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Commack High School

Kimberly Liao

With a 104.46 weighted grade point average, Kimberly Liao shares the honor of Commack High School academic leader with Louis Viglietta.

Liao will be attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology later this year with a combined biology and chemistry major.  Her father,  Xiangmin Liao, is a chemist, so she said going into that field was always in the back of her mind. Her mother, Xia Zhou, works in the public health sector.

Through the student’s years in the Commack School District, she has been involved in the Regeneron Science Talent Search and was named one of its top 300 scholars for 2020. She also has been class president from her sophomore year through senior year and was a member of the
tennis team.

In 2015, while in eighth grade, she won the Suffolk County girls tennis title and became an all-state qualifier, and repeated the feat a year later.

She said sometimes balancing schoolwork with other activities can be stressful.

“But, I think that all-around prioritizing and knowing when to take a break and when to step back and what needs to be done in that moment of time helps,” she said.

While she was born in Kansas and lived in Minnesota when she was younger, Liao said she has spent all her school years in the Commack district. She attended Indian Hollow Primary School and Burr Intermediate before attending Commack High. Among her favorite classes, she said, was chemistry and she enjoyed conducting science research and being hands-on in biology.

She said while the state mandate requiring schools to close due to the coronavirus was difficult to get used to, she found the workload to be less and tried her best to find things to do to fill her free time. She would go to the tennis courts with her mother, catch up on sleep, and cook and bake a lot.

Liao also finished research for a scientific paper that was recently edited, and she hopes it will be published in ACS Omega, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

As she looks back at high school, she said she is grateful for her teachers, especially club advisers Holly Bellisari and Michael Jeziorski, research teacher Jeanette Collette and chemistry teacher Stephanie O’Brien.

As far as Liao’s future, she said she’s not 100 percent set on a career path yet, but it’s something she looks forward to discovering as she’s thinking of possibly working in some way in the health devices field.

While she’s at college, she said she’ll miss spending time with her family, and her dad said he wants to come up to watch all her tennis matches. She’ll also miss Commack.

“I’ll miss having this great community that I’ve grown to love and has supported me during this journey,” she said. “That will be very hard to let go.”

This year she was part of the prom planning committee. She said that during the first two weeks of quarantine it was hard to grasp that milestone events would be canceled,
but overall she was more troubled by the smaller everyday events than the bigger milestones.

“I was more upset about the little things like seeing my teachers every day, gossiping with my friends,” she said.

When it comes to advice for younger Commack students, which includes her brother Edward, she said it’s important to
find something that they enjoy and really pursue it.

“Take some chances, because you never know what’s going to happen,” she said.

Louis Viglietta

As the school year ended, Louis Viglietta was named one of Commack High School’s academic leaders along with Kimberly Liao. Viglietta capped off the year with a 105.34 weighted grade point average.

Viglietta is preparing to attend Princeton University at the end of the summer and will major in chemical and biological engineering. Once he attends college, he said he will miss the Commack community.

“I’m excited, but there will actually be things I will miss about Commack,” he said, adding that he and his friends have already discussed how they will visit each other.

The academic leader said that at a young age his father, Peter, a software engineer, taught him chemistry, and he continued to focus on the subject in high school. He said his interest in biology developed over the years watching his mother, Anna Marie, battling a mild case of cerebral palsy.

He was 4 years old when he moved to Commack from Wantagh and attended Rolling Hills Primary School and Sawmill Intermediate before starting high school. Viglietta said he has appreciated his education in the district and was lucky to have supportive teachers, including his math teachers and chemistry teacher Stephanie O’Brien.

In addition to his studies, during his time in Commack, Viglietta was involved in the Simons Summer Research Program at Stony Brook University, performed as principal flute player with the ICA Wind Ensemble, was treasurer for the class executive board and Science Honor Society and president of the Quizbowl club. During his high school career, he won second place in the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision contest and is a Rensselaer Medal scholarship winner.

Viglietta said he enjoyed being on the class board as treasurer, dealing with financial decisions, organizing big events and the senior gift, as well as working with the advisers and his classmates. He added that he also gained a lot of positive experience as president of the Quizbowl, a competition team he joined in ninth grade.

