Check Out the November Spotlight on Mahopac
Check out the latest Spotlight on Mahopac.
How much energy should the United States produce?
The nation has been grappling with that question since the dawn of electricity. Aalyaan Ali, a Mahopac High School junior, hopes to help answer it using machine learning.
A form of artificial intelligence, machine learning “trains” computers to make humanlike decisions without being explicitly programmed for them. Examples of machine learning include facial recognition, language translation, and self-driving cars.
Ali is in his second year of the high school’s Science Research program. While searching for a research topic, Ali was attracted to the use of machine learning to predict energy consumption. As he delved into existing research, Ali said he found that all of the work on this subject focused on energy consumption in commercial buildings.
“Over a quarter of the energy consumed in America is consumed by residential buildings,” Ali said. “The more accurately we can predict residential energy use, the greater the odds that we will neither over produce nor under produce energy for our needs. It’s about better predicting future energy consumption.”
Ali tested two machine-learning models to determine which one could more accurately predict energy consumption. Using data compiled by the United States Energy Information Association on energy use in 5,000 homes, Ali let each model “train” on data from 3,000 of those homes. He then asked each model to predict energy consumption in the remaining homes, based on characteristics like square footage and region.
“I learned how to use machine learning models to analyze residential energy consumption in the United States,” Ali said.
There are many applications for these types of machine learning models in infrastructure. Ali is excited by how better energy production estimates could improve both infrastructure and industry, as well as life for the average American.
“Less overproduction means less waste and less burden on infrastructure. Our infrastructure will last longer if it isn’t constantly being flooded with excess power,” Ali said. “An effective model could help homeowners find inefficiencies in energy use like if they have an old refrigerator or poor insulation. It could also help determine if they are paying for more electricity than they need based on the data.”
Eight Mahopac High School seniors have committed to play sports at the college level next year.
They are: Jake Degnan, Mike Rettberg, Emma Morretta, Lauren Beberman, Marie Camastro, Maya O'Keefe, Maddie Orsini, and Riley Massett. The students announced their intention at a ceremony held on Wednesday, November 9th, with a crowd of family members, friends and school officials in attendance.
“My parents really pushed me to be the best person and player that I could be, but they were never hard on me,” said Massett, who committed to play Lacrosse at Widener University. “They were very supportive of whatever I wanted to do. They were always willing to drive me to play, whether it was down the street to the high school or to a tournament in Maryland.”
The student-athletes credited coaches and peers who had helped them achieve their success.
Beberman, who will play Basketball at Adelphi University, thanked one of her longtime coaches, saying, “I’ve had the same AAU basketball coach since the 5th grade, Kristi Dini. She helped me by teaching me basketball, but she also pushed me whenever I hesitated and was always there to talk and support me.”
Rettberg specifically named the larger Mahopac Community as critical to his growth, saying, “The support from students and the community is outstanding. It doesn’t matter how well they know you, we always have fans turn out to watch and support us and that makes a huge difference.”
Only one in 13 high school athletes goes on to play at the collegiate level. The students who will play their sports at a college level next year are:
A lot has changed in the last fifty years.
The Mahopac High School class of 1972 was the first class of students to go through all four years of their high school careers in the then new high school building. For their 50th reunion, 28 members of the class of ‘72 got together to walk the halls of the high school once again.
Fifty years ago, they were exploring a new building and in 2022, they explored once again. “A good 80% of us haven’t been there since we left… It was an eye opening experience,” said Tom Lombardi, who helped organize the event.
Some of the visitors recognized their old cafeteria, which has since become the main office while others noticed that the old shop rooms had transformed into engineering centers.
“It’s all more technology based.” Lombardi said, “I’m an engineer by degree and I thought ‘wow this is really an improvement.’”
Guided by Assistant Principal Gary Ziegelhofer, the ex-students traversed their old stomping grounds and heard all about how teaching and the high school had evolved.
“After the tour was over we all went to a pizza place in town and we all said that we had an appreciation for today’s teachers and the challenges that they face…” Lombardi said, “I think that the students of today will be better prepared than we were as students.”
Long-term projects are always intimidating, especially when that work is destined to be judged.
Mahopac High School Senior Megan Bloomer undertook just such a project in her sophomore year when she joined the high school’s Science Research Program, headed by Elizabeth Stephens.
Students begin the program in 10th grade but unlike most other electives, science research spans two to three years. During that time, students develop, research, present, and edit a science research project of their choosing. Since joining the program, Bloomer has presented her work in front of peers and adults.
“I have learned a lot about research,” she said. “And even if you don’t publish, you learn presentation skills.”
Students typically work on either one project for two years or two projects for a total of three years in the program. After choosing a project, students work with a mentor and Stephens on their project.
Early this year, Bloomer was contacted by the “Journal of Emerging Investigators,” a science journal for high school scientists, regarding her nine-page paper, titled, “The effect of adverse childhood experiences on e-cigarette usage in people aged 18-30 in the US.” She had been selected to edit her paper in preparation for being published.
“I was so excited, but there was still a lot of work to do with the editing,” Bloomer said.
After a lengthy editing process, Bloomer’s research paper was accepted and published on the journal’s website on Oct. 6.
Bloomer credited Mahopac’s Science Research Program with helping her develop college-level skills and build her resume. Stephens said the research program challenges students, provides valuable experience and helps them to develop projects that will stand out after high school.
The program is still accepting 10th grade students who are interested in science research this year. Those interested should contact Elizabeth Stephens at email@example.com.
Brett Bergerson and Isabella Valle, best friends since second grade, have shared many milestones. Now the two Mahopac High School seniors are both being honored for their academic achievements.
Bergerson has been named a Commended Student by the National Merit Scholarship Program, while Valle received the National Hispanic Recognition Award from the College Board. Both students credited the outstanding education provided by Mahopac schools with enabling their success.
“Education is definitely cumulative,” Bergerson said as she cited teachers who had inspired and nurtured her from her time at Fulmar Road Elementary School all the way through to her time at Mahopac High School. “Fulmar fostered a love of learning in a familial environment that allowed us to grow,” she said.
Valle and Bergerson both recalled a Living Environment class they had taken during middle school. Valle said that the class “made science fun,” and helped plant the seeds that have since developed into an interest in biophysics.
“There are a wide range of opportunities available in Mahopac Schools,” Bergerson said, “and there are teachers who are willing to help and support you at all levels.”
When asked about the challenges that they had to overcome, Valle spoke about the Covid-19 pandemic, which began during their first year in high school, and how the school district helped them to survive and thrive throughout it.
“Accommodations like the Chromebooks saved us during the pandemic,” Valle said, “by allowing us to stay connected to our classes and to stay in touch with each other.”
As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. In Mahopac, dedicated teachers, innovative programming, and a supportive community all come together to create success stories like those of Bergerson and Valle.
Mahopac High School is awash in color this week: blue for seniors, gold for juniors, white for sophomores, and black for freshmen. It’s all a part of Spirit Week.
Spirit Week began Wednesday, with a “Country vs. Country Club” theme that saw some students dressed in cowboy hats while others donned sweater vests and other preppy attire. Thursday will be “Adam Sandler Day,” followed by the highly anticipated “Color Wars” on Friday. Monday’s theme is “Anything but a Backpack” and finally, Tuesday will be “Tropical Tuesday.”
Spirit Week is just what it sounds like—a week of fun events designed to bring students and faculty together to celebrate Mahopac High School. To ensure that students would be engaged in Spirit Week, Ava Van Nortwick, executive senior president, said the senior class government sought to include students in planning and decision-making.
With the school’s permission, the senior class government sent out forms so that students could vote on the themes of each day throughout the week. Of all of the days Van Nortwick said she was most looking forward to “Anything but a Backpack Day,” where students must use containers, other than backpacks, to carry their books and school supplies.
