to reach the entire school with our stories, now it’s just time to figure out how to do it.
In the evening, we all got together at Fino Wood Fired Pizzeria on Main Street to enjoy some delicious pizza for our Townies Talk After Hours networking event. Soon, these online story-tellers turned into my friends; we all live very different lives but we all share one important hometown. The conversations were inspirational, intelligent and hilarious. We laughed and plotted our next TOWN move. I couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out.
Thank you to Chelsea Kyle, Nate Habegger, Matt O’Meara, Emily O’Conner, Matt Dwyer and Lauren Vail for traveling to Watertown and taking time out of your busy lives to participate. Thank you to Nicole Lewis and Michelle Baim for helping organize the event. Thank you to the multiple teachers who saw the value and brought their classes to the event. I’m excited for the future of TOWN, and I truly hope that we can figure out a way to reach every student.
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.
"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."
Don't know how to share your story? We got you covered.
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.
We asked WHS alumni to submit artwork, and they seriously delivered. We had over 20 pieces submitted and displayed and we couldn't have done it without the artists themselves. Thank you Lindsey Parenteau, Janet Galasso, Robby Piazzaroli, Amanda Deschenes, Taylor Kelly, Karina Sorensen, Chelsea Kyle, Sarina Maynard, Bri Pitino, Liz Langlais, Colleen Murphy and Justin Coulter for submitting your work.
Check out their work and district artwork in the gallery above and then if you are an artist, share your story with us!
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.
Have you worked at LaBonne's and graduated from Watertown High School? Share your story today, we'd love to hear from you!
Calling all artists! Watertown High School and TOWN are looking for art submissions from WHS alumni to showcase in the WHS Art Show Wednesday, April 4, 2018. We want your art! Not only will it be viewed by the community at Watertown High School, it will be on display during our Townies Talk event and on our website.
Please sign up to submit artwork by submitting your name and e-mail address below and we will follow up with details on how to submit your art. If you are not located in Watertown, you can send us the files/photographs of your art and we will send it to be printed at the high school. We're looking for all forms of art submissions from photography, paintings, mixed media, sculpture, to video submissions. We're excited to see what you've created since your days in high school!
Deadline to submit: Friday, March 23, 2018
While you are at it, share your story too!
On Friday April 13, 2018 TOWN and WHS will be hosting Townies Talk. We’re excited to announce that we are partnering with WHS to host a Townies Talk Panel at Watertown High School and an Alumni Networking Dinner at Fino Wood Fired Pizza. Alumni Story Tellers are invited to return to the high school to share their stories, answer questions, and inspire current WHS students. We’re excited to be off-line and in real-life, to share ideas, and inspire the community!
8:30am - 11:00am - Townies Talk Breakfast Panel
Alumni are invited to Watertown High School for breakfast, coffee, and storytelling. Story tellers will share their stories with WHS students. The first portion of the morning will be devoted to sharing stories and answering student questions. We will then break up into smaller groups based upon career/interest to answer questions and talk personally with students. Confirmed speakers are: Chelsea Kyle, Nathaniel Habegger Matthew O'Meara, Emily O'Connor, Matthew Dwyer and Lauren Vail. *Note: Townies Talk Breakfast Panel is not open to the public; this event is specificly for WHS students, staff, speakers, and volunteers only.
Story tellers and volunteers will have the rest of the afternoon free. We recommend setting up shop at the local Starbucks or heading out to Hawk Ridge Winery for the views and a taste-testing. Of course, we also recommend getting together with old friends or visiting family first!
5:00pm - 8:00pm - Townies Talk After Hours
Story tellers, volunteers, sponsors, students and WHS alumni, join us for pizza and networking at Fino Wood Fired Pizza on Friday, April 13 2018. We are so grateful for our storytellers who have taken the time to share with the community, we wanted to say thank you and what better way than with pizza!
All Watertown High School alumni are encouraged to stop by for a slice on us. We also encourage current WHS students to attend.
You can find the Facebook event to RSVP here: Townies Talk After Hours *Note: Townies Talk After hours is open to the public.
Note: Participating in Townies Talk and sharing your story is considered community service; if you need a confirmation letter that you are donating your time for the good of the community to send to your boss or company to get time off please let us know.
Are you interested in sharing your story? Share it today and attend Townies Talk in April.
Like what we are doing? We need funds to keep things like this going! Donate today and help us create the best experience for Townies Talk.
