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Tom Zara’s Story

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Tom Zara with mentees

After being a part of Winning Futures during my freshman year of high school, I went on to graduate 1st in my class from Warren Mott High School with a 4.468 GPA and I was also named Senior of the Year.  I definitely owe Winning Futures for the lessons I learned that enabled me to push toward and achieve my goals.

After graduating high school, I attended a private college in Virginia where I decided to go into education so that I could have a similar impact on high school students’ lives that Winning Futures had on mine.  I worked toward a degree in Mathematics with a minor in Spanish as well as my licensure in Secondary Education.  I had the privilege of studying abroad in Guatemala for two months, through which I completed my minor and became fluent in Spanish.  After four years I graduated from the Honors Program with over a 3.6 GPA.

Right out of college I taught K-12 Spanish and math at a private school in Warren for two years.  I then transitioned to the public school setting, landing a job at Rochester Adams High School.  It’s my absolute dream school.  I’m currently in my 4th year there and plan on teaching there until I retire.  I teach math and help out with boys and girls tennis teams.  This past summer I traveled to Europe for 19 days with “People to People” organization, serving as one of four chaperones for a group of 47 high school students.  Something I am very proud of is my ability to relate to students and, as a result, impact their lives.  I attribute this ability to the Winning Futures program, since so many positive adult role models demonstrated the value of pouring into students’ lives.

Although it’s difficult to remember specifics since it’s been about 13 years since I was in Winning Futures, I do remember acknowledging how much attitude impacts internal happiness and, as an outward expression of that inward reality, leads to success.  In particular goal setting has become an instrumental life practice for me.  I spend five minutes each night envisioning the highest version of myself as well as the things I want to achieve.

If I were to ask your closest friends/family or a teacher/employer what you were like before and after Winning Futures, what would they say? OR Describe yourself before being a part of Winning Futures. How has Winning Futures helped you get where you are today? OR What obstacles have you had to overcome in your life and how has Winning Futures helped you?

I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Winning Futures program my freshman year of high school.  Although I wouldn’t have admitted it at the time, I was actually a fairly pessimistic person when I entered Winning Futures.  I saw the positive energy the leaders and mentors had and recognized the power that attitude has on happiness and success in life.  This was the first of many seeds planted in my life that directed me toward being more positive in life.

The most influential aspect of Winning Futures for me was creating a 5 year vision statement.  Honestly, I don’t think a single thing from my vision came to fruition.  This was not because Winning Futures didn’t equip me, but rather because my vision changed over time.  The amazing thing about vision setting is it provides direction toward which I can channel all my passions.  However, as Winning Futures taught me, it’s important to be flexible and embrace change, particularly when faced with obstacles.