CAPITAL DISTRICT — Students and educators from Bethlehem, Guilderland, Voorheesville and Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk (RCS) were honored on Tuesday, April 25, by the Capital District YMCA for exceptional service to their community at the YMCA’s 20th Annual Student and Educator Awards Breakfast. The group was treated to a catered breakfast at the Appel Inn in Altamont.
The event was hosted by the Bethlehem, Guilderland and Albany YMCAs. Three other Capital District schools also participated in the awards ceremony. Students and educators could apply or were nominated, and recipients were chosen for their leadership and dedication in service to their schools, communities and/or YMCA, including exhibiting “behavior which is ‘socially courageous’” and a character that “embraces the values of the YMCA: Caring, Honesty, Respect, and Responsibility.”
Below is a list of local recipients, with comments by the three-person Selection Committee.
“The YMCA would like to thank you for all you have done in your communities. You may not realize the importance of your efforts but those that you have impacted will always be thankful.” – Capital District YMCA
From Guilderland Central High School, ten students and two teachers received awards:
A National Board Certified French teacher at Guilderland High School, Anderson works with students in grades 9-11. Prior to coming to Guilderland, she worked as a teacher in Schenectady. A well respected educator, Anderson leads within her department, takes on new initiatives, seeks out professional development opportunities and is generally eager to try new things. Most recently, Anderson has attended the statewide conference for World Language teachers, hosted other schools seeking best practices, shared information with her department on the Seal of Biliteracy, and “has taken on the morale of the department to make everyone feel connected and as a valued member of the team. Lauren is a very strong asset to the Guilderland World Languages program and makes a positive impression on her students each and every day.”
Raised in Connecticut, Penna has taught English and coached football at Guilderland High School for 20 years. He has been an “invaluable” faculty member in FOCUS, an alternative education program that provides mentoring, support and educational preparation to at-risk students. A husband and father of six, Penna’s hobbies — mountain biking and weight training — keep him in the physical shape to keep up with athletes and at-risk teens.
A junior at GHS, Ardito is a scholar athlete and a rare diseases patient advocate who has successfully worked with peers, coaches, teachers and children in professional, athletic and academic settings. Ardito became a patient advocate after his little sister was diagnosed with a rare, life-threatening condition called Hereditary Angio Edema (HAE). He has swum the Boston Harbor three times to raise money for medical research and awareness and has made several public appearances on its behalf. “Due to his work on behalf of the HAE community, he had the honor of speaking to Congressional Representatives to advocate for increased rare disease funding through the National Institute of Health.”
Bonanno, a junior, has been involved with the school’s Key Club, Youth Group, is secretary of the Guilderland High School Ski Club and plays soccer. She was voted co-captain of her soccer team as a freshman. This year, Bonanno received a Deserving Dutchmen Award from the district. “She also helped out with the Trick or Treat Street program and volunteered at a soup kitchen in Albany.”
Also a junior, Gallagher has been on the Youth Activation Committee for three years and spends her time advocating for the inclusion of students with intellectual and social disabilities in sports. She volunteers year-round with the Guilderland Youth Track and Cross Country teams. Gallagher was a presenter at the Section II unified sports leadership conference, where she spoke about inclusion to other schools. In 2016, she ran a dress drive for a prom closet out of Albany. “She has collaborated with the Best Buddies program where she helped ‘spread the word to end the word’ campaign. This brings awareness to not using the ‘R’ word.”
A senior at GHS, Hoffman has put in more than 150 hours volunteering at the Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital in Schenectady. “He takes volunteering extremely seriously and has far surpassed his required number of hours . . . and says it has really made him realize how much he takes for granted. He enjoys helping the patients there and when he sees how excited they can get for only taking a few steps it reminds him to be humble and continue doing his great work.”
A sophomore at GHS, Kumar has focused his volunteer efforts on environmental causes for five years. He has been a summer camp counselor at Tawasentha Camp and Camp Invention and volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House and Guilderland Public Library. “He feels that through his volunteering he has learned a lot of life skills and gained experiences that are priceless and beneficial for his and his community’s future.”
Now in his junior year, Mauro has volunteered with the district’s summer school program for three years, helping elementary school students with math and English. He is actively involved with the school’s Best Buddies program, as well as unified basketball and unified bowling. “Travis consistently demonstrates leadership and is truly a positive role model to all those that he works with. Travis has expressed a strong desire to work with individuals with disabilities in the future, either as a Special Education Teacher or Psychologist.”