Viglietta said the Simons Research Program provided great experience in the biochemical and bioresearch fields, allowing him to work in a Stony Brook Medicine lab and research pathways that cause some of the side effects of chemotherapy, and hear from some of the faculty members about their research.

Regarding this year’s school shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, Viglietta said he found the online learning experience interesting but manageable. With prom canceled and graduation tentatively scheduled for August, Viglietta said he was able to adjust, but all of his friends are dealing with it differently. 

“When I started to think about it, it was the little things that won’t get rescheduled — the goodbyes to teachers and friends, the yearbook signings — all those smaller events that don’t have a setting to take place anymore,” he said.

For his fellow students, he said his best advice is to keep at it and persevere even when times are tough.

“Even though this class had the year chopped off a bit, there still have been great milestones and things to look forward to,” he said. “Just keep looking ahead, and you’ll get through it.”

Sarah Strent with her CTeen Female Leader of the Year award. Photo from The Chai Center

Sarah Strent, 17, a senior at Commack High School and a resident of Commack, was recently named CTeen Female Leader of the Year at the CTeen International Shabbaton, an annual event where thousands of Jewish teens gather in New York City. She was chosen by her peers from among 3,000 leaders worldwide.

CTeen, comprised of teens from 37 countries with 625 chapters around the world, is the fastest growing Jewish teen network. Its mission is to inspire and facilitate teens who want to give back to their community and environment, with an emphasis on positive character development. 

Strent is a leader with the West Suffolk Chapter of CTeen, which is based at The Chai Center in Dix Hills. “We are so immensely proud of Sarah,” Rabbi Dovid Weinbaum, Youth Director at The Chai Center said. “Sarah has helped us on a local level create programs like cooking for needy families, packing gifts for children in hospitals and creating a bowl-a-thon for special needs kids and children with cancer. She became a regional leader helping to create programs for over 50 chapters in the New York and New Jersey area. In the last 18 months, Strent was named an international leader serving on the board of CTeen.”

The CTeen Network provides a nurturing environment fusing fun, friendship, humanitarian outreach, mitzvah observance, and engaging Torah study. The CTeen Network believes in the power of youth and transforming the teen years into a time of purpose and self-discovery. The goal is to turn youth into leaders.

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Northport led by two in the closing seconds of the game Feb. 25 when Commack intentionally fouled Sean Walsh with six seconds left. Senior Walsh went to the line and swished both to seal the deal for the 49-45 victory in the Class AA semifinal at Longwood High School.

Walsh topped the scoring chart for the Tigers with five triples, two from the floor and his final appearance at the charity stripe for 21 points. Teammate Pat Healy finished with 10 points, and senior Larry Citrola chipped in nine.

Commack senior Spencer Malloy led his team with 17 points, and senior Nick Greco netted 15 to conclude the Cougars’ season at 11-2, 16-5 overall.

The win lifts No. 2 Northport to 13-0 in league, 20-1 overall, and advance to the county finals where they’ll face top seeded Brentwood at Farmingdale State College Feb. 28. Tickets are $10 cash at the door. Game time is 8:30 p.m.

 

 

By Leah Chiappino

Carly Tamer and Deniz Sinar have earned the title of Academic Leaders at Commack High School, which is given to the two students with the highest weighted GPA upon the completion of high school.

Tamer finished with a 105.04 GPA, earning her a spot at Northeastern University

as a Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry major. She has aspirations to work in research “with a focus on antibiotic resistance.”  This stems from  her experience working as a research assistant with Dr. Nathan Rigel at Hofstra University, where she studied protein tracking in gram negative bacteria.

She was involved in the National, Science, and Spanish honor societies, and was the Vice President of the Math Honor Society at Commack. She was also a leader for  CTeen, an international Jewish youth organization, where she took part in volunteer work, and represented the organization at conventions. She also made time for her passion of the arts, as she danced all throughout high school and even worked a professional acting job when she earned the lead role in the First Daughter Suite at the Public Theatre in Manhattan in 2015. She plans to continue performing and acting in college.

