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Ward Melville High School

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It was another edition of boys indoor winter track that was held outside at Ward Melville High School Jan. 31. It was 29 degrees at the opening gun where the Patriots hosted Walt Whitman falling 61-50 in a League I matchup.

On the bell lap in a distance event a patriot runner was overheard telling his coach after the race that it was so cold, he couldn’t go on the last lap because his “hammys” locked up.  

The Patriots are back in action Feb 6 where they’ll travel to Bay Shore before finishing their regular season at home against Commack Feb. 14. 

Dlisah Lapidus, Grace Brouillet and Mia Schoolman are the founders of Junk Dump magazine.

Looking for a way to connect young artists during a time when schools are unable to hold art shows, three Ward Melville High School students decided to give creative teens a chance to share their work, not only on the web but also in print.

In December, a new magazine called Junk Dump premiered. The publication was founded by Grace Brouillet, 17, of Port Jefferson Station, Dlisah Lapidus, 16, of Setauket, and Mia Schoolman, 16, of Stony Brook. Brouillet and Schoolman are seniors, while Lapidus is a junior set to graduate a year early.

Featuring artwork, photography, fashion designs and writings, the magazine has no ads, as the girls put up their own money to have it published. They used the online service PrintingCenterUSA to have it printed.

The three said the hope was to recoup some of the outlay by charging $10 for the full-color magazine. While they printed 75 issues of the first edition, titled Distorted Time, they had so many people interested that they are planning to print more of their second issue which is set to be released in February.

Schoolman said they chose the name Junk Dump because they wanted the magazine to be a place where artists could share anything, even if their piece wasn’t completed. Or, as she described it, “a place where artists can dump their work and show the raw side of their artwork.”

“We love unfinished or unpolished work, and you never get to see that in exhibits or art shows,” she said.

It’s no surprise that the girls became interested in creating a publication. Schoolman said she’s into studying the fine arts, and she and Brouillet are interested in graphic design. Brouillet is also editor-in-chief of the school’s yearbook. Lapidus said her interests lie in journalism and fashion design.

Lapidus said the objective was to show all talents whether one is an artist, writer, photographer or designer.

“That was really the goal — we wanted to just give every person who had some creative aspirations a place where they can express themselves and get some recognition for it,” she said.

The magazine features work from teenagers all over the country and the world, even as far as Turkey and Scotland. The three invited people to contribute via Snapchat, and the submissions have also led to an Instagram page and website. Schoolman said they also messaged some young artists directly.

Lapidus said they wanted to include young artists from all over the world as they recognized that with current restrictions due to COVID-19, many don’t have a place to express themselves, something they have witnessed firsthand with school art shows not taking place during the pandemic.

“It would be really interesting to see in this digital age that we have, and where face-to-face contact is restricted,” Lapidus said. “I think we can form a community through this magazine that doesn’t have to just be restricted by geography. It doesn’t have to be just in this area. We can even connect people here to all over the world.”

The high school students plan to publish the magazine every other month, and next year when they’re in college they still intend to produce more issues, Brouillet said.

“I think this is something that we’re all really passionate about and love doing, and we all feel it’s making a difference in our own lives and other peoples’,” she said. “When we go off to college, we’ll be able to build a community even bigger and keep it growing.”

Even though the girls run a website and social media accounts, presenting work in print is important to them, especially to Lapidus, a self-described avid reader, who said she’s always connected more with print media than online.

“It’s just not the same as holding paper in your hand,” she said.

She added so many magazines are online, but during the pandemic having a print version made sense.

“I thought when physical contact is taken from us with this pandemic, it’s important to bring print back in some way, and I think that having a physical print magazine connects people even further,” Lapidus said.

Schoolman said Lapidus’ passion for print, along with her and Brouillet’s graphic-design abilities are a good match.

“I think that when we first started the project, not many people really knew what we were doing,” Schoolman said. “We said we were making a magazine but obviously we didn’t have the physical copy in our hands [at the time]. I think when people actually see us go into publishing, printing our own magazine, it’s so important to kind of combine the digital world with the physical world.”

For more information on Junk Dump magazine, visit www.junkdumpmag.com.

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This year the organizers of the Three Village Electric Holiday Parade had to go about things differently due to COVID-19 restrictions and social-distancing guidelines.

