SHS makes strong showing at County Speech Tournament

posted Dec 19, 2014, 12:02 PM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Dec 19, 2014, 12:02 PM ]

[December 19, 20140 The Suffern High School Speech Team placed second overall, with five members placing in the top three of their respective events, in the 2014 Rockland County Speech Tournament on November 18. 

“We were up against some great teams,” said senior David Feldfogel, who came in third for Prose Reading. “It was very exciting to come in second.”

“It was particularly satisfying that we had a winner from each of the five categories of the competition,” added advisor (and English and history teacher) Dr. Robert Wilson.

Senior Imani Solan credits weekly rehearsals for her poetry performance, which earned third place honors.

“I chose Let America Be America Again by Langston Hughes,” she noted. “I chose African American history theme last year as well. It’s the poetry I’ve been exposed to by my parents, so I’m familiar with this work.”

Solan is headed to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School next year, where she believes her Speech Team experience will serve her well.

“The public speaking aspect will be helpful when I need to present a business plan,” she said.

Junior Cameron Martel, who won the top prize in the Impromptu Speech category, felt similarly.

“The most valuable thing I’ve gained (from Speech Team) is being able to communicate my ideas and perspectives in a clear, concise way that can really shape other people’s perceptions,” he reflected.

Congratulations to:

Cameron Martel, Impromptu Speech, 1st Place
You Jeen Ha, Original Oration, 2nd Place

David Feldfogel, Prose Reading, 3rd Place

Imani Solan, Poetry, 3rd Place

Kylie Grosmark, Dramatic Monologue, 3rd Place

Photo caption: Proud Speech Team members (with advisor Dr. Robert Wilson) show off plaques earned for top performances at the 2014 Rockland County Speech Tournament. Not pictured: You Jeen Ha.

SHS artists earn accolades

posted Dec 19, 2014, 9:28 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Dec 19, 2014, 9:28 AM ]

[December 19, 2014] Five students were recognized as Artists of the Month by the Suffern High School Art Department on December 18.

Honorees are nominated by their art teachers based on their commitment to creating art, demonstration of great effort, strong skills and understanding of how to problem-solve, and obvious personal enjoyment and satisfaction from creating art.

Congratulations to the December Artists of the Month:

Vincent Cicalese, nominated by Introduction to Art teacher Kate Blitz

Dana Citrin, nominated by AP Studio Art 12 and College Drawing & Painting teacher Tracy Berges

Molly Ferguson, nominated by Introduction to Photography teacher Edward Karen

Zainab Murabak, nominated by Introduction to Art teacher Danielle Lowe

Zachary Scholl, nominated by Advanced Black & White Photography teacher Tom Okada

Art created by these talented students is currently on display outside the Suffern High School auditorium.

Photo caption: The December Artists of the Month and their nominating teachers. Not pictured: Dana Citrin and Vincent Cicalese.

Seventeen students honored with Hispanic Heritage Award

posted Dec 15, 2014, 10:09 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Dec 15, 2014, 10:09 AM ]

[December 15, 2014] Seventeen high-achieving sophomores and seniors were presented with Rockland Community College’s 2014 Hispanic Heritage Award during a December 11 luncheon ceremony at Suffern High School. The award is given annually to Rockland County students of Hispanic descent who earned a minimum GPA of 3.7 during the previous school year.    

The event was hosted by ASPIRA advisor and ESL teacher Rob Mariani, AVID and science teacher Colleen Stritmater and guidance counselor Marissa Guijarro.

“In 1972, ASPIRA of New York and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund filed against the New York City Board of Education and won, which led to the ASPIRA Consent Decree eliminating the tracking of Latino students into non-college bound programs,” noted Mariani. “Now, more than 40 years later, it is with great pride that we present this award to our young Latino scholars.”

