Graduations

Victor Labozzetta III leads Newfield High School’s senior class at graduation. Photo from Middle Country school district

Newfield High School seniors will say goodbye to their school this Saturday as they prepare for life beyond Newfield.

Victor Labozzetta III and Wasie Karim will lead their graduating class as Newfield High School’s 2015 valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Labozzetta, who is wrapping up his high school career with a 97.33 GPA, plans to attend Eastman School of Music in Rochester this coming fall. What was once a hobby for Labozzetta is now a career choice, as he is majoring in percussion performance.

“I’ve always had an interest in percussion and in music in general,” he said. “Even when I was little, I would drum on furniture in the house.”

His knack for drumming on the furniture lead to his mother purchasing his first drum set. At the age of 4, Labozzetta III started percussion lessons with drum teacher Justin Gallo, one of his inspirations. Four years ago the duo co-authored “A Practical Approach to Understanding Time Signatures,” a music book which teaches musicians the ins and outs of time signatures.

But Labozzetta is not simply a percussionist. He is also a composer. He has composed several pieces including  “Concerto in Eb,” “The Third Minute” and his most recent “Urban Streetlamp.” Newfield’s jazz ensemble, including Labozzetta, performed his piece on June 4 for a school concert. In addition to composing music and playing the drums, Labozzetta juggled eight Advanced Placement courses and several extracurricular activities during his four years at Newfield. He was an active member of the jazz band, Tri-M Music Honor Society and Thespian Honor Society where he served as president and secretary, respectively.

Two years ago, the music enthusiast attended The Julliard School Summer Intensive. He also was the substitute percussionist for Atlantic Wind Symphony and Sound Symphony Orchestra.

Going forward, Labozzetta is most excited to learn alongside like-minded peers and from faculty members like Eastman’s Chair of the Percussion Department Professor Michael Burritt, among others.

Karim is ending his high school career with a 96.18 GPA. The graduating senior is attending Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College in the fall. Although he is caught between majoring in neuroscience or biochemistry, Karim is set on pursuing a career in the medical field.

He is one of several in his family to pursue a career in the sciences.

Wasie Karim leads Newfield High School’s senior class at graduation. Photo from Middle Country school district
Wasie Karim leads Newfield High School’s senior class at graduation. Photo from Middle Country school district

Karim cited his late grandfather as one of his biggest inspirations for his personal and professional life. His maternal grandfather taught him how to appreciate what he had and about his faith during his childhood. He also encouraged Karim to pursue and advance in the sciences like his uncles.

Although his grandfather died when Karim was 7-years-old, Karim never strayed from his passion for the sciences. The salutatorian does not only want to heal people, but he also hopes entering fields like Pediatric Neurology will help patients receive faster medical care.

“One of my guidance counselors had to go to a pediatric neurologist for one of her sons and she had to wait three months because they were in such high demand,” Karim said. “If I could help fill that field within Long Island and New York City it would be a pretty noble thing to do.”

While attending Newfield, Karim took approximately 10 AP classes. He was also involved in the LOTE Honor Society and the National Honor Society. He served as the president of the LOTE Honor Society, where he helped orchestrate events like fundraisers and attempted to increase club membership.

For Karim, the LOTE Honor Society’s International Night event was a highlight of his high school career. The club, as well as the event, aimed to promote cultural diversity. When he was 14-years-old, Karim became a volunteer at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Karim said he is eager to leave the quiet suburbs of Long Island for New York City.

“Being in the middle of all that hustle and bustle, it seems pretty cool, especially coming from a really quiet suburb where there are literally no children on my block,” Karim said. “It’s going to be a big transition for sure, but I think it’s one that I’m going to like.”

He aspires to work at  Columbia University Medical Center in the Pediatrics department, although he said this might change. This summer he is not only preparing for life beyond high school, but also nurturing his interest in computers and cars. With his growing interest in technology, Karim said that if the medical career does not work in his favor, he would pursue a career in computer science.

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Comsewogue High School’s week was jam-packed, with the senior prom on Wednesday and the Class of 2015 graduation ceremony on Thursday.

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Kings Park High School said goodbye to its 2015 graduating class on Thursday night as students flanked the football field in the company of flocks of excited family members.

The men were donned in red caps and gowns while their women counterparts sported white and they sat in alternating order, properly decorating the school field in Kingsmen colors before their final sendoff. Class valedictorian Zachary Marcone and salutatorian Justin Barish were two of several students to step up and deliver encouraging remarks before the students shook hands and grasped their high school diplomas.

“You must strike a balance in life,” said Marcone, who had his speech flown in via air drone to symbolize the possibilities the future holds. “Everything you do in life must be balanced.”