Van Nortwick said there was much enthusiasm for a Spirit Week given the remote learning of recent years. Speaking personally, Van Nortwick said, “I was a freshman and then suddenly we were juniors.” For most of the students in the high school, she said, this was likely their first-ever full Spirit Week.
Van Nortwick said Spirit Week was important “because everyone participates and has fun doing it, especially since it’s only the beginning of the year. Bringing the student body together to do something other than school work really helps everyone feel more welcome and unified.”
In a ceremony that was part celebration and part goodbye, Mahopac High School graduated 327 students on Friday evening and wished retiring School Superintendent Anthony DiCarlo well in his retirement.
The graduation had been rescheduled to Friday because of weather and as graduates walked down the turf field, passing under an enormous American flag that waved in a summer breeze, bleachers full of family and friends erupted in cheers.
High School Principal Matt Lawrence took to the podium and noted that 283 members of the Class of 2022 are going on to a two or four year college, 23 plan to work, 14 will take a gap year and seven are enlisting in the military.
“You were the class to lead us back,” Dr. Lawrence said. “You were able to shake off the remnants of the last year and a half. You ran clubs, you played sports, you made music. You owned Mahopac High School. You have strong core values and that makes strong leaders. I want to say two words to you: “Go Pac!”
Salutatorian Kaylie Ann Hammond spoke about a high school career that went from in-person classes to studying online to returning with a lot of contact tracing.
Valedictorian Matteo Perillo noted there were many statistics of which his class could be proud, but that education in Mahopac High was about more than numbers, it was about heart and values.
Superintendent DiCarlo said he was honored to have served the Mahopac Central School District.
Later Dr. Lawrence returned to the podium and spoke about all that DiCarlo accomplished in his four and half years as superintendent.
“We finally have college courses in every area of the curriculum,” Dr. Lawrence said. “We now have a STEM lab and updated science classes and a music wing and you should see our library/media center. We have been named one of America’s best schools. Mr. DiCarlo, that’s what happens when leadership works with leadership.”
Not every teenager would jump at the chance to be a school district administrator for a day, but Mahopac High School junior Kevin Whitmarsh did just that when he won a raffle hosted by the Mahopac Lions/Leo’s fundraiser for their Relay for Life team.
The prize was to spend the day trailing Michael Tromblee, Mahopac’s Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Learning. Tromblee serves as co-advisor to the Leo’s Club and Kevin is a member of the Leo’s.
"It was a great day," Tromblee said. "I think Kevin learned a lot. The more exposure to careers you can get at a young age, the better equipped you will be to decide what direction to take in your life."
A week before the school year ended, Kevin visited Tromblee's office in the Mahopac Falls School for a discussion on what innovations students might like to see in classrooms. Then he participated in beta testing of new materials. Later he helped fly a drone over the Falls School athletic fields with Jay Zides, the District’s Secondary Educational Technology Specialist. Zides happens to be a certified drone pilot.
Kevin also got to participate in a discussion on district professional learning activities, take a tour of the bus garage and read a book to Country Knolls Preschoolers.
When Gabby Cazzari started her senior year internship at the Yorktown Center for Specialty Surgeries, she was sure of one thing: she did not want to see any blood.
She was interested in medical technology, not nursing, she said.
“She was adamant,” said Bernadette Lingardo, the English teacher and coordinator of the WISE program at Mahopac High School. “I’m so excited that after spending a semester interning in a medical environment, she now wants to be a nurse.”
WISE, or WISE Individualized Senior Experience, gives Mahopac seniors the chance to intern in a business they want to learn more about. The program, which has been in place in Mahopac High School since 1997, accepted 30 students this year. They interned in all sorts of different workplaces – from architecture firms to police departments, film production companies to veterinary offices, elementary schools to design shops. A Mahopac High School graduate runs the film production company that hosted the intern.
“In the first semester we introduce goals and objectives,” Lingardo said. “The students do research, write cover letters and visit sites where they might want to intern. In the second semester they go to the site.”
It is a yearlong process that begins with an application in 11th grade and ends when each student delivers a presentation about their experience to other students, teachers and parents.
“The presentation is the culminating activity,” Lingardo said during the weeks-long presentation period at the end of May. “They worked hard to get to this place.”
In Gabby’s presentation she talked about how much she had learned from the experience.
“I wanted to experience a medical environment and figure out my future career,” Gabby said. “WISE made a huge impact on me. I walked into WISE not wanting to even see blood. Now I watch bunions getting cut off and see people getting cataracts removed, and I think it’s really interesting.”
Athletes, coaches, families and friends gathered on the Mahopac High School Field on Wednesday evening for the Senior Athletic Awards Ceremony.
“This is a great night. It’s not only a chance to celebrate our athletes, but also to celebrate the programs, coaches and teams that helped them develop their talents,” said School Board President Michael Mongon. “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to create an athlete. Here in Mahopac, we make sure our athletes work just as hard on their academic skills as their sports, and that they have a strong sense of teamwork and fair play.”
Then Mongon turned the microphone over to School Superintendent Anthony Dicarlo.
“Athletes, you do us proud,” DiCarlo said.“The Board and I salute you for your scholastic achievements, your athletic achievements and your community service. You have grown in every aspect of your lives. You are, indeed, a credit to your high school, your parents and yourselves.”
Before the awards were presented, the names of 16 seniors who were named All-League for spring sports and seven seniors who were named All-Section, were read to the crowd.
All-League Spring – Seniors 2022
• Ava Jennings
• Avery Przymylski
• Grace Witt
• Nicole Panny
• Audrey Colucci
• Ally Savino
• Mia DelBene
• Gabby Marino
• Mia Lanter
• Ava Lichtenberger
• Joey Koch
• Conor Watts
Track & Field
• Kaylie Ann Hammond
• Sean Massett
• Michael Harney
• Chris Evans
All-Section Spring – Seniors 2022
• Ava Jennings
• Avery Przymylski
• Gabby Marino
• Ava Lichtenberger
• Joey Koch
• Sean Massett
• Michael Harney
It was a clean sweep for Mahopac High School at this year’s Music in the Parks competition in Massachusetts.
All five ensembles from the high school’s well-regarded music department won awards and two of the groups — the Symphonic Band and the Sinfonietta – took home the biggest awards of the day.
The competition, held at Westfield State University in May, featured 23 ensembles from high schools throughout the Northeast. It was followed by a trip to Six Flags New England, where the adjudicators announced the winners.
Mahopac ensembles received the following:
• Sinfonietta – Superior Rating, First Place, Best Overall Orchestra. Mahopac’s Sinfonietta received the highest score in the entire competition.
• Symphonic Band – Superior Rating, First Place, Best Overall Band of the Day
• Wind Ensemble – Superior Rating, First Place
• Chorus – Excellent Rating, Second Place
• Philharmonic Orchestra – Excellent Rating, Second Place
“Students performed extremely well that day,” said Band Director Rich Williams. “They weren’t expecting these results because they are very aware of what goes into a good musical performance and they hold themselves to a high standard.”
The Mahopac Central School District is known for its outstanding performing arts programs. Mahopac is regularly cited as one of the best communities for music education by the NAMM Foundation.
Williams credits hard work through daily rehearsals and individual practices, a commitment to excellence and the school district offering students many opportunities to perform.
Judges in the Music In the Parks competition rated performances by assigning points in each of five categories – tone, intonation, rhythm, technique and musicality.
It might be hard to summarize a life in six words, but the assignment was to write a six-word memoir, so that’s what Bruce Procel, a Mahopac High School junior, set out to do.
“You’ll forget it, we all do,” he wrote as one memoir. Later he added: “It’s not going to last, so enjoy.”
Procel, who said he usually writes short stories – but not just six words long – in his free time, was one of the students from local high schools who attended the 35th Annual Young Author’s Conference. Sponsored by Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES in May. The conference, held virtually, attracted 160 students from 18 school districts.
Growing up, Crystal Maldonado loved books. But the books she read didn’t resonate with her.
