Story by Shelley R. Clapper
Matthew Lawrence, the principal of the Greenwood Lake Middle School, welcomed graduates and their families to the eighth grade moving up ceremony held on Thurs., Jun. 22 at the Middle School.
Lawrence acknowledged the presence of Greenwood Lake School District administrators including: District Superintendent, Dr. Christine Ackerman; Assistant Superintendent of Business, Ann Lierow; Director of Student Personnel Services, Amy Petrassi; Director of Grounds and Facilities, Robert Forest; Elementary School Principal, Maria Bowler; Director of Curriculum and Technology, Sarah Hadden; and members of the G.L. Board of Education. Also in the audience and recognized by Lawrence was Village of Greenwood Lake Mayor Jesse Dwyer and Chester Academy High School Principal Denis Petrilak.
Lawrence then introduced two individuals who have been very special to the eighth graders: class advisors Mathew Friedler and Cathy Castaldo, who worked tirelessly throughout the year planning amazing events for the students, including a trip to Washington, D.C.
Lawrence thanked the families in the audience for sharing their students with the school staff and teachers.
“Thank you for your support as we worked together these last five years in preparing them for their next phase,” said Lawrence.
The ceremony then officially began with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star Spangled Banner, accompanied by the Middle School band.
Principal’s Address to Graduates
Lawrence addressed the Class of 2017 saying, “You have made a huge impact as scholars, with 22 of you receiving high school credits in Algebra and/or Living Environment. You have been great leaders of our clubs and you have racked up many hours of volunteerism in the school and in the community. Needless to say, our modified sports program, which many of you led, is second to none.”
Lawrence’s advice to the students as they move on to high school was threefold. The first piece of advice was to be confident on day one of high school, knowing what they are capable of achieving. Secondly, he advised the students that along with being confident, be humble. He said don’t be afraid to ask for help and always know their place. The third piece of advice Lawrence offered was to be involved, whether it be in extra-curricular activities, sports or clubs, just as the students have done since entering the middle school.
Graduate Speaker Gabriella Calandra
Lawrence introduced the guest speaker, Gabriella Calandra, a former G.L. Middle School graduate and invited her to address the Class of 2017. Gabriella is a senior at Warwick Valley High School, a member of the band, a member of the National Honor Society, and a four year Scholar-Athlete. She participated in varsity track, cross country and softball and also performed over one hundred hours of community service. Calandra will attend SUNY Oneonta next year, majoring in accounting.
“As I graduate high school, you enter it. At the same time you are leaving behind what is familiar and now facing bigger and better challenges. The unknown can certainly be intimidating. It is hard to believe that four years ago I was sitting in those seats with the same words and thoughts about high school, like about my grades, finding friends, will I make the team?,” said Gabriella.
She continued, “I didn’t make my first team but it opened up other opportunities and enabled me to find the Honors program, which I really grew to love. You are going to find something whether it is joining a team or starting a new club. Never stop trying. Don’t let anything hold you back. But stay focused. High school will go by much faster than you think so really make the most of it. As long as you continue to work hard and believe in yourself, you will be on track for greatness.”
After she finished her address, Lawrence thanked her and commented that she is the second graduate of the Middle School to come back and address the graduates. Last year, Liam Heslin, a graduate of the G.L. Middle School and Chester Academy H.S. addressed the students.
Lawrence said, “I want you all to know that it is a great tradition that we have bringing back these students as role models for our eighth graders.”
The sixth grade chorus then sang, “Stand by Me.”
Salutatorian Adam Stanton
Adam Stanton, the Salutatorian for the Class of 2017, started out by saying, “I am humbled and honored to be standing before you.” He said he served the class as the president of the Student Senate but he was most proud of the friendships he had made in Greenwood Lake.
“Our world is changing. Too many people continue to believe that children are simply twenty percent of the population; however it is a scientific fact that we are one hundred percent of the future and so it is up to us to make sure that when doors close, we are the ones opening the windows! The Class of 2017 has not and will not let anything stop us from achieving our dreams,” said Stanton. “Let us challenge ourselves to make our high school years the best years of our lives.”
Academic Excellence Awards
The academic excellence awards were presented by Rosemary DiBernardi, President of the Greenwood Lake Teacher’s Association. The Math and English awards were presented to Valedictorian Emmalyn McAteer. The Social Studies and Spanish awards were presented to Salutatorian Adam Stanton. The Technology award was presented to Philip Wolff IV, the Music award to Jaime Allen and the Science award to Mary Calandra.
Ellen White Scholarship Awards
Regina Pinglora presented the Ellen White Scholarships Award saying, “Ellen White was a school nurse here for 27 years. She was also my sister. When she passed away in 2005, our family created this memorial scholarship of $1,000 for a high school student and two $100 scholarships for graduating eighth graders who have the qualities of compassion, friendliness, kindness, and community.”
This award went to Kaycie Rondo and Kevin Wark.
Dale Hirrel Memorial Award
DiBernardi presented the Dale Hirrel Memorial Award saying, “This is an award that is very special to all of us. Dale was an amazing young man who possessed a personality that was infectious to all of us.”
Dale was a former student at Warwick High School who tragically lost his life in a motor vehicle accident last year. DiBernardi presented the award to Brandon Jennings, who is a very special graduate that possesses the same qualities Dale.
Excellence in Essay Writing
Every year the Greenwood Farm Association sponsors an Excellence in Essay Writing competition with a monetary award. This year, Mary Calandra was awarded first place, Adam Stanton was awarded second place and in third place was Bridgette Healey.
Valedictorian Emmalyn McAteer
After the awards were presented, Principal Lawrence introduced Emmalyn McAteer, who he referred to as “the top graduate.” McAteer was the Valedictorian of the class and was invited to address her fellow graduates, which she did with humorous recollections.
McAteer recalled when students had changed the ring tone on class telephones. She also recalled when her father came to see her off on the class trip to Washington D.C. dressed in a pink bathrobe and shower cap. She said that the past few years the class members have built strong friendships and helped each other.
“As we journey through high school, I hope we all remain grounded. Wherever life takes you, never forget where you came from,” said McAteer.
Members of the Board of Education then presented the graduates with their diplomas. The ceremony ended with outgoing Superintendent Dr. Christine Ackerman applauding the proud and excited for the graduates as they descended the staircase with their diplomas.