Principal Lino E. Bracco said 91 percent of Kings Park High School grads were off to college next year and wished the graduating class well before the two-hour ceremony concluded.

Valedictorian Seth Brand. Photo from Mount Sinai school district

They volunteered countless hours, participated in numerous activities and have taken more than 40 Advanced Placement courses combined, so it should come as no surprise that Seth Brand, Brendan Zotto and Tiffany Ong are at the top of Mount Sinai High School’s 2015 graduating class.

Seth Brand
With a GPA of 102.399, Seth Brand graduates as this year’s valedictorian and will head to Harvard University in the fall.

The varsity soccer and basketball player said he plans on studying biology, but is still undecided as he wants to explore and see what he is most interested in.

“I think I’m going to find what I really want to do upon going to Harvard,” he said.

Brand added that he knows whatever he ends up doing, it will involve making a difference in others’ lives.
Over the course of his four years at Mount Sinai, Brand took a total of 24 AP classes and exams — 13 of which he self-studied for — and passed every single one.

In addition to playing sports, Brand served as class president in 10th and 11th grades, and as president of the National Honor Society. He was also vice president of the school’s Environmental Out Reach club, coordinating beach cleanups and collecting recyclables.

Brand reflected fondly on his time as a Mustang and said he benefited from being in small school. He also gave a shutout to his teachers and the friends he has made.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better place to go.”

Brendan Zotto

Salutatorian Brendan Zotto. Photo from Mount Sinai school district
Salutatorian Brendan Zotto. Photo from Mount Sinai school district

In addition to being the Mustang’s senior class president, Brendan Zotto is also this year’s salutatorian, graduating with a 101.213 GPA. He heads off to Stony Brook University in the fall and will major in computer engineering.

Zotto said a programming class he took as a freshman spurred his interest in the subject. After taking the AP Physics C exam, which he self-studied for, Zotto said he realized he was interested in computer hardware as he learned about circuitry, and electricity and magnetism.

“I’m hoping college is an experience like that, where I learn one thing and it leads me to something else,” he said.

In his spare time, Zotto, a member of the cross country track team, said he enjoys running.

His favorite memory from high school, he said, was participating in the National Honor Society’s Video Game Tournament, where students played Super Smash Brothers Melee and raised money for the group.

Zotto, who is also vice president of the Computer Club and treasurer of the Science Club, said he hopes to one day make and improve on current computer hardware.

The salutatorian said college would offer him the “experience to learn more about myself and about what I’m studying.”

Tiffany Ong
Tiffany Ong rounds out the top trio and is this year’s senior class poet. Ong is graduating with a 101.146 GPA and will head to New York University in the fall, where she’ll major in nutrition and dietetics.

Senior class poet Tiffany Ong. Photo from Mount Sinai school district
Senior class poet Tiffany Ong. Photo from Mount Sinai school district

Ong said she picked the major because she has a passion for the sciences, health and food.

“I just love how we can take care of our bodies and be athletic and still have a healthy lifestyle,” she said.

The student government secretary said she stays active in a few different ways. She played varsity tennis until her junior year and currently spends much of her time dancing at Backstage Studio of Dance.

While Ong’s dream job would be to dance for a living, she said she understands how challenging that is and will explore creating a major at NYU that combines her passions for dance and nutrition.

“Hopefully, I can help dancers in the future, or any other athletes.”

The senior also has a love of art and music. She is an accomplished violin player, having served as concertmistress of the high school’s orchestra, ensemble leader of the chamber orchestra and a section leader in the Long Island String Festival Association.

Ong said she enjoyed attending Mount Sinai because it is a small school where you get to know everyone, but she is also excited for new experiences college will bring.

“I’m looking forward to seeing new people, being on my own, growing up really fast, especially being in the city.”

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By Rachel Siford

Smithtown High School West had their commencement ceremony on Wednesday, June 24 at 5 p.m. and this year was special because they were celebrating 100 years of Smithtown graduates.

There were 433 seniors graduating this year. Superintendent of Schools Dr. James J. Grossane delivered a speech, quoting from “All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” by Robert Fulghum, reminding students the importance of “holding hands and sticking together.”

Principle John Coady also said a few words, followed by Rebecca Cheng, the honorary speaker, who encouraged her fellow classmates to be the best they can be and to make a difference in the world. Co-class Presidents Cameron Daleo and Ian Lesnick concluded the speeches with a walk down memory lane, reminiscing on the good and bad times of getting through high school.

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Friends and families gathered at the Bulls football stadium to cheer on loved ones during the 100th commencement ceremony for Smithtown High School East on Wednesday, June 24.

