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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 7, 2005

Voorheesville graduates: ‘Manipulate the box"

By Holly Grosch

VOORHEESVILLE — The sun beat down and then off the pavement, casting a glow on the graduates’ faces as they processed into the tent set up alongside their school’s athletic field.

The grass had been freshly cut. A gentle breeze brushed girls’ dangling fly-away locks. The seniors held yellow roses against their purple gowns as they flowed together like a river of Sangria. The mood was just as festive as well.

Televisions showing a slide show of their 12 years together played at the entry way. One picture was of elementary school students sitting cross-legged together on a rug in a classroom. Now the seniors sat together in rows, concluding their education as young adults, girls in heels and make-up.

Bagpipers with the Albany Police Pipes and Drum Corps led the way until "Pomp and Circumstance" began.

The commencement concluded in a similarly traditional manner — students tossing their graduation caps up into the air, after they had, one by one, walked across the stage as high school Principal Mark Diefendorf read out 113 names. They received their diplomas from school board President Robert Baron and then shook hands with Superintendent Alan McCartney.

The ceremony started with Ryan Wineinger and Katherine Finn, both drama club stars, presenting the Class Sentiment through song, dance, and skit.

When the keyboard piano wouldn’t work, it was at first hard to tell if it was part of the routine they had rehearsed, especially since Wineinger is know for his quirky personality and willingness to ham it up if the part calls for it.

It turned out, not having accompaniment was not part of their plan but they proceeded anyway, in a cappella, singing little jingles they had made up, incorporating class jokes and memories, until finally someone figured out that the keyboard was simply not plugged into the electrical cord. The duo started over again without a glitch, like seasoned pros.

They told of a time when a friend needed some cheering up in seventh grade and they invented a silly song they now call "The Jenny Song" to sing to her.

They then shared the non-Grammy-Award-winning song to illustrate the point that, at Vorrheesville, friends are there for each other and help each other out. "We’ll remember ‘The Jenny Song’ forever," they said.

The sketch ended with the duo singing the words, "We will find our path" to the tune of "The Circle of Life" from The Lion King.

Then the high school Select Mixed Choir took to the stage and sang "Somewhere" from West Side Story : "Somewhere, someday, a time for us, time together, with time to spare, time to learn —time to care."

The music theme continued with salutatorian Jennifer Lysenko’s address; she quoted from all the Dionysian productions over their four years. She said, comparing herself to a charactor in Twelfth Night, "I feel like my life has just begun."

"Let the wine of friendship never run dry," Lysenko said, quoting from another show.

"For all of us, though, this is the month this is the day."

"Hold your course and your aim."

"Don’t loss sight of the past...So now into the woods we must go."

Including the drama club seemed appropriate since it is the largest extracurricular program that draws on more people than any other at Voorheesville. About a third of the student body participates in the club.

Anat Belesen was the student-selected speaker. She told of her agonizing philosophical debate of "thinking outside the box." It was something her father always told her to do, she said, but then, when she was filling out college and scholarship applications, she received a form that had a piece of paper with a box on it. The directions told her, she could use the space however she wanted but she had to stay within the box.

Besides having to think what she was going to put on the piece of paper, Belesen said she started to think, "If everyone was thinking outside the box, wouldn’t thinking inside the box be really thinking outside the box""

She said that thinking inside the box was black and white, and clean rooms.

If we didn’t have hate, we wouldn’t have love; the world needs to have messiness in order to have neatness, she said.

"Outside the box is different," she said; it’s wearing mismatched clothes; it’s where "I kiss a boo-boo and make it better," Belesen said.

She said she decided that she is comfortable existing both outside and inside the box, and that she can enjoy both.

"Voorheesville is like a diamond," she said; it’s a small town but it has really great people.

Her conclusion to her dilemma was something that came to out of modeling what she has learned from Voorheesville. "We’ll miss our little town," she told her peers. "Don’t try to think inside or outside the box," she said, "See the box and manipulate it."

Great friends and faculty

"What is graduation all about" It’s about moving on, so let’s move on to the next speaker," quipped Valedictorian Matthew Lombardi. He is a self-proclaimed non-lover of public speaking. His punchline introduction was greeted with an uproar of laughter from the crowd, one of the loudest of the night.

But he said he couldn’t disappoint everyone, so he did prepare a speech.

