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  • An evening of engagement covers range of topics

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 1/20/2023 3:00:00 PM

    During the most recent Family Engagement Night, Elmsford Union Free School District families had an opportunity to learn about several topics at an in-person forum. They gathered on Jan. 19 for an evening of information at Alexander Hamilton High School.

     

    Mad speaks with those in auditoriumInterim Superintendent Ron Gonzalez welcomed families and thanked them for coming out on this evening, speaking in both English and Spanish. He explained that when planning the event, organizers decided to broaden the topics based on input they received from the community. Using his contacts, personal and professional, he was able to bring in several individuals to make presentations. 

     

    “These are the types of partnerships we hope to have for a very long time,” Dr. Gonzalez said of the presenters on this evening.

     

    There were four sessions offered and families had the opportunity to engage in at least two of the offerings throughout the evening. The presentations included a Spanish translator or was conducted in Spanish and English, so that all families could participate.

     

    Stephen Hernandez, East Coast Project Administrator with the National Hispanic Institute, discussed with families what his organization does and how high school students can get involved. Man speaks in front of white board in classroom

     

    “We provide students with an opportunity to engage in leadership activities at a young age,” Mr. Hernandez said during his presentation.

     

    It was a program that benefitted him when he was younger growing up in the Bronx.

     

    “What pulled me into the NHI was a speaker who came into my classroom and talked about an opportunity to see what college was like,” he said.

     

    When he attended the program, he was introduced to a broad range of Hispanic students his age, a very different environment than the Puerto Rican families he lived amongst.

     

    “Part of the opportunity of being in the NHI was it expanded my horizons,” he said.

     

    Not only did he meet others from different backgrounds, but he spent time on several college campuses. When it was time for him to apply to colleges, he had a better sense of what he felt would be a good fit for him — whether he could go out of state or not.

     

    Ultimately, he decided to stay in New York, mainly, he joked, because he knew he would miss his mom’s cooking too much.

     

    NHI did more than inform him on his collegiate future, it also gave him confidence.

     

    “I run the east coast region for the NHI,” he said. “I feel confident enough to do so because of the skills I learned here.”

     

    Woman speaks in front of blackboardLisa Daley, Esquire, talked with families about the Pipeline Diversity Initiative. The program is hosted by the American Bar Association and serves to inspire young people of color to consider a career in law.

     

    “We want to expose our students to the idea that you can be a lawyer," Ms. Daley said. "We have students who are not typically targeted, and we tell them they can go to law school.”

     

    The program is divided into two-days, one held in the fall and again in the spring, geared towards high school students. It is a day of learning in which attendees are introduced to a variety of topics.

     

    The first part of the program introduces students to different areas of the law and jobs within the field, from the different types of lawyers to judges and more. During the second portion, students are introduced to careers that they can pursue once they have their law degree that go beyond being in a courtroom.

     

    “You don’t have to be lawyer,” Ms. Daley said. “There are opportunities in politics or in corporations.”

     

    “With the knowledge you gain in law school, you can do so much,” she said.

     

    The program also provides an opportunity for students to network with those working in the field as well as polishing their public speaking skills.

     

    Family seated at school desksHaving an introduction into a specific field at an early age can be beneficial and important, Ms. Daley noted. It offers students an opportunity to think about a potential career and provides information about how broad that career can be. And for those who decide they may not want to be a lawyer, there is always the chance they may come back to it later in their life.

     

    “You are not stuck in any one place,” she said, adding that she went back to school to become a nurse. “Age should not deter you.”

     

    For those thinking about studying law or anything else in college, they will also have to think about how they are going to pay for their degree.

     

    That is where presenter Javier Lugo comes in. He is a certified financial planner with Prudential. Man speaks in classroom

     

    His presentation highlighted the basics of developing a lifelong financial plan.

     

    “If you don’t have a plan for your money, someone else will have a plan for it,” he said.

     

    He discussed how money should be looked at, both now and in the future. There is the “now” money, that which is needed for basic living expenses like housing, transportation, groceries, etc. Then there is the “soon” money, that which is being saved for use in the next 3-6 years, perhaps to purchase a house or to replace a vehicle. Finally, there is what he called the “later” money, that used for retirement which may come in the form of a 401K, IRA or other long-term savings plan.

     

    He also discussed credit and the usage of credit cards.

     

    “Having an intimate relationship with credit cards is incredibly important,” he said. “You should use the card, treat it like a debit card.”

     

    Mr. Lugo also offered tips on how to build credit, access a credit report, what laws are in place to protect consumers, how to create a monthly budget and the different types of retirement savings accounts that exist.

     

    Man looks at mock up of teen bedroomParents also had an opportunity to engage with Hidden in Plain Sight, an interactive demonstration for parents to learn more about teen behavior when it comes to abusing different substances. Teens have developed intriguing ways to hide what they do, whether its vaping, smoking marijuana or abusing other illegal substances.

