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Dan Holtzman

Shoreham-Wading River high school students and Long Island business owners connect during the school’s first School-to-Community meeting in April. Photo from Shoreham-Wading River school district

High school students within Shoreham-Wading River are getting a head start on real-world job opportunities, thanks to a new community networking initiative rolled out by the district.

The School-to-Community Program, which held its first meeting April 3 and a second May 16 at the high school, helps students of all grade levels and interests prepare for postschool jobs by providing access to business leaders from local community organizations who discuss job tours and shadowing opportunities.

Participating students include those in the school’s science research program; AP Capstone program; science, technology, engineering and math program; and special education population, all of whom are in search of mentorships and internships.

They’ve connected with business leaders representing a wide range of companies like ASRC Federal, a service provider that resolves challenges within federal civilian, intelligence and defense agencies; the Tesla Science Center, a not-for-profit working to develop a regional science and technology center in Wardenclyffe; and Island Harvest, a hunger-relief organization that serves both counties. Representatives from Brookhaven National Lab and the North Shore Youth Council have also been involved.

The two meetings held so far will be the first of many in a continued development between the school and community, according to Amy Meyer, director of STEM for grades K-12 at the district.

“We want all of our students to have access so they have a little bit more real-world experience that will go on to help them choose what they’re going to do.”

— Amy Meyer

“We’re preparing students for jobs in industries and areas where it’s changing so much because of technology and everything else … it’s really important to stay current with what’s happening in those industries in order for students to know what they should expect and what areas they should target,” Meyer said. “We want all of our students to have access so they have a little bit more real-world experience that will go on to help them choose what they’re going to do.”

During the April meeting, 26 business representatives, 17 educators and nine students met to brainstorm programs and events that would accomplish the district’s goal for authentic learning experiences, according to the school.

The May event was an annual STEM symposium — a fair-style gathering that brought awareness to 21st century careers. Students showed off their STEM-related projects, which included robotics, while community leaders spoke from exhibit booths about how their industries are involved with STEM and what educational measures students can take to break into specific industries.

John Searing, an ASRC Federal employee and engineer by degree and trade, got involved in the program through a presentation he made in his daughter’s AP Science class at the school. The teacher of the class recommended he get involved as someone adept at dealing with the students in regards to career and STEM opportunities.

“I think it’s an absolute opportunity to work with the kids as they head into college or some other field, especially technical, and teach them some of the soft skills and nuances about the workplace that can help them along,” Searing said. “I’ve suggested working with them an hour or two every week in a classroom setting to bring some real-world problems we find in the workplace and let them try and solve them.”

A career plan is already in place for next year, Meyer said, which will focus on specific growth industries on Long Island.

“One of the thoughts is that if students know what is available here on Long Island, they may be more apt to stay on Long Island and focus their career on those things,” she said.

The School-to-Community initiative, which has the full support of the school board, curriculum and instruction team, was first proposed in March of this year, and approved right away to lay the groundwork for it to be firmly established next year.

“The school and district want to work together to provide learning and growth opportunities for our students,” Shoreham-Wading River High School Principal Dan Holtzman said in an email. “It is an important step in bridging the community and district together to educate students on career paths and exploration.”

Shoreham-Wading River assistant principal Kevin Vann will be replacing retiring Albert G. Prodell Middle School Principal Linda Anthony this June. Photo from Kevin Vann

Kevin Vann will be returning to his roots this June.

The now assistant principal at Shoreham-Wading River High School will be reentering middle school doors, but this time as principal of Albert G. Prodell Middle School.

“I feel a strong sense of loyalty to Shoreham-Wading River,” Vann said. “The district gave me my first opportunity as an administrator, and I think I’ve developed some great relationships. I thought this was a great opportunity to stretch my wings a little bit and still stay connected to a community that I really have a lot of respect for and enjoy working with.”

