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Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 25, 2011

Jesse Feinman is finding his way

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Jesse Feinman, who is both smart and resourceful, has hit a rough spot in his young life.

He graduated from Tech Valley High School in June with a clear plan in mind for his future — to become a combat rescue officer in the Air Force.

He had a desk job last summer, working in computer network administration, and decided deskwork wasn’t for him. “A friend of mine was going into the military, so I looked into it,” said Feinman.

He liked what he found — money for college later with a job that is exciting now. He chose the Air Force because of its high standards. “Once I decided on the Air Force, I looked at six or seven active jobs,” he said.  Feinman found a job that he thought he’d really like, rescuing downed pilots, often behind enemy lines.

Feinman is due to be shipped out for basic training in two months and went through the required physical.  He knew he could meet the minimum admittance standards, which include running a mile in 6:30, doing 50 sit-ups and 50 push-ups, and swimming 500 yards, all in quick succession.

The problem arose because he coughed.

“I always had an issue coughing with intense cardio,” said Feinman. “I didn’t think anything of it…But, because this was Special Ops, they bring someone in for the physical test and he pointed out that’s not normal.”

Feinman learned he has exercise-induced asthma. “That means you start to have bronchial spasms shortly after exercise; it can extend for several hours,” he said matter-of-factly this week. While it can be treated with an inhaler, it would disqualify him from the Air Force job he wanted.

“If I decided not to tell anyone, I’d probably fail at the training…That wouldn’t be productive for anyone,” he said.

“I have a doctor’s appointment in a couple of days to confirm the diagnosis,” said Feinman.

Meanwhile, he’s considering other paths.


He is well prepared.

Feinman spent his early school years at Guilderland — first at Westmere and then at Guilderland elementary schools, then on to three years at Farnsworth Middle School, and a year-and-half at Guilderland High School. When Guilderland’s first candidate for Tech Valley High left, Feinman applied and was accepted.

While Tech Valley is known for honing public-speaking skills and computer skills, Feinman said he felt confident in those areas already. What he immediately liked about Tech Valley was the sense of community. “I made a bunch of really cool friends,” he said.

With a class of 28 students, all attending courses together, the students get to know each other well, he said.

This has its drawbacks, too. Because everyone was in the same math class, for example, the teacher had to reach students like Feinman at one end of the spectrum — he was taking a college calculus course on the side — and students at the other end of the spectrum who were struggling to pass their geometry Regents exam.

One of the faculty he found most personable was math teacher Jason Irwin. “Anyone could talk to him…He had to teach a whole slew of kids…He tried to get everyone to understand.”

In Feinman’s senior year, another math section was added, which he said was a big improvement. The physics teacher instructed students in non-advanced math, and Irwin taught the advanced students.

“So the last year was the most productive,” Feinman said. “Mr. Irwin was one of my favorites. He would discuss one-on-one with you. He was an all-round great guy.”

Project-based learning, another initiative that Tech Valley is known for, “is a great idea in theory,” said Feinman. He went on, “Being in the first class, a lot of times, something didn’t work the way it was supposed to. The next class got the revision. We were the guinea pigs.”

Overall, though, he said, “It was a good experience.”

One of the things he values most are the friendships he formed. “When you get to hang out with people all day — not that we weren’t working; we were — you see your friends a lot more than at a normal school,” he said. “If you work with a new kid on a project, you get to know him really well. If you click, you’ll hang out more often.”

Life lessons

Feinman stayed in contact with his home school, Guilderland. He was one of the film crew responsible for broadcasting school board meetings.

But, he did more than his job; he got involved. He joined the Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committee, since disbanded, which was charged with reviewing the annual school budget and making recommendations.

“I heard them talking a lot about the budget crisis,” Feinman said. One of the things the board was discussing was cutting its support of Tech Valley High School. Feinman wanted to let people know how worthwhile the program was.

But, having been schooled by Nicholas Viscio, then the district’s media advisor, who has since retired, Feinman knew it was important to be objective.

“I use some of the lessons and values Mr. Viscio taught me all the time,” Feinman said. “You can argue more effectively and see where you’re wrong if you’re not biased.”

About participating on the citizens’ budget committee, he went on, “I was not there for just the one thing; that would be wrong. I wanted to remain unbiased,” he said. “I realized there were no students on the budget committee. There are a lot of things students like to do that adults don’t realize.”

One of the things under consideration for cuts were school clubs. Listening to other students’ ideas, Feinman proposed to the group that the cost for student parking passes be raised and those funds go to pay for clubs.

“They were ridiculously cheap compared to other schools,” Feinman said of the parking passes. “I suggested they be increased to be on a par with other schools.”

He was gratified, he recalled, when Demian Singleton, the assistant superintendent for instruction, said the added revenues could be used for clubs.

Since Feinman decided in December to go into military service, he didn’t apply to any colleges. Now, he’s thinking of applying for next semester although he’s not sure where. He has taken college classes both during the school year and summers so he has close to enough credits now for an associate’s degree.

“I have a leg up,” he said. “I should be all right.”

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