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Class of 2020: Your Stories

We're highlighting some of the many ways that students, teachers, and schools are coming together to honor the Class of 2020 in New York State. Check out their stories!

Kenzie Gilmore, Niagara Falls High School Class of 2020

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Niagara Falls senior Kenzie Gilmore reflects on the things that the Class of 2020 missed out on, but also on the opportunities for showing kindness that were brought about by the pandemic. Your positivity is infectious, Kenzie! More

Westbury High School Outstanding Seniors: Iyana McKnight, Samantha Melgar, and Olusola Babalola

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Westbury High School features three outstanding members of the Class of 2020: Iyana McKnight, Samantha Melgar, and Olusola Babalola.

Olusola Babalola had a goal of being accepted into one of the top schools in the nation. Growing up with parents that immigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria, education has always been a priority in her life....More

Center Moriches High School Senior Emily Kuehn

Emily Kuehn, a member of the Class of 2020 at Center Moriches High School, overcame her fears and tried out for the school musical. Her efforts paid off: She was in the ensemble of the school’s production of “Beauty and the Beast”!




Karishma Hanomanjie - John Bowne High School, Queens

My high school experience was one I'd cherish. I got to meet amazing people and create new friendships. Throughout my four years in the agriculture program I got to work with many different people who shared the same interest as me. I got the opportunity to compete my sophomore and junior year at districts, sub-states, and state convention through the FFA. I got a job working with birds which I absolutely loved. The agriculture program has taught me a lot and has built me into the person I am today. I am more than grateful to go to a high school that helps me prepare for my college career. I will be continuing my love for agriculture at Cornell University majoring in Animal Science.

Meaghan Noonan - John Bowne High School, Queens

Thinking back to my high school years, I would not change a thing. I was a part of the agriculture program at John Bowne. Through that program I got to meet so many people and I was given multiple opportunities that I will never forget. The agriculture teachers helped me to get a job at a veterinary clinic, which I still work at today and I love going into the office. They also gave me a lot of in the classroom experiences, like public speaking and participating in the World Food Prize. Outside of the agriculture program, I was also heavily involved in the varsity softball team. After my sophomore year, I was given the role of being captain. We even won the City Championship my sophomore year and we got extremely close my junior year. The team became my second family. The last four years have shaped me to become the person that I am today.

New York City My Brother's Keeper Fellows - From Challenge to Opportunity

Friday, May 15, 2020

This year, New York City My Brother's Keeper Fellows confronted a challenge but chose to make it an opportunity.More

Carthage High School Senior Delivers "Thinking of You" Boxes Containing Homemade Treats

Kennedie Mushtare is a senior at Carthage Central High School and a student in the Culinary Arts program at Jefferson/Lewis BOCES. She will be attending The Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park in the fall to major in Baking and Pastry Arts with Food Business Management.

Ms. Mushtare decided to start a “Thinking of You” Thursday box delivery. She bakes a sweet treat each Thursday and then people buy the boxes from her to give to someone else that they are “thinking of.” She then does SURPRISE deliveries all over Jefferson County for free.

Carthage Teenager 'Baking' The Most of COVID-19 Situation

Duanesburg High School Senior Class Donates to Regional Food Bank

Despite a disappointing senior year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the senior class at Duanesburg Jr/.Sr. High School voted to donate $4,000 of their senior fund to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York to help local people in need.

The students have been fundraising since sixth grade, holding chicken barbecues, dances, and other events, and the monies normally would have been used to pay for their prom, senior trip, and other activities. With schools closed and gatherings canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such events were no longer possible.

In the photo, Duanesburg Class of 2020 Treasurer Andrew Drescher presents a check to Regional Food Bank Executive Director Mark Quandt as Student Council Vice President Paul Munson looks on.