Albert G. Prodell Middle School Principal Linda Anthony will be retiring at the end of this school year. Photo from Linda Anthony

Vann will be replacing retiring principal Linda Anthony, who has been at the helm for the last 11 years. An English teacher in Japan for four years, she took a unique approach to special education and at-risk students, also living in California before returning to New York.

Anthony said she’s fortunate for the extended stay that helped her move the Prodell middle school in the right direction.

“A lot of different instructional practices were put into place in the middle school, the culture of the middle school changed quite a bit — I was able to hire about 40 percent of the staff,” she said. “With so many years you can really initiate change, sustain change and then lock change.”

Some of the changes she made include increased collaboration with teachers and the level of rigor for students.

Anthony has a long history with art, and upon retirement, hopes to get back to her roots, too. She also said she wants to assist in some way with the refugee crisis.

After working with Vann, and attending a weekend conference with the soon-to-be principal, Anthony said she knows what he’s capable of doing in his new position.

“I think he will be an outstanding principal and I think he really is the best possible choice,” she said. “He will take the school to the next level. I have full confidence in that.”

Dan Holtzman, principal of the high school, said the last decade has been productive and meaningful, especially having Vann at his side the entire way.

“He has been my right hand, my support, and even more importantly, my friend,” Holtzman said. “We have worked tirelessly in creating a safe and welcoming learning environment for our students, and I am very proud of the outcomes. I think this transition will prove to be a smart move for the district and Kevin. The strengths he will bring will be an asset to the middle school. I could not be happier or more excited for him.”

“There’s a tremendous amount of change kids go through at that level physically, socially and emotionally. We’re looking to make kids feels supported and know there’s adults in the building that care about them, and try to give them good opportunities to develop and to learn.”

—Kevin Vann

Vann began his career in education at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, working in the business world prior to earning a job teaching social studies in the Patchogue-Medford School District. He also worked on a grant for the Office of Safe and Healthy Students while in Pat-Med, and was the dean of students at Shoreham-Wading River High School. In both capacities, he said the administrative and disciplinary actions he learned to take will help guide him in his new position. He also earned a master’s degree from Touro College in educational leadership.

Prior to him working in the district, there hadn’t been a tenured administrator in over a decade. Anthony, Holtzman and Vann helped change the Wildcats culture.

“There was a lot of turnover — a lot of inconsistency and a lot of uncertainty with students and parents — so we worked hard to create a culture of acceptance, and a student-centered environment where the students could always come talk to us,” Vann said. “We wanted to have an open line of communication.”

To assist with that, the district brought back an advisory period, where for 15 minutes in the middle of the day, kids can connect with teachers. Advanced Placement training for educators was also added to increase subject concentrations, and the College Board has recognized the school as a result.

“We wanted students to know that their opinions and ideas were respected, and when dealing with parents we wanted them to know our goal was to create the best environment possible for their students to succeed,” Vann said. “I think that really has happened.”

Now, he said he’s hoping he can carry down what he’s learned as assistant principal at the high school, while continuing the current successes already put in place.

“I know they have a highly-engaged staff that’s connected to the students, so I’d look for any opportunity I have to continue to foster that growth,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of change kids go through at that level physically, socially and emotionally. We’re looking to make kids feels supported and know there’s adults in the building that care about them, and try to give them good opportunities to develop and to learn.”

Sophomores Declan Beran and Emma Kirkpatrick successfully convinced the district’s board of education to let them head Shoreham-Wading River’s first debate club. Photo from Shoreham-Wading River school district

A love of law and political science, combined with the impact of recent presidential debates, sparked the idea for two Shoreham-Wading River sophomores to push for a debate team.

Thanks to the efforts of Declan Beran and Emma Kirkpatrick, the board of education saw no argument against the idea, and unanimously approved the newfound club, which will begin the 2017-18 school year.

In their PowerPoint presentation during a board meeting a month prior to approval, Beran and Kirkpatrick, who will serve as co-captains of the club, said the first year will serve as their “pilot year” in which they’ll assemble the team, hold weekly meetings with an advisor, compete in practice debates and sharpen their skills to prepare for competition with other schools, which they hope to do by their senior year.