Instead of vehicles and floats decorated with lights traveling down Route 25A in Setauket with hundreds bundled up and standing along the road, the parade turned into a drive-thru light show presented by the Rotary Club of Stony Brook Dec. 13 and held on the Ward Melville High School grounds. The show took place from 5 to 6:30 p.m., and spectators lined up in their cars up and down Old Town Road to get a peek of the holiday fun long before the gates opened.

Various businesses were on hand as well as students from Three Village school district. To comply with social-distancing guidelines, only a few representatives from each group stood with their entries. Many used photo cutouts and videos to represent those who could not be there.

To celebrate the high school seniors, Three Village parents set up more than 500 lighted bags on the school’s front lawn, each with a student’s name on it.

Riley Meckley, a junior at Ward Melville High School has won the 84th annual Suffolk County American Legion Oratorical Contest.  

Riley Meckley

Gene Ordmandy Jr., a past commander of American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432 in Port Jefferson Station, was the representative from the sponsoring post. 

On Dec. 5, high school students from public and private schools in Suffolk County came together to compete in a speech contest based on the United States Constitution. Each participant had to prepare a 10 min speech (no notes allowed) based on the Constitution. The contest teaches the importance of research, preparation, speaking and presenting skills as well as the history of our nation’s laws. On Jan. 9, the winners from Suffolk, Nassau and Queens debate for the title of Long Island Champion. 

Besides their prepared oration, competitors also have to give a second speech based on an Amendment or Article in the Constitution. Over the next few months, there are several elimination rounds and regional winners advance to the New York State Finals in Albany. Last year, Riley took 3rd place at the NY state finals.  

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Ward Melville High School held 11 separate socially distanced graduation ceremonies July 18 and July 19 to comply with New York State guidelines.

During the last few months,  like many districts across the state, school administrators discussed several ideas about what to do for graduation. In a letter to Ward Melville seniors and families earlier in July, administrators announced that the school was developing a plan to host in-person commencements over the course of two days.

In June the school had hoped to hold a ceremony with all the students after Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced the state would allow 150 attendees at graduations, hoping the number would increase. However, when the maximum capacity was not raised, Ward Melville opted for multiple ceremonies where seniors were allowed to bring two guests each and were spread out on the high school’s front lawn.

Each ceremony began with a recorded version of “Pomp and Circumstance” followed by an in-person performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by graduating senior Jordan Amato. Class of 2020 valedictorian William Sun and salutatorian Matthew Fiorella delivered commencement speeches during each of the 11 ceremonies.

Class of 2020 Student Government President Sarah Thornton also announced that this year’s class gift would be a new tree, bench and rock inscribed with a quote at the front part of the school lawn.

William Sun

East Setuket’s William Sun ended the school year on a high note.

Sun is Ward Melville High School’s valedictorian with a 105.01 weighted average. The valedictorian is planning on attending Brown University in Rhode Island to major in computer science.

Sun attended Nassakeag Elementary School and then W.S. Mount Elementary for the district’s intellectually gifted classes. Before Ward Mellville, he studied at P.J. Gelinas Middle School. While he has lived in the Three Village area all his life, his father, Yan Sun, a doctor, and his mother, Hong Tan, a nurse, are originally from China and moved here in the 1990s and now run a doctor’s office.

Sun said attending Three Village through the years he has been surrounded by brilliant peers.

“There are so many smart people in this community,” he said.

During his high school career, he has been a member of the Ward Melville High School Varsity Science Olympiad Team and was also the president of the school’s math team and computer science club. He qualified for the International Science and Engineering Fair and won a silver medal at the Long Island math research competition. The valedictorian played piano and violin in the school’s ensembles and was named an All-State pianist, qualified as an All-State alternative for violin and toured in Spain and eastern Europe in eighth- and 10th-grade, respectively, through the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra. In 2020, he was named a National Merit Scholarship winner.

Among his activities and achievements, being the director, creator and manager of Piano for Patients has been one of his favorites. He and other student-musicians would play piano in the Stony Brook University Hospital lobby and over time other musicians became involved performing with other instruments. He’s hoping before he attends college and hands over his responsibilities to a younger student that the group can do one more performance in the summer, since they haven’t been able to perform during the pandemic. Recently, he and his piano teacher Daniel Fogel have organized an online concert as an alternative way to do community service through playing piano.

In addition to Piano for Patients, he volunteered at the hospital helping out with whatever needed to be done to lighten the load for workers, whether it was moving things around, making beds or cleaning floors.

He said choosing computer science came about since he’s been involved in programming since sixth- and seventh-grade, and he also took courses at Stony Brook University where he was involved in programming as well as researching different ways to find data.