GHS senior Rice spent the summers of 2014 and 2015 volunteering with Youth Works Community Service, creating sustainable gardens in Philadelphia and working at a youth camp for underprivileged children in Boston. She has also been a volunteer with the Guilderland Recreation Youth Soccer program since 2014. “She has been a referee, time keeper, and helped with crowd control and smooth operations.”
Sabatino, a GHS junior on the school’s cross country, indoor and outdoor track teams, volunteers for a youth running camp, where she instructs kids in grades 1-8. She is also involved with Amnesty International and “has shown leadership in her community as the executive director for the Youth Activation Committee which is dedicated to promote the inclusion and acceptance of students with intellectual disabilities.”
A junior, Spanbauer is involved in many community activities, including: a youth group, Youth Activation Committee, Best Buddies and Amnesty International. “She spends much of her time participating in events in her community, including athletic events and community service.”
Tosacano, a senior, will receive a volunteer award for 200+ hours of service when she graduates in May. She has worked in the youth services area of the Guilderland Public Library, packed food baskets at St. Madeleine Sophie, served meals at the St. John’s Outreach Center, put together a Christmas party for foster children, helped prepare events for the Adopt-a-Family initiative at Ft. Hunter Fire Department, and works as a counselor for the town’s summer camp butterfly program. “Thanks to her parents instilling the importance of helping the less fortunate, she has been volunteering for as long as she can remember.”
From Bethlehem Central High School, ten students and one teacher were awarded:
Mitchell, a Spanish teacher and faculty advisor for the Genders and Sexualities Alliance at Bethlehem High School, “believes that students and educators should be able to be open and honest about their gender identity.” A public education advocate as well, Mitchell has been a coordinator for the Bethlehem Central Lab School, “an innovative school within a school that fosters a culture and set of skills that truly prepare students for the 21st century.” In 2015, he received the Libby Council Post Leadership Award, given by the Pride Center of the Capital Region to a former board member who “defines leadership.”
A senior at BCHS, Ansong is a senior officer with the school’s Key Club, with which she has been actively involved for four years. She volunteers regularly at the Capital City Rescue Mission in Albany, where she helps in the kitchen, and at the Pine Hollow Arboretum in Slingerlands, where she teaches biology to younger students. “She loves being able to use her small actions to have a large impact on her community.”
BCHS senior Balzan is currently serving as Student Senate President, Best Buddies President, and as a senior advisor for Key Club. In his junior year, he was class president. “Corbin says, ‘Just like the YMCA, I contribute to the growth and development of my community. . . One of his favorite contributions is the Best Buddies program which unites students with intellectual and developmental disabilities with those in the general education population.”
Castagna, a junior at BCHS, is an active volunteer at her church, where she is a lector and helps with the fourth grade Youth Ministry classes. In addition to being active in her high school orchestra and theatre programs, she is a member of SADD and volunteers at community events such as the Albany Leadership Summit, where she helped film, photograph and collect data. “Eva is highly regarded for her help with the Green Drakkoman Foundation, where she helped raise money for childhood cancer research.”
A sophomore, Earleywine has spent two summers working with children as a counselor a Camp Givah. She is also a member of the BCHS Peer Helpers Club, which focuses on contemporary societal problems and the necessity of equality. “She currently volunteers once a week at Masjid As-Salam, a mosque in her community. Along with many other volunteers she teaches English and math to Syrian refugee children while their parents receive help with paperwork and learn English.”
Hauser, a junior, is a member and officer in the BCHS Key Club. He is also currently working on an internship with Environmental Advocates of New York, where he deals with environmental policy. “He has learned how a bill becomes law and how he can make change in our world. Surrounding himself with adults in this process has given him a portal to the real world and leadership life.”
A BCHS junior, Poust is involved with service in her school, her church and her community. She is a member of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany’s Service Action Learning Team, a member of the Albany Diocesan Youth Leadership Team and a member of the Pastoral Council of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Delmar. Poust has also served as an officer in the BCHS chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions and is currently a member of the Town of Bethlehem Youth Court. “Through this experience, she and others are able to serve as a legally binding court to decide sentences for nonviolent, first-time youthful offenders.”
Annika Rowe Rowe, a junior, had focused the majority of her volunteer work on helping children. She has been a lacrosse coach and was a junior coach with Girls on the Run, teaching 3rd -5th grade students life skills such as teamwork and goal-setting as they prepared for 5k runs. In addition to also being a volunteer and Teen Ambassador at Ronald McDonald House, she serves as an assistant Sunday school teacher at Bethlehem Community Church.