     

    Alexa Mennuti, MHC, is a social worker that works with students at AHHS. She was joined by colleagues in her field, who created a typical teen bedroom in a classroom.

     

    Parents were invited to take a close look at the objects on display. Several found that a book was not just a book, and a hairbrush was not just a hairbrush. The book had pages carved out of it that could hide items and the end of the hairbrush screwed off and could be used as a flask.

     

    While looking through other items one parent found a grinder, which looked like a small toy in the shape of the Death Star from Star Wars. There was also a can of shaving cream that the bottom screwed off to reveal a hiding place. Small vapes were easily concealed among the clothing and plush animals that are often in a teen’s room.

     

    “The internet has made things more readily available,” Ms. Mennutti said of where teens are finding these items. “If they are motivated, they will find a way.”

     

    The demonstration served as an eye opener for parents to be on the lookout for everyday items that may not be what they appear to be. It also a great way to start a dialogue with their child about the dangers of substance abuse. 

     

    “A few years ago, when we started, the vision was really to build community with our families,” AHHS Principal Joseph Engelhardt said of the district’s history of hosting Family Engagement Nights, also noting that there will be more of these events in the future.

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  • Interim Superintendent presents mid-year report

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 1/19/2023 8:00:00 AM

    The school year is flying by and already we are looking at just five more months before school is out for the summer. It seemed like the perfect time for Interim Superintendent Dr. Ronald Gonzalez to present his mid-year report, which he did at the January 11, 2023, Board of Education meeting. Graphic about mid-year report

     

    “Schools should be student-focused and maintain high expectations,” Dr. Gonzalez said.

     

    There are four pillars he has identified as special areas of focus. They consist of: Safe and Secure Environments, Systems and Structures for Success, Family and Community Engagement and Equity and Social Emotional Learning.

     

    The pillars, he said, help the district to know what they are looking at, what is being looked for, what considerations they need to be mindful of and what opportunities exist for the district to capitalize on.

     

    Looking at Safe and Secure Environments, Dr. Gonzalez said they are the things that “make all our community members feel safe.”

     

    “We need to take an introspective look at what we have and ensure intellectual safety for our students,” he continued. This includes; reviewing the safety of the technology students and staff use, expanding school security measures and a full review of security systems.

     

    This year, Dr. Gonzalez said, a school monitor would be added at the Alice E. Grady Elementary School, along with a second one at Alexander Hamilton High School. The district has also completed all its fire safety inspections and conducted a study to upgrade the facilities air purifiers, which are now in every classroom throughout the district. He said he is interested in looking at communication protocols, like the walkie-talkies that are in use and updating phone chains to be more efficient.

     

    Next year he is proposing a building condition survey, which would be done using an independent contractor. Additionally, the district would also upgrade its fiscal plan to have each building meet ADA compliance.

     

    Regarding Systems and Structures, Dr. Gonzalez said this means changing any procedure to become more efficient. It also includes expanding professional learning opportunities for staff as well as looking at the impact the administrative team has on students.

     

    Additionally, Dr. Gonzalez said the district should further embrace technology so that it is fully prepared for computer-based testing, which seems to be eminent across all schools.

     

    Moving forward, he said, he wants the district to focus on “the top skills we want our students to know and be able to do.” 


    One way of implementing this is to update the building schedules to maximize instructional time across the Pre-K through 12th grade continuum. To that end, while the math and social studies curriculum have been aligned, English is currently being rolled out and elective courses will be the next area of focus.

     

    Communication will be the focus of Family and Community Engagement, the interim superintendent said.

     

    Dr. Gonzalez said he took immediate interest in reviewing how the district manages the ways it communicates to parents and the community. There may be some means that are currently used that may not be in the future.

     

    Families can now find more information about what their student is doing in their classes through the new monthly newsletters created by the school principals, which is posted on each school’s website.

     

    In addition, on Jan. 3, the district launched a new look for its website.

     

    “The website is now fully operational,” Dr. Gonzalez said. “We find it much, much easier to navigate.”

     

    When it comes to Equity and Social, Emotional Learning, the interim superintendent said, “we are in a very good place.”

     

    “There is a lot of work around equity and restorative practices,” that have been put in place, he said, including the addition of a counselor at Grady.

     

    The interim superintendent also took time to review the progress of students this year.

     

    Using iReady, which measures reading and math skills for students in K-8, Dr. Gonzalez said 23 percent of students were reading at grade level, 42 percent were at grade level or below and 35 percent were two grades or more below grade level.

     

    “We’re finding that more students that experienced the interruption in learning due to COVID need time and support to catch up.” he said.

     

    Looking at math skills in the district, Dr. Gonzalez said he feels he has a good snapshot of where students are, and there is room for improvement.

     

    To that end, he said, a bilingual math teacher has been hired at Hamilton. He also increased a teaching position at Grady to serve as a full-time math AIS teacher. In addition, the district will add support for students as they transition from Dixson to Grady.

