Rhode Islanders Give Tips to Graduates

Published in the Woonsocket Call on May 14, 2017

During the month of May, commencement speakers will be addressing the graduating Class of 2017 at Colleges, Universities and higher learning institutions in Rhode Island and throughout the nation. Robed graduating seniors will listen attentively to these 10 minute speeches usually given by very well-known lawmakers, judges, television personalities and business CEOs who offer tips on how the graduate can live a successful and fulfilling life. The graduate can only hope that this advice that might just propel them into a more rewarding personal and professional life.

Traditionally this notable, successful, and stimulating figure, is oftentimes well-known in the community. Larger institutions may choose speakers of national or international renown, but sometimes this recognition comes at a great cost, commanding high speaking fees. Locally, Brown University, unique among Ivy League institutions, features graduating seniors, rather than outside dignitaries, as their commencement speakers.

So, I suggest to Presidents of Colleges and Universities, with your tight operating budgets, you can save a little money by not bringing in high-paid commencement speakers with another alternative. As can be seen below, there are many potential candidates in Rhode Island communities that fly below the selection committee’s radar screen and can give college graduates very sound strategies for success gleaned from their everyday life experiences. The messages gleaned from average every day Rhode Islanders will most surely give a road maps on how the graduating senior can reach their potential in a very challenging world.

Eric J. Auger, 48, Pawtucket, Co-Founder/Creative Director for TEN21 Productions. “Having been an active artist and exhibiting my work since the age of 4, I can look back at 44 years of trials and errors that have influenced me to become the artist that I am today. My advice to anyone starting out is to follow your intuition and embrace all the success and failures that it may bring you. Living through and learning from these experiences is what opens your eyes to your true potential.”

Michael Bilow, Providence, Writer at Motif Magazine, “Only you are the ultimate judge of what you want. Take advice from people who want to help you, but don’t worry about pleasing them. Money is important to have enough to be independent, but not as an end in itself. Never take a job or a romantic partner just because others expect it of you. Be nice, but not too nice. Don’t lie to yourself. Worry less. You have a right to be happy.”

Natelie Carter, 73, Cumberland, Director of Operations for Blackstone Valley Tourism Council.
“One of the oldest pieces of wisdom ever dispensed is one that has guided my life “Know Thyself.” It still directs my life that has been filled with remarkable events and few regrets. However, there is the wisdom of Edna St. Vincent Millay to learn from “I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes.”

Greg Gerritt, 63, Providence, Head of Research for ProsperityForRI.com. “Climate Change is the existential crisis of our time. Be ready to resist the oligarchy when they seek to prevent protest and work to protect their fortunes. Be ready to resist the oligarchy when they crank up the false news and the war machine. If you shut down the war machine and truly stop climate change your lives will be better. If you do not, get ready for a hot and violent planet and community.”

Maureen O’Gorman, Warwick, Adult Correctional Institute GED Teacher. “Meredith Grey, fictional philosophizing doctor said: “The story of our evolution is the story of what we leave behind.” Human tails no longer exist and the appendix isn’t functional. Every choice we make comes at the cost of choices we didn’t make. Reinventing ourselves can’t happen without discarding something behind as we move forward. Honor the past, but do not live in it.”

Nora Hall, 72, North Kingston, freelance writer. “Empathy may be the most important life skill you can develop. It enables you to “put yourself in another’s shoes” and makes you a great leader.”

Everett Hoag, 63, North Providence, President of Fountain Street Creative. “Advice to new artists – Believe in yourself and your work. Explore as many forms as you can. Discover art comes from inside and as long as you have the skills, true art will emerge. Keep creating and create what is true to you, never stop or be discouraged by what others say… Designers — we make the world more beautiful. More functional. Safer. More special. The more of ‘you’ that goes into your work, the more original it becomes; there’s something magical about that.”

John Kevorkian, 63, East Greenwich, Management Psychologist/Business Coach. “Over the years, I’ve noticed that so much of success comes from simply showing up. Be aware, get involved, get engaged with what is important to you. Be there and be! Be truly interested in understanding the other’s viewpoint and situation. Ask questions and listen to learn what you don’t know and then you will be well prepared to confidently voice opinions and be helpful. Be a catalyst. It is easier to make things happen if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Larry Monastesse, 65, Pawtucket, Director of Administration, Coastline Employee Assistant Program (EAP). “Passion and Education is the Key. Mistakes happen- learn from them but do not quit. Keep your goals front and center. Have the courage to follow you heart, it is the true measure of your success. Time is limited, share with family and friends. They will be with you on your lifelong journey. Make time for yourself and give back to society in some form that you are comfortable with and enjoy. Do dream and enjoy the ride.”

Steven R. Porter, 52, Glocester, A college diploma is treated like the end of an educational learning journey, but truthfully, it’s just the start. Those who will be the most successful in life never stop reading, studying or acquiring new skills. The world is a rapidly changing place, and higher education does a good job of preparing you for what the world was like, not what the world is going to be. Stay positive and aggressive.

Debra Rossetti, over 50, Central Falls, Staff Developer/Literacy, New York City Department of Education. “You can and will make a difference in our society and world, This day is a special and important milestone in your life. You have accomplished much to be standing where you are now, but your journey has just begun. You have much more to do and challenges to bear in your years ahead. Transform yourself in to the person you aspire to be, be ready for change, think forward and move forward. Continue to educate yourself. Life is a journey with lessons to learn at every corner. Take advantage of opportunities to grow your mind and pursue your dreams. Believe in yourself, believe in others, always be humble and kind.”

