Detroit Catholic Central recently welcomed alumni speakers Travis Charette ‘10, Ken Dabrowski ‘60, and Dr. Matthew Confer ‘13 to campus to provide students insights into practical applications of their studies.
Mr. Charette ‘10, Intelligence Operations Specialist, spoke to Mrs. Gail Levens’ computer and technology classes on how CC technology influenced his path into the military and now US Intelligence.
“Those people in STEM will propel us into the future,” he said. “There are people I have worked with personally in the government and military who are Shamrocks making an impact in aerospace engineering, for example. “The people who are in robotics, in engineering, provide the infrastructure people like me need to do our jobs in intelligence. It is critical for Shamrocks to be in that fold.”
Mr. Charette spoke on the power of the CC brotherhood, telling the story of how he was coincidentally deployed with fellow classmate Doug Eldridge ‘10.
“It got us through a lot, watching those Catholic Central versus Brother Rice livestreams with my Shamrock brother,” he said. Those little things get you through stuff. Even now, when we’re on shift where I work, we watch CC football when we can.”
Mr. Charette also spoke openly about PTSD and his journey with mental health.
“You guys need to realize it’s okay to ask somebody for help,” he told students. “It took my military brothers and a brother from Catholic Central telling me I needed professional help for my life to transform for the better.”
Lastly, Mr. Charette encouraged students to recognize and take full advantage of the opportunities afforded to them by their Catholic Central education.
“This place gives you the chance to blossom into something great,” said Mr. Charette. Not many people get a chance to go to Catholic Central. For many of you, it’s a sacrifice for your parents to send you here. You may be sick of the CC rhetoric that you’ll do great things being a CC Shamrock, but you truly are blessed.”
Mr. Dabrowski ‘60, retired from 37 assignments with Ford, including several executive positions, spoke to Mr. Mike Oakleaf ‘05’s business marketing class on historical key market drivers in the automotive industry and Ford’s response, from the 1960s to present. Mr. Dabrowski shared stories from his roles, including Executive Director, Body Engineering; Corporate Vice President - Trucks; and Vice President, Global Quality and Process Leadership Group.
Coaching students in leadership skills, Mr. Dabrowski encouraged students to prioritize listening skills, lean on market research as a critical tool, build on success, and allow team members the freedom to be creative.
“Inspired teams deliver inspirational products,” Mr. Dabrowski said. “If your teams are fired up, you’ll go far.”
Dr. Confer ‘13, a postdoctoral research associate at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Chemical Imaging and Structures Laboratory, shared his research with students in Mrs. Rebecca Mulrooney’s engineering classes, including studies on discrete frequency infrared imaging of Alzheimer's diseases in human brain tissue.
“What made Catholic Central so special to me was the amount of people who truly cared about me and wanted me to succeed not only while I was here, but after I graduated,” Dr. Confer said. “The amount of support is truly incredible.”
Dr. Confer cited the guidance he received from Science Teacher Mr. Steven Lemieux in chemistry as part of what set him up for success after leaving Catholic Central, even into his doctoral program.
“For the science fair we did my sophomore year at Catholic Central, I built a calorimetry set-up for fuels in my garage, and then in grad school, I did calorimetry again, with a much nicer set-up of course, as part of obtaining my PhD,” he said.
As for advice to students, Dr. Confer stressed the importance of building a strong foundation.
“The focus on the fundamentals of knowing chemistry, biology, math, and physics is so core to everything else moving forward that students should really focus on that. It’s not always the hottest topic, but having the groundwork laid is very important, and they do a good job of that at Catholic Central,” he said.
To learn more about STEM at Catholic Central, visit www.catholiccentral.net/stem.