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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 6, 2006

Voorheesville celebrates it’s protective bubble rising to the future

By Holly Grosch

VOORHEESVILLE — After a beautiful sunny Friday afternoon, 10 minutes before 7 p.m., just before the graduation procession was to start, a rainy drizzle fell over Voorheesville. This year’s graduation began with a — just in case — emergency lightning evacuation plan being announced by high school principal Mark Diefendorf to the audience sitting in metal chairs beneath an outdoor tent suspended from metal poles.

Luckily, lightning never hit, and the gentle drizzle eventually trailed off so that the graduates could congregate in the parking lot as they often do directly after the ceremony, catching up with friends, hugging family members, and taking pictures as night falls over the crowd.

A reoccurring theme expressed by various speakers throughout the evening was how Voorheesville is a safe and nurturing community, and that this class of 2006 will succeed in the outside world.

Voorheesville is a "small town nestled at a base of a mountain"Everybody seems to know everybody," said Kelly McKenna, the student-selected speaker and student-government president. She took the students through "a look at what brought us here."

She went on to say that Voorheesville is far away from the harm of big cities and that there was nothing that burst the safe bubble of Voorheesville. "It’s given us a safety net when we fall," she said.

"Voorheesville is like a bubble and, as a bubble, it will rise above the bigger cities," she said.

"As Kelly mentioned" you are in a protective environment here," Superintendent Linda Langevin said in her address, "and the rest of the world is not as nurturing."

"Please be optimistic; the world is a tough place," Langevin said. "You are an intelligent and honorable group," she said to the class of ’06. "Reach out to people," she said.

"You may have heard leaders are made not born"The skill to lead can be shared," the superintendent said and you have to choose to share those leadership skills with others.

Langevin dispatched a short laundry list of advice phrases: "You must always maintain what you believe in"; "enjoy life, it’s worth living"; "courage is not the absence of fear, but managing fear and taking risks"; and "prepare for the unexpected."

It has been an unexpected year for Langevin. She began working for the Voorheesville School District last summer, after serving as the superintendent of the AuSable Valley schools for seven years. This was her first graduation at Voorheesville and she was introduced to the audience by senior Kerri Farley, who said Langevin had just conquered a challenging transitional year, where she had to deal with a number of events making headlines in the media at large. All the while, said Farley, Langevin was very visible in the community and perceptive to students needs, including the smaller things such as acquiring furniture for the senior lounge.

"I have not been in contact with such wonderful students in all my experience," Langevin said into the microphone. Before becoming a superintendent, she had been a principal and teacher for many years.

"A class of friends"

We’re "probably one of the greatest classes to pass through these halls," salutatorian Matthew Belgiovine said in his address. This was greeted by cheers from his peers and boos from the juniors sitting in the band to the side of the stage.

"We’re an extremely accomplished class," Belgiovine said. He was honored to grow up with such accomplished students whether they were athletes, musicians, thespians, or scholars, he said.

"What makes it [the class] great is that this is a class of friends," he said.

Jessalyn Ballerano, in presenting the class sentiment, said that, 10 years ago, they were putting play dough on a piece of cardboard and calling it a volcano. Now, as young adults, they are accomplished musicians, have held internships at respectable institutions, and are going on to college. She said that she knows that her peers will accomplish so many things as senators, educators, doctors, and parents.

In Matt Belgiovine’s speech, he also listed anticipated careers of his classmates. Someone may become President some day, he said, and he has a sense that one of them will even make a Robot Army, although he won’t disclose who.

"If you can dream it, you can do it," Valedictorian Jill Malfetano said. Use what you learned at Voorheesville to make a positive difference in the world, she said.

McKenna said that most of what they have done at Voorheesville has been graded by letters and numbers, but now "those numbers and letters no longer matter."

"So far, our success has been measured outwardly," McKenna said, with ACT’s, SAT’s and GPA’s. Others have measured themselves by college acceptances, awards, or by the possessions they have acquired, but she told her class that being a true success is based on "who we are."

"We all have unlimited potential," McKenna said. She went on to thank the graduates’ parents. "They have tolerated everything," she said.

She then spoke directly to her own parents, "I am the person I am today because of you and I love you so much," she said as her voice began to waver.

Some graduates throughout the evening segued in and out of smiles and tears.

"Over the next few days, I hope you laugh, I hope you cry," Belgiovine told his classmates.

"Friends gave us a reason to drag ourselves out of bed every morning," McKenna said.

McKenna said she remembers being a nervous seventh-grader entering Clayton A. Bouton on the first day, and now, as seniors, she and her classmates know which hallway has the coldest drinking fountain.

Early educational memories included New York State Day, which no one would probably remember if it hadn't been the first time that they had to dance with someone of the opposite sex, McKenna said. Other memories that are sure to be long-lasting are food fights, sports games, and throwing pencils into the ceiling of the commons, McKenna said.