Now that you’ve graduated (congratulations!) and have some free time on your hands, we thought of some classic movies that would be seriously beneficial to watch on a rainy night this summer.Read More
Happy New Year Townies! 2017 was a brilliant year for TOWN. We are excited for what 2018 has in store for us. We've got a few things in the works (think TED Talks but Watertown-style) and we are very excited to get working on it. Thanks for following along with us. Keep supporting us in 2018, find us on social media and spread the word to friends.
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.
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.
Paul Frohn, 1979, Portsmouth, NH
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.
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.
We are looking for WHS alumni writers and artists to contribute to TOWN Mag. We have some goals to exemplify the character of Watertown, help to preserve it's history, and throw a bit of new knowledge out there to WHS students.
Get in touch with us to be a featured photographer, videographer or writer in 2018.
Anthony Salerno, Class of 2009, Northern Virginia
What are you up to? I am coming up on my 6th year anniversary of serving in the United States Army. I hold the rank of Sergeant and I am Military Police, but I currently work as a Protective Agent for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, so I travel constantly, and never know where I am going to be next.
How'd you get here? Well, when I graduated in 2009 I started working right away for Naugatuck Ambulance as an EMT. After a few years ( in 2011) I decided it was time for a change and applied to the Savannah, GA Fire Department. When that did not work out (they were put on a hiring freeze) I decided to join the military. I knew that I wanted to continue to help people in whatever way I could, and I felt that being a MP would give me more opportunities than being a medic.
On January 9, 2012 I went to Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. After 5 months, I graduated and went off to my first unit (512th MP Co) which was also on Fort Leonard Wood. Right around July 2012 my company started to ask for volunteers to deploy to Afghanistan with a sister company (13th MP Co) and I volunteered. I went through the process and in mid August 2012 went to Fort Bliss Texas for deployment training with my new company. On Halloween night in 2012, I got on a plane in Missouri headed for Afghanistan.
I returned home from my first deployment in July 2013 and went on my second deployment about 18 months later in January 2015. That deployment really helped me to get to where I am today. I returned home to Fort Leonard Wood in October 2015 and was on orders to change duty stations to Fort Belvoir Virginia in February 2016. I have been stationed here at Fort Belvoir since, and have spent most days making sure a high level Department Of Defense officials or Army Officials are safe. For all of those who may not know, Protective Services is basically what the Secret Service does for the President.
What are your goals? Currently my goals are a little different than most who I graduated with. My main goal is to finish a degree, any degree. The military does not require a degree so I never went to traditional brick and mortar college. This in’t a bad thing because I have a lot of real world experience that many of my classmates may not have had.
My secondary goal is to successfully transition out of the military into a Federal Law Enforcement position. This has, at times, proved to be a little difficult but I know that with enough work and the proper drive anything is possible.
What has been your biggest challenge? That is a tough question. I’ve had many challenges. I have a few that I’m embarrassed by that would be right at the top of my list, but two that I’m not embarrassed by are:
On December 8, 2012 while I was deployed, a US Navy SEAL was killed in action (KIA) in Afghanistan. That Navy SEAL's name was Nicolas Checque and he was one of the best people I have ever had the chance to talk to in my life. Nick was such a humble person and an all around good guy. Losing him was a very difficult moment and it remains difficult. Luckily, as of right now, I am very close to where Nick is laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery and for the past 3 years I have gotten the chance to visit him multiple times.
The second challenge that I can say I've faced is much like the first. On October 11, 2015 while getting ready to leave Afghanistan for the second time, a British Puma Mk2 helicopter crashed on our base. As I had numerous years of medical experience under my belt I responded to the crash site to help tend to the wounded. About 3 1/2 hours later, after all of those who were in the helicopter had been successfully extricated from the wreckage, I was able to leave.
Those two days stick with me to this day. They remind me daily of how precious life is. They also remind me to help someone anytime I can help. If I can spare change for someone, I will. If someone needs a shoulder to cry on or to punch, I'll do my best to help. There is no way of knowing how long you will be here, but there is a way of knowing what you will leave behind once you're gone.
What has been your happiest moment? I have had so many happy moments it is hard to pick just one. I would have to say that my most recent happiest moment would be December 1, 2016. That is the day I was promoted to Sergeant. I had worked so hard and had been studying my butt off to get promoted, and on that day it happened. My mom flew down from Watertown to come put the new rank on my chest, and I couldn't have been happier.
Advice for WHS Students? Don't worry that life doesn't go as you plan it. There is no way to plan the next 2, 3, 5, 10, 15 years of your life and say, “This is what I am going to do.” In my line of work we always say to new people that you need to remain rigidly fluid in that you need to be set on your current path; you need to be giving your all at all times, but you better be prepared when the schedule changes 14 times in one day. Look at the goals that are within your reach and dedicate yourself to them, they will help you achieve the bigger picture goal someday.
