HOUTZDALE – David Zapsky, a senior associate with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, recently spoke to students at Moshannon Valley Junior-Senior High School as part of the Alumni Speaker series organized by the Moshannon Valley Community Education Foundation.
Each year, the MVCEF arranges for former alumni to speak to the students regarding their years at Moshannon Valley, post-secondary schooling and current profession.
“It’s important for our kids to hear stories of former Mo-Valley students that have gone on to be successful in their lives,” said Kris Albright, MVHS principal.
“It shows today’s students that being from a small school doesn’t put you at a disadvantage, and it never ceases to amaze me the number of successful individuals that have come out of this building.”
In addition to talking about their individual careers, each speaker provides advice about life and the importance of an education.
“So, you’re all here for Macroeconomics 201 lecture?” Zapsky joked, but he did provide an economics-based approach to planning for their future and opened by looking at some of the previous series speakers and then to various ‘in-demand’ jobs.
“The interesting thing about these careers is the fact they all existed 20 years ago and will certainly be around 20 years from now.
“So, there is stability with these jobs (electrical engineer, physician’s assistant, architect, law enforcement officer, Army officer, art professor). They can’t be outsourced; a robot can’t perform the tasks they do. Robocop is a movie, not a thing.”
Zapsky encouraged students to not only think about the demand behind their future career choices, but also reminded kids to be passionate about their interests as it would help them be successful.
“Don’t just choose a field because the jobs exist, you’ll likely go to work and not enjoy it, and in 30 years, you undoubtedly still won’t like it,” he said.
Alternatively, many of the fields that Zapsky also reviewed with the students did not require a four-year college degree. “Let’s take a look at some other jobs very much in demand; carpentry, automotive repair and maintenance, electrician, plumber and HVAC technician.
“Once again, it goes back to economics. You have to factor in having approximately $120,000 in the cost of tuition and student loans for most degree areas now.
“With a job in the skilled trades, you may be more successful, and attain it in a much shorter amount of time without incurring that debt. The demand is out there now in this area, over 8 million jobs are unfilled.”
Zapsky continued: “As an example, where I work at the New York Fed, we presently have the following job postings: electrician, architect, plumber, HVAC technician, law enforcement officer, cyber security specialist, legal assistant, risk managers, transportation and of course – economists and bank examiners.
“But we’re no exception, and you will find a great diversity of positions available out there. Some require a degree, some even advanced degrees such as Ph.D., while others are skilled trades. The demand exists in many areas.”
Zapsky, a 1989 graduate of Moshannon Valley, enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served from 1989-1996. “I wanted to move out of a small town and see the world. The military certainly helped me achieve that.”
He talked to the students about being stationed in Greece, Panama and Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm. Zapsky also encouraged students to consider the military when looking at their future plans.
“Both the Air Force and Army have exceptional cyber security programs, and many other career paths, which will remain relevant after service,” he said, adding that, “the service academies, although highly competitive academically, accept a number of applicants from all backgrounds.”
He went on to explain that “your State Senators and Representative would love to hear from you, as you’ll need their recommendation. If you can’t choose between college and the military, one other option is that many universities have ROTC programs.”
“To help you make that choice, the military will help finance your degree, most times 100 percent,” he said. “Keep in mind, regardless if you go to the military or not, no one starts in the captain’s chair. You have to earn your way up the ladder, no matter what your job is.”
For those considering college, Zapsky also encouraged students to apply to at least one ‘reach’ school, such as Penn, Yale or MIT.
“Focus on that one area you’re passionate about, and find the top schools in that field; it’s likely that some are still in this state.”
He explained that although these schools may not even seem like a realistic option, all in-demand universities, and especially Ivy-League schools, have exceptional tuition programs.
“For instance, if your family income is $65,000 or less, this qualifies you for a full-ride. This is not a scholarship – it’s a grant. And with that degree, it opens up opportunities you may not have thought existed,” Zapsky said.
“Schools like these are always looking for unique students from all walks of life, and being from a small school and rural community isn’t going to put you at a competitive disadvantage with someone from a city.”
However, Zapsky remarked “they’re looking for the student who will have a positive impact on the world of tomorrow, regardless of where they’re from.
“And a great indicator of who that person is, is what they have done within their school, and more importantly in their community. It’s about who you are and what you’ll be doing in the upcoming decades.”
Lastly, he noted that “and of course, your GPA plays a critical role in acceptance to any school – trade schools included.”
Following his service, Zapsky earned a Bachelor of Science and Master’s degree from Iona College in New York. He is currently completing a second Master’s degree at Columbia University.
He has been with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for 14 years. “Even though I work in the technology group, I have to be very familiar with the Fed’s macroeconomic policies and functions and how the whole system works, and it is exceptionally complex.”
He highlighted with the students how the Federal Reserve System is made up of 12 banks across the country responsible for supporting the five main functions of the country’s economy: monetary policy, financial stability, supervision and regulation, financial services, consumer protection and community development.
The Federal Reserve is responsible for all monetary transactions and serves as the “middle man” when someone writes a check or uses a credit or debit card.
Zapsky portrayed some parts of macroeconomics with some perspective, having one of the students hold a backpack with approximately $1 million.
“Now if every one of the students in high school right now in America was holding a backpack with the same amount, we’d have roughly $15 Trillion,” he said.
“The daily balance sheet of the Fed is approximately $4 trillion. In one of those major functions, we processed $716.3 trillion in fiscal year 2018.”
“One thing almost everyone asks about is the gold,” he said. “Eighty feet below my office on Liberty Street and in the bedrock of Manhattan, there is a large amount of gold bars, the most in the world, more than half a million of them in fact.”
“Regardless of whether you go into the financial sector, the banking industry or a whole other career path, love it or hate it, math exists in every job.”
Zapsky joins a number of former Moshannon Valley alumni that have spoken to students through the Moshannon Valley Community Education Foundation’s Alumni Speaker series.
Previous speakers include: Ryan Finch (electrical engineering), Evan Switala (physician’s assistant), Dan Hensal (IT), Andrea Walstrom (architecture), John Bacher (medical aviation), Rebecca Williams (law enforcement), Mike Lucas (art) and Brandon Morroni (military officer).
The MVCEF actively works to network with former alumni to provide a wide variety of professional careers for the speaker series.
In addition to securing presenters for the Alumni Speaker series, the Moshannon Valley Community Education Foundation supports education in the school district through teacher grants and scholarships for graduating seniors.
Since 2012, MVCEF has awarded over $50,000 in educational-related funding to the faculty and students at Moshannon Valley through scholarships and teacher grants.
The MVCEF is an independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit, public charity dedicated to the mission of ensuring the highest level of educational innovation supporting students, faculty and staff, with community involvement, in a partnership of lifetime learning.
MVCEF raises funds through alumni donations, bequeaths, grants and EITC contributions from companies and organizations. All financial contributions made to the MVCEF are tax-deductible.