Congratulations to Suffern High School’s 2014 Hispanic Heritage Award winners:

Grade 10

Nicolas Acosta

William Almanzar

Guadalupe Bravo Sanchez

Izabella Diaz

Kara Garcia

Christopher Mena

Kelsey Negron

Adrianna Owen

Alyssa Sanchez

Catherine Valencia-McNally

Dylan Wimer

Grade 12

Natalie Albero

Amber Colucci

Gray Desimone

Alexander Fernandez

Juliann Negron

Sidney Padilla

Related story: SHS collaboration drives 4-year college hike

Photo caption: Suffern High School’s 2014 Hispanic Heritage Award winners. Not pictured: Amber Colucci, Isabella Diaz and Dylan Wimer.

Rallies build character at Sloatsburg Elementary School

posted Dec 12, 2014, 9:11 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Dec 12, 2014, 9:12 AM ]

[December 12, 2014] On December 12, “trustworthiness,” generated a lot of discussion at Sloatsburg Elementary School.

“It’s like when you let someone borrow something,” said Nicholas, a second-grader. “You trust them not to break it.”

“When the teacher asks you to go to another classroom to get something, she trusts you not to wander or do something else,” added Sammy, also a second-grader.

The conversation was part of daylong series of grade-level Character Rallies led by Principal Joe Lloyd.

“Every month, we develop our rallies around a particular character pillar,” explained Lloyd. “Through literacy, hands-on activities and discussions, we engage kids in thinking about what these traits mean to them and how they support our work at Sloatsburg Elementary School.”

Lloyd read scenarios regarding friendship and trust from How Could You? Kids Talk About Trust by Nancy Loewen and students offered advice. Together, they identified that a trustworthy person keeps secrets, is kind to friends, doesn’t break things, tells the truth and is someone who can be counted on to do the right thing.

Students also worked together to build a wall representing trust that is slowly built between friends. A Kids for Character video clip demonstrated how friendships are damaged when trust is broken.

At the end of each rally, Lloyd presented certificates to Students of the Month from each class. The awardees were selected by their teachers as models of trustworthiness.

Photo caption1: Second-grade students worked teamed up to assemble a “wall of trust” during the December 12 Character Rally at Sloatsburg Elementary School.

Photo caption2: The second grade Students of the Month were recognized as models of trustworthiness by Principal Joe Lloyd. 

DECA focuses on entrepreneurship, community

posted Dec 12, 2014, 6:45 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Dec 12, 2014, 6:46 AM ]

[December 12, 2014] December has been a busy month for Suffern High School’s chapter of DECA, an international, nonprofit student organization that prepares “emerging leaders and entrepreneurs” for college and career.

On December 5, three members of the Suffern High School DECA Leadership Board—Vice President Tyler Newman, Treasurer Evan Kraushaar and Secretary Dylan Back—advanced to the Rockland County Entrepreneurial Business Plan competition semifinals at Rockland Community College, before a second-round defeat by North Rockland. The annual competition is designed to provide local high school and college students with practical experience in starting a business. In crafting their business plans, teams must research and comprehensively address a number of key start-up considerations, including market analysis, product or service analysis, competition, marketing strategy, management and finance.  

DECA also serves as a direct link between the high school’s business program and the community. Members braved the wintry weather to staff a collection site for the annual Vincent Crotty Memorial Toy Drive on December 6. The drive benefits local families in need and is held each year in honor of the former Suffern High School student.

DECA membership is open to Suffern High School students that have taken, currently take, or intend to take a business course during their high school experience. Through their participation, students develop leadership skills and prepare for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. 

Photo caption1:  DECA members lent a hand to support the annual Vincent Crotty Memorial Toy Drive on December 6. Pictured from left: Aaron Lijoi, business teacher and DECA advisor Gary Weed, Marc Kraushaar and Julia Breauninger.

Photo caption2 (from left): Suffern High School’s DECA chapter Entrepreneurial Business Plan team Tyler Newman, Evan Kaushaar and Dylan Back made it to the second round of the semifinals in the countywide competition this year.