Tamer thanked her family and teachers for getting her to where she is, “I attribute much of my success to my incredibly supportive family who was there for me through both the rough times and the exciting times during my educational career,” she said. “Without their love and encouragement, I would not have achieved this amazing honor. Teachers, such as Mr. Pope, who taught IB HL Math and Dr. O’Brien, who taught IB Chemistry, inspired my thirst for knowledge and desire to aim high.”

She cited her favorite Commack memory as “the day before winter break, where my math class and I went around the school to different classrooms singing “Calculus Carols.

“We changed the lyrics of classic holiday songs to fit our calculus theme and everyone around the school looked forward to hearing us sing,” she said. “It was the perfect blend of both of my passions, and I will never forget how fun it was.”

Sinar graduated with a104.57 weighted GPA, and will attend Cornell in the fall  as a biological engineering major, with hopes of eventually earning a doctorate degree and being the

principal investigator of her own research lab.

At Commack, she was involved in the National, Italian, Tri-M Music, and Science Honor Societies, and was the secretary of the Math Honor Society and Varsity Math Team. Sinar raised money for Long Island Against Domestic Violence and volunteered to visit nursing home residents through Commack’s Glamour Gals Club. She was also a member of the Chamber Orchestra for three years and took part in Future American String Teachers Association Club, Pathways Freshman Art and Literary Magazine.

She is the winner of several awards including a National Merit Scholarship, the President’s Award for Educational Excellence, New York American Chemical Society High School Award, Excellence in Italian Award, Science Department Senior Award, Suffolk County Math Teachers’ Association Course Contest third place school-wide, American Association of Teacher of Italian National Exam Gold Medal Level 5, American Association of Teacher of Italian Poetry Contest Silver Medal Level 4, New York Seal of Biliteracy, and the WAC Lighting Foundation Invitational Science Fair third place in General Biology.

She cites her participation in the American Association of Teacher of Italian Poetry Contest as her favorite high school memory, because it was so unlike anything she had ever done before, and it required “a lot of determination,” as she had to memorize the poem in Italian and “dramatize” it in front of judges. “When I received the second-place award, I had a moment when I truly felt like I was almost fluent in the Italian language since I actually recited a renowned poem, understood every single word, and crafted an emotional performance that impressed the judges,” she stated.

Sinar developed a love of science through her participation in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Partners for the Future Program, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory DNA Science camp, Science Olympiad, the Hofstra University Summer Science Research Program, and the Columbia University Science Honors Program. “These activities have allowed me to navigate many different science topics, which led me to realize the ones that I am most passionate about,” she stated.

Sinar commended her parents for her success and thanked them for “being so supportive no matter what I did and always pushing me to do my best.”

As far as advice for next year’s seniors, Sinar advises them to “stay focused throughout the year but be aware of when you need to relax and set your work aside. You will be dealing with a lot of work at once, so managing responsibilities and allotting time to de-stress is as important as actually working.”

 

 

 

Third-place winners from Commack High School from left, Luke Maciejewski, Nathan Cheung, Riley Bode, Louis Vigliette and Kevin Chen. Photo from BNL
Commack and Walt Whitman high schools take home honors
Fourth-place winners from Walt Whitman High School in Huntington Station, from left, Rena Shapiro, Eliot Yoon, Matthew Kerner and Aiden Luebker. Photo from BNL

Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton held its annual Long Island Regional High School Science Bowl on Jan. 26. Out of 20 teams from across Long Island, Levittown’s Island Trees High School took the top spot and was awarded an all-expenses-paid trip to the National Finals in Washington, D.C., scheduled for Apr. 25 to 29. 

Old Westbury’s Wheatley School took home second place; Commack High School placed third; and Walt Whitman High School in Huntington Station placed fourth.

The event was just one of the nation’s regional competitions of the 29th Annual DOE National Science Bowl (NSB). 