“I never saw fat, Latino girls in the books I read,” Maldonado said. “I never saw fat, brown characters. It made me wonder if there was something wrong with me. Don’t we get to have adventures, I thought,” she said.
Maldonado’s experience spurred her to write, “Fat Chance, Charlie Vega,” a winsome, coming-of-age young adult novel whose protagonist is a self-described fat, Puerto Rican-American teenager.
Maldonado shared her writer’s journey at the conference with some of the region’s most talented young writers.
Maldonado, who has since written a second young adult novel, said her “driving force is the desire to make people feel seen.” She said her books include characters who are transgender, who have two moms, who are from different socio-economic groups.
One student asked Maldonado how she got her first book published. To which, she said, “Google is my friend. So, I finished my book and typed ‘I just wrote a book, now what’ into the google search and found a guide to all the steps to getting published.”
In addition to hearing from Maldonado, conference participants could choose from 17 workshops on topics ranging from writing the murder mystery to developing young adult characters to balancing realism and emotion in poetry.
Molly Decker, a Mahopac High School senior, said her favorite workshop centered on finding yourself in poetry.
“I write a lot of emotional poetry,” she said. “Poetry is short and you can do it in the moment. Writing short stories is much harder.”
Molly was impressed by the diversity of experiences her fellow young poets expressed.
“These days a lot of extracurricular activities are geared toward science,” said Adam Lewis, Chair of the English Department at Mahopac High School. “The Young Author’s Conference gives students who are interested in the humanities an opportunity to expand their skills and it also shows them that there is value in the humanities.”
Adams first saw the impact of the Young Author’s Conference 24 years ago, when he started as an English teacher in Mahopac.
“Mahopac participated before I even started in the district,” Adams said. “As long as BOCES has held the conference, Mahopac has sent students.”
In a workshop on Writing for the 5 o’clock News, reporter Nadia Galindo talked about not only reporting the facts, but thinking about visuals that can be used during the broadcast.
“When you are out on a story and someone says there’s a sign on that store that says something related to the story, make sure your camera person gets that footage because you need images to help tell the story,” she said.
Galindo also broke down the classic television news story into the intro that the anchor will read, a three-sentence summary of the story and a sound bite or quote from someone on the scene.
Danielle Colangelo, Jennifer Delvecchio and Diane Sarna organized the conference. In addition to Galindo, presenters included Alan Beechey, Carter Benes, Vin Dacquino, Joe Ferraro, Jimin Han, Chris Hansen-Nelson, Emma Kress, Terri Linton, Sangheeta Mehta, Matt Pasca, Kim Purcell, Steven Salvatore, Rachel M. Simon, Tom Slot, Frankie Soto and Amy Stern.
Mahopac High School junior Tay Chang received a $1,000 Brighter Future College Scholarship after winning an essay contest from Mountainside Treatment Center. Tay's health teacher, Valarie Nierman, recommended that Tay, who loves to write, submit to the contest, which sought essays that foster awareness surrounding the disease of addiction.
Though Tay's Mom, Grace Kim, and MHS guidance counselor, Marianna Callagy, knew about her win, they kept the secret. Mountainside officials Candace Dean and Alexandra Helfer came to the high school and surprised Tay with the scholarship.
The seniors who have been named valedictorian and salutatorian of the Mahopac High School Class of 2022 are not only highly driven, academically successful students, they also each intend to use their talents to make the world a better place.
Matteo Perillo, who was named valedictorian, plans to tackle climate change, and Kaylie Ann Hammond, who was named salutatorian, hopes to help people who suffer from traumatic brain injuries.
“They are remarkable students and caring people,” said Mahopac High School Principal Dr. Matthew Lawrence. “We are so proud of them, and I’m sure their families and friends are, too.”
Matteo, who is president of the school’s Environmental Club as well as a member of the National, Italian and Science Honor Societies, plans to study renewable energy engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.
“I’ve always been interested in the environment and I always liked science and math,” Matteo said. “So this is a way that I can help the environment while doing something I like.”
A well-rounded student, Matteo earned All League for cross country and plays trumpet in several school bands.
“What makes Matteo most proud is his work on a project through our Science Research Program,” Mahopac High School Guidance Counselor Anna Boyle said. “Students in the program are required to partner with a mentor in the research field and, although it was a challenge due to the pandemic, Matteo was able to start a project looking into perovskites which is a material used in research for experimental solar cells and determining how new additives can increase their stability thereby making it cheaper and less wasteful.”
Salutatorian Kaylie Ann Hammond is interested in rehabilitative engineering, which involves creating technological solutions to physical or cognitive problems. She plans to study biomedical engineering at Vanderbilt University because it has the research facilities for the kind of work she hopes to do.
“In the future I want to help people with brain injuries,” Kaylie Ann said. “Vanderbilt has all the programs and the research facilities for the things I want to do.”
“Although she has always had a passion for science, two major events in her life have influenced her interest in the field,” Guidance Counselor Anna Boyle said. “One was when her uncle was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury after a serious car accident. The other was when her sister was diagnosed with a brain lesion at four years old which also required invasive brain surgery and numerous medical visits and hospital stays over the next several years.”
Kaylie Ann is an AP Scholar, Scholar Athlete, and member of four academic Honor Societies. She is also captain of her gymnastics and tennis teams, and serves as treasurer in student government.
The theater kids at Mahopac High School had a lot to juggle this year. In addition to their regular, demanding schoolwork, they had to manage a highly condensed theater season that involved presenting two plays since Christmas break.
“This year has felt like one long season,” said Drama Director Christopher Purr, an English teacher. “We did the fall play and immediately jumped right into the spring musical. There were lots of challenges, but the students rose to the occasion.”
For three nights from April 28 to April 30,The Mahopac High School Drama Company dazzled the crowds with the spring musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”
The fall drama, “Clue,” had been presented in mid-January instead of November because of construction in the high school. As soon as that play wrapped, the drama club was back at it again, working on the spring musical.
“It is pretty much the same cast of students, so it’s asking a lot,” Purr said. “The kids show so much commitment. We were able to find a place for every student who chose to stay on board for the spring musical.”
The “Spelling Bee” show was a big production involving a large stage and technical crew. In addition to learning their lines, the dozens of student actors had to also learn the songs. Chorus teacher Jacob Rhodebeck taught the vocal music to the cast and provided the piano accompaniment, while band teacher Richard Williams led the pit band.
“We’re all pretty tired,” Purr said. “But we had a great time.”
(Photo credit: Manny Martinez)
Ava Van Nortwick leaned back in one of the Mahopac High School library media center’s new padded chairs and sighed.
“Nowhere in school has comfy chairs like this,” Van Nortwick, a junior, said. “These are the most comfortable chairs in the entire school. I’m going to come here every time I have a free period. On the days I have to stay after school for AP review at 5 o’clock, I’m going to come here with my friends and we can do our homework together in the study pod while we wait. This place is so nice.”
The high school’s library media center received rave reviews from the dozens of students who stopped by on Monday, March 21, the first day it opened after major renovations.
It’s easy to see why.
Gone are the dusty books, floor to ceiling shelves and “Shush, be quiet” vibe. Instead, students find a place where they can decompress, booths where they can sit and plug in their computers, small break-out rooms where a Chromebook screen can be cast onto a TV-sized display and bigger conference rooms where groups of up to eight students can work on projects together.
“The library is different than it used to be,” said Dara Berkwits, the library media specialist.
“It’s not a quiet zone anymore. It’s a place for social collaboration. The media center really is the center for the building’s technology.”
The library media center was renovated as part of the district’s $54 million bond referendum, which voters approved in 2019. Phase One of the renovation is complete, with major updates to the school entry way, music wing, STEM labs, science classrooms and cafeteria creating world-class spaces that facilitate learning.
“I haven’t been in the school library since 2019,” Brian Stone, a senior, said. “It’s so much bigger and so much better.”