Calling all programmers! Family Hour of Code is Dec. 9

posted Dec 5, 2014, 6:41 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Dec 5, 2014, 6:42 AM ]

[December 5, 2014] Ramapo Central is hosting its first-ever Family Hour of Code for students in grades K-12 and their families on Tuesday, December 9 at 7pm in the Suffern Middle School library.

The impetus for the District-hosted event is to demystify programming and introduce students to free enrichment resources available outside of school. 

“Learning to code, or program, is one of the most marketable 21st century skills,” noted Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Lisa Weber.

While not part of the state mandated curriculum, all Ramapo Central third-graders participate in a Computational Thinking science unit based on Scratch, a free programming tool developed by the MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group.

Throughout their upper elementary and middle school years, District students have the opportunity to use their Scratch skills to create art, research projects and more. At Suffern High School, students can advance their abilities and learn to build apps and websites in an elective, Project Lead the Way computer science and software engineering course. 

“Coding may be new for parents as well, so this event is a unique opportunity for families and students to learn something new together, which is exciting,” said Weber. “Sharing the free resources offered by and others is another way that we can partner with families to expand our students’ skill set in terms of fostering creativity, problem solving and critical thinking.”

For more info about the Family Hour of Code, click here for the flyer.

National Honor Society inducts 83 new members

posted Dec 5, 2014, 6:09 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Dec 5, 2014, 6:10 AM ]

[December 5, 2014] Eighty-three students were inducted into the National Honor Society on December 3, bringing the total Suffern High School chapter membership to 135 juniors and seniors.

The induction ceremony featured guest speaker Nicole Hansell (SHS, ’10). A former Suffern High School National Honor Society alumna, Hansell graduated cum laude from Cornell University in May with a bachelor’s degree in operations research and information engineering. She works in product development marketing and solutions finance at American Express.

In order to be eligible for National Honor Society membership, students must demonstrate excellence in scholarship, service, character and leadership. Juniors must rank in the academic top 15 percent of their class; seniors must rank in the top 20 percent.

Congratulations 2014 National Honor Society inductees!


Ashlyn Appelbaum, Molly Brenner, Anna Breton, Elina Breton, Benson Cherian, Amber Colucci, Brandon Donato, Anastasiya Drik, Michael Feingold, Jonathan Feingold, David Feldfogel, Nicholas Granovsky, Kenneth Gu, Alexandra Hannaby, Sami Israel, Matthew Micheline, Adil Myrzabekov, John Notoris, Chad Popik and James Wilson.


William Adwar , Thomas Assad, Dylan Back, Cyrus Behzadi, Tyler Borenkoff, Richard Bosco, Jacob Brenner, Amanda Bruton, Oumaima Chamar, Emily Codispoti, Brooke Dervish, Rahi Desai, Rucha Desai, Jessica Dobkin, Jeremy Dohmann, Carly Eisen, Naomi Emanuel, Michael Fernandez, Jessica Ferrar, Lauren Giella, Danielle Glassman, Samantha Glassman, Maya Gogia, Brooke Greenstein, Ben Guccione, You Jeen Ha, Lenard Halim, Patrick Hennelly, Katarina Hock, Sara Holand, Margaret Hotaling, Amanda Hugh, Rachel Katz, Ashley Kim, Kati Kim, Natalie Kotsidis, Evan Kraushaar, Isha Kumar, Nithya Kumar, Ari Lachenauer, Stephen Lauro, Michael Lepori, Casey Lieberman, Emily Liu, Peter Manos, Siobhan Mariquit, Cameron Martel, Isabel Mathew, Courtney Ollis, Timothy Patwell, Matthew Popowitz, Eltha Raymond, Madelyn Ritter, Nyasia Rivera, Romagnoli Renee, Catherine Sadoff, Melanie Sadoff, Ashley Sullivan, Yiran Tian, Juliette Van Schaik, Tamar Weinger, Siyoung (Steve) Woo and Vivien Zhan .