     

    “Two-thirds of the building are passing courses in English with grades of 80 or higher,” he said of student progress at the high school. “That’s the same with math.”

     

    He noted that there are 200 students at Hamilton who are enrolled in a foreign language. In addition, when it comes to athletics and electives, with an enrollment of about 400 students, many of them are taking more than one elective course, resulting in 724 participants. In terms of fall and winter sports, 105 students participated in modified sports, 75 in junior varsity and 135 in varsity.


    That athletic program is growing, he said, noting how the football team hosted its first home game since 1985 and the recent success the indoor track team had at the league championships held on Jan. 8, not to mention the Section 1 Class D Championship Girls Volleyball team.

     

    “We have a Rubik’s Cube Club,” he said, adding he witnessed an impressive completion of the colorful brick game by a club member recently.

     

    In terms of the future, the 82 students in the Class of 2023 are preparing for their post high school activities. Many of them have engaged in early action or early decision when applying to college. Those who opted for early decision must enroll in the college or university that accepted them.

     

    “It’s a sign a student has it together,” he said. “To make that commitment early.”

     

    Seniors are not the only ones looking to the future.

     

    Dr. Gonzalez has given much consideration to the district’s future too.

     

    In his mind, he envisions a complete rebuild for Dixson, giving a timeline of 2024-2029. This could mean a grade reconfiguration, perhaps holding all pre-k sections in-district or transitioning it to a K-4 building. It could also mean a new building, playground and garden space.

     

    For Grady, the interim superintendent said, changes could happen there as well, including the possibility of the building becoming a true middle school, which would require some building upgrades to accommodate older students.

     

    “AHHS may become an exclusive 9-12 building,” he said, adding that upgrades would also include making the building completely ADA compliant.

     

    “We appreciate your vision,” Paul Hood, Board of Education President told the interim superintendent. “We see where the holes are, and we have deep, thoughtful action plans.”

     

    View the entire presentation here.

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  • A look ahead: Alumni share experience with going to college

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 1/13/2023 1:00:00 PM

    For students considering their college options, deciding factors may include majors, location, and size. Or the food.

     

    “The food. That is my favorite thing about the school,” said Kate Hidalgo, a sophomore at the University of Rochester. Although she did also note that the financial aid package, school size and family atmosphere on campus were also important in her decision to attend the renowned research institution.


    Ms. Hidalgo, who graduated in 2021, was one of several Alexander Hamilton High School alumni who returned to their alma mater to talk to underclassmen about their college experience.

     

    In an annual tradition, AHHS grads spoke about what life is like as they adjusted to being college students. They covered such topics as classes, how they decided on a major and the differences between their workloads between high school and college. Students sitting at edge of stage

     

    They also shared how, while difficult to do in practice, the underclassmen should not sweat the small stuff.

     

    “It’s going to be scary,” admitted Kathleen Praino, AHHS Class of ’22 and a freshman at Vanderbilt University. “But I have met some of my best friends there.”

     

    “It is not the end all, be all for what you do in the future,” Bailey Proctor, AHHS Class of ’21 and a sophomore at Villanova University said referring to their time in high school. “I was so focused on my work as a student. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself.”

     

    High school, Ms. Proctor said, is a time to form who you are, what you like and dislike.

     

    Several on the panel noted that while getting good grades is important, colleges and universities are also very interested in who you are as a person. What kinds of activities you were involved in both inside and outside of school?

     

    “Try things you wouldn’t normally try, it helps you get used to doing new things,” said Savallya Boyini, AHHS ’20 and a currently a student at Cornell University.

     

    Several panel members shared how one of the lessons they wish they had paid more attention to before going off to college was time management.

     

    “I wish I was able to manage my time better in high school,” said Edwin Aguilar, a sophomore at SUNY Albany.

     

    Time management will be the key to success in college as it will require individuals to get themselves to classes on time (As parents will not be there to help!) It also means managing the required work and balancing that work with a social life.

     

    Part of this also means giving yourself a break, said Phoenix Harper, a freshman at the University of Connecticut.

     

    “Prioritize your mental health,” she said. This could be in the form of simply walking out of your dorm room for a few minutes when studying, reaching out to a Residential Assistant for some help or using the on-site health facilities.

     

    Ms. Harper was able to room with AHHS classmate Daniella Rambaran. While they knew each other, that is not always the case and rooming with someone can be a whole new experience all by itself.

     

    First, Ms. Rambaran said, dorm rooms are notoriously small, so pack wisely. Secondly, you will be living with a diverse group of people, so get to know them!

     

    Ms. Harper noted that just because you live with someone does not mean you have to be best friends. But it does mean, she said, you must learn to live with someone.

     

    “Sometimes you are going to have to compromise,” agreed Sunjay Green, a freshman at SUNY Oneonta, but who will be transferring to the University of Connecticut at the end of this year.

     

    Ms. Praino noted how all the freshmen they meet are experiencing similar things, they are likely away from home for the first time too.