“In the future, computer science is going to have a large impact and so I want to be a part of that,” he said, adding he thinks about working at places such as Google in the future.

He said among the teachers in the Three Village school district who had an influence on him was former Gelinas teacher Gary Vorwald, who was both his earth science teacher and the head of Science Olympiad in the school. The valedictorian remembers how the teacher would stay late at school to help students.

“It was the first time that I saw passion for science, he really made me want to join the Science Olympiad,” he said.

As the school was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sun said he kept himself busy with computer science projects and learning Mandarin.

As he leaves Ward Melville behind, he said he’s impressed with the younger students.

“This is really a tumultuous time but we’ve seen some amazing things, especially from the grades that are coming up,” he said. “People are really pushing for what they believe in. What I would say is fight for what you believe in, because with what’s going on now, people are really fighting for justice and such amazing things.”

Matthew Fiorella

Ward Melville’s salutatorian capped off the school year with a 104.85 weighted grade point average.

With the school year behind him, Matthew Fiorella is ready to head to the University of California, Los Angeles and major in engineering. He said when it came to choosing colleges it was down to the California school and the University of Michigan. He decided he would have better intern and job opportunities through UCLA. Plus, he said he liked California after visiting there a couple of times.

Originally living in Arizona and Ohio when he was younger, Fiorella moved to the Three Village Central School District for second grade. He started at Setauket Elementary School and then entered the Intellectually Gifted Program at Mount Elementary School in fourth grade. He continued his studies at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School.

During his high school career, Fiorella has kept busy both in and outside of school. He was the president of the Junior Model UN, a member of the National and Spanish honor societies and was named a National Merit Finalist. The salutatorian was also a member of the school’s band. He played first alto saxophone and was president of the wind ensemble. He also completed an internship at the biotechnology startup Vascular Simulations Inc.

As far as sports, he worked as a coach for the Three Village Youth Basketball organization and took part in the Sports Arena Basketball team.

He said balancing extracurriculars with schoolwork can be challenging.

“It’s trying not to waste time and not to procrastinate, which is difficult because it’s something that I think is natural to a lot of people,” he said. “I think being involved in a lot of things and moving around a lot helps me stay disciplined.”

Fiorella has been inspired by his father, Dr. David Fiorella, who works at Stony Brook University Hospital, and his mother, Andrea Fiorella, a former physical therapist. Besides his parents, Fiorella said his cousin David Lawrence has been an influence in his life.

Lawrence is an electrical engineer, which Fiorella found interesting because there are creative elements to that field, and he had the opportunity to tour his cousin’s workplace when he was younger.

“It was always very interesting to me, and it was really cool to see the more imaginative side of engineering, and it’s kind of what got me interested in it,” he said.

However, with a recent curiosity in history and politics during high school, he said he may even consider studying law in graduate school one day.

“I like engineering, but I don’t feel like I have had the chance to really validate that interest because most of the courses you take in school don’t reflect engineering until you get into college,” he said.

With senior year behind him, and a possible in-person graduation in July, the salutatorian said he and others never imagined the possibility that they might not have a prom or graduation.

“It’s hard because you really don’t know what you’re missing because you haven’t experienced it or something else like it,” he said. “I feel like it’s a very singular experience.”

For those students he leaves behind at Ward Melville High School, he said his advice would be not to stress so much about the day-to-day things and focus more on enjoying everything.

“This year has really shown there’s so much you really can’t plan for,” he said. “Even just in the way college decisions come out, you really realize that things aren’t the way you expected them to be. You just kind of have to accept it.”

The class of 2018 moves tassels to recognize the transition from high school senior to graduate at the Ward Melville High School Commencement June 24. Photo by Andrea Paldy

The 2019-2020 academic year has been one filled with changes, and graduation plans have been no different.

In a letter to Ward Melville High School seniors and families earlier in June, Principal William Bernhard and 12th-grade Assistant Principal Erin Connolly announced that the school was developing a plan to host an in-person graduation Sunday, July 19. The decision came a month after plans were already made to hold five separate ceremonies during the week of June 22, which would have involved seniors being split into groups of five alphabetically and families being required to stay in their cars as one senior at a time got out of each vehicle to accept their diploma.

According to the June letter, the decision to cancel the drive-through graduation this week and revert back to an in-person ceremony was made after Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) earlier in the month signed an executive order giving permission to host in-person graduation ceremonies beginning June 26 with a maximum of 150 people that meet the social-distancing guidelines.

