On April 3, Newark-area high school students and teachers arrived at NJIT in anticipation of meeting two-time Super Bowl champion and New York Giants Hall of Fame inductee, Justin Tuck.

Justin and Lauran Tuck, co-founders of the nonprofit Tuck’s R.U.S.H. for Literacy, appeared as special guest speakers at this year’s 2018 Junior Achievement (JA) Career Success® Workshop College Series to help promote career development among New Jersey’s high school learners.

“There are probably more people here today in this room than where I grew up in my hometown of Kellyton, Alabama,” said Justin Tuck in his introduction to nearly 150 students and teachers in NJIT’s Campus Center Atrium. “I mention that because I am very proud of where I am from, but also because I am very aware that it doesn’t matter where you are from.” 

“People might think that because of what I may have accomplished on the football field, that it was that simple the whole way through,” added Tuck. “To get where you want to be in life takes work ethic, character and some flat-out lonely nights...I have also had a lot of people to be grateful for and nobody is successful without the help of someone else.”

“It is important to look toward someone who is doing what you want to do, whether it is an entrepreneur or an educator and ask, “How can I emulate while simultaneously carving my own path?” said Lauran Tuck, who also sits on the Fort Lee, NJ Board of Education. “However, you can’t always wait for a mentor to take the first step…you have to take the initiative and that is the case in life, it takes constant hustle.”

The event — co-hosted by NJIT’s Collaborative for Leadership, Education, and Assessment Research (CLEAR)and Junior Achievement of New Jersey — featured inspirational talks and career development activities with mentors comprised of NJIT faculty, student ambassadors, top New Jersey employers and representatives of the U.S. Army, the sole sponsors of the event.

“I came to NJIT to learn today and I think I am learning a lot,” said Johanna Kowlessar, a senior at Newark Central High School. “One of the things that opened my eyes was hearing the struggles that some of the speakers faced before they became successful, because that related to me as a high school student.”

Students participated in interactive sessions to improve their resume writing and learn about higher education opportunities available in New Jersey, as well as future job outlook information to help them begin to decide their career path. 

Professionals from companies such as Prudential, Wells Fargo, Valley National Bank and State Farm also held networking sessions and helped students develop interview skills and professional “elevator pitches” that they could use with potential employers. 

“The interview activities helped us learn that to get a job or get a good result from an interview, you have to make the interviewer comfortable,” said Amza Fofana, a junior at Newark Central High School who wants to study mechanical engineering after graduation. “Our mentors helped us get better at acting confident, even if we are nervous.”

Before leaving for the day, Fofana says his mentors left him and his schoolmates with a parting message that had echoed throughout the day.

“[They] told us that even if things don’t turn out the way we want, to never quit.”