A series of 111 regional high school and middle school tournaments are held across the country from January through March. Teams from diverse backgrounds are each made up of four students, one alternate, and a teacher who serves as an adviser and coach. These teams face off in a fast-paced question-and-answer format where they are tested on a range of science disciplines including biology, chemistry, Earth science, physics, energy and math. The NSB draws more than 14,000 middle- and high-school competitors.

“The National Science Bowl has grown into one of the most prestigious and competitive science academic competitions in the country, challenging students to excel in the STEM fields so vital to America’s future,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “I am proud to oversee a Department that provides such a unique and empowering opportunity for our nation’s students, and I am honored to congratulate Island Trees High School for advancing to the National Finals, where they will be competing against some of the brightest science, technology and engineering students across the country.”

The top 16 high school teams and the top 16 middle school teams in the National Finals will win $1,000 for their schools’ science departments. Prizes for the top two high school teams for the 2019 NSB will be announced on a later date.

In the competition at Brookhaven Lab, participating students received a Science Bowl T-shirt and winning teams also received trophies, medals and cash awards. Prizes were courtesy of BNL’s event sponsor, Brookhaven Science Associates, the company that manages and operates the lab for DOE.

For more information, visit www.science.energy.gov

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The Commack girls varsity volleyball team was proud to defend its title as Suffolk County’s Class AA champions Nov. 8. The Cougars tore apart Connetquot, 3-0, at county finals held at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus.

This is the second straight year that the Cougars have gone undefeated in Suffolk with an overall record of 13-0.  The Commack girls volleyball team competed against Long Beach vying for the Long Island Championship title Nov. 11 and came up short 2-3.

Dan Graziosi

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported in 2017 there were more than 550,000 homeless in the country. Three alumni from Ward Melville and Commack high schools have asked a simple question: How many are stuck that way simply because nobody can see their résumés?

“You never really know why someone became homeless,” said Dan Graziosi, 22, a Ward Melville graduate. He is chief executive officer of Lazarus Rising, a nonprofit created in 2015 that helps homeless people write their résumés and get ready for job interviews. 

“A lot of the people don’t necessarily see the skills that they themselves have, and sometimes showing this person that they have value is almost more important than making a résumé for them,” Graziosi said.

Matthew Sobel

Co-founders of Lazarus Rising, Ward Melville alum Matthew Sobel, 23, and Commack alum Matthew Rojas, 23, gave birth to the organization wondering, as sophomores at the University of Delaware, that if creating a résumé for them was difficult — two people who considered themselves privileged — then how tough would it be for a person without access to resources such as a computer?

“There’s a really unfortunate number of people who are experiencing homelessness,” Rojas said. “While some are unfortunately addicts, a lot of them don’t have basic things like a printer, Microsoft Word or they just haven’t had an interview in a long time.”

As they first walked into a Delaware homeless shelter in 2014, just a block away from their freshman dorm, the two did not have much in the way of community service experience. Yet at the shelter they met a man named Jeff, that while he had fallen on hard times since the 2008 recession, he also had years of experience managing more than 20 people at a warehouse. The only problem was his résumé was five pages of a single-spaced biography rather than the commonly accepted single page bulleting a person’s most applicable skills.

“It kind of took our breath away knowing that an employer is throwing that right out the window,” Sobel said. “It’s not Jeff’s fault — he just didn’t know what standards there are in résumés.”

In 2015 Sobel, Rojas, Graziosi, along with several other friends and compatriots, incorporated their talents into the non-profit Lazarus Rising, all while they were still undergrads. 

Matthew Rojas

“There is a subset of the homeless population that have the skills to be an amazing employee, but they simply lack the skills that we take for granted like being able to write a résumé,” Sobel said. “We all realized we came from super-fortunate situations, being from where we came from and what schools we came from. I came into college with minimal community service. It’s one of those experiences you really can’t understand until you do it.”

Lazarus Rising has grown to host more than 200 volunteers offering their services either in school or during their free time. They have college chapters at Binghamton University, University of Delaware, University of Maryland and the University of Pittsburgh and professional chapters in New York City and Philadelphia. Graziosi estimates that the organization has aided more than 300 homeless participants.

