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FROM THE LEFT, William Blount, Brian Bock, Christine Davis, Kaylynn DeMondo, Katrina DiCostanzo and Michael Feldman enjoy their graduation day after summer school at Monticello High.

Though Slightly Late,
Graduates Enjoy Special Day

By Ted Waddell
MONTICELLO — August 24, 2001 – A lot of kids dread the thought of going to summer school, but for 18 Monticello High School seniors, the six-week session put them on the road to success.
And on Friday afternoon, August 17, the local central school district held a special commencement in the high school auditorium.
“For me, it’s a very important day for the students,” said Lori Orestano-James, principal of the MHS Summer School. “It’s very important for these students to have an opportunity to walk in cap and gown. They could have been dropouts, gone GED – taken the easy way out – but they chose to do the work and get their diplomas.”
Overall, Orestano-James said more than 900 K-12 students were enrolled this year in the district’s July 2-August 17 summer school.
During the regular school year, Orestano-James serves as assistant principal at the middle school. She said that, of the 23 seniors enrolled in summer school this year, 18 made it to graduation. (According to the principal of the summer school, for those who didn’t clear the bar, it was primarily a matter of failing to meet the new NYS Education Department Regents graduation requirements.)
Michael Feldman earned an outstanding reputation in high school as a composer of note, and the day after he got his high school diploma at the summer school commencement exercises, he headed off to the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam.
“I can’t wait to leave and go to college,” he said, a few scant moments before heading off to the graduation ceremony.
High school sweethearts Jennifer Suarez and Brian Heavey agreed they both “just got lazy” in their senior year and wound up in summer school together.
“It’s good to finally get it over with,” said Heavey. “Going to classes in the summer wasn’t too much fun.”
“It’s about time. . . . I just got lazy,” added Suarez.
The Summer School Class of 2001 entered the auditorium to the traditional strains of Elgar’s “Pomp & Circumstance.”
The grads included William Blount, Brian Bock, Romarie Godineaux, Christine Davis, Kaylynn DeMondo, Katrina DiCostanzo, Michael Feldman, Brian Heavey, Matthew Lehman, Peter Lutman III, Sammie McGinnis, Perrin Miller, John Panos, Kevin Rath, Emily Rivas, Bruce Smith, Jennifer Suarez and Claudia Wortham.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance led by Assistant Superintendent Robert Falcone, Orestano-James performed a solo rendition of The National Anthem.
After the summer school principal welcomed the audience and grads to the commencement, Superintendent of Schools Eileen P. Casey addressed the assemblage.
“Today is a very special day for all of us,” she said in her opening remarks. “It is a bittersweet day on which we all reflect upon the 13-year educational careers of our graduates. . . . We look back upon your first day of school [and] wonder where the years have gone.
“We reflect upon many happy times . . . upon the joys of treasured friendships and upon your accomplishments,” she said. “We even reflect upon the disappointments you had in the struggles of growing up.”
Casey added, “Nurture a positive attitude. Care about others. Build strong friendships and family ties. Take these steps, and you will give yourself a balance of life which will enable you to set your goals and use your talents to the very best of your ability.”
Matthew Lehman served as student speaker for the Summer School Class of 2001.
“Ever since I was born, my parents had dreams of me going to a great college and being successful in life,” he said. “They wanted me to be the best that I could be. So you can imagine how they felt when they found out I wasn’t going to graduate.
“At first, I didn’t take summer school seriously, but then once I got here I woke up,” he said. “I finally realized that I was messing up my whole life and not even caring about my future. . . . So I decided to give summer school my all, and I guess I did pretty well because now I am standing here giving this speech and finally graduating.”
Lehman has been accepted at St. John’s University.
Douglas E. Murphy, summer school assistant principal, presented the diplomas, while summer school administrative assistant Beth Lauri presented the graduates of the MHS Summer School Class of 2001 to the world.
Jessica Tugender graduated from Monti High in 1999. On Friday, she returned to her high school alma mater as keynote speaker.
In addressing the soon-to-be-minted grads, she said, “If you’ve come this far, why stop? Why stop stretching your mind, why stop expanding your world? . . . Take your life by the reins, hold it with both hands and guide it where you want to go.”

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