Students continue inroads into non-traditional industries

Students defy roles with passion and grace

Three students at the Center for Career Services have been able to pursue their passions for fields not stereotypically associated with their gender, and they’ve been met with nothing but support.

Diego Ayala, a junior at New Rochelle High School, always knew he wanted to help people by entering the medical field. That led him to enroll in SWBOCES’ Nursing Assistant program.

Growing up, Diego said, he had a cousin who was ill and had a tracheotomy. He would help his aunt care for her.

“That’s what made me want to help people,” he said. “I am so happy; I want to go to college for this.”

Diego has the full support of his family, especially an older cousin who was also a Nursing Assistant student at BOCES.

His class is currently learning about pressure ulcers. As far as his classmates are concerned, Diego said he is just another student, not a male student studying in a predominantly female field.

“I am friends with all of them,” he said.

Diego said that he feels that no one in the general population is all that interested in the gender of their caretaker.

“Now everyone is more accepting,” Diego said.

Nursing Assistant teacher Karen McDonald confirmed this.

“Nursing has changed tremendously,” she said. “When I was teaching LPNs at the BOCES Harrison location, we admitted and graduated quite a few male nurses. Male nurses are generally well accepted into this historically female profession.” 

As for Diego, “I don’t care what other people have to say. I like what I do, and I do what I want,” he said.

All her life Alyssa Mosso, a junior at White Plains High School, has been surrounded by cars, a strong interest of her older brothers. So, it didn’t seem to be much of a stretch for her when she decided to join the Auto Collision program.

Initially Alyssa enrolled in the SWBOCES Cosmetology program and quickly realized that is not where she wanted to be, as much as she has fun doing hair and make-up.

“You know what? I’m not going to sit here and do something I don’t want to do,” Alyssa said of her thought process to change programs. “I am going to BOCES, and I have an opportunity to do anything I want. Why not do this?

Alyssa is the third female student who has participated in the program, according to teacher Paul Casagrande. She said her classmates treat her no differently, and often she finds them encouraging her to try something new.

Looking to the future, Alyssa said she would like to work with exotic cars and motorcycles but is not exactly sure what that might look like.

“It’s fun to feel like I am trying new things,” she said. “My gender has not stopped me from doing anything in this class.”

Across campus, Elizabeth Gonzalez, a senior at Port Chester High School, fired up a saw and cut an angle into a piece of wood just like a pro.

While some female family members have said she is pursuing an interesting choice in her studies, Elizabeth is determined. She told those family members that there are male hairstylists so there is no reason there cannot be a female in construction. She has an uncle who works in construction and has taught her some of the skills she also uses in her Construction and Plumbing class.

“I grew up with three brothers, and my Dad is always working on things,” Elizabeth said. “It made me interested in doing things with my hands.”

Last year when she first came to BOCES she admitted she thought she would have a more difficult time being accepted by her peers.

“But I figured, if I worked hard, I could make them see I could do the job,” she said.

In her studies she has made tables and chairs and worked on a community garden shed. These are among her favorite projects.

She hopes to work in the construction industry after graduation, either with building or as a construction manager.

“Don’t be intimidated,” Elizabeth would tell young women  interested in this field. “Know that anyone can do a job if they really want it.”

Teacher Kurt Boysen said that, although it’s not common, more women are coming into construction, and he would encourage them. He said the industry needs people. As for Elizabeth, he said she knows her stuff and referred to her work as “brilliant.”