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Alumni of the Month

Alumni of the Month - May 2011

Darrell Lerner
Cara Castronuova

Darrell Lerner - Q&A

Q: What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
A: I enjoyed Business Drafting in law school because I felt it had practical applications to many things I would be working on in the future. A dozen years later, I have actively participated in drafting, modifying and reviewing many of the documents that comprised the class's curriculum.

Q: What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
A: After law school I founded an Internet sports company called Fantasy Sports Net. The company created online fantasy sports games for major media partners such as WFAN. The most valuable thing I learned was how to success in developing and running a start-up company. The experience I gained at Fantasy Sports Net provided me with a foundation for future success with SNAP Interactive, Inc.

Q: What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
A: I am the co-founder of SNAP Interactive, Inc., a leading social application provider. Our core brand, AreYouInterested.com, is one of the largest dating applications on Facebook. We are also publicly traded, and much of my focus is on the legal and administrative responsibilities within the company.

Q: What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
A: The advice I would give to students is to learn programming! There is a shortage of quality programmers, and the demand is going to increase in the future. Knowing how to program opens up so many doors: from great job opportunities, to positioning yourself to open your own Internet start-up, as well as simply being able to build websites for fun. When going on job interviews, spend a few minutes researching the company you are visiting. If you speak intelligently about a company's business practices, it shows you are prepared and helps you stand out from other candidates.

Q: In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
A: Exciting.

Q: What gave you the idea to start this app?
A: I have always been entrepreneurial, and in 2005 my brother and I founded SNAP Interactive, Inc. We both had previous experience with online dating sites and felt we had some distinctive ideas. When Facebook opened up its application platform, we recognized the unique opportunity and shifted the company's focus toward building dating applications on social networking websites.

Q: What is the single most rewarding experience in your career thus far?
A: Watching SNAP grow from my brother and I working in shared office space, with one part-time programmer, to today employing 24 people, with 40 million users of our products and becoming one of the leading companies in the world in social space.

Darrell Lerner

The growing interest in online dating encouraged Darrell Lerner '96, '99 to co-found SNAP Interactive, Inc., a leading provider of online dating applications for social networking websites. SNAP has developed social dating applications on Facebook, such as AreYouInterested.com, which currently has more than 40 million installations. Darrell's responsibilities include handling business, operational, and legal features for SNAP. He also performs many of the regulatory and administrative tasks associated with a publicly traded company (STVI).

Darrell previously served as president, CEO, chairman, chief financial officer, secretary and treasurer of Universal Flirts Corp. He has extensive experience with the operation and maintenance aspects of a public company, as well as telecommunications and journalism. Prior to joining SNAP, Darrell founded an Internet sports company that operated fantasy sports games for major media partners, including WFAN Sports Radio and Daily Racing Form. He served as CEO and president of Fantasy Sports Net, Inc. for three years. He maintains a Series 7 license (general securities representative) and Series 66 license (investment advisory representative). Darrell earned a bachelor's degree in finance from Hofstra and a J.D. from Hofstra Law School. Darrell currently lives in Great Neck, New York, with his fiancée, Jenny Schlanger '02, '05. In his free time, Darrell enjoys playing basketball and baseball, attending Rush concerts, and – as a new owner of a thoroughbred racehorse – following horse racing.

Cara Castronuova - Q&A

Q: In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
A: Special.

Q: What is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
A: My fondest memory of Hofstra would be working on TV projects in Dempster Hall as a student.

Q: What was your favorite class?
A: My favorite class was Introduction to Film and TV Study.

Q: What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
A: The advice I would give current Hofstra students is to never give up on your dreams and what you hold dear to your heart. After you leave college and enter into the real world, sometimes, you forget that your job should make you happy. Remember that no matter how many people say that you can’t do something or doubt you, you absolutely can achieve anything with vision, hard work, and sacrifice. Hard work is the magic that will turn your dreams into reality. It may take time and dedication, but never let go of your dreams, and do everything you can to achieve them. Do not lose hope or faith in yourself; the most important thing is to keep trying even when times are tough.

Q: Who inspired you to become a boxer and trainer?
A: My dad, who taught me to fight at a young age and instilled in me a fighter mentality – a mentality fueled by hard work, discipline and commitment to a higher purpose.

Q: How has your training in boxing and martial arts influenced your mentality as a person?
A: Boxing and martial arts teach you focus, discipline and how to be strong through adversity. It’s about bouncing back up after being dealt a crushing blow, whether in the ring or in life. It is this mentality that has played a crucial role in my success, and keeps me striving for more in life.

Cara Castronuova

The newest fitness trainer on NBC’s hit show The Biggest Loser, Cara Castronuova ’04 is a two-time Golden Gloves winner who was once ranked nationally by USA Boxing. Cara was born in Elmont, New York, and began boxing at the age of 5 in the family garage with her father, a former Marine.  She wrestled in high school and college, and graduated from Hofstra University with a Bachelor of Arts in communications.

Cara first entered the boxing arena as a youth boxing trainer, and later began competing locally as a boxer, winning her first fight in 2002 at the New York Empire State Games in Syracuse. She also volunteered for a government-funded program for troubled youth and taught program participants the virtues of boxing. Later, while working as a personal fitness and boxing trainer at sports clubs in the New York area, she began to use fighting and boxing to encourage her clients to find their “inner warrior.” While training clients, Cara continued to box competitively, winning a pair of “Silver Gloves” in 2004.  Determined to do better, Cara returned to the ring one year later and won her first New York Golden Gloves championship at Madison Square Garden in 2005. Following the win, she started competing nationally and was ranked No. 2 in the nation by USA Boxing. She went on to win numerous titles, such as the New York State Amateur Boxing Championship, the Metros, and the Empire State Games, as well as her second Golden Gloves title in 2006 at Madison Square Garden. Certified as a boxing coach by the New York State Athletic Commission, she is also a personal trainer certified by the ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association). Additionally, she has worked as a reporter and fitness writer for New York and boxing press outlets, and as an announcer and sports commentator for various boxing venues throughout New York City, such as Madison Square Garden.

Cara has always been a fighter. She has overcome challenges and adversity in her work and in her personal life. Her father passed away when she was a teenager, and she lost her mother four years ago..  She has had to face much adversity-- competitively and personally.  Her father, who was obese, passed away when she was just a teenager.  Her mother passed away from a car accident four years ago. Cara’s struggles have instilled in her a spirit of dedication, hope and determination. They have channeled her passion for competition and training, and have motivated her to become a role model for her family, friends, and the Hofstra community.