Of course, the library still has plenty of books and printed materials, but it also has a “maker space,” where students can finish arts, crafts or other projects they might be working on. It has a Chromebook Loan Center, where the high school’s Chromebook guru — Patricia DellaMedaglia – can answer student questions and fix technical issues. And there will be a row of more powerful computers equipped with studio art and other sophisticated software that students can use to complete work after class.
“We can’t expect our students to have all the sophisticated technology they need to do high-level work at home,” Berkwits said. “We have to provide it for them.”
Berkwits, who has worked in the district for six years, helped design the media center renovation.
“It’s important to have the input of a librarian on the design,” she said. “You need to know how a library is used in a high school, and what to look out for.”
A librarian knows what the information needs of students are today and can anticipate their future information needs, which is essential when designing a space that will be used for many years to come. Berkwits also made sure that the library was designed with an eye to the kind of research spaces the students will encounter in college and career following graduation.
Jenna Mayer, a senior, stopped by to review her calculus homework between classes, while her friend, Molly McGrinder, did work for her college-level forensics class. They sat in a booth, spread their Chromebooks spread out on the table and plugged in.
“This is not like a library,” Mayer said. “It’s like a hangout.”
In the back of Scott Rizzo’s classroom at Mahopac High School sits a fish tank full of tiny brown trout swimming aimlessly. Suddenly the fish all dive to the bottom.
“What’s going on?” Rizzo, asks the class.
“There must be food at the bottom,” one student says. Though when they gather round, the students don’t see any food.
“Maybe the water temperature changed,” another student says, reaching for the thermometer.
Rizzo nods and watches. His method of teaching is inquiry-based, and he wants the students to come up with their own questions and ways to answer them.
“I don’t let them jump online,” he said. “I don’t give them answers. It is more of a ‘Let’s talk about this’ approach.”
Rizzo, who teaches Living Environment and college-level Forensics, was just named to the New York State Master Teacher Program, one of 230 teachers statewide to receive the recognition from Governor Kathy Hochul.
Mahopac High School’s science department has three other master teachers as well – Elizabeth Stephens, Michael Mahoney and Tricia Fuller-Johnson.
In the highly competitive program, Rizzo will participate in a professional learning community at SUNY New Paltz where he will engage in peer mentoring and help guide teachers who are at the beginning of their careers.
“This is my 27th year of teaching and I’m so excited to be a part of this,” Rizzo said. “The program lends itself to experimentation.”
Experimentation seems to come naturally to Rizzo, who runs the school’s recycling through the Biology Club, Genesis Water Quality Club and serves as an advisor to the Science Olympiad.
On a recent afternoon, he sent the dozen or so Water Quality Club members to a wetland outside to collect water samples for testing.
“If we’re not making a mess, we’re not doing something right,” Rizzo said. “I do everything I can to get them outside, to make them look around and ask questions.”
Rizzo himself may be asking questions in the three-year Master Teacher program, where he said he’ll be both mentor and mentee and is looking forward to taking some classes.---
caption: Mahopac High School science teacher Scott Rizzo and student Krista Burke feed the class trout
In the nearly four years since they started at Mahopac High School, Juliana Stefan and Alexander Gaspar have witnessed the transformation of the music department.
Back when the two were freshman, the band room had no soundproofing, and when they practiced, things would get loud – really, really loud.
“The sound would just echo off the walls and the noise was overwhelming,” Alexander, a cellist, said.”The acoustics were terrible. You couldn’t even hear yourself.”
The room also had built-in risers, which might be nice for chorus, but were not easy to navigate for those lugging an upright bass.
“As orchestra and band students, we didn’t need risers,” said Juliana, who plays bass. “Really, they just got in the way.”
Then there was the condition of the instruments. Many of the basses, cellos and violins had cracks in them from their wood expanding and contracting as the temperature and humidity in the building changed with the season.
Now, the music department has a state-of-the-art, climate-controlled storage hallway, where students can store instruments and know that they are safe from damage. It also has soundproof practice rooms, where students can perfect a piece they are working on.
Juliana said the renovation of the music wing, which was completed this spring, makes her realize how much Mahopac values music education. Mahopac routinely wins national recognition for having an outstanding music program, and now the district has put a lot of money into making sure its students have facilities to match their talents.
“I used to think that everything here was about sports and athletes, but look at this,” Alexander said, gesturing around the spacious practice room with its soundproof ceiling tiles in blue and yellow, the school colors. “This space is fantastic and the sound is amazing.”
When Mahopac school officials began seeking a wish list from teachers for what would bring the high school up to date, they kept hearing about the music department.
The district is known for its top-notch music education and offers a wide array of musical ensembles, including the Philharmonic Orchestra, String Sinfonietta, Chorus, Wind Ensemble & Symphonic Band. Mahopac was selected as one of the Best Communities for Music Education in 2021 by the NAMM Foundation.
But its facilities were lacking.
Now, the music wing could be the envy of every high school in the state. It has spacious, soundproof music and chorus rooms, professional-grade practice studios and climate controlled storage cubbies for instruments.
“It’s the best kind of musical environment for learning and performing,” School Superintendent Anthony DiCarlo said. “It has great aesthetics, smart design, a lot of sound proofing. Not only are the kids excited, the staff has been waiting for this for many years.”
The staff had a great vision, DiCarlo said. They knew that, in addition to performance, the district had to think about what happens to the instruments.
“We had to create storage to free up classroom space,” said the high school principal, Dr. Matthew Lawrence. “Before, kids were tripping over their instruments because there was no place to put them. We took a hallway that was behind the auditorium and created a temperature-controlled area where students could store their instruments.”
The $54 million bond issue was approved by voters in 2019. Phase 1, which is nearly complete, also included a new, secure front entrance, upgraded science rooms, high-tech STEM labs, a library/media center and an updated cafeteria.
“This is getting us to where we should be as a school district,” Superintendent DiCarlo said.
Bethany Itzla, a Mahopac High School senior whose striking print of koi fish is on display at the Young Artists 2022 show at the Katonah Museum of Art, said every gallery show is an education.
“I have had my work shown in public a couple of times before,” Bethany said. “It’s always interesting to hear what people say. But this time it was different because we helped install the show. To hear people talk about how a piece fits in with the work that’s displayed around it –- that made me think about art in a new way.”
Ten MHS seniors have artworks in the Katonah Museum show, which runs through February 27, and four of them helped install the show.
“It’s a great opportunity for students,” said Sean Flanagan, the interim chair of the high school Art Department. “Giving young artists a chance to show their work is really important. Our department has made sure there are many opportunities for student artists coming up.”
Mahopac High School’s Computer Graphics and Animation Class is working with the music department to create an animated visual for the Pops Concert on March 9, 2022. Later that same week, Mahopac elementary, middle and high school students will all be represented at the Garrison Art Center’s annual School Invitational Theme Exhibition, or SITE show, which opens March 12.
Mahopac Library displays student work in a bi-monthly rotation, and the Jefferson Valley Mall is planning a show of Mahopac student artwork. Then there’s the community-wide “District Art Hop” in May, which will showcase K-12 student work at Mahopac High School, Mahopac Library and the Putnam Arts Council.
But, the exhibit space Flanagan is most excited about is a gallery being set up right in the halls of the Mahopac High School art wing. Called “The Baldwin Gallery,” the hallway will allow student artworks to be shown where the artists’ biggest, most important audience – other students – can see them every day.
“We are all kind of used to having our art publicly displayed because we put it on Instagram and people react to it,” said Manny Martinez, who has a piece in the Katonah Museum show. “But to have it where people can walk around and look at it from different angles and talk about it in the real world, that’s really cool.”
It will also be a lot more convenient for busy young artists to have a space in their own school to see each other’s work.
Holly Cote, a senior, has not yet even found the time to see her own painting which is hanging in the Young Artists show at Katonah Museum.
“I want to go, but I’ve been busy with school,” Holly said. “I also have an internship at an interior design business in Beacon, a job at Carvel and I’m on the ski team.”
