Tiger Tracks Special edition: 2019 "Senior standouts"

Mamaroneck High School Graduation ceremony June 24, 2019: Wishing all of our graduates a life-long love of learning and best of luck in the future


Each year, it's our tradition to give the community a glimpse into our graduating class by featuring a small sampling of students in this special edition of Tiger Tracks. The ten students highlighted here -- including our valedictorian and salutatorian -- were selected to represent a range of diverse experiences, challenges, and accomplishments at the high school. From the many academic successes to performing arts and musical accomplishments, athletic achievements and more, this year's graduating class -- a total of 388 students -- was an extraordinary group. We ask that you join us in saluting the entire Mamaroneck High School Class of 2019!

Leah Roffman

Leah Roffman, Valedictorian

Mamaroneck High School's 2019 Valedictorian Leah Roffman says she owes so much of her success to her teachers, who have encouraged her to be passionate about learning by challenging her to ask questions and think deeper, and credits her video teacher Ms. Dombroff for having one of the biggest influences on her throughout high school. “She supported me during every stage of the past four years, and her class has always been a safe space for me,” Leah said. This year, Leah won the Best Editing award at the Westchester Future Filmmaker Festival and was co-cinematographer for a culminating film project that the entire class collaborated on.

Additionally, when she thinks about her teachers, she thinks about Ms. Groninger (her AP Language teacher, now Asst. Principal at Hommocks), who helped her grow as a student and as a person and got her to think more critically about herself in the context of various social issues. And she says her high school years were filled with so many varied experiences overall that it’s hard to keep track.

Beyond the academics, Leah participated each year on both the soccer and track teams. She also was a member of the orchestra and chamber orchestra and involved in the String Buddies club at MHS, as well as the student newspaper the Globe, where she served as a news editor one year and the multi-media director this past year.

Studying Chinese and being able to go to China with her fellow students for two weeks she says had a huge impact on her “I had never been somewhere that was so radically different from where we live, both culturally and politically,” she said. “It made me appreciate a whole new set of luxuries and freedoms in my life - from the basic comforts in my lifestyle, to the ability to breathe clean air, to the fact that I can have a liberal arts college experience, to basic democratic freedoms like free speech.”

For her senior internship, Leah worked at a company in Rye that rates companies on their fairness practices for leadership, employee policies, advertising and philanthropy. She is continuing to do research there for the summer until she leaves for Duke University, where she plans to pursue multiple interests, including policy, environmental issues and documentary studies.

Haruki Ganoi

Haruki Ganoi, Salutatorian

Salutatorian Haruki Gonai, who says MHS physics teacher Dr. Nunes was his “most favorite teacher ever”, will move on to study physics at Columbia University. “Although Physics C was by far the hardest class I have ever taken, Dr. Nunes was able to boil down complicated topics to simple ideas. He was a good teacher not only in physics but in life as well. I entered his class with an obsession for getting perfect scores on every test, but I came out with a passion for learning,” Haruki says.

Haruki spent a significant amount of his time both inside and outside of school playing music. He was involved in the symphony orchestra, the chamber orchestra, and jazz band, where he played the bass. He also was a member of the male a cappella choir. Throughout his high school years, he participated in the Westchester All-County and Area All-State Orchestras, as well as the New York All-State Orchestra. On Saturdays, he attended Manhattan School of Music’s Pre-college program, studying 10 hours per day, and he was named alternate for the School’s Pre-college Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition.

From his very first day at MHS, Haruki knew he would cherish his time in orchestra class for the duration of high school. “Ms. Gellert is not only a teacher, but also a friend. Every time I come to her room, I always enjoy talking to her about life, music, food, or anything that comes to our minds,” he says.

As part of the String Buddies program, Haruki and several other high school students went bi-weekly to Mamaroneck Avenue School to help out with the orchestra students there. They helped them with their music and technique and encouraged them to keep studying music as they get older. “The reason why I valued String Buddies so much was because when I was a student at MAS, I remember several orchestra students coming from the high school and helping me learn music. This inspired me to join String Buddies when I got to MHS, and I hope we as club members have done the same for the students we've worked with.”

