Fulton County

Gloversville middle-schoolers get long-distance advice from the stars

Professional movie and television actors and a singer/songwriter have been providing real-life advic

Professional movie and television actors and a singer/songwriter have been providing real-life advice to Gloversville Middle School students on how to plot their futures.

They have been appearing in teacher Julie Devine’s home and careers program each semester since November via Skype. The professionals are often thousands of miles away when they give their advice, but are speaking in real time through the free Internet program that allows people to stream televised calls anywhere in the world.

Devine’s class is a mandated program under the state’s core curriculum on career development and occupational studies, part of the requirement for graduation. While many classes bring in outside speakers who are mostly from within the school’s geographic area, Devine has used her “Hollywood” connections to book the high-caliber speakers. She also uses the opportunity to teach students different technical aspects of the Internet.

Last Thursday, more than 40 students, ages 13-15, participated in two separate half-hour talks with Scott Krippayne and Catherine Mary Stewart. Krippayne is a Christian music artist, singer and songwriter. He has released 10 albums between 1992 and 2008. In season six of “American Idol,” contestants Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis sang his song, “This Is My Now.” Stewart is an actress who starred in “The Last Starfighter” and has appeared on several television programs and soap operas.

Last semester, students also spoke with Muse Watson, who plays veteran investigator Mike Franks on the TV show “NCIS.” Devine knows Watson through a friend of her husband’s, and Watson helped line up the other speakers.

Devine said the actors and songwriter offer their time for free “because they are nice people.”

During the sessions, students ask the speakers questions and they often receive a revealing answer. Devine said this is an important component of the presentation, as some students may have unrealistic expectations about their projected career path. “We show them how difficult it is to break into Hollywood and other fields,” Devine said. She plans to bring in a professional athlete at some point, to illustrate the difficulty of that profession.

Stewart told students that Hollywood is a highly competitive industry that is always looking for something fresh, something new, and that she is basically a product. She also warned students about the danger of posting items, pictures, comments on a Facebook page or elsewhere on the Internet as a lark. She said the Internet is forever, “like a tattoo,” and the postings could come back to haunt a person later in life.

“You have to be careful and smart and then the Internet is a wonderful tool” for promoting one’s career, Stewart said. “Don’t be shy about creating an image for yourself,” she said.

Krippayne told students interested in a career in show business to learn how to network with people and build relationships. “It is tough to begin those relationships; it is basically becoming friends to singers,” he said.

Both shared personal stories of growing up: Stewart about her early career as a dancer and Krippayne as an awkward youth in middle school and high school who wrote music to help him get through the day.

Student Jaszmin Jones, 14, said she related to Stewart’s story because she wants to be a professional dancer. “It is the feeling I get when I dance, it is the best feeling in the world,” she said. She said Stewart helped her understand how to promote herself better, especially on Facebook.

Student Shanice Smith, 13, said she enjoyed Krippayne’s advice. She also wants to write songs for a living. “I have been writing two years, but I have nothing published,” she said.

After listening to Krippayne, Smith she said she plans to be more outgoing and build relationships with people. “He said I need better relationships. I always thought it would not help me to promote myself. I have now changed my mind,” she said.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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