VALHALLA, N.Y. — Linda Suarez understands the importance of career exploration. She has spent her adult life working in fields ranging from cosmetology to educational administration at a vocational school in Queens.
Suarez uses the lessons she has learned along the way to excel at her latest endeavor: helping teens develop job skills as the director of the Center for Career Services at Southern Westchester BOCES.
“If you teach someone how to navigate to find the skills they need to succeed, you can transfer that and move with the times,” she says.
For students of secondary education, BOCES provides training in commercial art, fashion merchandising, cosmetology and carpentry to name a few. These courses, which are taught by certified teachers with professional experience, help students to master job skills needed in today's market. Suarez also says the up-to-date lessons match the technological advances in these evolving industries.
Students divide days between their local high schools and the Valhalla facility, where they receive high school credit.
“We’re not going to train someone in a career they can’t get out and use in the real world,” she says.
Southern Westchester BOCES also partners with local businesses to give students real work experience. For example, an automotive technician may complete his or her internship credit at a nearby car dealership.
But regardless of chosen career choice, Suarez believes the key to professional success is simple: do what you love.
“Even through my zigzagging career, I always just kept doing what I loved to do. I had to close out what other people were saying sometimes, but I always have done what I loved,” she adds.
For kids stressed about finding a field, Suarez passes on the message her father gave her during her own time of uncertainty: “Don’t let this be your last success.”
When she isn't working, Suarez spends time with her daughters Kelly and Erica, her niece Tanya, nephew Billy and a beagle/Labrador pooch named Paco. She also has four grandchildren and is about to receive her doctorate degree in career technology from Fordham University.