Bethlehem Central School District - Donate to Celebrate

Friday, May 15, 2020

The Bethlehem Central High School senior class is asking for help from the community to honor the Class of 2020, and it's not in a way you might expect.More

Member of NYSED's Youth Advisory Panel Excels in School and Beyond

Emma Doughty, a graduating senior at Hilton High School in Hilton, NY, is a member of New York State Education Department’s Youth Advisory Panel. The Youth Advisory Panel is one of NYSED’s primary stakeholder groups. It is composed of students with disabilities who are appointed by the Assistant Commissioner of Special Education to advise NYSED from a first-hand perspective on ways to improve the quality of special education services and student outcomes. Emma’s work with the Youth Advisory Panel figured prominently in her college entrance and scholarship essay, which resulted in multiple scholarships and awards.

Emma’s hard work and achievements have extended well beyond the classroom and have been recognized locally and nationally. In 2015, she set several records for her age group as a member of the USA Deaf Swim Team in the World Deaf Swimming Championships in San Antonio, Texas. In 2014, Emma was named one of RocParent’s 20 Under 20. She was also featured in a nationally-aired commercial for USA Swimming’s Swimming is the Funnest Sport campaign.

Emma’s efforts have stretched outside the classroom as she has taken her focus and skill into her job. In a letter to the Chili, Greece, Gates Messenger Post on August 22, 2019, Steve and Nora Coco wrote, “My husband and I would like to express our sincere gratitude to lifeguard Emma Doughty...who worked to save our daughter from drowning at the Stony Creek Apartments pool.”

Emma’s influence continues into the community-at-large. “Her passion is advocating for those with disabilities in order to help them gain access to everything they need to be successful in life,” wrote Ms. Carina Meyer, Emma’s school counselor, “She has presented numerous times on the inclusion of students in their IEP meetings, deaf culture, American Sign Language, and her personal experiences being deaf to many different audiences in the Greater Rochester area.” These presentations have included large groups of high school, undergraduate, and graduate students.

In January, Emma was named a 2020 Coca-Cola Scholar. Less than 1/6th of 1% of applicants were chosen to receive this extremely competitive award. Emma has also been honored with a Hearing Loss Association of America Rochester Chapter Scholarship, she was named as a Young Woman of Distinction by the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, and she was awarded the University at Buffalo Pride of New York Scholarship.

“I can honestly say without any hesitation that Emma is the most amazing student I have ever taught,” wrote Mr. Ken Krause, Emma’s Algebra 2 teacher and former lifeguarding supervisor, “She works incredibly hard day in and day out and never settles for less than 100% from herself and others around her.”

Emma has also achieved the Academic Merit Award (the highest level of academic achievement at Hilton High School) with a 95+ GPA every semester of her high school career. She also received the Scholar Athlete Award for each of the six years she was a varsity swimmer.

“Emma is one of those rare students who has strengths in every subject in high school, and her constant positivity and willingness to embrace challenges truly demonstrate her versatility as a learner and person,” wrote Ms. Amber D’Ambrosia, Emma Doughty’s 9th and 11th grade English teacher.

Emma hopes to become an attorney so that she can advocate for underserved populations, especially people with disabilities. She plans to attend the University at Buffalo this fall to study English.

Irondequoit High School Students and Teacher Make Comfort 'Bands' for Masks

Two Irondequoit High School students and one teacher have been working hard to help healthcare workers and anyone who needs to wear a mask for long hours during this global health crisis. They are making comfort bands to connect to the sides of a mask. Instead of the elastic straps on the mask tugging around someone’s ears for hours, it connects to the band placed at the back of their head.

Senior Garrett Hawn-Pangrazio and junior Cara Saunders each have 3-D printers at home needed to make the bands. They researched on the internet how to do it. Joe Rivellino, who teaches at IHS and Dake Junior High School, is using printers from each school to make his. Together, they have made more than 600 bands to distribute to healthcare workers.