Haruki speaks about his classmates and the value of collaboration; among them, he says his classmate James Anderson has had the most profound impact on him during his time at MHS. “I have had the pleasure of knowing James since 6th grade...He is extremely talented and kind. Sharing our interest in math and science, we would often have hour-long calls about hard problems such as the physics behind the Danza de los Voladores or the spring constant of a pogo-stick. James’ work ethic and passion for learning have rubbed off on me, and I will keep them close to me for the rest of my life.

Katherine LoBue

Katherine LoBue

One of the best things about Mamaroneck High School, says Katherine LoBue, is that there are so many people looking out for you. “It’s such a collaborative, supportive environment,” she says. “Often you are in classes with people you wouldn’t necessarily get to know otherwise, and you become good friends because everybody is so welcoming.”

According to Katherine, the teachers care about you even if they haven’t known you very long. “You have enough people pushing you to challenge yourself and helping you to discover your passions.” She recalled a time that her social studies teacher Mr. Goldberg passed her a note saying ‘Good Job!’ during her AP U. S. History class’s infamous enacting of the Lincoln Trials. It is those little things, combined with the bigger things, that meant a lot.

Katherine says she is a completely different person today than when she entered Mamaroneck High School four years ago. “In the best way,” she explains. “MHS has pushed me to work harder, become more confident in myself, and dream bigger.” She points to the range of opportunities MHS provides for students with different interests. “I’ve been able to try out so many varied activities and subjects. There’s something for everyone. Most people don’t have that opportunity. MHS gives you a head start,” she says.

During her time at the high school, Katherine took full advantage of the depth of programs offered, participating in everything from athletics (field hockey) and music (violin), to Original Science Research (OSR), Students for Senegal and the Mandarin program, which the high school boasts as the longest-running high school Chinese program in the country. She also was a co-Editor-in-Chief of the student newspaper, the Globe.

It was OSR that she believes most prepared her for life in college and beyond. “Whether it is getting judged on my oral presentation at an international competition, appearing on the radio, or presenting myself to adults at a professional symposium or in a room full of families at the MHS symposium, I have learned the public speaking skills that I need to be a strong and self-assured student,” Katherine says.

Gaining confidence in one area, she adds, spills over to another. Katherine tried her hand at podcasting through her journalism class and then went on to do her senior internship for a boutique investor relations firm in Rye, where she and her fellow intern created a podcast series for the company that will soon be up on iTunes.

Katherine's guidance counselor Lainie Lichtenstein says, "I am impressed most by Katherine's healthy perspective, independence, poise, balance, and maturity."

With grace, Katherine juggled the rigor of her many AP classes, including AP United States History, AP English Language and Composition, AP Physics, AP BC Calculus and AP U.S. Government & Politics, along with extra-curriculars. She will move on to Duke University this fall, where she is interested in studying both global health and public policy.

Daurell Melendez

Daurell Melendez

Daurell Melendez is multi-dimensional. He was a part of the PACE (Performing Arts Curriculum Experience) program at MHS; a member of both the track team and frisbee club; a Caprice Advisor, and an active participant in the Multicultural Club, with annual performances in the Martin Luther King, Jr. assemblies thanks to the encouragement of Ms. Porter.

During his high school years, Daurell faced some significant obstacles that most young people his age do not have to face. First, his best friend, Ronald Williams, passed away, and second, his mother was battling cancer. Daurell, with support from his teachers and guidance counselor, learned how to persevere, stay focused, and, most importantly, stay positive.

“My guidance counselor Ms. Martinez was amazing and truly made these four years easier,” Daurell said. “She was always checking on me to see how I was doing in school and gave me positive words. Mrs. Fremder helped me find the good in some bad situations.”