Sydney Hughes, Mahopac High School’s 2018 Valedictorian and a senior at Princeton University, has been awarded one of Princeton’s highest honors. She will spend two years studying in Munich, Germany, working to fight climate change.
Hughes was awarded the Daniel M. Sachs Class of 1960 Graduating Scholarship, which is intended to broaden the global experience of its recipients by providing them with the opportunity to study, work or travel abroad after graduation.
“Hughes has committed herself to addressing the climate crisis in ways both large and small,” Princeton University said in announcing the award. “At Princeton, she is concentrating in chemical and biological engineering and pursuing certificates in sustainable energy and German.”
After graduating from Princeton, Hughes plans to spend two years at the Technical University of Munich, Germany and work with one of the world’s leading hydrogen fuel cell research teams, the university’s news release said.
Hughes’s academic success started close to home.
“I think it all started with the teachers in the Mahopac schools inspiring her,” Andrea Hughes, Sydney’s mother, said. “From kindergarten through high school, her love for learning came from the teachers who motivated her. She had so many opportunities here, with a balance of academics, sports and music. Mahopac schools even furthered her love for travel; she went to Italy with the Italian Club, Costa Rica with science and Florida with the band.”
In her application essay for the scholarship, Hughes said that she hoped to contribute to a solution for climate change by improving fuel cells so they can be used to power transportation.
“Climate change causes wildfires, droughts, sea level rise, and species extinction, which jeopardize human health, water and food resources, and the future of our ecosystems,” she said. “To mitigate climate change, we will need to expand and improve current sustainable energy sources to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels.”
From high tech to hijinks, the Mahopac High School Drama Club’s three-day production of the comedy/murder mystery “Clue” was a student-run affair.
Drama Director Christopher Purr, an English teacher, said 63 students worked on the production, including actors, stage crew and technical crew.
“We pride ourselves on having the kids mostly running things,” Purr said. “They build the sets, they place the sets. They handle the tech, the lights, the sound. Sometimes they help with costumes. It’s different with each play we do, depending on the strengths of the kids who sign up.”
Dayton Halmy, a senior and president of the student Drama Club, has been in every play since her freshman year. When she heads to college in the fall, though, she doesn’t plan to major in theater.
“This is just something I love doing,” said Halmy, who portrayed Mrs. Peacock, a daffy older woman. “It lets me get together with all my friends. People in sports have been able to do so much more during the pandemic. I’m so thankful to Superintendent (Anthony) DiCarlo for letting us put on this show.”
Until she was cast as Mr. Green tenth grader Kaitlyn Pearsall didn’t know much about the play “Clue,” in which a group of dinner guests is caught up in a raucous murder and blackmail scheme.
“Before this, I really just played the board game,” she said.
Nonetheless, Pearsall said she was most surprised by how the stress of putting on a show could bring everyone involved together.
“You cannot get mad at anyone here,” Pearsall said. “I’ve made a lot of friends.”
Breseis Forte played the French maid. An 11th grader, Forte has been in school plays before, but this is her first big role.
“I remember being a freshman and seeing the leads on stage testing their mics,” Forte said. “I thought that was so cool. Now, I wear a mic. It feels so professional.”
“Clue” had been scheduled for the fall but was postponed until Jan. 13, 14 and 15 because of construction in the high school. In just a few weeks, the drama club will start working on the spring musical, which is scheduled to open April 28.
“It’s a lot,” Purr said. “The kids are really into it, however. They are so glad to be back. This is the first time we’ve been on the high school stage in almost two years.”
The drama club was just ready to open “Wizard of Oz” in the spring of 2020 when schools were shuttered because of Covid. Then the fall 2021 production of “Charlotte’s Web” was videotaped without a live audience. Last spring, they performed the musical “Working” just once, for parents only, at The Falls School.
English teacher Sonya Velez has served as Assistant Drama Director for more years than she cares to remember. Still, she never forgets a play.
“This is my 42nd production at Mahopac High School,” Velez said. “I know the number of shows based on the number of T-shirts that I have. Soon, I’ll need a new room in my house just to store them all.”
(Photos by Manny Martinez)
For Caroline Carey, the quest to sing in Illusion, Mahopac High School’s annual student rock concert began in sixth grade, when she first saw the show.
“Illusion was my goal,” she said. “It’s a bunch of talented kids coming together to do what they love, and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Now a senior, Caroline, 17, has been part of Illusion for three years, once as crew and twice as a singer. She performed on stage at MHS auditorium for three nights this year – December 9, 10 and 11 – singing such rock anthems as Joan Jett & the Blackheart’s “I Hate Myself For Loving You.” before a highly enthusiastic crowd.
The Mahopac Central School District is known for a well-rounded curriculum that gives students a lot of opportunities to play music. The high school offers a wide array of musical ensembles, including the Philharmonic Orchestra, String Sinfonietta, Chorus, Wind Ensemble & Symphonic Band. The district was selected as one of the Best Communities for Music Education in 2021 by the NAMM Foundation.
Illusion began as a jazz-rock ensemble at the school in 1981, said the show’s director Stas Przymylski, an audio and video production teacher at Mahopac High School. And he should know.
Przymylski performed in Illusion when he was a Mahopac High School student in 1988 and 1989. When he started teaching in the school in 1994, he signed on as assistant director for Illusion and, in 2006, he became director.
“This is the real deal,” Przymylski said. “The kids rehearse for months. We bring in professionals to do the lights, the sound, the video. It’s a very professional performance.”
This year, the school’s most talented rock musicians and vocalists performed songs from Journey, Harry Styles, Stevie Wonder, Paramore, Taylor Swift, Fall Out Boy and more. Due to Covid, seating was limited to 300 per night, with masking and social distancing in place. Still, students said they were thrilled to be performing in the auditorium again. Last year’s performance was held outside on the turf field.
Senior Ethan Haley said he changed the whole course of his music education so that he could play drums in Illusion.
“I was doing a community service project for NJHS in eighth grade, selling food and drinks outside the auditorium,” Haley said. “I came in for a bit and I was really blown away. I decided that’s what I wanted to do. I switched from trumpet to drums in band so I could play in Illusion.”
Cameron Dinsmore, a sophomore who plays keyboard and five other instruments, is one of the few performers to get cast in Illusion the first time she auditioned.
“Everyone told me I was not going to make it as a freshman, but I tried out and I did,” she said.
Mahopac High School junior Rachel Berger played First Violin in the All-State Symphony Orchestra at the NYSSMA Conference in Rochester in early December. The All-State Symphony Orchestra is made up of the top student musicians in New York and Rachel was selected after auditioning at the Solo Festival in the spring.
“Even scoring perfectly at the audition, which Rachel did, does not guarantee you a spot in one of the ensembles,” said Evan McGregor, MHS Orchestra Director and Music Department Chair. “Rachel's selection is a testament to her drive for excellence and her achievement of it.”
Rachel, who started playing violin when she was 5 years old, said it was great to play with a group of such high-level musicians at All-State, but that she also enjoys playing at local hospitals and nursing homes, which she has done for community service.
“I really love to play violin because I find it extremely rewarding to see how my music can bring comfort and joy to others,” Rachel said. “It is incredibly heartwarming to see the faces of the old and sick light up when I perform.”
The Mahopac Central School District is known for its outstanding performing arts. The high school offers a wide array of musical ensembles including the Philharmonic Orchestra, String Sinfonietta, Chorus, Wind Ensemble & Symphonic Band and produces a musical extravaganza known as “Illusion” each year featuring the district’s most talented rock musicians and vocalists. It is also regularly cited as among the Best Schools for Music Education by the NAMM Foundation.
As if she weren’t already accomplished enough, Jennifer Degl, an Earth Science teacher at Mahopac High School, just added another achievement to her portfolio.
Degl, who has taught at MHS since 1999, was first inspired to activism when her daughter was born prematurely in 2012 and spent months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Valhalla.
