Alumni Spotlight

By Brianna Campagna

Although GS is a small suburban school, many passion-filled students have graduated and gone on to do successful things.

One way that former students can see what their fellow graduates have achieved is on LinkedIn. The employment network has a GS Alumni page, which former students can join.

Physics teacher Mrs. Cheryl Harper has managed the LinkedIn page for approximately three years now.

“I saw former students putting their resume there and connecting with people who gave them leads on internships and jobs,” Mrs. Harper said. “There is the ability to see how well a lot of our graduates are doing and how happy they are.”

As of the end of October 2022, there are just under 300 alumni involved on the page. Any alumni is able to join the LinkedIn page.

“All somebody has to do is be a high school alumnus and send a request to join the group,” Harper said. “I check to make sure they are really an alumnus of the high school. Then I just accept their request.”

One alumnus who is involved on the LinkedIn page is Tristan Elma, who graduated in 2017. He attended USC to study computer science and computer engineering.

Portrait of Elma. Photo courtesy: Tristan Elma.

“Once I got there, my focus became setting myself up for my career, so I started working hard to land an internship and get some industry experience,” Elma said. “I struggled to get an internship until the summer of my junior year, when I worked for Intel. In that position, I helped develop test code for their nonvolatile memory chips.”

Soon after he enrolled in USC’s progressive degree program, where he was able to obtain a master’s degree while he continued to finish his undergraduate classes. During all of this, he was uncertain if this was the career path for him.

“Until the very last minute, I was unsure of whether I wanted to pursue computer software or hardware engineering,” he said. “After asking one of my favorite professors for advice, I ended up following in his footsteps to get my Masters in computer (hardware) engineering.”

Although Elma enjoyed Intel, he felt as though his interests were best met elsewhere.

“While I was ready to go back to Intel for another internship, I ended up going to Samsung to pursue a position that I felt was more in line with my interests and skills,” he said. “I interned there last summer and fall while I finished up my grad school remotely, then I was offered a full-time position after I graduated in December to work on their GPU team, specifically on standard cell library maintenance, CAD/EDA infrastructure and physical design. I’ve been at Samsung ever since, living near their research center in Austin, Texas.”

Elma has always had many influential people in his life; his family has always inspired him.

“My family has had the biggest impact,” he said. “My parents, especially, have always stressed the importance of academics and pushed me to work hard in school. They also both studied science in college, which is likely why I envisioned myself going into STEM even as a kid. In school and college, I also had many incredible teachers and professors who cultivated my curiosities and equipped me with the skills for success.”

Alongside the people who inspired him, his experiences helped him find his interest in engineering.

“Although my mentors have been the biggest influences on my life, I’ve also had life-changing experiences in summer camps, extracurriculars and internships that have shaped my trajectory for becoming an engineer,” he said.

Elma’s motivation has been his passion for his field.

“My main motivation is that I’m extremely interested in my field and get genuinely excited by the projects I get to work on,” he said. “There have been a lot of challenges on the road to my current position, but I’ve never lost sight of my goal, which is to do something that I love and is in demand at the same time.”

One recommendation that Elma has for students is to do research on what will take them to the career path they want.

“Once you have an idea of what you want to do, do your research on what it will take to get there,” he said. “For example, if you’re going after a specific kind of job, you can search job postings to get a sense of what qualifications and skills you’ll need, and you can even check websites like Glassdoor to see what the interview process is like. From there, you can work on building your resume and skillset, tailoring them to help you achieve your goals.”

Some qualities that Elma has, such as determination, helped him get to where he is today.

 “I don’t shy away from challenges and I don’t give up when things go poorly,” he said. “For example, my freshman year of college was the hardest year of my life in many ways, but I dug deep and kept going. At first, I was behind in my classes relative to my classmates and my GPA suffered. I didn’t know if I’d be able to make it through, and I was scared because all I heard from upperclassmen was how much harder classes got from there. But I worked through my struggles and managed to do better every semester until I started getting 4.0s.”

GS has helped form Elma into the person he is today from experiences outside of school hours.

“I think the most important things I learned at GS are lessons that go beyond the classroom; experiences that have shaped my character and changed the way I think,” he said. “One example of this is the maturity I developed as I balanced classwork and extracurriculars. I really had to think about how I should spend my time and why I did what I did. This taught me not only to manage time, but also to figure out what matters to me and to be intentional in life. Unlike random facts you might study, lessons like these tend to stick with you.”

Megan Taylor, who graduated from GS in 2013, is also involved with the GS Alumni page on LinkedIn. She studied Early Childhood Education at the University of Pittsburgh. While she was there, she studied abroad twice in Italy and Ireland, which opened her love for travelling. Before the end of her college career, she got a job at Uber.

Portrait of Taylor. Photo Courtesy: Megan Taylor.

“During the summer before my senior year of college, I started working part-time at Uber in a Driver Support Hub,” Taylor said. “I was able to network myself in this role with connections I made at my other job as a Pitt Tour Guide. I’m proud to say I’m still here over six years later. I built my career in Sales and Account Management across Uber Eats SMB restaurants. In my current role, I manage US & Canada Uber Eats Enterprise Marketing Sales as a Senior Operations Manager.”

Taylor currently lives in New York City with her partner, Tomás, where she has resided for nearly five years. Looking back on her time at GS, she admires the unique, dedicated teaching staff that taught her.

“Greensburg Salem is unique because of the empathy and dedication driven by the teachers and staff,” she said. “In and out of the classroom, I’ve leaned on teachers like Mr. Gazze, Mr. Lenzi, Mrs. Audia and Mr. Snider when I felt lost. Take advantage of those that want to help you – it will make a world of difference.”

The extracurriculars that Taylor was involved in taught her successful skills to use in her current job.

“During my time at GS, I was a majorette in the marching band, ran cross country and track, was in all the musicals and participated in the district chorus,” she said. “Over the years, I’ve partially attributed my success to being really involved in extracurriculars in high school. It taught me how to work toward a shared goal, be accountable, public speaking, juggle priorities, etc.”

Advice that Taylor has for students is to “be curious” and explore many different career options.

“I candidly put myself into a box early in my high school career by solely exploring careers in education,” she said. “As a result, I entered my senior year of college uninterested in what was ahead of me. It all worked out regardless. However, if I could have done anything differently during my time at GS, it would have been to shadow professionals in various roles and have extensive conversations with adults about what they enjoy about their fields.”

Taylor has helped herself stay motivated and advises students to do the same.

“Being motivated and generally driven has helped me take advantage of every opportunity that’s been presented to me,” she said. “Reflecting, I can see a domino effect of how each opportunity has led me to the next one. My advice is to be bold, ask questions and put yourself outside your comfort zone. I promise you won’t regret it.”

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