     

    “You are all in the same boat,” she said. “They are nervous too.”

     

    She advised being open to meeting new people and Mr. Boyini agreed.

     

    “If you go to a bigger school, reach out to people who are not in your intended major. It’s good to have friends from different places,” he said.

     

    Student panelThe underclassmen also had an opportunity to ask questions. They were curious about what the alumni felt helped make them stand out on their college application, if high school prepared them well for college, is it worth it to take Advanced Placement classes, are any of them working while in school and what they do for fun on weekends.

     

    The alum told them they should write an authentic essay about who they really are, how there are plenty of job opportunities on campus and many who are willing to work around their class schedules, and that there is no way they will be bored while away at school as there is so much to do on campus and in the surrounding community.

     

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  • AHHS alum helps others celebrate their African heritage with local Kwanzaa event

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 12/26/2022 7:00:00 AM

    AHHS alum helps others celebrate their African heritage with local Kwanzaa event

     

    They say you can never go home again however; Jahlil Shabazz has found a way to do just that. Man drumming, woman dances

     

    Mr. Shabazz graduated from Alexander Hamilton High School in 2011 and has returned to his hometown for the Village of Elmsford’s Kwanzaa celebrations. Events like this help build community, said Mr. Shabazz. 

     

    Kwanzaa - this year celebrated Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, 2023 - is a celebration of pan-African culture and values. The local celebration, held on Dec. 18 at AHHS, included music, food, reflections, and African dance and drumming demonstrations.  

     

    “Kwanzaa has been a holiday my family has celebrated for my entire life and is a celebration that is mutually beneficial to us and the Village of Elmsford in co-creating our cultural identity as a community,” he said, adding that Elmsford’s original Kwanzaa committee was organized by Wayne Bass, another Hamilton alum, from the Class of 1981 and was first celebrated in 2012 at the senior center. 

     

    This year’s event also included an awards recognition ceremony of Alice E. Grady Elementary School students. They were recognized with awards representing the many principles of Kwanzaa — unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. 

     

    Recognizing students with awards, Mr. Shabazz said, is one way to acknowledge children for things that they may not usually be recognized for, such as creativity and responsibility.

     

    “The youth are elected based on evaluation and observation of their behavior by their teachers and school district staff for clear alignments to the principles of Kwanzaa,” Mr. Shabazz said. “I hope that the young people who attended the event walked away with a sense of pride of who they are and the people that they represent.” 

     

    In addition, he hopes the event inspired students to “have a greater sense of purpose and vision for greatness in their own lives,” he said. “The purpose of Kwanzaa is to remind us of our humanity and show that the standard of it is based in our ability to share the healthiest version of ourselves with our community.” 

     

    Dr. Pam Davis, a current Elmsford Union Free School District STREAM educator at Grady, was presented with the Elmsford Kwanzaa Community Service Award. 

     

    Mr. Shabazz said that he loves returning to his alma mater.

     

    “For me, it’s always a pleasure to come back,” Mr. Shabazz said during a brief break from his drumming demonstrations and making sure the event ran smoothly.  

     

    “There is a need for more cultural awareness,” he said, adding that these types of events are helpful in providing that.  

     

    His main focus, he said, is the youth and sharing with them historical cultural traditions. 

     

    Following his schooling in Elmsford, Mr. Shabazz earned degrees in Black Studies and Spanish from Temple University. He then took a role in his family’s business, Akoben Enterprise, where he serves as a director and facilitator. 

     

    “Our family business focuses on culture, identity restoration and rite of passage as an art of transformation,” he said. 

     

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  • Grady Leadership Council collects some cheer for the holidays

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 12/15/2022 1:00:00 PM

    Room 115 at the Alice E. Grady Elementary School turned into a bit of an elves workshop one afternoon. Members of the school’s leadership council were engaged in a special activity to brighten up the holidays.

     

    On this day they were making hand-made cards for patients at the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. The cards would be included along with the toys and games that had been collected by the students and staff. Girls sitting at desks making cards

     

    In addition, the council had helped to spearhead a Giving Tree, collecting hats, gloves and scarves that would be donated to those in need in Westchester County.

     

    “You guys are in charge of pumping it up,” council advisor and fourth grade teacher Jaclyn Warren told council members. “You should lead by example.”

     

    Boy makes homemade cardShe encouraged students to visit other classes to talk to students about what they are doing and how they can help. They can also contribute to the collections too or donate some money. So far, the council has raised $131. A table by the front door was already full of toys and other donated items. And there was a Christmas tree too with ornaments of donated hats, gloves and scarves.

     

    The Leadership Council began last year and included fifth and sixth graders. It has moved away from the Student Government model that used to exist and is now more community service focused. This year fourth graders were invited to join as well, although only sixth graders are voted in as officers.

     

    “We are hoping to highlight the leaders in the school,” Ms. Warren said, adding that fundraising is also a component of the group. Together, they help to raise money for outside causes as well as for school-related items too.

