John Paul DeSimone’s parents were told there was a chance he wouldn’t live past 2 years old. He spent the first six years of his life breathing through a tube in his trachea due to CHARGE syndrome, a pattern of birth defects that can lead to heart and breathing problems.
Now a senior at Oyster Bay High School, he’s looking to the future, even participating in a high school competition to demonstrate his job interviewing skills and drive to find a job after graduation.
DeSimone was one of 250 students to participate in the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce’s 10th annual Young Professionals Chamber of Commerce Business Leadership Competition last Nov. 28 at Farmingdale State College.
For the competition, DeSimone created a professional resume, completed a job application and participated in a mock job interview for a position as a stockperson at the Huntington Kmart.
“Just by looking at him you would never know he has disabilities in the way that he carries himself,” said his mother, Ann DeSimone, 51, of Oyster Bay. “What’s amazing is that he’s hearing and visually impaired and he went on a mock interview with the confidence he has.”
On competition day, DeSimone rose from his seat, straightened his tie and walked into a private room to demonstrate his interview skills.
“I told them [the judges] that I’m eager to learn new things and that I’m willing to work the hours,” said DeSimone, 19. “I’m responsible, hard-working and a goal achiever.”
Tara Beal, a business and economics teacher Oyster Bay High School, picked 24 students to compete, but was impressed to see DeSimone, a special needs student at the school, receive honorable mention in the competition’s Job Interview category.
“When his name was called, I saw a boy stand up and a man walk out,” said Beal, 36, of Centerport. “I knew he was ready for this and was confident that he was going to do an amazing job.”
Students from 14 high schools competed in categories in fashion marketing, hospitality services, advertising, graphic design, travel and tourism, sales demonstration, sports management, sports marketing, entrepreneurship and job interview skills.
Debra Kienke, director of special services in Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District, has known DeSimone for at least 12 years.
“He’s very independent and mature,” said Kienke, of East Rockaway. “He’s also a very good decision-maker and self-advocate. He’s never afraid to put in the extra work and that’s what he did.”
Weeks later, his community also recognized him for his hard work and dedication.
At a Dec. 18 meeting, the Oyster Bay East Norwich Board of Education presented him with two certificates, from the Suffolk County Legislature and New York State Assembly, for his performance in the competition.
“When my name was called, I was surprised,” said DeSimone of the competition. “I was excited about what would happen next. I think I want to go to culinary school or a local college. The competition helped me become more confident.”