The year 1988, when most of the 2006 graduates where born, was a time when gas cost less than a dollar a gallon, and Voorheesvillians had not yet heard of round-abouts or the Backstreet Boys, Belgiovine said.

Soon the class of 2006 will be leaving the bubble, McKenna said, urging "Remember to look through the rear-view mirror and remember where you came from."

Life’s lessons learned early

Senior Casey Sheridan introduced Brian Stumbaugh, the English department chair who was this year’s graduation speaker.

"One class has always been on our schedule whether we want it or not," Sheridan said of the four years of English. "We couldn’t even escape it in the summer," she said, referencing summer reading requirements that students took with them on family vacations and ultimately were useless after the first two days of classes, she said.

"I was the idiot who signed up for AP English," she said of the advanced-placement course. When she saw that Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte’s classic, was her summer reading, that "should have clued me in," she said. Without Stumbaugh, it would have been unbearable, she said of the difficult class.

"Please keep talking all at once; it’s really working," he would say, Sheridan mimicked. What eased the AP student’s stress was when Stumbaugh shared with them that his first semester in college he received a 1.5 GPA, equivalent to a D+, Sheridan said.

After approaching the podium, the first thing Stumbaugh told the parents was not to worry, that he didn’t end up with a 1.5 GPA by the time he graduated.

He began his talk by acknowledging that the students who invited him to speak at the ceremony wanted his address to be short, funny, and then "sit down so we can graduate." Recently, he received advice from a colleague who told him his speech should be of publishable quality, so now he had a challenging assignment, he said, be funny, fast, and of publishable quality.

With a big breath, he said, "Okay, here we go." He started by reminding everyone that it had only been 24 hours since the faculty beat the seniors in softball, and that it has now been 20 years since he graduated from high school in the class of 1986, a generation with the "kings and queens of the mullet and the aficionados to the best darn music to come along ever."

And now, the students of the class of 2006 have completed a long path that they started 13 years ago, said Stumbaugh, adding "It’s all about transitions." Transitions are just a part of life — some are good, some not so good, he said.

He gave the Voorheesville graduation address in 2003 and had at that time made a list of what he had learned from those 12th-graders. Some of the lessons are still the same: eat right, seek wisdom, change happens, have faith, he said.

But he has learned some new things special to this year’s class, Stumbaugh said. First of all, that team work pays off, Stumbaugh said, which was evident in two very successful years of Relay of Life, raising $80,000 this spring in a second run to fight cancer. Other examples of teamwork are all the other charity events put on by high-school students, even ones that Stumbaugh thought would never work such as Joshua O’Brien's dodgeball fund-raiser which ended up bringing in over $1,000.

Stumbaugh recalled one fond memory from the Relay for Life this year where senior Austin Saddlemire showed him what can be achieved by asking questions and persevering. It’s amazing what can be accomplished simply by asking, Stumbaugh said.

After a long day of work, Saddlemire arrived at the Relay for Life, dazed by fatigue and in need of a snack. He meandered over to the faculty’s tent, and found a chair to sit in. He leaned back and called out to a nearby tent, "Mr. Corrigan wants chips!" And, very quickly, a junior emerged from another tent and brought chips over, Stumbaugh recalled. After that student had left, Saddlemire called out again only this time saying, "Mr. Corrigan wants salsa!"

In a few moments, he had his snack complete with delivery, Stumbaugh said. Well, it was all very clever; "I hate to break it to you Austin"," Stumbaugh said, turning to address the student, sitting near the stage ""but the chips won’t always be there, and sometimes you have to make your own salsa."

Also, this year’s seniors taught him to have integrity, which was exemplified when Nick Duncan helped Sherry Burgoon after she fell on icy pavement this winter, and Voorheesville teenagers helping with the Special Olympics after their community service hours were already completed, Stumbaugh said.

"Remember who are you are and have integrity," Stumbaugh advised. He concluded his speech by encouraging everyone to read a good book every once in awhile and in a throwback to Sheridan’s introduction, he said with a smile, "If you haven’t read Wuthering Heights, I highly recommend it."

With those last words, Principal Mark Diefendorf announced the 116 graduates of the class of 2006, and, one by one, they filed up to the podium to receive their diplomas from school board President Joseph Pofit, and then shook the hand of Superintendent Linda Langevin.

Once the last senior had walked across the stage, graduation caps were thrown up in the air, and the graduates gathered together outside the tent as parents snapped photos, friends ran up to each other for hugs, and two male graduates patted each other on the back as one said to the other, "We’ll be real hackey-sack pros in college."

As darkness closed in, friends parted and families united.

Austin Saddlemire, standing in the back parking lot, looked around him and then started briskly walking back towards the graduation tent. He tilted his face toward the sky and yelled out, "Austin wants his family!" as he walked toward a cluster of adults who were now chuckling at their new grad, waiting for him alongside the football field.

