Preparing Wantagh students for higher education

District expanding guidance program into elementary schools


As of May 3, Wantagh High School’s Class of 2019 only has 363 days until they must decide if and where they will pursue higher education. Although this major decision can be a tough on any teenager and their families, the Wantagh School District has given their students the tools to handle this process since they were in middle school.

According to Frank Muzio, the Wantagh School District’s director of guidance and family and consumer science, the district starts guiding students about their college and career choices once that student enters Wantagh Middle School. Muzio said that the district is currently expanding this program into the elementary schools, emphasizing that their goal is to help students know their own personal values and sense of self.

“We’re trying to have students begin to develop, in their minds, what their top choices are for college majors, college values and career values,” Muzio explained. “So by the time they reach decision time — May 1 of their senior year — they have an idea of what’s important and what’s not.”

During the school year, middle and high school students explore career and college options through mini-college fairs and classroom units on career research. Students also have the opportunity to meet with guidance counselors for one-on-one counseling and can attend workshops with their families about the college application process.

On April 25, Wantagh sophomores and their families attended the guidance department’s Sophomore College Night. In this workshop, each counselor made a general presentation about the application process to their assigned families and encouraged interruptions about specific concerns, such as the difference between standardized tests or the importance of extra-curricular activities in an application.

Linda DeVito, a Wantagh parent who attended this workshop with her only child, said that she had no idea where to begin the process before Courtney Prestianni, her son’s guidance counselor, gave her presentation. Now, she is more confident about helping her son apply to colleges as a student-athlete, especially after Prestianni explained how to become eligible with the NCAA.

“She did an amazing job going over all the information for us,” DeVito said. “She did a very thorough job going over where students should be now, what they should be thinking about and how they need to prepare themselves over the summer.”

Luisa Madonia, a Wantagh parent of a high school sophomore and an eighth grade student, said the district is making her kids think about their futures — something she believes is hard for parents to talk about to their children.

“Through this program, they realize how important it is,” Madonia said. “We can tell them about this all they want, but if they don’t hear from someone else, it doesn’t register.”