In a ceremony that lasted a little over an hour, Smithtown East principal Edwin Thompson called on the words of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson — the president in the year of the school’s first graduation — to remind students that obstacles are there to be overcome. After addresses from the district’s assistant superintendent for instruction and two student speakers, nearly 500 students received their high school diplomas.

From left, Exhortation Speaker Brittany Rinaldi, Valedictorian Lauren McBrearty and Salutatorian Joseph Niver. Photo from Rocky Point school district

By Rachel Siford

Three of Rocky Point High School’s finest are at the helm of  Rocky Point’s graduating class of 2015.

Lauren McBrearty
Lauren McBrearty came in on top as the Rocky Point’s valedictorian. She will attend Cornell University in the fall, but is undecided about her major.

She kept herself busy throughout her high school career with jazz band, pit orchestra, chorus, mock trial, varsity soccer, National Honor Society and the New York State Math Honor Society. McBrearty was also co-editor in chief of her yearbook and a rank and section leader in marching band.

The busy student has taken 19 Advanced Placement classes and is an AP Scholar with Honors and a National Merit Scholarship Program Commended Student.

McBrearty said she got to where she is today with a lot of hard work and self motivation.

“I couldn’t not try to do well,” she said. “It’s just not in my nature.”

Joseph Niver
Joseph Niver is this year’s salutatorian and will attend Vassar College to study political science.

He was involved with the track team, cross country team, National Honor Society and the New York State Math Honor Society. He was also the president of the Science Club. Niver took 19 AP classes in high school and is an AP Scholar with Honors. He was named a 2015 NMSP Commended Student.

He attributes his success in school to hard work and luck, and reminisced about going to Relay for Life every year and attending football games.

Brittany Rinaldi
Brittany Rinaldi is number three in her class and this year’s exhortation speaker. She is going to the United States Military Academy at West Point in the fall, where she’ll play lacrosse.

She was inspired to go to West Point after the school’s lacrosse coach contacted her. She said she fell in love with the school when she visited.

During high school, she was part of Athletes Helping Athletes, National Honor Society and New York State Math Honor Society. Rinaldi was also vice president of the Leaders Club and captain of both her varsity basketball and lacrosse teams.

She said she achieved her goals by continuously keeping herself busy with sports and clubs, and also constantly studying.

Samantha Brindley, left, and Rebecca Hayman are Miller Place High School’s valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Samantha Brindley, Miller Place High School’s 2015 valedictorian, and Rebecca Hayman, the salutatorian, are more than just two success stories from Miller Place — they’re also the best of friends.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to go anywhere else but here,” Brindley said.  “My parents both graduated from Miller Place, and I’ve met all of my best friends here.”

Brindley is graduating with a GPA of 100.97, and Hayman is graduating with a GPA of 100.33.

During their time at Miller Place, Brindley and Hayman participated in multiple clubs together including mathletes, service club, Foreign Language Honor Society and National Honor Society. They also took several Advance Placement courses together, English and Composition, Spanish and Calculus.

Brindley played for the Miller Place High School varsity field hockey team for two years, where she and her team won county’s and the Long Island championships. She was also a member of Natural Helpers and was the secretary of the National Foreign Language Honor Society.

Outside of school, Brindley volunteered at Mather Memorial Hospital where she recently reached more than 400 service hours, and Stony Brook University Hospital, where she worked in the nutrition department.

In 2013, Brindley went to the University of California, Berkeley, for 10 days to attend a medical program where she learned basic triage skills.

Brindley will attend the University of Miami in the fall to study neuroscience.

“It’s very rare, in my 18 years here, that I find a student who had such a clear idea of what they wanted to do in their freshman year,” Marisa Raptis, Brindley’s guidance counselor, said. “Samantha was always interested in neuroscience. To have that distinct determination and find avenues to explore it is very rare.”

Hayman feels like her four years at Miller Place flew by.

“The journey went so quickly, I feel like we just started here yesterday,” she said.

Hayman was involved in the Future Business Leaders of America club, where she held the position of treasurer.

As a dancer, she performed in the high school’s variety show for each of her four years at the school. In addition, Hayman was a member of winter and spring track and field for two years and was the event coordinator for the National Foreign Language Honor Society.

Outside of school, Hayman is actively involved at Infant Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Port Jefferson, where she worked with the parish outreach group and was an altar server.

Hayman is very interested in business and will be furthering her studies in the fall at Stony Brook University.

“She is a great kid, a pleasure to work with,” Meghan Gallo, Hayman’s guidance counselor said. “She never shied away from a difficult course, and she exhausted our business courses here.”