In convincing the board, the two students are already well on their way to being successful debaters, said 10th and 11th grade English teacher Brenna Gilroy, who will serve as the club adviser.

“I just gave them some guidance — they approached me about starting the club and legitimately did most of the work,” Gilroy said. “I think [the board agrees] it’s important for students to be able to communicate well and effectively, but in a respectful, researched and knowledgeable way.”

“I think [the board agrees] it’s important for students to be able to communicate well and effectively, but in a respectful, researched and knowledgeable way.”

— Brenna Gilroy

Beran, a lacrosse player and vice president of his class, said he “prides himself in being an eloquent speaker.” He has wanted to form a debate club since his freshman year, in the hopes the skills acquired could help him, and others with similar interests, in future career endeavors. Beran plans to be a political science major in college, to work on becoming a corporate lawyer.

When Kirkpatrick, an honor roll student with similar career aspirations, also realized the school had no clubs catered to students with interests in political science or law, her next step was to make one. After speaking to Gilroy about moving forward with the idea, her teacher recommended she speak with Beran.

Upon meeting Kirkpatrick, Beran said “we knew this was the time to act.”

The two students, who were deeply invested in the atmosphere of politics last year, pointed to the coverage of the 2016 presidential debates as a catalyst in creating the club, wanting to use it as their template.

“Mrs. Gilroy, Declan and I met after school weekly, collaborating on our ideas for the club and putting together a presentation for the board,” Kirkpatrick said. “Through this process of creating the club, many students have approached me asking me about it and when they can join.”

Similar to the foundations of a debate, the sophomores told board members that students in high school are usually timed and limited by topic when writing argumentative essays, adding that the club could help students taking Regents and AP exams.

Skills acquired will help students not only in high school, but in college and the workplace as well, when doing things like formulating an argument, presenting it in a clear and cohesive manner, building self-confidence with public speaking and deepening research and analysis skills.

“We’ve found that as the students benefit from the debate team, the school will prosper,” Beran said, adding that he thinks the team will be made up of about 20 students overall.

High school principal Dan Holtzman said the required teamwork and collaboration within the club will be a tremendous asset to the students. As for the work of Beran and Kirkpatrick, he couldn’t be prouder.

“I’m a staunch supporter of students advocating for themselves,” Holtzman said. “The fact that Emma and Declan invested a great deal of time and effort into the presentation, it speaks volumes about their passion and commitment.”

The Miller Place, Mount Sinai, Rocky Point and Shoreham-Wading River school districts have named the students who reached maximum potential at the high school level.

“I am extremely proud of all that the Class of 2016 has accomplished in the classroom, on the stage, on our athletic fields and in the community,” Rocky Point Principal Susann Crossan said. “They are a class who came together and generously raised money for many charities and continuously contributed positive energy to build school spirit. I wish the Class of 2016 a rewarding journey and ask that they remember to dream big.”

In Miller Place, with a whopping weighted GPA of 99.6, Elizabeth Whitlow was named the valedictorian. Whitlow, who plans to attend Northeastern University in the fall and major in American sign language, was a captain on the varsity softball team while also a member of the volleyball team, drama club, Foreign Language National Honor Society, National Thespian Society, mathletes and athletes helping athletes.

Joining the advanced placement scholar with honor at the top of the list is salutatorian Clara Tucker. With a weighted GPA of 99.5, she said she plans to attend Stony Brook University and major in biology. Tucker got her start at Stony Brook in the science research club on campus and was part of the school’s science club, art club and varsity track and field and cross country teams, while also being a member of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, Intel Talent Search, Foreign Language National Honor Society and National Honor Society.

In Mount Sinai, Patrick Hanaj, with a weighed GPA of 105.2, was named class valedictorian. A class president his sophomore year and secretary his junior year, Hanaj was a member of Moody’s Mega Math Challenge team, was on the math team and was a member of chamber orchestra all four years of high school, and was the National Honor Society president this year. A national AP scholar and National Merit Scholarship finalist who was a member of the Columbia Science Honors Program, he will be attending Harvard University in the fall, majoring in applied mathematics with a minor in computer science.