Since then, Degl has written three books about the experience, testified in front of Congress twice, been named to the leadership team of the International Neonatal Consortium, and founded Maria’s Hope, a support group that mentors parents who have babies in the NICU at the children’s hospital. In October, she had another first: Degl was the lead author in a scientific research paper published in the Journal of Perinatology that grew out of her weekly volunteer work in the Maria Fareri NICU.
“We wanted to look at how doctors, nurses and parents communicate with each other in the NICU,” Degl said. “I put together a survey of 323 neonatologists, neonatal nurses and NICU parents from around the globe, and we found ways that communication could be improved. When research scientists speak to parents, they speak at a completely different level, with their own scientific vocabulary. Parents, who are under a lot of stress at the time, often do not speak out and say that they do not understand. So there’s a lot of miscommunication.”
Degl, a mother of four, remembers being overwhelmed when her daughter Joy was born extremely premature, weighing just one pound four ounces. Joy spent 121 days in the NICU. The experience set Degl on a mission to improve healthcare for preemies.
“All of the research and volunteering I do helps me to be a better teacher and the opposite is true as well,” said Degl, who also teaches Living Environment and the MHS Life class for freshman at the high school. “Both experiences help me to better the lives of children. My experience as a NICU parent mentor has helped me immensely as a teacher of the MHS Life course at the high school. I have been mentoring NICU parents for years as they process fear, confusion, conflict, sadness and grief. I'd like to think that all of those experiences shape me and I know they provide me with additional tools to support my students at MHS.”
A dozen Mahopac High School athletes signed commitment letters with colleges during the Senior Signing Day ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 10.
As student fans, parents, siblings and grandparents cheered them on, the athletes signed letters of intent to play the sport they love at the collegiate level.
Stephen Luciana, Mahopac’s athletics director, told the group they had good reason to be proud.
“Playing college sports is not easy,” said Stephen Luciana, director of health, physical education and athletics for the Mahopac School District. “You are the top of the heap, the best of the best. You represent a very small percentage of the student athletes across the nation.”
The players were recruited across many sports, the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams, women’s soccer, women’s basketball, softball and baseball.
“As you move forward, you’re elite in terms of your commitment to your sport,” Mahopac High School Principal Dr. Matthew Lawrence said. “But nobody goes to college just to play sports.”
Lawrence noted that in going to college students would have to concentrate on their academic and professional careers as well.
Michael Mongon, the president of the Mahopac Board of Education told the students: “You personify the highest standard of leadership and character.”
Then he read the list of the student athletes who had signed commitment letters.
• Audrey Colucci, Lacrosse, Lynn University
• Julie DeBrocky, Basketball, Manhattanville College
• Madison DeCola, Soccer, Seton Hall University
• Melanie DeMeo, Basketball, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth
• Chris Evans, Lacrosse, Springfield College
• Michael Harney, Lacrosse, United States Military Academy at West Point
• Ava Jennings, Lacrosse, University of Cincinnati
• Mia Lanter, Softball, Wesleyan University
• Sean Massett, Lacrosse, Monmouth University
• Madeline McCrosson, Soccer, The College at Brockport
• Chris McKeon, Baseball, Siena College
• Avery Przymylski, Lacrosse, Coastal Carolina
• Ally Savino, Lacrosse, University of Indianapolis
There will be another senior signing day ceremony in the spring for students who have not yet decided, football players and some others.
Mahopac High School senior Anthony DeMatteo has been named Con Edison's Athlete of the Week.
Quarterback and captain of the team, Anthony earned the award for his performance in last week's game, said the Con Ed Panel of athletic directors and coaches who chose him.
"Anthony DeMatteo led the Mahopac HS Football Team to a 44-6 victory over Panas to secure the #2 seed in the Section One Playoffs for Class A North,” the panel wrote in a press release. “Anthony was 8-10 passing for 249 yards and 5 TDs. What is most compelling is that he achieved these numbers in the 1st Half and did not play in the 2nd Half.”
As the panel noted, Anthony is also the third generation of DeMatteos to win the award. His grandfather Tony won it in 1959, his father, Dominick, won it in 1989. Dominick is the team’s coach.
“To be selected as Athlete of the Week is a great honor,” Mahopac Superintendent of Schools Anthony DiCarlo said. “Congratulations to Anthony, his teammates, the football program and Coach DeMatteo. Anthony, we wish you all the best for you and the team on Friday night.”
The Con Edison Athlete of the Week award recognizes students in Westchester and Putnam schools who excel athletically and academically. Leadership, citizenship, and school and community activities are also taken into account. The winner is chosen each week by a panel of athletic directors and coaches who review ballots submitted by each athlete’s athletic director or coach.
"In my short time at Mahopac, I have been very impressed by the character Anthony DeMatteo has shown, '' Mahopac Athletic Director Stephen Luciana said. “He is the true definition of a student-athlete who has excelled on the field and in the classroom. We are very proud of Anthony for this well deserved honor.“
Anthony, who has been starting quarterback since his sophomore year, has received All League and All Conference honors. A three-season athlete, Anthony also plays on Mahopac’s basketball and baseball teams.
In addition to sports, Anthony is President of the Spanish Club, a member of the National Honor Society and volunteers with community youth camps.
"Anthony has evolved into a mature and responsible leader for our Mahopac community,” Coach DeMatteo said. “He has proven himself time and time again as a student, athlete and most importantly as a person. Ultimately, Anthony serves as an excellent role model for all of the young children in our community."
The VEX V5 robots raced across the table, grabbed plastic cones and returned them to the teams of students competing to collect the most cones in a two-minute stretch.
The robotics race may have looked like a game, and the students’ cheers and laughter certainly made it sound like one, but there was serious science behind it.
“We start with a friendly challenge and then move on to solve complex design problems,” said Thomas Mellin, who teaches the Principles of Engineering class at Mahopac High School. “Later, the students’ Chromebooks will connect to a coding platform that links to the robots. We use VEX VR, a virtual program, to introduce them to coding and machine control.”
Mellin, who holds degrees in physics and education, teaches three engineering courses for students in grades 9 through 12. He works closely with another engineering teacher,
Jennifer Johnston, whose experience as a chemical engineer includes work at IBM and several other companies.
The classes are held in the high school’s new STEM area, which is designed to cultivate student interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and prepare them for college and careers.
“This is so much fun,” said Anthony Pfeifer, 16. “It helps me learn what I want to do. If someone is thinking about engineering, I’d say definitely take these classes.”
Though only a junior, Pfeifer is already certain he wants to study engineering.
Victoria Longo, a senior, juggled her schedule to make sure the engineering class fit.
“I’ve been trying to teach myself coding and I know how to write a basic if-then statement,” said Longo, describing a programming command for making decisions. “But, if I want to be a chemical engineer, do I still need coding?”
To which her teacher answered: all types of engineers need computing and coding skills now.
Thus began the coding part of the class, where the dozen or so students each created code to maneuver an on-screen robot to pick up a cone, mimicking their real-world robot challenge.
It was just another day of fun, games and high-tech learning in a STEM classroom.
“The students are engaged and excited about every challenge we give them,” Mellin said. ”I’m so privileged to have the opportunity to apply physics to engineering and focus on problem solving and design with students.”
Mahopac High School Art Teacher Sean Flanagan has been busy this summer! He announced this week the publication of a children's book called “Sam’s Unboring Adventure” which he wrote and published.
“This labor of love is finally complete,” said Flanagan. “I started on it when my son was in his early stages of bedtime reading and have now (finally) completed it with the arrival of my third child!”
In the story, the main character, Sam, rediscovers his imagination after setting out on an urban adventure through Manhattan and visiting a buddy in Suburbia (or "upstate" to most N.Y.C. Dwellers). An ordinary trip to the ‘burbs turns into a wild adventure of ingenuity from morning to night.
