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Top 10 grads are honored in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 May 2013 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Sarah Handley is congratulated by Kendall Board of Education President Nadine Hanlon for being one of Kendall’s “Top 10” graduates. Julie Christensen, Kendall’s school superintendent, is at right.

Medina student Arden Zavitz and other Top 10 graduates are congratulated Thursday for their academic success.

HOLLEY – The world will soon get bigger for the top 10 graduates at four Orleans County school districts. Most of the group of 40 students will be off to college in the fall.

They will face new challenges, meet new people and be stretched by the experiences, a top 10 graduate from 2003 told the group.

Jenna Gaesser of Kendall has graduated with a medical degree from the Upstate Medical University in Syracuse and is now in a residency program in pediatrics and neurodevelopmental disabilities at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Gaesser told students they don’t have to do everything on their own, to try to control every situation. She encouraged them to ask for help. In medical school, she learned the value of teamwork and to value others’ points of view.

Jenna Gaesser, a 2003 Kendall graduate, has already graduated with a medical degree and is now in a residency program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. She was keynote speaker during Thursday’s academic excellence awards dinner.

In college, she spent three years caring for a child with multiple disabilities. That child used a computer to speak.

“Everywhere we went we got strange looks,” Gaesser said.

The child had a delightful spirit, and soon won over everyone. Gaesser told the group of students to remember “the importance of not judging other people.”

Gaesser spoke to about 200 people at Hickory Ridge Country Club. Lyndonville students Amanda Sullivan and Joy Follman said they appreciated that Gaesser acknowledged the pressures that students face in picking a college and pursuing a career.

“We’re all worried about what the future will bring so it’s comforting to know you can get through it,” Follman said. “It was a hopeful speech.”

The students all received certificates, medals and citations, as well as dinner with their parents.

Three Lyndonville students stand after receiving their awards from school officials. The group includes, from left: Thomas Goetze, Dakota Froman and Joy Follman.

“It’s nice to get the recognition because we’ve all worked really hard to get to the top,” Sullivan said.

Orleans County school districts have been honoring the top 10 graduates for 27 years. Albion the past five years has had its own honors convocation because it wanted to honor more than the top 10. Albion expanded it to graduates with grade point averages above 90. The four other districts want to stay in the joint program.

“It’s a good idea for the county schools to get together,” said Jeff Evoy, Medina school superintendent. “It’s nice for the kids to see where the kids are going from the other schools.”

Kendall was the host district this year. School leaders reached out to Gaesser to address the group. She is the daughter of Ed Gaesser, a member of the Board of Education. Carol D’Agostino, Kendall’s high school principal, said Jenna “is a great role model for all of our students.”

Gaesser, Kendall’s salutatorian in 2003, was happy to accept the invitation on Thursday.

“You want to come back and support the community that supports you,” she said.

Heather Fumia accepts an award from Robert D’Angelo, Holley school superintendent, during the 27th annual Orleans County academic excellence awards dinner.

The top 10 recognized from each school include:

Holley: Marissa Callahan, Samuel DeFilipps, Steven Dill, Heather Fumia, Joshua Hatfield, Shannon Kelly, Starlyt Knight, Sonia Mendoza, Alyssa Scherer and Nicholas Winkley.

Kendall: Emily Ackles, Amber Clay, Dakota Clay, Sarah Handley, Jourdan Heller, Kendra Losapio, Bryan Urquhart, Emilee Thomas, Megan Welling and Tory Zinsmeister.

Lyndonville: Molly Breese, Elisabeth Follman, Joy Follman, Dakota Froman, Thomas Goetze, Alexandra Harling, James Luckman Jr., Kyle Sentiff, Edward Silversmith Jr. and Amanda Sullivan.

Medina: Maeve Cooper, Olivia Doberstein, Troy Fidanza, Jonas Hartway, Christopher Horgan, Margaret Laszewski, Joseph Meyer, Zachary Roeseler, Jessica Rosenbeck, Zachary Waild and Arden Zavitz.