Stento, a senior at BCHS, has organized the Teal Pumpkin campaign to raise food allergy awareness during the Halloween season for two years and has coordinated an Earth Day neighborhood clean-up day. She volunteers with the Town of Bethlehem Youth Court, FARE, the Ronald McDonald House, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, The American Cancer Society, and St. John’s /St. Ann’s Outreach Center. Stento also attended the inaugural Summer Leadership Conference at BCHS, and the 2016 MedQuest at Albany Medical Center, “an invitation only multi-career exploration program offering mind-expanding simulations, training and opportunities to hear about and see numerous career options available in the health and medical fields.”
A sophomore at BCHS, Sul works to organize volunteer opportunities for her community. “With the goal of spreading her love of music, Maggie has participated in and organized holiday concerts for residents at Shaker Pointe Senior Center. She feels that through challenges eveyone can learn and grow.”
A senior, Weinert has been a house warmer at the Ronald McDonald House, where she welcomes families and support staff, cleans rooms and works in the kitchen. She has been a Tiny Tot swim instructor, a gymnastics instructor, a nursing home volunteer, and a softball instructor. She has also participated in Rake for a Cause, Art Honor Society, Student Council and Key Club. “Emily’s volunteer efforts are quite extensive.”
From Clayton A. Bouton High School in Voorheesville, five students were awarded:
A junior at Clayton A. Bouton High School, Bracken is a member of the Civil Air Patrol, where she has risen to the rank of Cadet Senior Master Sergeant and has been trained for, and participated in, search and rescue operations. She also participated in the Wreaths Across America Ceremony and was selected to give a speech at Saratoga National Cemetery commemorating the service of those who have fought on behalf of the U.S. “This was a very moving experience which she hopes to be a part of for a long time.”
A sophomore, Conroy plays flute, piccolo, piano and ukelele. She was recently accepted into the National Honor Society and volunteers with Key Club at school and at Mater Christi Church. An avid actress, Conroy also enjoys helping out backstage with school and local musical productions. “Some of her favorite roles include being Beatrix Potter in Beatrix Potter’s Christmas and a Jet Girl in West Side Story.”
Monaghan, a junior, is an Eagle Scout who earned his rank by leading a community project, completed in 2016, to benefit community youth in which he created a “multi-sport ball-wall” that can be used for lacrosse, soccer, baseball and football. He is also a Natural Helper at his school, where he helps kids who are having a difficult time socially. “Daniel has been known to display all of the YMCA’s core values.”
A senior at Clayton A. Bouton High School, Murray is team captain of the varsity football team and a member of the varsity basketball team. For the past two years, he has served on the Teen Board at the Ronald McDonald House in Albany, where he is now co-president, and he assists with oversight and fundraising for the Teen Ambassador program. “Jack travelled to Peru with the Broadreach organization and completed volunteer work in both the Sacred Valley and Amazon regions. His work included building sustainable greenhouses in the village of Senca and jungle conservation in the Amazon Rainforest at the Saona Ecolodge.”
Rose, now a senior, is president of the school’s Key Club, of which she has been an active member since freshman yea,r and has completed approximately 45 hours of community service a year. “With a strong passion and love for service, though an organization called Yuda Bands, Emily sold handmade bracelets that raised $4,000 for educational scholarships for students in Guatemala.”
From RCS, two students received awards:
A sophomore at RCS, Mathai has been involved with the Capital District Malayalee Association (CDMA) since she was four years old. She has been on the CDMA’s Mayuram committee for five years and, this year, served as the vice president. The committee helps to create fun learning programs for younger kids in the community. At school, Mathai is a Natural Helper, on the Science Olympiad team, involved in Drama Club and Student Government, and a varsity swimmer.
Miller, a junior, actively participates in school clubs and events, church, volunteering, and even has a job. She completed her service hours babysitting, helping at the Capital City Rescue Mission, the Matthew project and vacation bible school. “She acts as a leader in church as well as school. She says. ‘It warms my heart when I can do something to help others out, whether it’s something big or small.”
Congratulations also to recipients:
Aaron Shields – Albany High School Kristen Norray – Berne-Knox-Westerlo Secondary School Yahann Mayben Jr., and Jalil Muhammad – Green Tech High Charter School