“The story has a strong local connection, you'll see I used lots of iconic imagery
from Central Park, Grand Central and The Metropolitan Museum of Art,” he said. Flanagan’s goal was to depict Sam’s desire to explore, be brave, and learn to look at his surroundings differently in a way that was infectious and would ultimately push young readers to be creative and to “see more.” “It has been an exciting experience that would have never come to fruition without the support of my family and friends!
The book is available on Amazon and anyone wishing to obtain a signed copy of the book should email Flanagan directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mahopac Central School District has been again honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from The NAMM Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education. Now in its 22nd year, the Best Communities for Music Education designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students.
“This truly is a district effort,” said Evan McGregor MHS Orchestra Director and K-12 Music Department Chairperson. “From the support at district office for funding, accessibility, and curriculum development; the daily guidance and coordination from our building administrators; custodial staff making sure the facilities are in the best shape for our students to succeed; and the tireless efforts of our dedicated music teachers from K-12, working with our students everyday in every way, shape, and form.”
To qualify for the Best Communities designation, detailed data was analyzed about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program and community music-making programs. The details of Mahopac CSD’s Music Program were verified with school officials and reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.
Since the passage by Congress in 2015 of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and a stated emphasis on a well-rounded education, many school districts have re-committed to music and arts education programs and found that in this time of a national pandemic music provides a valuable way to keep students engaged in school.
Michael Tromblee, the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Learning, best articulated the district’s commitment to its music education program: “Our Strategic Road Map states that one of our goals as an educational community is to support students in becoming collaborative and creative critical thinkers. There is a well known link between high quality music education supporting students develop and refine critical thinking skills. Additionally, we seek to educate the whole child at Mahopac and engaging in the study and creation of music benefits our students in so many ways. I want to thank the faculty of our music department and our community for their dedication to and support of our music education programs.”
Research into music education continues to demonstrate educational, cognitive and social skill benefits for children who make music: After two years of music education, researchers found that participants showed more substantial improvements in how the brain processes speech and reading scores than their less-involved peers and that students’ everyday listening skills are stronger in musically trained children than in those without music training. Significantly, listening skills are closely tied to the ability to: perceive speech, pay attention, and aural memory. Later in life, individuals who took music lessons as children show stronger neural processing of sound: young adults and even older adults who have not played an instrument for up to 50 years show enhanced neural processing compared to their peers. Not to mention, social benefits include conflict resolution, teamwork skills, and how to give and receive constructive criticism.
Echoing these benefits of Mahopac’s music program, Mahopac High School senior, Max Semegran, who was selected as one of the best violinists in the state to perform with the NY All-State Symphony Orchestra, stated that "...Mahopac High School's orchestra has been such a major part of my high school experience, I can't imagine my time at Mahopac without it. Educationally, orchestra has given me self-control, brain development, and teamwork, important things for any student to have. Arguably more important however, are the memories that I have made in orchestra. I recall entering the stage my first day of school filled with nerves. These nerves were quickly put to rest with the humorous yet confident leadership of Mr. McGregor and the comradery of my fellow musicians. Little did I know how many incredible times I would have with this wonderful group of people... I will forever cherish the memories that I have made in MHS' orchestra."
The music program in Mahopac has a strong heritage and is continuing to grow recognition for a remarkable culture of excellence. In recent years, Mahopac has been well represented by the middle and high school ensembles (band, orchestra, and chorus) at regional competitions, receiving superior ratings and the MHS Philharmonic Orchestra has received multiple best overall orchestra awards. For the past few school years, members of the MHS Symphonic Band were selected as best in the state for the New York State Band Directors Association (NYSBDA) Honor Band and Jazz Band. In 2020, two Mahopac students were section leaders of the NYSBDA Jazz Band. The MHS Jazz Band continues to be recognized as the “Showcase Band'' at the Sleepy Hollow Jazz Festival, along with numerous other individual recognitions in the competition. Last year, sixth grader Sarah Kayler was one of two elementary student composers selected for the All-State Conference Composers Showcase.
Current senior, Mark Dusociv said, “I feel like I've improved a lot as a musician because of this music program. I've also made some of my best friends through it. I love how many opportunities we get to perform in and out of school.” Indeed, within the Mahopac community the MCSD music program hosts a multitude of events every year. Fulmar Rd, Lakeview, and Austin Rd Elementary put on multiple band, orchestra, jazz, and chorus concerts each school year. The middle school groups do the same, along with a hit, spring musical production and an end-of-year Steel Drum concert with Mr. Flynn. At the high school, there are many great events. A late-winter Pops Concert is always a packed community event, hosted by the Mahopac Friends of Music parent group. Mr. Rich Williams and Mr. Steve Wands, directing the Jazz Bands, put on a swing dance night every winter which has professionally-led dance lessons and an evening of upbeat swing tunes. The Jazz Bands also put on an always sold-out spring show at the St. George Winery in Mohegan Lake. The high school rock experience, Illusion, annually holds three straight nights of arena rock and top 40 pop, to a packed and energetic audience. Illusion, directed by Stas Przymylski, also recently performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A true community staple, members of the marching band can be seen at every home football game and in Mahopac parades.
A member of the MHS Philharmonic and Chamber Orchestras, class of ‘21 senior Olivia Vataj said that "being a part of orchestra and the wider music community here at Mahopac has been such a rewarding experience. Making music with my friends and peers is one of the defining components of my high school career, and I am so lucky that we still have such a vibrant and welcoming music program during distance learning."
When the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, and New York went on lockdown, that did not stop Mahopac CSD Music from being there for the students. A quick look at the Virtual Performance playlist from Mr. Williams and the MHS Bands shows that music education remained a vital part of the student experience, and the weekly installments gave the community a regular bright spot to look forward to. Vincenzo Pascarella, in the junior class at MHS, said that “even during this pandemic we have been able to rehearse and perform in ways that have helped restore a bit of normalcy during these crazy times."
Fellow bandmate, Dylan Ellrodt (class of ‘21), put it best, saying, "The Mahopac Music program has and continues to change my life for the better every day. I have no idea where I would be now if not for this music program." Through the continuous trials of the COVID crisis, Mahopac’s music program continues to work hard for the students, and the spring performances are highly anticipated. “I want to say that I've really enjoyed being a part of the orchestra these past few years. The music program helped me love performing and I'm honestly super impressed by the hard work and musical successes of the music community here, especially during the pandemic,” said Alexa Tyberg, Class of ‘21. The music program in Mahopac Schools continues to be a hallmark of the community and with a hope towards normalcy, the student musicians of Mahopac High School will be eventually welcomed by completely renovated rehearsal spaces and classrooms as a part of the ongoing Capital Bond Project.
Mahopac CSD’s Program provides a robust offering from beginning instruction to college and AP coursework. There are opportunities for all students at all levels to be involved and learn from the top-level educators of the music department. The Mahopac CSD music program is staffed by Elizabeth Day (Austin Rd), Marcia Webb (Lakeview), Jennifer Gilbert (Fulmar Rd), Joseph Seeley (Middle School), Steve Wands (Elementary Band), Don Flynn (MS Band), Rich Williams (HS Band), Heather Palkewick (MS Chorus), Jacob Rhodebeck (HS Chorus), Stas Przymylski (Music Technology), Rob Loprinzo (Elementary Orchestra), Katelyn Tai (MS Orchestra), Evan McGregor (HS Orchestra).
About The NAMM Foundation
The NAMM Foundation is a nonprofit supported in part by the National Association of Music Merchants and its approximately 10,400 members around the world. The foundation advances active participation in music making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving and public service programs. For more information about The NAMM Foundation, please visit www.nammfoundation.org.
Dear MHS Community,
During these difficult times we are all experiencing a wide range of emotions and reactions. We understand that you may be feeling scared, confused, overwhelmed, angry, alone, or isolated - sometimes all at once. Together, the Mahopac High School Climate Committee in collaboration with Mr. Zides, Mahopac Secondary Ed Tech Specialist, and Mr. Vanno, MHS School Counselor: We are launching the Mahopac High School Virtual Calming Site! We created this site to give our students, staff, and families a virtual space to turn to when you need a break, or just want time to repair and rejuvenate.