     

    The Giving Tree had been a part of the Grady environment for many years before COVID disrupted everything, but it was brought back this year. Leadership Council officers suggested including the children’s hospital.

     

    Council President Amari Lawrence said these particular projects are fun because they help others.

     

    “I wanted to make a difference and help them feel more comfortable,” she said of the young patients at the children’s hospital.

     

    “This is a fun project because it can make someone in the hospital feel a little better,” Amari said.

     

    Council Secretary Kamryn Bostic said she not only wanted to help others but also work with schoolmates too. Holiday tree with hats and scarves on it

     

    “I like this project because I get to make something fun for kids who need some cheering up,” she said. “I hope it helps them feel like they are not forgotten.”

     

    “It’s a great way to include them in the holidays,” agreed Vice President Cassie Tascon.

     

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  • Grady Sharing Day highlights hard work of students 

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 12/1/2022 11:10:00 AM

    On the day before Thanksgiving, the entire student body of Alice E. Grady Elementary School shared their hard work with friends and family. Special guests visited the school to see the results of several weeks-long projects. Each grade has a specific project to work on, however, all had a writing component.  

     

    Students displayed their work in the cafeteria, classrooms and hallways as their schoolmates, family and friends traveled around the building, to talk to students and learn about their work. Boy holds up his class work 

    “I did my research project on France,” said third grader Isabella Los Santos. “I picked it because I really love Paris a lot. Also, because my mom visited France and said she’d take me soon.” 

     

    Fellow third grader Deanne Schand said that she also chose France because “it has really good food and the Eiffel Tower.” 

     

    Food seemed to be a popular motivator among the third graders assigned to research a country of their choice and create a tri-fold presentation that shared the country’s pertinent information. 

     

    “I love sushi,” said Mikey Pompilio, who selected Japan. “Also, I was interested in learning more about the country.” 

     

    The fourth graders’ assignment was called “The Power of Story.” Each student wrote a story about a topic of interest.  

     

    Carter Simon decided to write about a video game: “I wrote about Roblox, because that’s my favorite game,” he said. 

     

    With the World Cup taking place, Jordy Jumbo’s story was timely. He wrote about playing soccer with his friends. 

     

    “We won 2-1, but then the other team scored and then it came down to a penalty,” he said about his story’s plot. Regarding the writing process, Jordy liked that he had the opportunity to use different styles, including figurative language. 


    Girl shares her class workSecond graders studied and wrote about different communities, such as rural, suburban and urban. 

     

    Gideon Geevarghese said that his story, “The Bald Boy,” took place in Greenburgh and talks about a boy who is bullied for not having hair. 

     

    “Writing is very exciting,” Gideon said. 

     

    Second grader Aden Abraham’s story was called “The Day He Had a Birthday.” It was about a boy who moved to a new community and school. “Some of the people were being mean to him, but a buddy named Aaron came up and told them to stop teasing him, and then they became friends,” Aden said. 

     

    Sixth grader Kamryn Bostic explained that her grade was assigned a “Doers and Dreamers” project, in which they selected three people who inspired them and wrote about their inspiring characteristics.  

     

    One of Kamryn’s selections was track star and Olympian Wilma Rudolph: “I liked how hard working she was in her sport and how she never gave up. She inspired me not to be lazy and to work hard.” 

     

    Kamryn said the project was challenging but “ended up being really good.” 

     

    Fifth graders worked on writing a narrative about themselves, as well as conducting an interview with a community member. 

     

    Aleesa Pace interviewed her neighbor who recently moved into the area. “I wanted to learn more about her and why she moved to this community,” Aleesa said. “She looks very creative.” 

     

    As to her personal narrative, Aleesa shared that she is a good writer and that she’s trying to become better. “I’m very creative,” she said. Boy reads story to man

     

    “It was a very fun project,” said fifth grader Kiara Carabello. She interviewed Dobbs Ferry Fire Captain Michael Murray, who told her about his job experiences. 

     

    For her narrative, Kiara wrote about visiting Luna Park and riding a roller coaster. 

     

    “I enjoy writing because I can express my feelings,” she said. “Sometimes I write on the computer and sometimes on paper.” 

     

    Fifth grader Gabriel Aguilar is interested in sports, so he interviewed Drew Watson, Grady’s physical education teacher.

     

    “He told me how to shoot the ball and gave me tips on being a better basketball player,” he said. 

     

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  • Volleyball finishes season as Class D Champions

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 11/28/2022 3:05:00 PM

    The police traversed the streets of the Village of Elmsford on the night of November 4, not due to an emergency, but rather in a celebratory fashion. The police were on hand to escort the bus carrying the new Class D Section Champions — the Lady Red Raiders!

     

    They beat the Keio Unicorns 25-8, 25-13, 25-17. Volleyball team posing on steps

     

    The championship was a first in the program’s history and follows a year that Coach Amanda Fucci said the team gave it their all.