SHS recognizes 33 students with Mountie PRIDE Award

posted Dec 4, 2014, 11:04 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Dec 4, 2014, 11:04 AM ]

[December 4, 2014] On December 4, the Suffern High School Guidance Department hosted its first Mountie PRIDE Award ceremony of the 2014-15 school year.

“We had 33 nominations, making this the largest group ever honored,” noted Director of Guidance Sarah Kern. “It’s indicative of what’s going on here; Suffern High School is in a really great place because of students like those recognized today.”

The Mountie PRIDE Award was established three years ago as a means of recognizing strength of character and personal achievement. Teachers are invited to submit nominations to the Guidance Department at the end of the first three quarters of the school year. At each ceremony, teachers present their nominees with an award certificate and pin.

Here is how a few of the December 4 awardees were described:

“He decided to stick it out, recover from his mistakes and commit to do better. His commitment to follow-through in his senior year has made him stand out.”

“Although she has only been in the US for a year and is still learning English, she chose to take an AP course and earned an A for the first quarter.”

“He acknowledges, accepts and hurdles the challenge.”

“Instead of dropping AP Calculus—a course that doesn’t come easy to her—she works exceptionally hard and has been successful.”

“He has the work ethic to do what it takes to get to the next level.”

“She has extended herself to help others who are still learning English and acts as a role model.”

Without exception, every awardee was praised for his or her motivation, hard work, perseverance and focus—essentially, for living the “Mountie pride” ethos.

“It’s about integrity, respect and a willingness to go above and beyond to achieve at the highest level,” said special education teacher Tim Mendolia. 

Congratulations to the first Mountie PRIDE award winners of the 2014-15 school year: Zulfiquar Ahmed, Ariana Baclija, Lilliam Canela, Emily Capiello, Janaiya Clay, Emily Conklin, Sydney Davidovitch, William Dennis, Natalia Dobrenko, Jenny Dorlus, Nicholas Farber, Josh Foley, Justin Galfo, Chris Gonzalez, Jordan Irving, Sami Israel, Mike Izzo, Mahira Kauser, Matt Krane, Ray Mammato, Oliver Montero, Zainab Murbarak, Emily Newman, Erika Panitz, Jenna Pelletier, Andrea Perez, Jessica Sandler, Natalie Shedler, Abdur-Rab Syed, Nick Torino, Auris Trani, Bryan Valenti and Christina Willems.

Bully-free program gets results at SMS

posted Dec 4, 2014, 8:38 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Dec 4, 2014, 8:39 AM ]

[December 4, 2014] Suffern Middle School students and staff say that decreases in bullying behaviors and fear of bullying can be credited to Olweus, a prevention program.

“‘Bully-free starts with me’ is something that Suffern Middle School prides itself on,” noted Assistant Principal Angela Aguilar. “It’s important to empathize with someone who’s having a problem, but that’s not enough. We must stand up and be clear that it’s not OK to make someone feel unsafe or threatened.”

Over the past four years, Suffern Middle School teachers, staff and administrators have worked to develop a customized, Olweus-based curriculum for each of the three grades in the building. The sixth-grade curriculum was rolled out in at all grade levels in 2012-13; the following year, the seventh-grade curriculum was introduced. The eighth-grade curriculum was launched this year with a PTA-sponsored assembly featuring author and speaker Tom Thelen on November 19. 

Throughout each school year, monthly classroom meetings cover topics related to bullying prevention and provide students with the support they need to stand up and stop bullying. Feedback from staff and an annual, anonymous student survey help to measure impact and inform ongoing program development.

Just before the Thelen assembly, a few eighth-graders shared their thoughts about Olweus.

“I think it’s made a difference in my perspective on other people,” said Kate.

Dan noted that “kids who were being bullied see that other people were going through the same thing. “Our teachers have shared their personal experiences, too,” he added.

