Dr. Kaci Schiavone was the keynote speaker at the 33rd annual Top 10 dinner on Monday at Hickory Ridge Golf Course and Country Club.
HOLLEY – The top 10 graduates at four school districts n Orleans County were told their small-town roots will serve them well as they head to the next stage of their lives.
Dr. Kaci Schiavone, a 2009 graduate from Holley, last year earned her medical doctorate degree from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Buffalo. She is currently a general surgery resident physician at the University of Rochester.
Her training requires her to care for critically ill patients while engaging in multi-disciplinary surgical setting. Upon completing the five-year residency program, Schiavone will continue training in a more specialized surgical fellowship.
She admitted during her speech that she often wondered if she was ill-prepared for the rigorous coursework, especially compared to her classmates, who typically came from more affluent school districts or prep schools.
“You’re likely to meet many people who had very different upbringings than you had and they’ll lack the perspective you’ve garnered by being raised here,” Schiavone told about 200 people at the Top 10 dinner. “You may not realize it yet but there is immeasurable value in that perspective.”
More of her classmates drove luxury vehicles than had ever been to a farm.
“They predominantly went to large high schools where they didn’t know most of the students they graduated with,” she said. “And in the beginning of my life outside of high school, that made me feel like an outsider. It took me time to realize though that that difference was not something to make me feel inferior, but should be a point of pride.
“As a product of this place, you are all endowed with a deep sense of community. There is a feeling of belonging, an understanding that the people around you are all connected to you, and that they all play a role in your development as a person, no matter how small their role is. That sense of community will guide you when you leave here and hopefully you will infect others with it as you interact with new people and places.”
Abrianna Kruger of Holley is congratulated for being in Holley’s Top 10. She is shaking hands with Lynne Johnson, chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature. County Legislator Bill Eick is at left. Brian Bartalo, the Holley school district superintendent, is next to Johnson.
Schiavone said the seniors who are soon to graduate will see their lives speed up.
“You should be excited, but wherever it is you’re headed, remember where you came from,” she told the Top 10. “While I have spent every year since graduation in one city or another, I am so appreciative that I was raised out here, in the country. I have met plenty of people – good people with good intentions – who have a hard time truly understanding what matters in life.”
Dr. Schiavone offered the Top 10 some advice if they are feeling overmatched in college or in their careers.
“If you find yourself in that position, I encourage you to do what I did: call your mom, take five minutes to cry, and then fight through it,” she said. “It may mean that you need to recalibrate, adjust, or just work a little harder, but you have already shown that you are smart and hardworking and that you have it in you to succeed.”
Her mother is Karri Schiavone, Holley’s elementary school principal. Her father Dan Schiavone is a dentist in Holley.
June Christensen, Kendall school district superintendent, hugs Morgan Davis, one of Kendall’s honor grads.
Kaci Schiavone urged the Top 10 to face adversity and challenges head on.
“Do not run away from it when it is no longer easy,” she said. “It is not meant to be. You don’t grow by taking on the easy tasks. And growth is really the meaning of life. It is what will keep your life interesting and will make you feel as if you are moving toward something. To that extent, you must treat your accomplishments as rest stops and less so as final destinations.”
Schiavone also highlighted her fiancé, Michael Pretsch, who graduated from Holley in 2007. He didn’t push himself too hard as a Holley student, but he has since graduated from law school and is a lawyer.
“It is important to use high school and the work you’ve put in so far as a foundation and not as a definition of who you are,” Schiavone said. “What you have attained to date will always be a part of you, but there will also be so much more.”
Anna Oakley of Kendall is congratulated by Lynne Johnson. Nadine Hanlon, president of the Kendall Board of Education, is next to Johnson.
The Top 10 at the four school districts include:
• Holley — Emily Bibby, Neila Hand, McKenzie Hill, Abrianna Kruger, Shawna Lusk, Madison Marsh, Gregory Morrill, Lexianne Seewagen, Anastasiya Yaroshchuk and Kristina Yaroshchuk.
• Kendall — Ryan Barrett, Ethan Billings, Jessica Coble, Morgan Davis, Matthew DiNatale, Michael Gardner, Peter Gilman, Hunter Menze, Anna Oakley and John Rath.
• Lyndonville — Justin Corser, Hannah Despard, Grace Hayes, Noah Heinsler, Tamara Huzair, Anna Lewis, Sage Moore, Natalie Ostrowski, Jocelyn Plummer and Carly-Grace Woodworth.
• Medina — Emma Baldwin, Alissa Blount, Jessica Granchelli, Margaret Griffin, Kaela Grosslinger, Kody Leno, Raymond Paull, Cora Payne, Jonathan Pietrafesa and Kali Schrader.
Grace Hayes of Lyndonville is greeted by Jason Smith, Lyndonville’s school district superintendent.
Margaret Griffin of Medina is congratulated by Mark Kruzynski, the district superintendent.
Anna Lewis of Lyndonville accepts her awards from Lyndonville school officials, including her father Ted Lewis (left), who is president of the Board of Education.
Cora Payne and Jonathan Pietrafesa of Medina look over the certificates and plaques they received for their academic excellence.
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