Smithtown class speakers celebrate at the county School Superintendents Association’s Valedictorian Luncheon late last month. Seated in the middle are Rebecca Cheng from Smithtown High School West and Brian Righter from Smithtown High School East with Cheng’s mother Pei Cheng and Righter’s father Glenn Righter seated along side each. Photo from Smithtown Central School District

School superintendents, administrators and parents acknowledged and honored the highest achieving students of Suffolk County’s Class of 2015 during the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association’s 21st annual Valedictorian Luncheon, held at the Hyatt Regency Wind Watch Hotel in Hauppauge.

Brian Righter from Smithtown High School East and Rebecca Cheng from Smithtown High School West represented Smithtown Central School District at the luncheon. While the Smithtown CSD does not name valedictorians for their respective high schools, class speakers are chosen to represent each building. The top academic students (with a 4.0 GPA) in each of the two schools vote on whom amongst their peers they would like to see represent them at graduation.

The celebratory event was punctuated with music provided by the Islip High School Jazz Ensemble, who performed under the direction of Steve Campanella.

Congratulating all of the valedictorians and student representatives on their hard work and academic achievements were Roberta A. Gerold, SCSSA president and Middle Country school district superintendent of schools; Susan A. Schnebel, SCSSA president-elect and Islip school district superintendent of schools; Charles T. Russo, SCSSA vice president and East Moriches school district superintendent of schools; and Lars Clemensen, SCSSA secretary and Hampton Bays school district superintendent of schools.

Keynote speaker Roger Tilles, a member of the New York State Board of Regents, encouraged the valedictorians to always put things in perspective, develop a backbone, become proactive and involved, use imagination and creativity to propel forward, and find a job that matters.

“Love what you do, and feel that it matters,” Tilles said. “There is no greater fun than that.”

Each valedictorian was called to the stage to receive a certificate and gift of recognition. During their acknowledgment, the universities they plan on attending were announced, along with their intended majors.

The impressive and prestigious list of schools included Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Duke University, Fordham University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Villanova University and Yale University. The SCSSA and its corporate partners also awarded 10 scholarships to graduates planning to pursue a career in education or social services.

Hannah Lawrence leads the Comsewogue high school seniors this year. Photo from the school district
Hannah Lawrence leads the Comsewogue high school seniors this year. Photo from the school district
Hannah Lawrence leads the Comsewogue high school seniors this year. Photo from the school district

By Rachel Siford

Two Warriors and two Royals are leading the pack as they look forward to throwing their caps on graduation day.

Hannah Lawrence and Renuka Diwan were named Comsewogue High School’s Class of 2015 valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Lawrence is finishing her high school career with a 102.61 GPA. She is attending Yale University in the fall, majoring in applied mathematics. Lawrence comes from a long line of valedictorians: her mother Cindy, brother David and sister Rachel all graduated at the top of their classes at Comsewogue High School.

Renuka Diwan leads the Comsewogue high school seniors this year. Photo from the school district
Renuka Diwan leads the Comsewogue high school seniors this year. Photo from the school district

Lawrence kept herself busy throughout high school playing varsity tennis, helping to integrate new tech in her school as a Comsewogue Student Technology Specialist, and participating in the Women in Science & Engineering Program (WISE), Math League, the National Honor Society and the Academic Club. She is also a National Merit scholar.

Diwan wrapped up her high school career with a 101.39 GPA. In the fall she will start college at Brown University but is undecided about her area of study. She was a National Merit Scholarship Program finalist and was involved in the National Honor Society, varsity tennis, the Academic Club, the French Honor Society and the WISE program. She also practices Indian classical dance outside of school.

Noah Davis leads the Port Jefferson high school seniors this year. Photo from the school district
Noah Davis leads the Port Jefferson high school seniors this year. Photo from the school district

The Earl L. Vandermeulen High School announced Noah Davis as its Class of 2015 valedictorian and Natalia Zaliznyak as salutatorian.

Davis, the younger brother of 2013 valedictorian Gabriel Davis, is continuing his studies at Duke University this fall, majoring in biomedical engineering. He is an AP Scholar with Distinction, participated in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Partners for the Future research program and is on the Science Olympiad team.

Davis has already made strides in his career by submitting a patent for an environmentally friendly flame retardant and was a semifinalist in the Siemens Foundation Competition in Math, Science and Technology.

Natalia Zaliznyak leads the Port Jefferson high school seniors this year. Photo from the school district
Natalia Zaliznyak leads the Port Jefferson high school seniors this year. Photo from the school district

Zaliznyak is also an AP Scholar with Distinction and a member of the Science Olympiad team. She is a National Merit semifinalist and a member of the Latin Club. She participated in the Simons Summer Research Program at Stony Brook University and in a local Russian theater group. She is attending Yale University in the fall to study molecular biophysics.