Justine Quan, with a weighted GPA of 104.3, was named the salutatorian. The student council president and peer leader, who was a part of the history club and environmental action club, was also a member of the Mount Sinai Sunshine Fund and National Honor Society. Receiving the U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop Civil Service award, Quan will be attending New York University in the fall and majoring in political science.

“Justine is an integral member of her class; she is one of the most active and charismatic leaders that we have ever had in our building,” her district said. “Her participation is truly authentic, as she immerses herself fully in her activities for the benefit of others and for the good of her school and community. Justine is highly intelligent, one of the kindest individuals you will ever meet, extremely polite, always positive, efficient and highly organized. She is a representation of the best anyone can ask for from a high school student.”

James Gohn was named the valedictorian at Rocky Point. With a weighted GPA of 106.2, he is an AP scholar with distinction, member of the National Honor Society and New York State Mathematics Honor Society. Outside of the classroom, Gohn performed with the school’s orchestra, was the captain of the varsity soccer team and a member of the varsity lacrosse team. He is a dedicated volunteer, serving as a math and chemistry tutor and altar server, and dedicates many hours to several other charitable organizations. He will be attending Stony Brook University this fall to major in mechanical engineering.

“James is an exceptional student who has devoted himself to being the best he can be,” Crossan said. “He is a student with strong values and character and is gifted in the classroom as well as in his many extracurricular activities.”

Matthew Brewer, with a weighted GPA of 104.9, was named the class’ salutatorian.

An AP scholar with distinction, Brewer is also a member of the National Honor Society, New York State Math Honor Society and is president of the Class of 2016. He was a member of the high school’s mock trial and math teams and was secretary of the school’s science club. Team manager for both the varsity wresting and baseball teams, Brewer has also worked as a senior counselor for the North Shore Youth Council Summer Buddies Program since 2014, and previously was a junior counselor. He will be attending Fordham University in the fall to major in economics.

“Matthew is a bright, articulate and ambitious student who flourishes in an intellectually demanding setting,” Crossan said. “He has a gift of sharing his many talents with others by participating in many volunteer activities.”

Over in Shoreham-Wading River, Kelvin Ma, with a weighted GPA of 102.7, was named valedictorian. Graduating with an advanced regents diploma with mastery in math and science, Ma is a self-taught graphic designer and code designer who volunteered at Brookhaven National Lab during the past two summers. He was sponsored by Wikimedia Foundation to attend the Libre Graphics Meeting, where he gave a lecture on vector graphics and was awarded second place at the 2015 Long Island Junior Science and Engineering Fair.

A member of Moody’s Mega Math Challenge team, he was accepted into the Institute of Creative Problem Solving for Gifted and Talented Students as a freshman. He is a National Merit Scholarship finalist, and awarded the Suffolk County Math Teachers Association Award several times. Ma, who earned the New York State Merit Scholarship for Academic Excellence, will be attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and major in engineering.

Nick Maritato also reached a peak performance level. With a weighted GPA of 101.2, he was named salutatorian and will be attending John Hopkins University in the fall, majoring in biomedical engineering.

An Eagle Scout, Maritato volunteered as a camp counselor, performed in summer pit orchestra and interned at St. Charles Hospital in the biomedical department. A member of the Nexus club, Moody’s Mega Math Challenge team, jazz band and varsity volleyball and track and field teams, he received a New York State Merit Scholarship for Academic Excellence, the Science Teachers’ Association of New York State 2015-16 outstanding senior science award, and Shoreham’s Ralph Gilorenzo humanitarian award.

“As a class, their leadership and commitment to public service and community, as well as personal, athletic, and academic successes are unparalleled,” Shoreham-Wading River principal Dan Holtzman said of the top of the class. “It is these attributes that make our school, district, and community the special place it is.”