The order propelled the high school to develop a new graduation plan for 2020 with the hopes that future changes will allow an in-person graduation for the class of more than 500 even though they are proceeding cautiously.

“If the current parameters are not relaxed by this new graduation date, the district will continue with the in-vehicle format on Monday, July 20, through Friday, July 24,” the letter reads. “Social-distancing guidelines, including masks and reduced numbers in attendance, must still be in place for any live event.”

The school plans for each graduate to be restricted to two guests, and when students pick up their caps and gowns, there will be a packet with a colored parking pass in order to enter the grounds on graduation day.

Jennifer Catalano, whose daughter Rachael is graduating this year, was pleased to hear the news.

“I’m happy that the school district has gone above and beyond to make graduation as traditional as possible,” she said. “My daughter is happy she will be able to turn her tassel and partake in the traditional cap toss.”

Senior Jake Shangold was also glad to hear of the possibility of an in-person ceremony.

“I know as a senior it would be nice to have the whole class together to share one last moment,” he said. “I know Principal Bernhard and Superintendent Pedisich are doing all they can to make sure seniors are being celebrated.”

Salutatorian Matthew Fiorella, who will be reading a speech at the ceremony along with valedictorian William Sun, is looking forward to a “relatively normal graduation.”

“I was happy that we were still able to have a graduation ceremony when the drive-through plan was created, but being able to have a true in-person graduation is exciting,” he said.

As the school year draws to a close, things may be a little different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic and remote learning, but that didn’t stop Three Village Central School District teachers, administrators and staff from giving the Class of 2020 a proper send-off.
A car parade was held on the high school grounds May 29 to give Ward Melville seniors and those who have taught them and supported them through the years a chance to say goodbye, even if it was from a distance.
Seniors stayed in their cars and drove around the high school perimeter as district staff members were distanced throughout the grounds holding signs and waving.
The last day of school for Three Village students is June 16.

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Ward Melville High School graduates at the 2019 commencement ceremony. Photo by Andrea Paldy

The Three Village Central School District is reimagining graduation.

On May 11, Ward Melville High School seniors and their families were notified that a commencement ceremony of sorts would be held on the school’s grounds in a letter signed by Principal William Bernhard and Assistant Principal Erin Connolly. According to the letter, the decision was made “after careful consideration to the New York State guidelines and the governor’s executive orders.”

Since the traditional outdoor graduation ceremony with hundreds of students and family members cannot be held due to the coronavirus pandemic, the school will hold five separate ceremonies during the week of June 22, and each ceremony will take place with families in their vehicles.

Ceremonies will begin at 5 p.m. with a rendition  of the national anthem and speeches by the school’s salutatorian, valedictorian and the senior class president taking place at each individual commencement. Plans are in the works for the speeches to be live-streamed for viewing and broadcasted on the radio. Students will be divided alphabetically to determine which day they attend.

To adhere to social distancing guidelines, families are allowed only one vehicle and will need to stay in their cars. The letter added that after speeches cars will be directed to pull through the bus circle. Seniors will be allowed to get out of the car one at a time where their name will be announced. They will also be able to pick up their diploma jacket and have a photo taken.

Bernhard and Connolly thanked the students and families for their “patience and support during this extremely challenging time.”

TBR News Media talked to a few people in the community who were positive about
the plans.

Parent Jennifer Catalano said while her daughter, Rachael, is heartbroken that she and her classmates won’t experience a traditional graduation, “she’s happy that they came up with a unique experience for their class.”

Senior Alexarose Marcellino said she thought the plans were better than a virtual ceremony, and she appreciated that the school is making an effort to have the speeches heard every night. She said her parents and siblings plan to decorate their car on the day she can receive her diploma.

Both Marcellino and her mother, Allison, said they are grateful that Bernhard listened to students’ concerns. Allison Marcellino said the principal knew from Zoom meetings and talking to students how important it was for all of them to have an in person graduation and how passionate they were about it.

“They had every faith in him that he would do that for them,” the mother said. “He’s that kind of principal. The kids know that he would go out of his way for them.”

The mother said with the high school having more than 500 seniors she and other parents at first didn’t think it was possible to come up with an alternative plan.

“I really think it’s the best of both worlds because the student gets to walk and receive their diploma, and the closest members of the family get to be there to see their child receive their diploma,” she said. “They actually feel like they got as close to possible to their normal graduation.”