     

    “After three or four games they really started to bond,” she said, reflecting on the season. “They were a team. When we beat a difficult team, they said we could do this.”

     

    Coming into this season, the team had lost some senior star players, which could have impacted how the season went. However, the coach said the team came into their pre-season workouts ready for whatever came at them.

     

    “Playing together and having them realize they could do it, it sealed it for me and my assistant coach,” Coach Fucci continued.

     

    By the time the middle of the season rolled around, Coach Fucci, who has been coaching the team for 10 years, said the team told her they wanted to be section champs. The seniors said they wanted to make their last season special and the juniors, according to the coach, wanted to help make it happen for them.

     

    “It’s important to note that the atmosphere inside the gym was always different,” junior Kelly Tula said. “The atmosphere was that the girls were always supporting and uplifting you. If you made a mistake, you knew to shake it off.”

     

    The coach said she sometimes had to tell her team that practice was over. No really, it was time to go home. Otherwise, she said, they could have stayed for several hours more.

     

    “One day we had a three-hour practice,” Coach Fucci said.

     

    For all the practice and work that the team did, senior Sara Sommet said perhaps the most important thing that contributed to the team’s success was the way the team bonded with one another.

     

    “It’s probably the closest team we’ve ever had,” she said. “There was great energy around all the time.”

     

    After a loss to the team’s rival, Woodlands High School, Sara said the team could not believe it, but they pulled together to beat Hastings in the next game, 3-0.

     

    “We just kept our spirits up,” she said.

     

    “I thought we were very deserving of our section title,” senior Kamilah Cardenas said. “It was an amazing experience.”

     

    “I had a great connection to these girls,” Kamilah said. “I’ve known most of them since seventh grade. We’ve been together for so long, there is great cooperation.”

     

    Coach Fucci expressed nothing but admiration for the team, which had some challenges they needed to confront. One team member suffered a concussion, but when she was eligible to play again, she came back ready to go.


    “These girls never gave up,” Coach Fucci said. “The losses they took, they came into the gym the next day and said we need to work on our hitting lines. We really changed our offense around and just played because they wanted to win. It’s a cliché, but they really took everything that came at them, and they shined.”

     

    During the championship game against Keio, Kamilah said the team was down and decided to change their strategy in the middle of the game. They went on to win the set.

     

    “They just ran with it,” the coach said. “It sure kept me on my toes as well.”

     

    With the postseason schedule keeping her busy and the pressure of the championship game, Coach Fucci still found time to get engaged, which happened the Sunday before the team won their title.

     

    “I love my fiancée, but winning was the highlight of my week,” Coach Fucci joked. “Just the plays they made, coming together, taking it point by point. If they made a mistake they said, ‘you know, I’m going to fix it.’”

     

    That included Sara losing her shoe in the middle of the game.

     

    “I was trying to put it back on and the play kept going,” Sara said. “It was funny, funny to see them laughing.”

     

    The team is looking forward to carrying the winning momentum into next season, although, as the coach said, they will miss the seniors that will no longer be there.

     

    “But we have some upcoming freshmen that are unbelievable players,” Coach Fucci said. “They will step into their roles; they will step in nicely. We pulled them in to our section game, and they did not let nerves get to them.”

     

    “We are going to be stronger next year,” Kelly said. “We are looking to go far next year.”


    “They are just going to keep going, just from sheer talent,” agreed Sara. “With their potential, they are going to go farther. I will be there for the games.”

     

    “They are talking about workout plans, and they are already talking about next year,” Kamilah said of the underclassmen on the team.

     

    The school community has come out to support them. Teachers have been congratulating them, and fellow classmates too.

     

    “I feel like we had a big impact on the community,” Sara said. “We’re known for basketball, but I can honestly see volleyball making it.”


    The team will be recognized at the Dec. 7 Board of Education meeting.

     

    “Which is awesome, as we’ve seen it for soccer and basketball teams, but have not seen it for volleyball,” Coach Fucci said.

     

    Team champs hold up framed jerseysThe accolades have continued with several players being recognized as All League players: Ashley Robinson, Jasmine Robinson, Sara Sookdeo, Lauren Maresca and Melfy Sarmiento. In addition, Kelly Tula all was named All League MVP All Section and Kamilah All League and All Conference.

     

    And finally, the coach too, who was named the Conference 3, League C Volleyball Coach of the Year.

     

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  • Let’s hear it for the Hamilton Spirit Squad!  

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 11/18/2022 11:50:00 AM

    Creativity is prominent in the art room at Alexander Hamilton High School where painting, sculpting, and drawing are the norm in Room 221. However, another creative activity has also become a draw for students – this time in the form of dance with the newly revised Spirit Squad. Girls cheering

     

    One afternoon, the team gathered for practice in the art room. They began with a brief meeting about the upcoming bake sale. Then it was time to get to work with a quick warm-up, followed by practicing their routines. 