What is a Virtual Calming Site? A virtual calming site in an online collection of tools and strategies designed to help our students and staff manage challenging emotions and build resilience to face life’s challenges in healthy ways.
At the Mahopac High School Virtual Calming Site, you can find a variety of resources from mindfulness and guided meditation, visual relaxation, exercises and yoga, sounds and music, mantras and motivation, live animal cameras, art, coloring and creativity, puzzles and games, health, wellness and nutrition, Mahopac community resources, Smartphone Apps, and even calming resources created and curated by our own MHS faculty, staff, and students.
Please take a moment of exploration and enjoy the Mahopac High School Virtual Calming Site.
Find your calm!
April Ljumic, Assistant Principal
Attachment: FINAL MHS VCS FLYER
Congratulations to Seniors Jessica Caputo and Andrea Jenkins and Junior Marisa Caputo for being recognized by State Senator Peter Harckham for their leadership and commitment to bettering their communities. These courageous Mahopac students, along with members of Mahopac for Racial Justice, hosted the Rally and Protest against Racism that drew hundreds of residents and served as a forum for people to openly share their stories of racism that they have experienced here in Mahopac. We applaud these students and all of the award recipients for their Compassion, Problem Solving, Risk Taking, and Resilience!
Congrats to the seven Mahopac High School students whose work was recognized at the Westchester Science & Engineering Fair (WESEF) and to all our students who participated!! 564 students from around the region participated in the virtual fair this year. MHS sent seven projects and were awarded a total of six awards!
“Please join me in congratulating all of the MHS Science Research students on their participation in the WESEF. These students all upheld the MHS Core Values as they completed scientific research despite a global pandemic and I am so proud of all that they accomplished,” said MHS’ Science Research Advisor Elizabeth Stephens who worked with Mahopac’s Science Research program and credits shares her students’ success this year with all of Mahopac, “Thank you to MCSD for continuously supporting the scientific endeavors of our students, and to the entire Mahopac Community for consistently pushing our students to be the best that they can be.Congratulations to our winners and to all our seniors!”
Alexander Gaspar and Andrea Settembrini: Recipient of the Leason Ellis Team Project Award
Victoria Longo and Olivia Saturn: Recipient of the Critica Behavioral Science Achievement Award
Renuka Muralidhar: Recipient of the United States Air Force Award
Alexa Tyberg: Recipient of a 2nd Place Award in the category of Computer Science
Maxwell Semegran: Recipient of the American Meteorological Society Award AND Recipient of the Teatown Young Environmentalist Award
Additionally, MHS was the lucky recipient of a brand new, top of the line Stereo Microscope thanks to a generous donation by Carl Zeiss Microscopy!
Here's a complete list of Mahopac's WESEF Categories and Project Title submissions:
Behavioral and Social Sciences
Veronika Bilinkski and Kiarra Condon: "Analyzing the Change in Crime Rates Among Different Areas in New York Due to the Outbreak of Covid-19"
Alexander Gaspar and Andrea Settembrini: "The Relationship of the Platforms Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram with Depression, Stress, and Anxiety in High School Students" (Recipient of the Leason Ellis Team Project Award)
Victoria Longo and Olivia Saturn: "The Effects of Artificial and Natural Ambient Light on Short Term Memory" (Recipient of the Critica Behavioral Science Achievement Award)
Nicole Silvagni: "Effect of Owners' Personality on Dogs' (Canis Lupus Familiaris) Behavior"
Renuka Muralidhar: "Modeling for Identifying Methane Emissions" (Recipient of the United States Air Force Award)
Alexa Tyberg: "Investigating Channel-Adapted Bacon-Shor Quantum Error Correction Codes in a Realistic Setting" (Recipient of a 2nd Place Award in the category of Computer Science)
Maxwell Semegran: "Aquatic Invasive Species Survey of Lake Mahopac" (Recipient of the American Meteorological Society Award and Recipient of the Teatown Young Environmentalist Award)
April Ljumic, High School Assistant Principal, and Kelley Posch, High School MHS LIFE and Math teacher have been selected to present a breakout session for the Putnam|Northern Westchester Curriculum Council’s Virtual Learning Regional Conference, which will be held via Zoom on Friday, December 4, 2020. April and Kelley are co-facilitating a break-out session entitled: “More Than Screens: Forming Lasting Relationships in a Virtual World” with Dan Novak and Catherine Leist from the Center for Environmental Education at PNW BOCES. In this session, teachers and administrators will focus on creating and fostering relationships built on trust in a hybrid and virtual setting. Mahopac High School’s “MHS LIFE” 9th grade program will be showcased for its work in building positive long-term relationships and its collaboration with the Center for Environmental Education of PNW BOCES to continue this great work in a virtual setting. Showcased practices are designed to build empathy, facilitate communication, and encourage lasting personal development and healthy relationships even through a screen.
On November 20, parents, coaches, District administration, and teammates gathered on the turf - masked and socially distanced - to celebrate our student-athletes’ commitment to playing at the collegiate level. The event was broadcast on LocalLive.
Congratulations Shannon Becker (University Of Notre Dame/Softball), Brett Shane Crecco (Mercy College/Lacrosse), Krista Dietz (Pace University/Field Hockey), Gigi Genovese (Pace University/Lacrosse), Vincent Mariella (Susquehanna University/Baseball), Tatiana Moran (Mercy College/Lacrosse), John T. Nolan (Pace University/Lacrosse), Caitlyn O’Boyle (Tufts University/Basketball), Jack O’Connor (Suny Oneonta/Baseball), and Hailey Pereira (Bryant University/ Soccer)!
Please enjoy this Spotlight especially for MHS Families about the reopening.
Max Semegran has been chosen to participate in the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) All-State Festival. The festival will be held virtually.
Over 7,000 student musicians from across the state compete for a spot in one of the eight All-State ensembles. Being named as a violinist is the result of an arduous process including performing scales, a solo or ensemble piece of choice from the designated NYSSMA repertoire, and a sight reading piece. The judges score and comment on the students' performances according to defined guidelines set by NYSSMA.
“Participating in such a prestigious event significantly benefits students,” said Mahopac High School Orchestra Director Evan McGregor. “I truly wish Max could meet fellow musicians and perform to an in-person audience, but the experience still offers an opportunity to learn and play challenging material. Last year, Max was selected as an alternate but ultimately did not get selected to participate, so this year being able to participate as a full member of the All-State String Orchestra is particularly gratifying. I'm proud of the work he's done and I think a fine example of Mahopac's potential.”
“In addition to earning a perfect ACT score, being named a National Merit Semifinalist, being a three season athlete, and now NYSSMA All-State, Max is a peer leader, brother, and community member,” said MHS Principal Matt Lawrence. “Over the years we’ve had the pleasure of watching him grow and flourish. We look forward to his All-State performance.”
It’s not going to shock any of you with teens and tweens that your kids are rather obsessed with technology. But do you have a good handle on just how they’re engaged with different types of media and how much time they’re actively spending on their devices? USA Today
Check out this infographic with highlights from the just released 2019 Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens.
Kids' media preferences are changing, and one of the biggest changes is time spent watching online videos. More than twice as many young people watch videos every day than did in 2015, and the average time spent watching has roughly doubled. The shift from TV to online viewing means kids are often watching content alone, and there are fewer opportunities for shared experiences with family. This also means more time engaged with unregulated and unrated platforms like YouTube. PR Newswire
Mahopac High School is pleased to announce our LocalLive web channel for live and on-demand video that keeps us connected with our athletic team games.
Go Pac! For more information about Mahopac High School Athletics go to https://www.mahopac.k12.ny.us/groups/11071/athletics/home