Daurell says that throughout his four years of high school, all of his teachers gave him advice to help him move forward. “They always told me to keep my head up, stay strong, and look toward the positive in life, etc.,” he said. His English teacher Ms. Elmozino was an inspiration to him as a teacher, a person and a writer, he says. “While completing projects and homework assignments that seemed straight forward, she’d allow me to find ways to complete it in a creative manor. For example, I had an assignment to make a speech about a video we watched, and instead I was given the opportunity to write a full rap and perform it in class.”

According to Daurell, being in the PACE program gave him the experience of working with others on big productions, working backstage, and being inspired by the amazing world of the arts. His track team experience enabled him to fully understand what it’s like being in a competitive sport and how far one can go if they go all out in something they care for. “I forged bonds on quick runs that can last forever,” he said. His participation in the Multicultural Club gave him the chance to experience and hear people’s stories to help influence someone’s life. He was able to teach others that were reluctant to dance choreography and convince them to do their best.

Daurell will head to Manhattanville College this fall to study Music Business. He says the memory of his best buddy Ronald Williams inspires him each and every day to work hard in becoming a lyricist. “He did so much to impact my life in a positive aspect that even in death he continues to leave his mark,” Daurell said.

Jessica Dure

Jessica Dure

Being on the MHS volleyball team provided Jessica Dure with a supportive network throughout her high school years. “Even though there are ups and downs, being part of a sports team is one of the best experiences,” she says. “We’d always be there to celebrate each others’ successes and help each other whenever needed. The friendships I formed are so important to me.”

Jessica said participating in clubs also was a great way to meet other students that you otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to interact with. She organized Community Clean-Up Club and TOP (Transfer Orientation Program) meetings, where she met a lot of underclassmen. “Working together with classmates somewhere other than an educational environment is important,” she says. Jessica was co-president of TOP, where she oversaw about 20 “TOP Ambassadors” who gave tours to new transfer students to help them get acclimated.

The most valuable advice she was given was to keep pushing through and not stop until she reached her goal, whatever it may be. “In times of stress, my guidance counselor was always there to remind me that moments like those do pass, and my later success would make everything I previously did worth it,” Jessica says. “Ms. Genwright was there for me since the start of freshman year until the very end, and not once did her support for me waver. Having someone like her by my side gave me hope for myself and hope for what I would accomplish. Although she won’t be my counselor anymore, her words of optimism and encouragement will trail alongside me into my future, reminding me that I am capable of anything I set my mind to.”

AP Biology, Classic Science Fiction, AP Macroeconomics, AP Chemistry, AP Spanish, Spanish 4H, Physics, U.S. History and Government, and Culinary Arts were among Jessica’s course load. She says, “It was such a privilege to have been part of each one of these classes and to be able to make a strong connection with such kind teachers. They all affected me significantly, and I took away more than just the material of the subject from being their student.”

After graduating MHS, Jessica believes she is prepared for the real world. She says the general freedom students have at Mamaroneck High School is a big plus that helps students learn to set priorities and take on greater responsibilities. She will attend Johns Hopkins University this fall, studying on the Pre-Veterinary track, majoring in Biology and minoring in Spanish.

“Jessica is one of the most caring and compassionate young women I know,” Ms. Genwright says. “She is going to make a tremendous impact in a college community and in our society one day.”

Edwin Fuentes

Edwin Fuentes

Edwin Fuentes feels his experiences at Mamaroneck High School enabled him to grow into the person he is today and, along the way, learn about who that person is. Keeping up with constant deadlines enabled him to gain valuable time management skills, and Edwin says he had fun in the process.

Being a member of both the soccer team for four years and Mamaroneck wrestling, as well as the pep rallies, will be part of his memories forever. “When I had to get neck surgery due to a wrestling accident, it taught me that at any point in life things can change very fast, either for better or for worse,” he said.

