The Amsterdam Family YMCA held its tenth annual Outstanding Senior Student and Educator Awards breakfast Thursday morning at Nicolino’s Restaurant in Amsterdam. The event, sponsored by the law firm of Cioffi, Slezak and Wildgrube, P.C., recognized 18 students and four educators from the high schools of Amsterdam, Broadalbin-Perth, Fonda- Fultonville, and Galway for their achievements in the classroom and in the community. Awards for 2014 were presented to Fonda-Fultonville High School senior student Shelby Wadsworth and Amsterdam High School math teacher Karen Agresta.
“The YMCA is an organization dedicated to community and serving others,” said Wadsworth. “This is a huge honor for me.”
Wadsworth is class president and a member of her school’s Key Club which is involved in community service work such as visiting nursing homes, Red Cross blood drives, cemetery cleanups, and recycling programs. She is also the Miss VFW representative for the ladies auxiliary Post 492. Undecided about her college choice, Wadsworth plans to major in pre-law and business communications.
Amsterdam High School Principal David Ziskin said of teacher Karen Agresta, “She’s the perfect mix of empathy and compassion. An impactful person beginning with students in the ninth grade”. Ziskin went on to read a quote from one of Agresta’s students. “She cares about all students and loves them.”
Agresta helped students with the common core and participated in walkathons and the Relay for Life as well as being a class advisor. “She’s the go to person who continues to give to causes year after year,” Ziskin said.
The event began with a welcoming statement from Nancy Carr, Executive Director and CEO of the Amsterdam Family YMCA and an invocation from YMCA board member Joseph Inglese. Guest speaker and past YMCA president, Deb Slezak spoke of the honoree’s commitments to community service..
“The YMCA was built on strong character and values and each of the honorees is a strong reflection of that strong character and values.” Slezak said. “You can go to any gym, but you belong at the YMCA. It’s a cause dedicated to healthy living, social responsibility and helping young people develop a sense of self-esteem and leadership qualities. One component is community service. The choice that you all made can enrich your lives.”
Community service and volunteering were something all the honorees had in common. Principals Robin Blowers (Broadalbin-Perth), David Halloran (Fonda- Fultonville), Michael Healey (Galway), and David Ziskin (Amsterdam) introduced their honored students and teachers.
Broadalbin -Perth student honorees were Mackenzie Young, Amanda Bogardus Luigi Joseph Magliocca and Marissa Tambasco. Blowers cited among their activities; drama, dance, athletics, volunteering as counselors with the Broadalbin Youth Commission, the “Save the Glove Theater” campaign, as well as being “true patriots.” James McGarvey was the honored teacher at Broadalbin. He is a chorale instructor and is involved with food pantries and veterans programs.
Student honorees joining Wadsworth from Fonda- Fultonville High School were Robert O’Kosky, Samantha Phelps, Heather Trasky and Victoria Subik. Principal Halloran noted Key Club, Make a Wish, Relay for Life, the United Way golf tournament, 4-H Club, Fonda Fair cleanup, and Trick or Treat for UNICEF among their achievements. Honored teacher was Robert Headwell, who is involved in the school’s Students at Risk program.
Galway principal Michael Healey introduced the honorees from his district. “There’s a calm confidence they all display,” he said in describing Shelbi Merrifield, Jonathan Muller, Jeanine Messak, and Adrianna Watrobski. Involvement in Boy Scouts, volunteering at nursing homes, athletic leadership, academic scholars, honor society and 4-H club distinguished this class. Healey noted that honored teacher William Brooks participated in the recovery efforts for flood communities among his accomplishments.
Amsterdam principal David Ziskin noted the academic success of the Smart Scholars program among his honorees. The programs give high school students the chance to earn college credits as they pursue a higher education. Amsterdam’s honorees included Jonardy Anil, Rebekah Izzo, Gabrielle Mitchell, Maxine Petrosino and Leilei Secor. Community services included the Little Star Foundation, Wish List, Habitat for Humanity, “book bags for the homeless”, Catholic Charities, Fort Plain flood relief, and city-wide cleanup.
Ziskin noted educator Karen Agresta as being “A strong reflection of education perfection.” Agresta also helped students get involved with the Little Star Foundation.
The YMCA receives applications from the principals of each school. According to Carr some students and educators rise slightly above others.
“We sit down and go through every form,” Carr said. “We look for a combination of a level of community service, school involvement and volunteerism. A handful of students had a blend of everything. Volunteering we look for as a strong part. We like to acknowledge that.”
Carr went on to comment on what they look for in teachers. “Teachers bring a lot to the table,” she said. “Mrs. Agresta began teaching students the common core. By doing that she was saying no student will fail because of the common core.”
Carr also thanked sponsor Cioffi, Slezak and Wildgrube PC, and Nicolino’s Restauant for hosting the event.