    The Spirit Squad was revitalized last year after more than two decades. Last year, then-seniors Amy Diakhate and Andreya Lane worked to bring the squad back after its last cheer in the early 2000s. This year, co-captains junior Sika Nutifafa and sophomore Jailynn Hort have taken the lead roles.  

     

    Together, they develop routines and lead practices. The group’s advisor, Hamilton art and history teacher Natalie Bolden, is there to keep the girls organized and is the team’s official videographer. Ms. Boden gives input on what the girls do, but mostly provides the squad space to convene for practice along with the freedom for them to develop their unique cheers.

     

    “They lead the crowd in cheers, raise the spirits of those there in attendance,” Ms. Bolden said. “Last year, the people started to expect it. It’s exciting.”

     

    “I was a little nervous to be the club’s advisor because I am not a dancer,” Ms. Bolden said. But she had no reason to worry as the squad does all the work.

    “Honestly, my favorite part is to see how the girls’ become leaders on their own,” she said.  

     

    While the Spirit Squad has made a handful of public appearances this year - including at this fall’s football games and a performance at the November Board of Education meeting - it is gearing up for a traditionally busy season for cheer: basketball season. The first home game is scheduled for Dec. 7. 

     

    Sika and Jailynn were both on the squad last year. “We wanted to bring back a dance program,” Jailynn said. “Hamilton hasn’t had a dance team since the early 2000s. It’s for girls who want to dance or cheer.” 

     

    Sika said that being a co-captain has helped her develop her leadership skills. “I feel like we’re a team,” she said. “We respect and support each other.” 

     

    Together they research cheers online and craft routines, or develop ones based on what they think will work with the crowd. 

     

    Many squad members have been or are currently involved in cheer or dance teams outside of school. Nevertheless, that experience is not a pre-requisite, assured Jailynn, who encouraged other girls to join the squad.  

     

    “Just believe in yourself,” she continued. “Your talent will be put to use. We will be patient with you and help you get out of your comfort zone.” 

     

    Sophomore Daniia Dash said that she was slightly apprehensive about the upcoming basketball season, when the squad will perform in front of larger crowds. Despite that trepidation, she decided to join the squad this year. 


    “I don’t find any of the routines challenging,” she said. “I’m a quick learner.” 

     

    Junior Jada Estrada has experience in competitive cheer and dance and joined the Spirit Squad because she thought she could share that knowledge with others in the club. 


    “I feel like we can use old cheers and focus on how we can make it better,” she said. 

     

    Girls cheeringEighth grader Denim Silvera admitted that she was never a “sports person”, but she likes to dance and used to be involved in competitive cheer outside of school. She described the Spirit Squad as a group of young women who are “loving, funny, caring, smart, beautiful and very accepting.” 

     

    “At the end of the day, we just have fun,” she said. 

     

    “We all give each other energy,” freshman Chelsea Ortega said of how members of the squad support one another.

     

    “We’re good together,” agreed freshman Valeria Maldonado.

     

    During a recent practice, the squad reviewed a cheer it had been performing at events and then practiced a new one that was recently added to their repertoire. The cheers consist of rhythmic clapping, vocal support and feet stomping to give emphasis to their encouragement. 

     

    Like several other squad members, sophomore Renee Murphy is a dancer. She takes lessons in jazz, ballet, modern, African dance, and hip hop. 

     

    “It’s fun because we get to develop a vibe at events, and people know we are out there,” she said of performing. “I’m very excited for the first game.” 
     

    Cheer with the AHHS Spirit Squad on Dec. 7 when the boys’ varsity basketball team takes on Sleepy Hollow at 6:15 p.m. at AHHS. 

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  • Regeneron Day of Doing Good sees students building to new heights 

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 11/1/2022 9:20:00 AM

    When the towers that students were creating crashed onto the gymnasium floor, the crash and the groan were almost simultaneous. Although, all was not lost! A few giggles erupted and soon students at Alice E. Grady Elementary School were rebuilding their structures in the hopes of going even higher. 

     

    Each grade had an opportunity to participate in the Tarrytown-based Regeneron Day of Doing Good. It is an initiative that began in 2017 and has Regeneron staff volunteering in the community. The company works with Volunteer New York to coordinate activities. Regeneron volunteers have visited and worked with students at Grady for several years now, both in person and virtually during the pandemic. Together they engage in a science-related activity. Girls surround tower they built  


    On Oct. 21 students built structures out of Keva planks, which were brought over from the Westchester Children’s Museum. Volunteers began by teaching students about the concepts of gravity, balance and stability. 

     

    “You are going to learn how you can become an engineer and architect,” Beau Dubac, the outreach coordinator with the Westchester Children’s Museum, told students.

     

    Once students got a sense of how to use the planks by first building boats and bridges, they moved on to the Tower Challenge. 