"The friendships we have developed have become strong chains," he said. While he may never see some of these faces again, he said, the bond of the Voorheesville Alma Mater will keep everyone connected in their hearts, and, while names may fade from memory, the life lessons and skills they have learned will carry with them, he said.

Lombardi urged his fellow graduates to follow their hearts and, he said, "If yesterday you fell, stand up today."

"We owe many thanks to our parents and friends... and the school’s outstanding educators," Lombardi said.

"The great faculty set expectations for us, but also awakened our own expectations for ourselves," he said.

The Friends of the Class Awards were given to:

— Kathy Brennan, a most humorous teacher who always gave notes back on every homework assignment;

— Matt Fiato who is a physical education teacher and coach, he coaches basektball and softball; and

— Science teacher Anthony Thanopoulos, who the students said came to every band, chorus, and basketball event and gave great chemistry review sessions.

John Lopez was recognized as the class mentor, someone they looked up to.

He " taught us to love and be loved in return," Wineinger said. "He will be missed."

The popular art teacher and drama-club advisor, Lopez, is moving to Westchester County to teacher in a district closer to New York City so he can expand his own professional career.

"Hope for the future"

"I’ve come to understand there is a tremendous hope in this world," Superintendent Alan McCartney said, giving his last graduation speech at Voorheesville before retiring.

"I believe in the future because I believe in the youth," he said.

"I’ve been in education all my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world," McCartney said.

Before McCartney spoke he received a standing ovation from the audience the students, the faculty, and the school board. The whole place was on its feet, recognizing his 16 years as service to the district.

As he rose to the podium the band played a flourish, much like an entry theme song, the only one of the night in honor of a person.

When McCartney had the floor, he then had the graduates stand up and applaud their parents, at which time a couple of, "I love you Mom"s were yelled out and resonated.

McCartney told a joke out of a popular TV show from his childhood: The Lone Ranger and Tonto were camping and, after they fell asleep, Tonto woke the Lone Ranger and asked him what he saw above his head in the sky, and the Lone Ranger responded, "I see millions of stars," McCartney recalled.

The Lone Ranger then went on to say what the stars meant astronomically and meteorologically.

Then Tonto said, "You dumber than Buffalo chips; someone has stolen the tent."

Laughter arose, particularly strong from the parent section.

"Don’t get so impressed with yourself or what you know, or you’ll miss the obvious," McCartney warned his students.

His concluding words of advice were, "Stand up for yourself but always be kind to the little guys."

Remember the details

April Levy, a Clayton A. Bouton eleventh grade English teacher, was the guest speaker who gave the address to the graduates. Senior Allison Curreri said that Levy pushed her to strive to do better, such as on a dreaded creative-writing piece, which ultimately helped her to write her college essays without thinking.

Levy is also known for being able to quote midieval poetry "by heart in old English," Curreri said.

Levy said her three words of advice are: details, details, details.

"Details are the mainstay of our English language," she said, stating she harrangued the students for a year on details.

"I harangued them for a year on details."

"This is not just my fetish... good readers know this and fondle details," Levy said.

She wants students to put details in their writing and she also quizzes them on the details of the novels they read, including Huck Finn and The Crucible , tiny details such as what was the color of his hat, she said.

Levy is disapointed that paying attention to details is seen as menacing rather than mandatory; CEO’s say, "Don’t bother me with details," she said.

"Take care of details; they got you to where you are here today," she told the seniors. She gave exmaples of how paying attention to details had brough the students’s sucess: whether it be mastering the details to pin an opponent or to pitch a baseball over the plate, or the details on a college application, or the details in wrapping a friend’s locker up like a present on her birthday.

Quoting Alfred North Whitehead, the British mathematician and philosopher, Levy said, "We think in generalities, but we live in details."

"Enjoy this brief pause," Levy said until new details begin, like roommate selection and college course selection.

Global giving

The class gift was announced at graduation, a framed map of the world, which will be hung in the high school and named the "global giving map." For each place of the world that a Voorheesville student touches in some way, whether it be a student exchange or a volunteer project, or a fund-raiser, a marker will be placed in that region.

The senior class officers said that they got the idea from the generosity that arose after the Tsunami this year. The idea is that the map will demonstrate the small impact Voorheesville can have on the globe, the senior class officers said. The senior class is starting off the map marking by donating the rest of the senior class funds to the AIDS foundation of South Africa.

