Senior Showcase: Personal development program helped grads plan for the future
Senior Showcase: Personal development program helped grads plan for the future
Posted on 07/13/2016
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The Senior Showcase is a series that highlights West Haven High School graduating seniors.

WEST HAVEN, July 12, 2016 — Wearing suits to school, trading sleepy summer Saturdays for early morning classes, practicing public speaking—they’re not the kind of memories high school grads typically put at the top of their list. But for Devin Snipes and Kevin Armstrong, it all meant success with the Developing Tomorrow’s Professionals group, and they can’t help but smile about it.

The two new West Haven High School graduates rank their involvement with DTP as one of the best experiences of their high school careers, and credit it with preparing them for college and beyond. Armstrong has chosen to continue his education at Lincoln Technical Institute with a focus on automotive technology, and Snipes will be attending Norwalk Community College to study criminal justice.

DTP is a mentorship program designed to help black and Latino male students navigate their final years in high school and plan for the future. The program, which runs each spring and summer, is open to students from a few area schools, including WHHS. Students have to be recommended and then apply for a spot in that year’s group.

As participants, Snipes and Armstrong worked with mentors, attended “Academic Saturdays” at Southern Connecticut State University, learned the art of debate and public speaking, received suits to wear to school and Academic Saturdays, and focused on the importance of education, leadership, character, goal-setting and serving as a role model to others.

“My plan before DTP was to go to college for criminal justice, but I wasn’t looking at schools. We talked about college with DTP and what you need to do to achieve and get where you want to go. It made me feel more committed and interested in school,” Snipes said.

Snipes hopes to eventually become a police officer, having watched a few of his family members pursue successful careers in law enforcement. Because he hopes to get a job in New York, his goal is to later transfer to John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City to complete his bachelor’s degree.

“Years ago, I took a career evaluation test, and it recommended working with people. Being a police officer lets you do that, and you give back to your community, too,” Snipes added.

He’s already gotten involved in the West Haven community by working as a camp counselor during summer vacations and volunteering at the Louis Piantino Branch Library in Allingtown, which he started doing as a member of DTP.

Snipes wants to get more involved in school activities in college and is ready to work hard in class—after completing DTP, he brought his grades up at WHHS and put into practice the note-taking and study skills he learned in the program’s workshops. DTP mentors helped show him what it takes to reach your goals, he said.

“They were all successful, but we heard about their struggles. You don’t always think about what went on behind the scenes for someone to become a success, how they got to where they are,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what happens for me and what’s coming in my next chapter.”

Armstrong’s career goals also have some family influence; relatives in the automotive industry let him assist on certain jobs as he gradually became a car connoisseur. He’s done an extensive amount of work on his own vehicle and took auto classes at WHHS. His plan is to first complete the Lincoln Tech program that leads to work as an auto technician, work for a year, and then return to enroll in a collision and repair program.

“You can have a lot of pride when you’ve put so much work into something and when your personality can show in it. You can express yourself based on things you include when working on a car,” he said. “I’ve been wanting to do this ever since I heard ‘vroom, vroom’ on the highway as a kid.”

For part of his time at WHHS, he played football and was involved in the Teen Outreach Program class, assisting with a shoe drive for kids in need and creating care packages for members of the military. But it was DTP, Armstrong said, that grew his confidence, helped him overcome public speaking fears, and prepared him for life after high school.

“At every DTP session, we learned about how to be humble, how to react to things the right way, how not to get caught up in negativity, how to adapt to new things and find solutions,” said Armstrong, who currently has a job at Shop Rite. “We had to be in groups with kids from other schools and do debates. I was scared of speaking in front of a crowd, but by the last day, it was easy. It actually really helped me with presentations for school.”

Armstrong’s advice for younger students is to take advantage of opportunities at school and avoid focusing too much on only one club or one sport. He’s looking forward to seeing what new doors open for him at Lincoln Tech.

“I’m most excited about growing as a person and being more independent,” he said. “I’m just glad to get that college experience, and I want to work hard and for that hard work to show in what I do.”