If you could tell your high school self one thing, what would it be? Be honest in everything you do, don't rush in unless it is needed, help everyone you have the chance to help.
Chelsea Kyle, 2009, Manhattan, NY
What are you up to? I work as Senior Visual Editor, Photographer for Condé Nast, specifically working with sister brands Epicurious and Bon Appetit. I direct, shoot, and produce all the photography for www.epicurious.com. Basically, a food story or recipe idea gets pitched to me from our Food Editors and I help facilitate how that gets represented visually. When we are working on big projects that require a larger team, I’m helping organize a team of freelance artists including additional Photographers, Food Stylists and Prop stylists. My time is split between being in the studio shooting and desk work editing, retouching, coordinating, etc. I occasionally shoot professional freelance gigs on my time off photographing restaurants, architecture, interiors design, and fashion.
I’m constantly surrounded by a lot of very passionate people who love food. Naturally, I have developed a deep love for the food world and I’ve picked up cooking myself. I live with one of my childhood friends (and fellow WHS alumni) who is also a photographer. My third roommate is a food stylist and a chef. My boyfriend is a pastry chef and food stylist. We love what we do so much that most of the time you’ll catch us on weekends in the kitchen with cameras.
How'd you get here? I was raised by my very old fashioned grandmother and my very forward thinking, modern mother. Both passionate as hell, especially when it came to me. I’d like to think I had a nice balance of both their ideals but the reality of it made it very difficult to choose between a traditional path pursuing a “reliable” career in science or break the norm and go to a trade school for photography.
After getting accepted to my dream school, Savannah College of Art and Design, I declined and chose to attend University of New Hampshire to study Nutrition. It didn’t take long for the little voice in my head to start screaming, “You’re in the wrong place.” So I went home to Connecticut and attended classes at Central Connecticut State University until I figured out my next step. I was accepted to University of Hartford for photography but the summer before my first fall semester, I was sitting in my mom’s kitchen expressing how I didn’t want to spend 2 of 4 years taking general art classes before I could focus solely on photography. I wanted a trade school that got me hands on experience with photo equipment and shooting right away. She encouraged me to follow my heart and we started looking at trade schools.
I finally found a home at New England School of Photography (NESOP) in Boston where I graduated with a focus in Advertising and Commercial photography and minored in Creative Imaging. During my studies at NESOP, I was interning at Boston Magazine and tutoring students in classes below me. Soon I started getting freelance photography gigs. By the time I graduated, I was shooting freelance full-time. I had clients all over Boston, small businesses, publications, etc. Three years later, through connections and recommendations, I got a call from Condé Nast and a month later I dropped everything to move to New York to start my current job.
What are your goals? I want to inspire people to follow their dreams like I have. I want to continue to bring people joy through the world of art, showing people a different side of life, and filling people up with beautiful representations of other people’s thoughts and ideas. I want to encourage people to fight for themselves and what they love.
My grandmother grew up in a time when she wasn’t allowed to pursue her dreams. She was a woman held back by society and an abusive father. She didn't stop; even when her mother killed herself, her sister died from a poorly treated infection and her marriage failed leaving her with 4 kids. She set out on her own and successfully raised four children and then three grandchildren (me!). She was a Girl Scout Leader growing up and countlessly told us girls that we could be whoever we wanted to be. She and my mother gave me a childhood of wonderful experiences and taught me to always say yes to opportunity.
Sadly, my mother battled with a vicious eating disorder, depression, and addiction and died as a result little over three years ago. She was an incredible person; she tried so hard to be her best and it took a toll on her mentally. My mom studied many religions seeking solace. She could recite scripture, religious readings, and spiritual anecdotes that she had memorized but through her many pursuits she couldn’t find faith in herself. It was difficult to comprehend how someone so smart, beautiful, and strong could be so saddened by their own mind. I wanted desperately to give her courage and support the way she did for me.
Both of these wonderful women in my life gave me the strength and confidence to achieve whatever I set my mind to when they couldn’t do it themselves. I hope to encourage others to do the same.
Advice for WHS Students? Success means more than just employment and executing your job well. Understand and appreciate the jobs of those who work around you and be inspiring and present. Small acts of consideration and kindness go a long way to making your work and personal life better for you, as well as for those around you. Your work ethic is important, but the attitude you bring to work and the way you treat others is just as important, if not more.
If you could tell your high school self one thing, what would it be? You'll change your mind a lot. That's okay. Nobody except you can tell you what makes you happy.