Validictorian — Matthew Lombardi

By Holly Grosch

VOORHEESVILLE — When asked his fondest memory of his Voorheesville education, this year’s valedictorian, Matt Lombardi, said, "My whole senior year as a class."

"We had so much success, so many doing well academically — going onto great colleges and, the baseball, volleyball, and basketball teams had great years with a lot of students going out and supporting that as well," he said.

On the afternoon of graduation Lombardi told The Enterprise that the ceremony would make for "a really tough night," reflecting on the years, but also realizing "this will be our last moment all together."

Lombardi had the highest grade-point average of his class and a regorous schedule full of advanced classes. His two favorite classes at Voorheesville were AP chemistry and AP economics, because they had great teachers "who were passionate about the subject and I liked the subjects alot, so it was really fun," he said.

The chemistry teacher was Anthony Thanopoulos, and Pat Kuritian was his economics teacher.

Lombardi is going to the University of Pennsylvania in Philidelpia in the fall, with intensions of studying economics. "It’s a nice campus but within a city still," Lambardi said, highlinght a few of the reasons he chose this Ivy League liberal arts school.

At Voorheesville, Lombardi was the editor of the school newspaper, part of the mock trial team, and went to the model United Nations club’s conference at Yale this year.

Lombardi played volleyball and baseball for the Blackbirds. He’s been playing baseball since he was a child and this year his team won the Colonial Council. He started playing volleyball his junior year, he said, and then the team went on to win the Regional Championship this year.

"I’ve always loved athletics. I like competition; it’s fun and I think it brings out the best in people," Lombardi said.

It was the small close-knit community of Voorheesville that helped his classmates and himself graduate, Lombardi said. He appreciates the way that the community and school interact and consequently grow together, he said. And, he said, "I couldn’t have gotten were I’ve gotten without the teachers and staff that make Voorheesville."

Salutatorian — Jennifer Lysenko

By Holly Grosch

VOORHEESVILLE — The arts are something this year’s salutatorian said she will take with her the rest of her life. Jennifer Lysenko played in the band, sang in the chorus, and acted on stage at Clayton A. Bouton High.

She plays the French horn, was a regular attendee at band camp, and was a member of the Empire State Youth Wind Ensemble. She started dancing at age three, ballet and jazz, and was the dance captain for this year’s production of Beauty and the Beast. Last summer she went to Europe with the American Music Abroad choral group.

The arts were the biggest part of her senior year, Lysenko said, while her academic interest is in the sciences. The other huge event this senior year was the Relay for Life, a fund-raier to fight cancer. The large turn-out was very moving, said Lysenko, the high school’s student chair of the walk-a-thon.

"Jennifer is extremely mature, motivated, and a compassionate individual," said Sherry Burgoon, a Voorheesville teacher who served on the Relay for Life committee with Lysenko.

"She’s the kind of person, when she decides to do something, she’ll get the job done," Burgoon said.

"She’s a committed person, who has no difficulty speaking with adults...Not only is she not shy, but very charismatic... She impresses people with her poise," Burgoon said.

"She is as nice as she is bright," Burgoon said.

Lysenko remembers her freshman year when the drama club had to perform Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in the high school commons, because the building didn’t have a theater. The drama program has made huge bounds since then under the direction of John Lopez, one of Lysenko’s two favorite teachers, she said.

Her favorite productions were Les Miserable her sophomore year, because it was the first year in the new state-of-the-art facility, and Beauty and the Beast in her senior year, because she became very close with her theater peers. "There was just so much positive energy" in that show, she said.

Lysenko wants to study chemistry and biology in college.

Math teacher Janice Luysocki, was a favorite of Lysenko’s; she studied under her for three years, including pre-calculus and calculus. Lysenko took seven Advanced Placement exams and other honors and university courses including physics, music, and French 4.

Lysenko is going to Washington and Lee University in Virginia. She said she’s ready to go south to the warmer weather.

"It’s the only school I applied to without visiting," she said. Her cousin who has just finished her first year there, kept giving it glowing reviews, and, when Lysenko finally went to visit in March, she said she knew right away that’s where she was supposed to go.

Lysenko thinks there is great potential for her cousin and her to become very close over the next few years.

"I’m very gratefull for my family," she said.

One person that’s hard for Lysenko to leave behind is her 15-year-old sister, Christine, who she is very close to, "We overlapped in a lot of school activities," Lysenko said, and the two loved to just sit up-stairs in their rooms and talk.

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