NEW MILFORD, N.J. — Michael Serrano is a junior at New Milford High School and he has no idea what he wants to do for a living.
Attending weekly HYPELITE meetings , though, is helping him figure that out.
The club and non-profit organization was launched by NMHS graduate Will Esposito (2009) as both a way to help teens like Serrano and carry on the memory of his late friend, Alex Bridge.
Bridge was 22 when he was shot and killed in 2013 , but was the one that Esposito says shared his dream of helping students take charge of their futures.
"Alex had blind faith in HypeLite," said Esposito, who pitched the idea of the club to him shortly before he was killed. After he was killed I went into some sort of depression. I asked myself what Alex would want.
"I believe this is my purpose — to keep it moving."
HYPELITE's slogan is "Bridging Passion with Purpose" in memory of Bridge.
Its mission? To inspire students to cultivate their passion and creativity into successful life and entrepreneurial practices.
Half the battle is figuring out exactly what those things are. Esposito, a substitute teacher at the high school, aims to prove to his students that if he can do it, then they can, too.
"I never saw work as something you really love," said Esposito, a wrestling coach at Northern Highlands Regional High School. "You weren't necessarily supposed to like or love your job."
Esposito's father worked two side jobs on top of his 9-to-5 just to make ends meet, and he preached education to his kids.
And so, Esposito enrolled in East Stroudsberg University of Pennsylvania, and — after switching his major several times — ended up graduating with a degree in business management.
It was during one winter break that he ran the idea of HYPELITE by Bridge and some other friends from home.
"The idea of loving what you do surfaced," Esposito said. "We wanted to create a network of people who are passionate about their work and shed light on this kind of hype.
"We thought about the impact we could make, and the idea evolved from there."
His students are organizing the next networking event on May 23 (SEE ATTACHMENT BELOW) completely on their own, and will hear from and meet people of all different professions.
"The idea is to take charge of your future now so you don't just go through the motions," Esposito said. "To live a life of purpose."
Esposito does introspective work with his students, asking them about their hobbies and offering personality tests. He explains that they can create a life around their passions — which are often times right under their noses — and not a life around work.
And it's all in Bridge's name.
"I think about him every day," Esposito said. "When he died I asked myself, 'What would Alex want?'"