Volunteers for Lazarus Rising often spend approximately one hour with a homeless person working on his or her résumé. They then spend more time after completing mock interviews or even help the person navigate applying for jobs online.

Rojas said that it is one of the greatest satisfactions of his life having helped these people get back on their feet. “It’s a feeling that what I’m doing actually makes a difference,” he said.

Meanwhile the group hopes to expand its reach in New York state and eventually Long Island, most likely through local colleges like Stony Brook University.

All three alumni are out of college and have either found jobs or starting ones, but that has not stopped any of them from being active in the organization. While Graziosi will soon be taking on a job as a technology consultant for Ernst & Young, a professional services organization, he still plans to run as the nonprofit’s CEO into the foreseeable future.

Graziosi’s mother Sheila, a Setauket resident, said what her son and his friends have been able to accomplish has not only changed their lives, but the lives of many homeless.

“He’s amazing — I’m just so proud of him,” Graziosi’s mother said of her son. “He’s really getting so much out of it.” 

Lazarus Rising is looking for more volunteers. For more information about volunteer opportunities or to donate to Lazarus Rising, visit lazarusrising.org.

Meet the Class of 2018's valedictorians, salutatorians and honor speakers in Smithtown

Commack High School's Class of 2018 throws their caps skyward in celebration. Photo by Karen Forman

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Across the Town of Smithtown, hundreds of graduates stepped forward to receive their high school diplomas last week. Among the graduates are those who have excelled academically, achieving consistently high marks to rise top of their class to earn the titles of valedictorian and salutatorian. 

Commack High School Honor Speaker: Matthew Ciurleo. Photo by Karen Forman.

Commack High School

Honor Speaker: Matthew Ciurleo

GPA: 105.12 (weighted)

College: Harvard University

Major: Economics

Ciurleo served as president of the National Honor Society, a captain of the varsity boys golf team and was a member of both the Boys Scholar Athletic Leadership Club and Italian Honor Society.

 

 

Kings Park High School Valedictorian Lina Rohrer. Photo from Kings Park school district

Kings Park High School

Valedictorian: Lina Rohrer

GPA: 106.04 (weighted)

College: Not disclosed

Major: Physics

Rohrer plans on continuing her education by studying physics.

 

 

 

Kings Park High School Salutatorian Keiffer Acoba. Photo from Kings Park school district

Kings Park High School

Salutatorian: Keiffer Acoba

GPA: 105.01

College: Carnegie Mellon

Major: Computer Science

Acoba was named among the Top 300 Scholars in Regeneron’s Science Talent Search, a Coca-Cola Scholar finalist, and a Junior Science and Humanities Symposium Regional finalist. He was vice president of the Independent Science Research, co-captain of the math team,  head programmer of the robotics team and president of Science Olympiads.

 

Smithtown High School East honor speaker Matthew Timmel. Photo from Smithtown school district

Smithtown High School East

Honor speaker: Matthew Timmel

GPA: 4.13

College: Florida State University

Major: Business finance, computer  science

Timmel served as president of DECA, senior leader of RYLA, a member of the National Honor Society and played on the varsity boys badminton team.

 

 

 

Smithtown High School West Honor Speaker Kevin Camson. Photo from Smithtown school district

Smithtown High School West

Honor Speaker: Kevin Camson

GPA: 4.08

College: University of Notre Dame

Major: Political Science

Camson served as student liaison to Smithotwn’s board of education; founder and president of Student Pipeline; member of the teen council for the Robin Hood Foundation; founder and leader of Project Smith-Stead; founder of Tables to Enable; a member of the School Start Time Steering Committe; and on track and field.

By Karen Forman

More than 550 Commack High School graduates looked to their future Friday night. 

Commack High School held its annual commencement exercises June 22 on the athletic fields.

“Be present in your daily lives,” Commack High School Principal Leslie Boritz told the Class of 2018. “Be here now for yourself and for others. Living in the present is how we can make a difference.”

After the students tossed their caps in the air, Master of Ceremonies and English teacher James Desmond told the graduating seniors, “While the flight of your caps is limited, may your future never be.”