Top 10 grads from 5 districts honored for academic excellence

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 June 2024 at 9:27 am

Keynote speaker: Students from Orleans County take ‘grit’ with them to college, new careers

Photos by Tom Rivers: Ted Lewis, president of the Lyndonville Board of Education, gives the closing message during the banquet on Tuesday. “A heartfelt congratulations to each and every one of you,” Lewis said. “Thank you for inspiring your classmates, your teachers, and this entire community. Go forth, and make us proud. Leave your mark on the world, but most importantly, never stop learning, growing, and reaching for your dreams.”

LYNDONVILLE – The Top 10 graduates for the Class of 2024 in Orleans County’s five school districts were honored at a banquet on Tuesday evening at the White Birch Golf Course.

Albion returned to the event for the first time in more than a decade, joining Holley, Kendall, Lyndonville and Medina. Albion stopped being part of the Top 10 because the district did its own academic honors convocation celebration for students with GPAs at 90 or above. The district, however, wanted to get back to being part of the Top 10 dinner with the other schools in the county.

Callie Updike, a 2021 Holley graduate, gave the keynote address at the 38th annual Orleans County Academic Excellence Awards Dinner at the White Birch Golf Course. Updike has completed three years at Columbia University, an Ivy League college where she is studying film and creative writing. She plans to graduate in 2025 and then pursue a career as a screenwriter in television or film.

The students, who will all graduate later this month, were praised for their hard work, and often late nights of study.

“We celebrate the culmination of years of dedication, perseverance, and a thirst for knowledge,” said Ted Lewis, Lyndonville’s Board of Education president. “You’ve pushed boundaries, excelled in your academics, and left your mark on your school and on this county.”

The keynote speaker for the event was a recent Top 10 grad. Callie Updike was the salutatorian for Holley in 2021. She was the class president, Student Council president, and was heavily involved in the school music program. She just completed her third year at Columbia University, majoring in film and creative writing. She expects to graduate from the Ivy League college next year and then will pursue a career as a screenwriter in television or film.

Updike said she was only 16 when she was accepted into Columbia in New York City on a full-ride scholarship. She and 12 percent of her classmates come from rural areas.

She sees that as an advantage. Most of her classmates haven’t ridden a four-wheeler or seen a cow. Many of her classmates come from tremendous wealth, with parents paying $60,000 a year – for kindergarten.

“Even if they have a fancier education than me, I would not change a single thing about the way I grew up,” Updike said. “My work ethic, my grit, my ability to relate to people, my appreciation for life and the opportunities I’ve been given because of growing up in Orleans County give me an advantage.”

She remembered attending the Top 10 dinner three years ago, and feeling a sense of fear – “the fear of letting people down, of growing complacent, of living a life I’m not proud of.”

Even now, after three years at Columbia and internships in NYC, some feelings of fear creep in, Updike said.

But her Orleans County roots steady her, and motivate her to not only pursue her dreams but want to help lift up other people.

“You are going to make beautiful, successful and happy lives for yourselves, as long as you believe you will and trust your determination will take you all the way,” Updike said. “There are things out of your control but if you take all the things you can control and make the best of them, as you have done so far, you will get where you need to be.”

The Albion Top 10 include, from left: Erin Weese, Gina Sidari, Lucy Rivers, Ella Papponetti, Meganne Moore, Kevin He, Jett Conn, Kayla Burgio and Jason Anstey. Missing from photo: Finnegan McCue.

The Top 10 in Medina include, from left: Scott Schultz, Baileigh McAdoo, Iyla Lilleby, Sawyer Kingsbury, Emma Jacobs, Layne Hodgins, Camryn Eick, Conor Crandall, Caiden Class and Alexander Balaban.

Kendall honored its Top 11 – 10 seniors plus a junior graduating early. From left include Nathaniel Smith, Hunter Richards, Christopher Nettles, Sarah Laitenberger, Lucas Jones, Paige Hardenbrook, Megan Gates, Louis Conte, Noah Clark, Hannah Brundage and Sophia Barnard-DeCann.

Lyndonville’s Top 10 include, from left: Tisha Zeitz, Elizabeth Whipple, Hannah Songer, Hailey Skowneski, Jocelyn Mack, Bradley Jisa, Austin Gardner, Katelynn Breeze, Daniel Barry and Madalynn Baker.

Holley’s Top 10 include, from left: Ryleigh Weader, Leigha Walker, Layne Walker, Kayla Neale, Gabriel Lindsay, Grace Fuller, Caitlin Dobri, Cavan Bennage and Jasmine Apicella. Missing from photo: Isabella Thom.