Ulster BOCES means different things to different people. For Nick Martorano, a 2014 graduate of the Highland Central School District and the Ulster BOCES Career & Technical Center’s Cisco & Cybersecurity program, Ulster BOCES ignited his natural instinct for technology, and fanned it into a blazing flame that brought him success as biomedical information specialist, and a passion to keep on reaching for more career opportunities.
“Going to a school like BOCES gives students an opportunity to learn more about real-world skills,” Nick says. “While regular high school prepared me academically, BOCES helped me realize what I actually wanted to do with my life.”
Nick first heard about the many opportunities he could take advantage of during a presentation at his high school given by multiple representatives from Ulster BOCES. He was excited to learn about all of the hands-on activities he could experience—including developing skills in engineering and robotics. Choosing the Cisco & Cybersecurity program was a “no-brainer,” he says, since he had been playing with and building computers since he was a child.
He enrolled in the Career & Technical Center at the start of his junior year. “That initial interest matured into networking, as I acquired a solid foundation of skills at BOCES,” he recalls.
Nick says that his instructors set high expectations, and for the first time in his life, he actually failed an exam. “Whereas school used to be pretty easy for me, I now realized I needed to work harder and get grounded,” he remembers.
“These were not just answers in a book; they were real-world applications and skill sets. The real deal. I knew I had to be focused, be dedicated, and be involved,” he adds.
During his time at the BOCES Career & Technical Center, Nick also took advantage of the opportunity to participate in SkillsUSA, a national career and technical student organization dedicated to preparing students for leadership in the world of work. Nick remembers the hard work and determination needed for the competitions he participated in, and says that, at one point, he even thought of quitting the program. But his instructor, Dr. Kathy Landers, “wouldn’t hear” of him quitting. With a nudge from Dr. Landers, Nick went on to win both state and national competitions in the category of “Extemporaneous Speaking.”
“That’s how much our instructors went out of their way to be involved with us,” he says. “And I’m so glad she did.”
After graduation, Nick went on to earn an associate’s degree in Network Administration, getting several lucrative jobs in his field, including one at the Mid-Hudson Regional Information Center at Ulster BOCES, where he worked as a computer operator. He then worked as a network specialist at Ezras Choilim Health Center in Monroe, and as a cloud engineer at MVP Network Consulting, before landing his current role as biomedical information specialist at the Castle Point VA (Veterans Affairs) Medical Center in Wappingers Falls. Here, he is in charge of the entire networking system, managing two hospitals and seven clinics, ensuring that vital health information is shared quickly and accurately.
“Nick’s responsibilities are wide and vast,” says his supervisor, Gregory Johnson, who is chief biomedical engineer. “He is a vital link to our whole operation.”
“I put my trust in Nick because he has shown the competence and maturity to handle things. He learns fast and pushes himself to grow as a leader,” he adds.
Nick says his ability to take on challenges was first nurtured at BOCES, where he learned to collaborate with others in order to accomplish a difficult task. In 2013, he and five other students from different disciplines participated in a national competition where trade school students were tasked with building a solar car that could successfully race from Fort Worth, Texas, all the way to San Francisco, California.
“I quickly learned that I do not know everything, and that it is important to listen to others,” he remembers. His team, which included welders, electricians, robotics experts, and automotive technicians, built a car good enough to make the trip and win, an experience Nick says is his favorite memory of his time during the program.
“BOCES gave me an outlet to get ahead in life,” says Nick, whose role at Castle Point may soon be expanding into a more regional, supervisory one, according to Johnson.
Today, Nick continues to inspire new students to take the same career path by acting as a member of the SkillsUSA advisory committee, under the supervision of Dr. Landers, the same teacher who inspired him to never quit.
“I am so very proud of what he has accomplished,” says Dr. Landers, “and how he continues to advance his career.”