Will agreed, and considered how harassers themselves have benefited. “I think it has helped people who have bullied before by making them feel guilty about it and giving them a chance to turn it around,” he observed.

All students agreed that the most significant impact of the program has been converting potential bystanders to “upstanders.”

“People who haven’t gone through this program might just walk past a bullying situation,” Nicole explained. “We know what it is, we know what it looks like and we know what to do to stop it.”

The transformation of school culture is a shared challenge. Support for, and integration of, programs like Gamma Got Grit, Kindness Crusaders, Youth Against Cancer, Green Team and the Mountie Award for good citizenship promote character development and reinforce anti-bullying messages.

“This kind of shift would be impossible without a concerted, school-wide effort,” said Principal Brian Fox. “Everyone buys in and is part of the solution. Lasting change takes time; we need to stay on track if we want positive trends to continue.”

Photo caption: Author and speaker Tom Thelen shared personal experience and advice on overcoming a victim mindset and “being the change” at school and beyond. 

SHS collaboration drives 4-year college attendance hike

posted Nov 25, 2014, 10:27 AM by Ramapo Central   [ updated Nov 25, 2014, 10:27 AM ]

[November 25, 2014] The proportion of Suffern High School grads attending four-year colleges jumped to 72% this year—an increase of 22% over both 2013 and 2012. As a result, 98% of all 2014 graduates are continuing their education at post-secondary institutions.

So how did it happen?

Principal Pat Breen credits a robust, in-house collaboration focused on encouraging underrepresented minority students to consider college.

“Our goal is to ensure that all students have access and assistance to counselors and teachers who understand the complexities of the college application process,” he noted. “Many times, first-generation, college-bound students need assistance in exploring all that is available to them with respect to college and financial aid. I am very proud of the work that ASPIRA, AVID and the Guidance Department have done for our students.”

Over the past several years, ASPIRA advisor and ESL teacher Rob Mariani, AVID and science teacher Colleen Stritmater and guidance counselor Marissa Guijarro have teamed up to provide crucial instructional and technical supports to students who are the first generation in their family to attend college.

For the past 25 years, Suffern High School has hosted a chapter of ASPIRA, a national organization dedicated to developing the educational and leadership capacity of Hispanic youth. The chapter was awarded a Certificate of Achievement by US Congresswoman Nita Lowey in 2013 in recognition of its work as a leadership organization. Six ASPIRA members who graduated in 2014 collectively earned $1.2 million in scholarships and grants to attend college.

“ASPIRA promotes college readiness, leadership and networking skills,” explained Mariani. “For the past two years, we’ve hosted an afterschool workshop on college readiness in collaboration with the guidance department. Underclassmen were introduced to the career cluster assessment in Naviance (the web-based career and college readiness platform used by the District), while juniors and seniors worked on college searches and received individualized counseling. Many ASPIRA members take AVID and are in the midst of this process.”

ASPIRA members also have the opportunity to apply for the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute, which aims to develop students’ leadership and legislative advocacy skills. Networking with peers from across the state has also inspired students to raise their expectations.

“I always knew I was going to college,” said senior and ASPIRA president Gail Stern. “But I planned on going to a two-year college for mortuary science. Through PR/HYLI I met people going to all these big schools, like Harvard and Yale, and they encouraged me to branch out. So I’m applying to four-year colleges and plan to major in biochemistry instead. The more education, the better!

AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) is a research-based, college readiness program that emphasizes strategies for time management, critical thinking, studying, organization and educational self-advocacy to help students realize their academic potential.

“In the early years, we focus on organization, study skills and writing. For 11th and 12th grade, the college application process is the focus,” said Stritmater.

As juniors, AVID students get started on their college searches, prepare for standardized tests and prepare essays and resumes. The first few months of senior year are spent finishing the application process, which includes entering data into the Common Application and Naviance, requesting letters of recommendation and submitting test scores. The goal is to complete submissions by December break.

