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Guest speakers visit Mount Vernon STEAM Academy to share career and life advice

Guest speakers visit Mount Vernon STEAM Academy to share career and life advice

Three professionals across different industries visited Mount Vernon STEAM Academy to share their experiences on Friday, December 15, 2023. The speakers detailed their time in various roles such as cybersecurity, law, public service and photography.  

The first guest speaker, Stefan Leipold, invented magnetic privacy screens for computers and cell phones. He has spent his career working in cyber security and helping famous and influential people all around the world deal with cyber-attacks. His son also attends Mount Vernon STEAM Academy.

Stefan Leipold speaking on stage.

“For the last 23 years, I’ve educated the world about making the world a safer place with cybersecurity not only for corporations, but for individuals and young people like you,” said Mr. Leipold. 

 Mr. Leipold discussed the common mistakes people make with technology, how to protect your information and the type of work he has done around the world protecting other peoples’ information.  

He also asked questions to the audience and handed out privacy screens to students who responded.  

The second guest was Assemblyman Clyde Vanel from Assembly District 33 in Queens. He discussed his keys to success and what students should be doing during and after high school to set themselves up for success.  

“You guys are coming to an age when you graduate where it’s going to be really competitive,” said Assemblyman Vanel. “You’re competing with the world.” 

Clyde Vanel speaking to students.

Mr. Vanel discussed the opportunities and options that graduates have compared to previous generations and how to take advantage of them. He has worked and studied in fields such as engineering, aviation and law, and he wanted students to understand that they can also take time with their decisions and explore different careers.  

He explained that the road to becoming a successful adult starts now for the students at STEAM. He detailed the efforts students will have to put in to compete with their peers and be successful. He then answered questions from students.  

Ron Foster, a New Yorker and National Geographic published photographer and owner of RonLouis Photos, was the final speaker. He shared some of his work with students and explained what inspired him to become a photographer and visual storyteller.  

Mr. Foster discussed his path, which included studying aviation and working for the American Stock Exchange, and how he changed careers

Ron Foster photographer

before becoming a photographer. He talked about how it is ok to be unsure, but the most important thing is just getting started and trying things. 

“Where you are today is not where you will ultimately end. It’s OK to not know what you want to do with your life. It’s OK to not know where you want to be in 10 years. But what I want to tell you is: find the thing you love.”  

He talked about the importance of time and how everyone’s unique circumstances will shape them. He highlighted the number of opportunities available for students in many industries.  

One of Mr. Foster’s key messages for students was to start where they are and to explore the many opportunities they have until they find what they love.

Student asking question
Clyde Vanel speaking in mic


Kyle Mason's senior portrait.

Kyle Mason, a senior at Mount Vernon STEAM Academy, has thrived while committing himself to his academics, athletics and community service during his four years of high school. Kyle will graduate from the STEAM Academy with an advanced high school diploma, as he is currently enrolled in both high school and college courses. 

Students, lit by green neon lights, play on the computer.

In the lower level of Mount Vernon STEAM Academy, students can often be found afterschool collaborating digitally and competing in an unconventional way. The STEAM Knights Esports Club began in October 2023, with an official ribbon cutting on December 18. Now in April 2024, the club has approximately 60 participants and is providing students with an engaging and competitive afterschool activity. 

Click here to the LoHud feature on Mount Vernon STEAM Academy's Esports club!

Presenter speaking to students.

A presentation filled with music, games and jokes was held at Mount Vernon STEAM Academy on Friday, April 19, 2024. Shaun Derik, a motivational speaker, visited the school to inspire students to chase their dreams and reconnect with their passion and natural-born gifts. Mr. Derik's presentation was courtesy of the Mount Vernon Youth Bureau, who have worked with him for years. They invited him to Mount Vernon STEAM Academy to interact with and motivate the students.

STEAM Junior Achievement

On Monday, April 15, 2024, Mount Vernon STEAM Academy hosted the Junior Achievement (JA) Career Speaker Series with Verizon. The JA Career Speaker Series, which is a part of the JA Work and Career Readiness Pathway, provides students with firsthand knowledge from professionals about their career, work and education experiences.

Margaret Djamongue's senior portrait.

Margaret Djamongue, a senior at Mount Vernon STEAM Academy, has been excelling academically since her freshman year and has continuously made principal honor roll. Currently, Margaret is a part of the Smart Scholar program, a program through Mercy University that allows students to earn college credits while in high school. 

Students looking at resources from a college.

College seals and colors lined the Mount Vernon STEAM Academy gymnasium, as the school hosted its spring college fair on Friday, March 22, 2024. Students spoke to representatives from approximately 40 colleges, universities, trade schools and United State Military branches.