Voorheesville names top scholars

By Holly Grosch

VOORHEESVILLE — With high-school grades averaging 97 percent, this year’s valedictorian and salutatorian rose to the top of their class.

Jill Malfetano, a diver, science enthusiast, and accomplished musician, is ranked first in Voorheesville’s class of 2006, and Matt Belgiovine, a soccer and volleyball player with an interest in economics, math, and politics, is ranked second.

Jill Malfetano

Diving has been a major part of Jill Malfetano’s life since the fifth grade. She dives all year, whether it’s during the school team’s season or with the Flip and Rip diving team which practices at Union College four times a week and competes nationally. She stared out as a gymnast and transitioned to diving at an early age, she said.

As a junior, Malfetano took a one-year hiatus from diving. "I was really burned out," she said. She chose to play on Voorheesville’s golf team for that one year instead.

Golf had always been a leisure activity for Malfetano, something she did with her family at the Albany Golf and Country Club off of Wormer Road, she said. She was the only girl on the co-ed school golf team, and had fun with the experience. "I didn’t take it nearly as serious," as diving, she said.

"I still golf, but I’ll never be on a team again" I’m not very good," Malfetano said through a smile.

She’s going to Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute (RPI) next year to study bio-medical engineering. It’s a field that specializes in making machines used for medical purposes, such as in research and hospitals. Malfetano said she’s a real hands-on person.

She hasn’t decided yet if she’ll dive at the college level but her long-term Flip and Rip coach, Maria Coomeraswami, is also RPI’s driving coach, so Malfetano said she anticipates receiving some encouragement and or pressure to join the institute’s team.

Another passion of Malfetano’s is music. Voorheesville music teacher Chris Jantson has been an inspiration, she said. Malfetano started playing the trumpet in the fifth grade and knew pretty much right away that it was something she was going to be good at, she said.

She started taking private lessons with Jantson in eighth grade. "He made it really fun," she said. By high school, Malfetano was playing in the Stage Band, Brass Quintet, Concert Band, Wind Ensemble, and for the Empire State Youth Orchestra.

In terms of academics, Malfetano said she likes math and science. Her favorite classes at Clayton A. Bouton High were chemistry and physics, both of which were taught by one of her favorite teachers, Robert Freyer.

"He always made class very interesting; he got involved," Malfetano said. A good teacher makes himself available to help students, Malfetano said.

"I loved how everyone knows everyone and all the teachers are great," Malfetano said, reflecting on her 12 years at Voorheesville. All around, her education was a good experience, she said. The only regret she has is that she wished she could have taken advanced math, which she said is nobody’s fault, but students are tested in elementary school for their placement in math, and pretty much set on a track then, she said. Another opportunity arises in eighth grade to take advanced math but it wasn’t something that was on her mind at that time, Malfetano said.

Her interest in math didn’t really pick up until high school. She wanted to take AP Calculus, but wasn’t able to because by that point she was already a year behind the other advanced students, she said. Some of the advanced classes she did take, though were AP global, AP U.S. History, AP chemistry, and honors English. She liked how the district permits a flexible high-school schedule and allows students to pick what they want to take.

Matt Belgiovine

Matt Belgiovine spent his "entire life" in Voorheesville growing up in its public schools, he said. "I really liked that," he said of spending his childhood in one place. "I liked being around people I really knew, and great friends."

Belgiovine was the vice president of the school’s National Honor Society chapter, and is the senior class president.

One of his fondest high-school memories is winning the soccer sectional finals when he was a junior. He has spent many years playing soccer with the same kids, even before getting to the level of high-school competition.

Belgiovine played both varsity soccer and varsity volleyball at Clayton A. Bouton. He plans to continue to play soccer in his adult life, but in a less organized fashion such as on an intramural team, he said, rather than on a college team.

Belgiovine is attending the University of Pennsylvania in the fall and has enrolled in a special business and engineering program, resulting in two degrees after four years. He had to first apply to the university and then separately apply to the special academic program. He chose to go to UPenn because, he said, "It’s the best business education in the world."

Belgiovine said he has an interest in studying the sciences and aspires to own his own business some day, although at this point he doesn’t know what type.

He enjoyed AP Economics this year with Patrick Corrigan. "Interesting material presented by a great teacher," Belgiovine said.

What’s fascinating about economics is "how it can explain a lot of our behavior — I think it’s very rational," he said.

His favorite Voorheesville teacher is John Sittig, who taught statistics. Belgiovine said math and science are two things that he really has going for himself, which is why he thinks he’ll enjoy engineering although he has never taken a course in it before.

While not in school, Belgiovine enjoys his family’s vacations to Maine; he has two sisters. "My parents are a major part of my life — but I like to think I’m pretty independent," Belgiovine said.

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