“Once the New Year begins, we turn our attention to financial aid and the process of deciding which college to attend,” Stritmater added. “It can be overwhelming.”  

For students like senior Will Mazariego, AVID has made all the difference.

“When I was in elementary school, I didn’t like school. Neither of my parents went to college, so I didn’t think about it for myself,” he reflected. “When I got to high school, I realized that if I wanted a great job, I’d need to go to college. AVID has helped me to learn to take responsibility and keep working to build momentum to move beyond the obstacles.”

Meanwhile, Suffern High School’s Guidance Department has retooled its outreach to challenge underrepresented students to view college as a viable option. Director of Guidance Sarah Kern said that a Naviance scattergram feature which compares students’ GPA and test scores with college admission results has helped convince reluctant applicants to raise their expectations and take the next step.

“We have made it a point to touch academically appropriate kids who hadn’t been taking the SAT and ACT,” she said. “In 2013, our participation rates were 85% for the SAT and 44% for the ACT. Last year, those rates increased to 88% for the SAT and 60% for the ACT.”

“The proof is in the pudding,” she added. “Even with the increased numbers of students taking tests, our school’s average performance stayed strong—these kids are absolutely college material.”

Guidance counselor Marissa Guijarro has taken the lead in partnering with Mariani and Stritmater to run afterschool college readiness and preparation workshops targeted to low income and first-generation students. REACH grants have funded bus transportation for a select group of rising 11th- and 12th-graders to attend Camp College, an all-expenses paid summer program funded by a host institution and the New York State Association for College Admission Counseling. During the weekend, students network with peers, school counselors and college admissions representatives from across the state, learn about the admissions process and financial aid, and get a sense of campus life. 

 “Our effort is part of a broader, national agenda to ensure that all students have access to higher education to be competitive in the global economy. For some time, Suffern High School has had a 95% college-going rate, but we saw some inequities in terms of two- and four-year colleges. After sharing information with Sarah Kern in September from the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation regarding College Application Week, I’m delighted that we have now made it part of our outreach to seniors,” Guijarro explained. “We’re well-positioned to help: we’ve got a college prep curriculum, dedicated faculty, and counselors with expertise in the college admissions process. We’ve been ahead of the curve on so many things—why wouldn’t we be at the forefront of this, too?”

Ultimately, this collaboration—ASPIRA, AVID and Guidance—has inspired underrepresented students to reach higher and helped them develop the skills to achieve success.

Mazariego is eager to continue his education and is in the process of applying to SUNY Albany, SUNY New Paltz, Manhattanville College and other four-year schools. 

“Most people go for the college degree, but for me, it’s the college experience: you get to learn, meet new people, do internships…and, hopefully, inspire others to go,” he said.

Sarah Lawrence College, Franklin & Marshall College and Drew University are at the top of Stern’s list, which has been winnowed down from 20 schools to a final 10. 

“Never limit yourself,” she advised. “You never know what you can do until you push yourself.”

Photo caption 1: Suffern High School senior Will Mazariego (pictured with science and AVID teacher Colleen Stritmater) works on his college application during a November AVID class.

Photo caption 2: ASPIRA president Gail Stern (pictured with ASPIRA advisor and ESL teacher Robert Mariani) had originally planned to go to a two-year college for mortuary science, but was encouraged to “branch out” and is now applying to four-year biochemistry programs.

Photo caption 3: Guidance counselor Marissa Guijarro accompanied Suffern High School delegates at a Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute workshop on November 19.

Photo caption 4:  For the first time, Suffern High School took part in New York State Higher Education Resources Corporation’s College Application Week, November 17-21. The Guidance Department reached out to students who expressed their intention to attend college but had not yet submitted an application, with specific focus on first-generation students and those receiving free and reduced lunch. Over the five days, the guidance counselors helped XX students complete the application process.

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