Central Valley Academy Senior Class Shows Appreciation for Teachers

As the Senior Class President, my peers and I decided that we wanted to show our appreciation for our teachers and everyone who has helped us get through this unprecedented time. Your hard work and dedication doesn’t go unnoticed and we all appreciate each and every one of you so much. A special thank you to Michael Flores for putting together the video. Together we are #thunderstrong

~ Reilly Rich Class of 2020 President

Mineola High School Connects Virtually

Since this pandemic, Mineola High School in Garden City Park hosts a virtual "Senior Hang Out" every Friday. They open up a WebEx meeting and invite all 200 Mineola High School seniors to virtually hang out and relax. They discuss updates, feelings, and concerns while generating ideas and revisions to ensure all class members are celebrated and traditions stay alive. Along with the Senior class advisors, Mrs. Bucchio and Mr. Fretz, Principal, Dr. Whittney Smith, also participates in these sessions, allowing students to speak freely and openly. Dr. Smith supports his students and reminds them that their opinions are always valued and incorporated into future solutions!

Mineola High School also launched a virtual Decision May campaign celebrating the future plans of its seniors throughout the month of May on Twitter and Instagram.

Broadalbin-Perth Senior Drive

Friday, May 15, 2020

After it was announced that school was closed for the remainder of the year, Broadalbin-Perth held a "Senior Drive," a parade through the high school campus with staff and faculty lined up at social distance appropriate intervals. The students arrived via police escort and drove through, picked up a personalized lawn sign and were cheered on...More

Somers Central School District Senior Shout-Outs

The Somers High School Student Council created tributes highlighting deserving seniors. Find the Somers Central School District Senior Shout-Outs here.



Ani Gribbin, Amherst Central High School

Ani Gribbin, a talented musician with plans to study neuroscience and eventually attend medical school, admits that the pandemic and school closure will play a role in decisions she will make for the rest of her life. It has given her insight into what motivates her, how true friendships can thrive during stressful times and that she has not lost her senior year.

“Many of my big senior plans were changed. But I don’t think all was lost,” she said. “I’ve realized that this pandemic is almost a reality check for many of us, and it’s almost funny how small many of our extraneous concerns before this pandemic seem now,” said Ani, who has a GPA of 4.0 and is 8th in her class of 201 graduates at Amherst Central High School in suburban Buffalo, New York.

Describing herself as someone who loves learning, is driven to succeed and competitive with herself, she knew her senior year was going to be stressful with six Advanced Placement classes, applying for college, and involvement in an extensive list of extracurriculars that ranges from first clarinet in the Sinfonia (before school chamber orchestra), first tenor saxophonist in the Jazz Ensemble, Wind Ensemble president, National Honor Society member and officer, International Women’s Day Organization committee member, Operetta musical performer and student producer/assistant producer. Musically, she sings and plays three instruments earning many county, state and national ensemble seats. She is assistant principal first clarinet for the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra.

Adjusting to online school at home was certainly a big shift for her and with the abundance of time to spare, the first few weeks dragged along slowly. Developing a routine that included daily “socially distanced” walks with a friend and seeing her teachers virtually for review sessions and Google Meet classes helped maintain a sense of normalcy. Zoom and Skype gave her music performance opportunities, including being part of a virtual choir performance that got the attention of local media, a small virtual jazz ensemble and the choir singing the alma mater and the Amherst chorale at her virtual graduation ceremony.

“Although I lost many of my senior moments and events, I have been able to maintain the relationships with people that on a fundamental basis will make my senior year memorable. I have still been able to continue my education, decide where I’m going to college,” she said.

“I think before school closed, I was really holding on to and had high expectations for my second semester of senior year. I looked forward to all the trips and activities as a reward for all the work I had done first semester applying to and deciding where I’m going for college,” she said. “But after all that was cancelled, I’ve realized what really matters to me is the people I have spent my time with, and that I’ve made the most of my time in school academically and in all facets of my education.”

She plans on attending Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School

The Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School Student Government Executive Board created a Plainview Seniors 2020 Instagram page to celebrate National Decision Month for its seniors!

Promising Futures Leadership Academy, Syracuse

Promising Futures Leadership Academy at Syracuse City School District paid tribute to its high school seniors with this video. Congratulations, seniors!

Riverhead High School Seniors

Friday, June 26, 2020

Jessica Murgolo, Class of 2020 President at Riverhead High School, has gone above and beyond advocating for her class, from organizing fundraisers, participating in community service functions, and helping her classmates make lasting memories, even given the current circumstances.  Jessica has not let the pandemic and school closure stop her...More