The Working Class

The Working Class

Jolene Pflueger speaks in the auditorium during the 4th annual Career Fair.
Forestville Central School graduate Jolene Pfleuger, Class of 2005, shared a video about her work at Radio Social in Rochester during the 4th annual Career Fair in Silver Creek on Thursday, April 26, 2018.

Ross Conti kneels on green balance ball.

Longtime coach and Darwin’s Fitness Center owner Ross Conti discusses his circuitous and rewarding career path while encouraging the teens to stay active and diversify.

Students draw organs on a rendering of the human body on a handout worksheet in the auditorium.
Freshmen and sophomores work on drawing organs on a handout from Silver Creek grad Noelle Harford, who is a physician assistant master student at D’Youville College.


They’re young, but crucial choices are looming and a lifetime of responsibility is on the horizon. More than 100 students from the Silver Creek and Forestville school districts in seventh through 10th grades gathered Thursday morning (April 26, 2018) to get some insight into the world of work.

The teenagers enjoyed a main course of career overviews with side dishes of personal experience, pep talks, and sage advice during the 4th annual Career Fair held in the auditorium at Silver Creek. Forestville and SCCS take turns hosting the event.

“We wanted to offer an in-depth look at various 21st century professions and vocations,” said SCCS counselor Alison Gondek, who facilitated the fair with the cooperation fellow counselors from Forestville. “We reached out to these presenters because they represent careers in which our students have expressed interest. Hearing others’ stories helps them focus and relate. These presentations can be particularly effective when coming from alumni who were once in their shoes.”

The students heard from a graphic designer, a physician’s assistant, an event planner and a local business owner. As different as their backgrounds are, the speakers’ comments all touched on common themes of making effort, diversification and keeping one’s options open. After all, a majority of Americans will hold at a half-dozen disparate job titles over their lifetimes. The days of working at the same job in a lone industry are largely in the past.

All of the presenters weighed in on job outlook, what their typical workday looks like and how commitment is key.

SCCS grad Erin Ehman is a communications designer at The State University of New York at Fredonia. She brought along senior Marissa Doing, the art director of The Leader, the student newspaper at Fredonia State, and shared what their positions entail.

Noelle Harford, also an SCCS alum, is a physician assistant master student at D’Youville College. She passed out anatomy worksheets and the students were hunched over to draw the heart, liver, lungs and other internal organs.

“O.K., I need someone for the spleen,” Harford said, coaxing students to the screen to point out organ locations of the human body. “Don’t be afraid.”

Alycia Lacki, school counselor for Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES, introduced seventh- and eighth-graders to the many pathways of study and opportunities including Culinary Arts, Conservation, Criminal Justice and Health Careers.

Forestville Central School grad Jolene Pfleuger, 30, a member of the Class of 2005 has traveled to 26 countries, studied education, psychology, worked as a character performer at Disney World – where she discovered an interest in hospitality – over her relatively brief professional career. The director of events and marketing for Radio Social, a sophisticated bowling alley/gaming/event center in Rochester, attributes travel with bringing her to fruition as a person. She handles sales, social media, bookings, detailing and loves the flexibility and creativity her Radio Social job allows.

 “Work is not you,” said Pfleuger, who spends weekends deejaying at music festivals and also dabbles in property investment. “You are not work. You need to continuously develop your skills to help you do what you want. Have actual experiences. I incorporate the things I love and make them work for me.”

Ross Conti, owner of Darwin’s Fitness Center in Fredonia for more than three decades and a well-respected high school sports coach for more than four decades, encouraged the students to broaden their interests, talents and skills.

 “If you want to be good at what you do, invest in your life,” he said.

Conti grew up on a dairy and grape farm, which he says instilled a strong work ethic. As a child, he couldn’t sit still, compelling his mother to write a paper titled “Ross: My Hyperactive Child.” He struggled in the classroom and recalls his behavior once led an educator to tape him to a chair.

He later found salvation in wrestling, and as a teen decided to write the next great American novel. But Conti also wanted adventure in order to have something to write about. He got it. One week out of high school and he was in the Navy. He went into submarines and traveled to Guam and Hawaii. He has held many jobs along the way: wedding singer and tutor among them. He enrolled in a program to become an American Studies professor before being dispatched to hot zones in the Middle East. In between college and Navy obligations, he accepted a job at “a tiny gym in Dunkirk.” He grew that little gym, and today offers various job opportunities – fitness instructors, trainers, support staff – to others. He loves working with people.

“I would’ve never been able to keep the fitness facility going if not for my diverse interests,” he said, before offering some advice. “Take care of yourself physically. Stay active. You need to connect your brain to your body to your occupation.”

He brought a balance ball to illustrate his point, demonstrating for several moments how he learned to steadily kneel on the exercise orb and garnering murmurs from impressed students.

“Don’t waste your time. You’ll never know where you’ll end up,” said Conti. “You just don’t know where that road is going to take you. Don’t feel like a failure if you find out that you aren’t on the right path.”