Randy Sacilotto, 55, Cumberland, Navigant Credit Unions, Vice President, Community Development. “My mom told me to remember to love people and use things, never the other way around. This may seem pretty simple and logical. Yet there are times we may want to do the reverse. Remember that it is by genuine caring interaction with another human soul that we learn and laugh and grow. And nothing you will own will ever visit you when you’re sick, hold you when you’re sad, or celebrate your accomplishments.”

Susan Sweet, 75, Rumford, former state employee. “Make your own trail and avoid the well-worn path. Find interests and passions and live them. Create purpose in your life. Do something good, something useful in your life. Contribute to the happiness and well-being of other beings. Let Death be your advisor.”

Patricia Zacks, 63, Pawtucket, Owner of Camera Werks: Never be afraid of trying new things. Hardships and setbacks are part of life, but it is how we deal with them that can make all the difference. Obstacles may be opportunities in disguise, and change oftentimes leads to new roads, exciting journeys and a time of self discovery. Follow your bliss.

The Best Of…Volunteer Baby Boomers Work to Uplift Their Communities

Published September 17, 2008, All Pawetucket All the Time

           Throughout his life, Arthur Plitt has never seen a time when he has not expended lots of time and energy to support a good cause.  Over his fifty eight years, he has volunteered as a non-paid volunteer with dozens of nonprofit organizations throughout the Ocean State. The Oak Hill resident juggles a part-time job as a private mediator while allocating countless hours to his volunteer activities. 

             Two sons in Cub Scouts would propel the young man to take the volunteer position of Advancement Committee, chairman of the Boy Scouts of Rhode Island’s BlackstoneValley division.  A love of animals would also lead him to Roger Williams Zoo where he became a docent.  Plitt would also join the Rhode Island Jaycees and serve in its Senate and later work as an ombudsman for the Alliance for Better Long-Term Care.

 Kudos the Plitt

            Plitt now sits on the Governor’s Commission on Disabilities, heads the Pawtucket Neighborhood Alliance, and Oak Hill Neighborhood Association, serves on the Blackstone Watershed Council’s Board of Directors, and sits on the Pawtucket Arts Festival Executive Committee.  Still, the aging baby boomer still has time to work with the terminally ill as a Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island volunteer.  With 1,220 hours logged in this year supporting dying patients and their families it is no surprise that he was one of 12 statewide award winners of the Volunteer Center of Rhode Island’s 2008 outstanding volunteers.

             Plitt’s philosophical views on volunteerism can be simply summed up by his favorite phrase. That is, “The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough.”  “Butterflies, like many species, accomplish much in their short life spans.  With longer life spans, human beings are given an opportunity to accomplish a lot more and they have the time to share”, says Plitt.    

             While Plitt works with a diverse group of nonprofit organizations, fifty-four year old Patricia Zacks focuses her time and efforts on supporting the arts in Pawtucket.  Over the years, this proprietor of the Providence-based camera shop, The Camera Werks has annually organized the City’s photo contest, brought photo workshops into several public schools and senior centers.  In addition, she serves on the Board of the Friends of Excellence in Art Education, chairs the Pawtucket Arts Festival’s Program Committee and sits on its Executive Committee, and assists and networks local artists to sell their one-of-a-kind art work at Open Studio events.

             In 2007, in recognition of her efforts to support Pawtucket artists Zacks was named President Emeritus of the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative when she stepped down after serving six years. That Year the Pawtucket Foundation the Oak Hill resident was the co-recipient of the group’s prestigious “Person of the Year” award. 

 Baby Boomers Volunteer at Higher Rates 

             Aging Baby Boomers, Plitt and Zacks, are not unique in their desire to give back to their local community.  According to a 2006 Issue Brief published by the Corporation for National & Community Service (NCS), today’s Baby Boomers volunteer at a higher rate than past generations did at roughly the same age.  Findings from the 2007 Keeping Baby Boomers Volunteering (KBBV) report were cited throughout this NCS Issue Brief.

             The 2007 (KBBV) report noted that the volunteer rate for those ages 46 to 57 today, is significantly higher than both the 25.3 percent recorded by the 46 to 57 age cohort in 1974 (Greatest Generation, born 1910-1930) and the 23.2 percent recorded in 1989 (Silent Generation, born 1931-1945.)

             Additionally, the 2007 (KBBV) report also found that remaining in the workforce increased the likelihood that a Baby Boomer will continue to volunteer. 60.5 percent Baby Boomer volunteers who leave the workforce will continue to volunteer the following year compared to 69.3 percent who continue to work.

             The 2007 (KBBV) report also mentions two predictors of the relatively high volunteer rates of Baby Boomers: high education level and having children later in life. 

             Middle age adults are nearly three times likely to have a four-year college degree today.  When their children leave home the Boomers would maintain their high volunteer rates because of their high education levels and expectations that they will work longer, the report notes.

            The 2007 (KBBV) report notes that today’s Boomers, ages 41 to 59, are more likely to volunteer with religious organizations. The second most popular place to volunteer is educational or youth service organizations.

          Finally, the (KBBV) 2007 report findings indicate that the more hours a Baby Boomer devotes to volunteering, the more like he or she will volunteer throughout their lives.  Nearly 9 of 10 Baby Boomer volunteers who serve 100 to 499 hours a year volunteer again the following year, compared to just over 5 in 10 who serve 1 to 14 hours.

             Aging Baby Boomers Plitt and Zacks have brought their life experiences, time and energy to making their community a better place to live, just like millions of their Baby Boomer cohorts throughout the nation. 

             For more information about volunteering contact Volunteer Center of Rhode Island.  Go to www.vcri.org.

             Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based free lance writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues.   This article was published in the September 17, 2008 issue of All Pawtucket All the Time. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.