     

    Working in groups of four or five, students brainstormed how best to build the tallest tower. Some began with a sturdy base, others went for it by piling the planks one on top of the other, while other groups piled on, but stabilized the structure every few inches. 

     

    “Just don’t breathe,” one desperate student said aloud as her group’s tower became taller than her own height. 


    “AHHHHH,” came a shout of surprise from across the room as a group’s tower fell. 

     

    When the students’ time to build was over, Mr. Dubac measured the height of each structure. The tallest for this session measured 5’10”. 

     

    “In the middle of it, it started moving a lot,” sixth grader Kiara Surrell said of her group’s tower, which ended up as the tallest. “We were just going straight up, but we made sure it was stable on the bottom.” 

     

    “It was taller than I would have expected,” said her groupmate, Kamryn Bostic. “I didn’t know if it would last so long.” 

     

    Another student in the same group, Cassie Tascon, said that the project was fun: “It was even taller than anything we had done when studying STREAM,” she said, referring to science, technology, reading, engineering, art and math. 

     

    “It took a lot of teamwork and effort,” added Linda Zhinin, a fellow group member.

     

    “It was fun,” Selina Tapia, another group member concluded. “I got to do it with my friends.” 

     

    Once the soaring structures were measured and a winner was selected, students then used them for an impromptu game of Jenga, where they had to pull the planks out of the structure to see how many they could remove before their tower fell over. 

     

    Group of volunteers poseFor Regeneron volunteer Lili Blumenberg, an associate scientist of bioinformatics, the day was personal. Having recently had a baby, she wanted to interact with older children so she could get a sense of what is to come. 

     

    “It’s so exciting to work with kids on engineering,” she said. “It makes you excited for what we do.” 

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  • Building community begins with an AHHS tradition, ‘Start with Hello Week’

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 10/19/2022 10:00:00 AM

    “Hi, I’m Sabrina,” a young girl announced after walking up to where teacher Kacie Schulman was sitting. The two chatted for a minute before the girl took off to go finish her lunch.

     

    It was a perfect example of exactly what Ms. Schulman was hoping for — students taking an initiative to get to know other people. Girl speaking with woman

     

    For the fifth year in a row, students at Alexander Hamilton High School have been engaging in “Start with Hello Week,” an initiative hosted by the Peers as Leaders, or PALs, student organization. Throughout the week students engage in different activities to help them get to know one another, find new friends, and have some good old-fashioned fun.

     

    During the week-long event, students and staff take a day to wear a name tag, enabling others to learn the names of classmates and those they see in the hallways. There are activities during lunch periods, for example, students were encouraged to sign a Start with Hello Promise Pledge, that suggested they have empathy for others, reach out to their peers to prevent anyone from feeling isolated and to be an upstander, and use their voices when they see something wrong, and to simply say “hello” to others.


    Another lunch activity was Start with Hello Bingo. During lunch, Bingo cards were passed out and each square had a suggestion such as “find someone who plays a sport,” or “find someone who likes cats better than dogs.” As their cards filled up upon completion of the suggested activity, students could earn candy from a PALs representative.

     

    Ms. Schulman also has PALs members decorate a board outside of her classroom on a regular basis. Currently there are messages of welcome posted there.

     

    The week culminates in a bit of a frenzy, on Friendship Friday, each students receives a laminated emoji. Throughout the day they must find other students who have the same emoji they do. The group then visits Ms. Schulman’s classroom for a prize.

     

    “It’s a great way to bring kids together,” Ms. Schulman said of the emoji game.

     

    And that is why all these activities take place.

     

    “My mentee still says hello to me and gives me hugs in the hallway,” sophomore and PALs representative Alana Lewis said. “That goes a long way in fostering a friendly environment here.”

     

    When Alana was a seventh grader, she recalls having a mentor and it helped her come out of her shell a bit. She said just giving someone else a smile in the hallway can be enough to make others feel good about themselves.

     

    “I think it fosters a good community in our school,” PALs member and sophomore Matteo Diberto said of the weekly activities. He was helping to pass out candy to those who had completed their “Hello” Bingo cards.

     

    Sophomore Suvan Arachchi said he joined PALs because he was interested in mentoring and appreciated the assistance his mentor provided him when he first got to the school.

     

    Programs like “Start with Hello Week” help remind students to be respectful and shows them how to be a leader. He thinks it caught on because students anticipate it now that it has become an annual event at the school.

     

    “I hope they get the message that this is a whole community,” he said.

     

    “It’s all about inclusion,” Ms. Schulman said, and making every student at the school feel welcome and know they have friends and have an opportunity to make new friends too.

     

    Throughout the year PALs will continue hosting events including assigning an upper classman to mentor a new seventh grader. Later in the year they will roll out a Pen Pal program with sixth graders at the Alice E. Grady Elementary School.

     

    “It’s a really cool way to bring the school together and I just love that,” Ms. Schulman said.

     

    She has also noticed how students are developing their leadership skills and are getting a boost of confidence through the PALs program.

     

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