Thurs, Oct. 28 • 6:00 – 7:15 pm ET

Get Started Powering Your Career

A traditional college experience may not be the best choice for every high school graduate.

Are you thinking about choosing work first instead of attending college? Congratulations. Gaining work experience before investing in college appears to be an increasingly popular option.

While unskilled jobs may be widely available in your area, high-quality training can help you turn a job into a successful career and give you more options and a better work experience.

Accredited vocational and technical training programs, part-time learning and certifications, and apprenticeships all provide interested students with opportunities to  develop valuable skills, explore careers, learn a trade, and even get paid while doing it. And these opportunities are available in many different sectors of the economy—from the arts to construction, environmental work, healthcare, maritime work, nonprofit and more.

Apprenticeships in particular play an incredibly important role in workforce development. They offer students opportunities to enter fields that may not have been available to them without a four-year degree.

Students who pursue these paths may still find ways to earn college credits and degrees that enhance their career prospects nonetheless.

In this session, you’ll learn how to find programs that are a good fit for your goals and evaluate if they are right for you. Learn what to expect and how to get the most out of this experience—and then use it to launch a successful career.

You will have a chance to sign up for similar presentations and workshops when registration opens for Pt 2 of the inaugural Different Choices Fair. You can preregister for the spring event today. 

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What you'll learn

  • How to get yourself ready to enter the world of work in the area that interests you most.

  • Tips for evaluating and then getting the most from training programs in your fields of interest.

  • Understanding expectations when an employer is investing in you and dealing with common job challenges when you have a learning or mental health challenge.


Alex Tsonas, Director

Seaport Academy

Kasey Johnson, Apprenticeship Coordinator

Building Futures

Kevin Lopez, Assistant Principal,

CTE Program, High School of Art & Design, NYC

Zevin Drake, Recruiter

Training Coordinator: Recruiting and Retention
North Atlantic States Carpenters Training Fund


Alex Tsonas


Director, Seaport Academy

Alex Tsonas joined Seaport Academy, part of Schools for Children, as school counselor in 1998 and two years later became the school’s director. Alex oversaw Seaport’s evolution from a small, 12-student program into a successful, all-boys, state-approved alternative high school for 28 students from Grades 8–12. Under his direction, the program has developed a focus on experiential and project-based learning and includes a variety of maritime experiences.

Alex’s has a background in counseling and has served as assistant director in a residential program, a therapist for a home-based individual and family treatment agency, and as a counselor running substance abuse and anger management groups in Lynn, Mass. 

Kevin Lopez

Kevin Lopez

Assistant Principal, CTE Program, High School of Art & Design, NYC

Kevin A. Lopez is the Assistant Principal of Art & CTE at the High School of Art & Design in New York City. He is also a film director and producer known for his work on The Smithsonian “American Experience” award-winning short documentary film ‘“Mind Up” (2016), the feature films “The Inquisition of Camilo Sanz” (2014), “The Hudson Tribes” (2016), and ‘Paradise City’ (2020), as well as the feature length documentary film titled ‘PRIMERA’ (2021), about the 2020 social uprising in Chile.

Kevin founded the very first film and media arts program at Soundview Academy for Culture and Scholarship in the Bronx.  He has worked closely with the NYC Department of Education and the Tribeca Film Institute creating professional development workshops for public school teachers integrating film and media arts curricula in their classrooms. 


Zevin Drake

Training Coordinator: Recruiting and Retention, North Atlantic States Carpenters Training Fund

Ziven Drake is the Technical Coordinator in Charge of Recruitment and Retention by the North Atlantic States Carpenters Training Fund.

She focuses on the recruiting and retention efforts within NASCTF by delivering informational sessions, as well as conducting interviews for potential apprenticeship candidates.

A member of Pile Drivers and Divers Local 56, Drake has been a member of Local 56’s Executive Board, as well as serving as a delegate to the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters.

Dr. Jones

Dr. Suzanne Jones

CUNY LEADS Job Developer, Queensborough Community College

Dr. Suzanne Jones’s career in higher education includes Mercy College, Nassau Community College, Lehman College and LaGuardia Community College where she is an adjunct faculty member in the Graduate Business School and Communications / Humanities Department. She has received many accolades for her work in the field of workforce development.​

Her latest publication was entitled, “Leadership and the Perception of Women in Higher Education” and is an abridgement to the work she is currently producing.

Prior to joining Queensborough Community College, Dr. Jones worked at LaGuardia Community College where she provided leadership and support to the Young Adult Internship Program and the Summer Youth Employment Program.

Kasey Johnson

Apprenticeship Program Coordinator at Building Futures

In her position as Apprenticeship Program Coordinator at Building Futures, Kasey Johnson promotes and supports the expansion of Registered Apprenticeship by coordinating program development, quality improvement, and providing technical assistance to employer partners.

Kelsey connects schools, employers, and community partners to develop a pipeline for youth into apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship; in both the building trades and non-trade occupations.