Female seniors share positive experience of Girls’ Career Institute


Seniors Jaylen Nuila, Amanda Roa and Lynda DeCarlo share information about what they learned while at Girls’ Career Institute.

With preparations for New Jersey’s 2019 Girls’ Career Institute underway, Becton seniors Jaylen Nuila, Amanda Roa and Lynda DeCarlo took the time to share their knowledge of the program with the female juniors last week.

The Girls’ Career Institute (GCI) is directed by the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs of GFWC who offer junior high school girls an opportunity to attend the three-day event at Douglass College in New Brunswick.

According to the president of the Woman’s Club of Carlstadt, Ms. Rosalie Bespalko, the institute is designed to help girls prepare for college and career readiness. Ms. Bespalko works with Becton Regional High School in search of eligible and eager participants for the program. “It’s truly a rewarding experience,” she announced to all junior girls.

“It’s something different where you get to learn but not in the traditional classroom setting that we’re accustomed to,” said Jaylen, who was one of the three girls selected for the trip in 2018. “It’s a unique experience.”

At the university, there are a variety of activities that take place each day to occupy the participants and give them a taste of what college life is like. For example, organized sports, crafts and swimming are among the few choices that students can partake in.

“You talk about things that you wouldn’t normally talk about,” stated another Becton participant, Lynda DeCarlo, when referring to seminars that the girls could attend. Her favorite aspect of the experience was listening to women in powerful positions discuss their struggles in their fields and how they overcame them. “By going to many of the seminars, I was able to confirm what field I truly wish to pursue as a major in college.”

After deciding to attend the once in a lifetime opportunity, students are given a list of items they need to bring with them to the college campus and are sorted into groups based on the select floor where they are situated. They are all encouraged to participate in activities and are required to eat together in the university’s cafeteria during every meal.

All three Becton seniors agreed that a benefit from the experience was meeting new people and learning about other girls’ different walks of life. “They don’t want you to stay with girls you know. They want you to meet girls from all over the state,” Lynda explained. Amanda Roa, another attendee from Becton, mentioned that she found the experience valuable because she feels like the more people you know, the more opportunities you will have in life.

Ms. Calvanico, a guidance counselor at Becton, assists Ms. Bespalko each year in arranging the assembly where students are informed about GCI, and she has observed how students who have attended the institute have stayed in touch with friends who they made there throughout the rest of their high school career.

A primary lesson that the seniors learned at the Girls’ Career Institute was how to become more independent. “There is much more freedom as a college student than in high school,” Lynda commented.

During the three days, students could choose for themselves if they wished to attend the activities and classes that were prepared for them. The experience differed from being in high school because the only repercussion for cutting classes would be that they had wasted valuable learning time, whereas in high school, there would be consequences. Lynda added, “Your choices are your own responsibility, and it is up to you whether or not you are determined to succeed.”

In order to apply to be a part of the institute, interested students are required to write an essay on why they should be picked to attend. After all of the essays are submitted to Ms. Bespalko, she proceeds to select girls to interview for the three spots. Three delegates are chosen, as well as three alternates in case the delegates are unable to attend for the full three days. The cost to house each girl at the college is roughly $300, but the executive board of the Woman’s Club of Carlstadt fundraises to earn money to pay for the students. They also collect donations from the public by holding different events. Ms. Bespalko stated, “Education is my life, so even if I have to pay for a girl, I will, because I’m a Wildcat.” Her two daughters graduated from Becton Regional High School and one attended GCI.

When asked what advice she had for junior girls who wished to apply, Jaylen advised them to be confident in their answers. “Your essay and interview are their only impressions of you. Make sure that whatever you write and say, you believe one hundred percent.” Lynda encouraged, “Don’t be shy, because you may be holding yourself back from a wonderful experience.”