One of Edwin’s favorite classes at the high school was College Creative Writing, an Iona College course taught at MHS. Among the staff members who made a lasting impression on him was his social studies teacher Jill Ammerata. “She is an amazing person in and out of the classroom. Her teaching style and just the person she is makes U.S. history exciting and memorable,” Edwin says.. “Ms.Valdez was another teacher who truly stood out to me. She is more than just a math teacher to me. She was always there when I needed help with math or just future choices.”

Outside the walls of Mamaroneck High School, Edwin worked in the summer as a counselor in training at a local day camp and was highly praised for his work ethic and responsible attendance. He also was a dedicated member of his church and participated in several acts of community service, which involved feeding the needy, distributing clothes to the homeless and fundraising for charity.

Edwin, who his guidance counselor Rob Schwartz calls “one of the most likeable students you will ever meet”, will attend SUNY Oneonta this September and intends to major in physical therapy.

Lauren Strickland

Lauren Strickland

Lauren Strickland is one of those students that everybody cheers for all the way to the finish line. “Getting myself to school everyday was sometimes a real struggle, but the wonderful art programs at MHS like Clay or Drawing & Painting gave my days a splash of color that was really needed,” she says. “Seeing people stop to look at your art gives you a real satisfaction and sense of place.”

The beloved weekly book club she was involved with also was a major motivation to show up at school. Organized and run by Campus Supervisor Gigi Rothweiler, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction Annie Ward and MHS Assistant Principal Jenny Rodriguez, this group was like none other. Reading together, supporting each other and sharing in important moments helped Lauren see the light at the end of the tunnel. “Book club every week gave me a sense of community I was missing here at MHS, and I will never forget the family we forged. I am forever grateful for these ladies, as I am for Mrs. Fremder and Mrs.Litchman, who helped get me through my toughest times.” Lauren also credits her participation in HerHonor mentoring program for playing a large role in giving her a sense of direction and putting her on a path for success.

One of the most valuable pieces of advice Lauren received in her high school years was, ‘Don’t forget to be a kid. Sometimes, you’re allowed to make mistakes; you will always learn from them.’

Lauren will attend Westchester community college in the fall and major in Aviation Management so she can become a commercial pilot.

Matthew Adamo

Matt Adamo

Matt Adamo will never forget preparing for the Fed Challenge with a group from his AP Macroeconomics class and driving home with his peers in a past-midnight blizzard from a meeting at someone’s house the night before their presentation. He believes it’s these challenges -- the ones that required both mental and physical toughness -- that will make him most prepared for his venture this fall studying in Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.

“The Fed Challenge project gave us students a little bit of everything that we may face in the real world. It was a group project that tested our understanding of the current and recent status of our nation’s economy and our ability to work among others,” Matt says. “This was one of many real world, hands-on projects, trips, clubs, and events that we had at MHS.”

Matt says playing for the Section Championship with the MHS Baseball team changed the way he looked at both himself and his teammates, with games and practices serving as opportunities to dig deep and keep everyone on the team motivated to win at all times. “Through baseball, I gained a family of brothers in each of my last two years at MHS,” he says.

When Matt wasn’t playing baseball, he was busy administering the MHS Sports Twitter Account, The Jungle, keeping a fanbase of 1,500+ Twitter followers updated while Interacting with people at games and watching his classmates succeed. He also takes great Tiger pride in having served as caption of the senior year team for Battle of the Classes and reflects on an ‘easy win’.

Two of Matt’s favorite courses taken at MHS were AP Physics his junior year and AP Macroeconomics senior year. “Both encouraged me to go about solving problems in ways that were new and fun for me,” he says.

For all four years at MHS, Matt was involved with Project EPIC (a group that assembles backpacks full of food and distributes them to local homeless shelters) and the Investment Club. With each, he began as a member freshman year and was named President his senior year. “Being able to see these clubs as a member made my experience as a leader much easier, but also much more important,” he said. “I always wanted the members below me to have fun and remain focused.”

Matt speaks fondly of his guidance counselor, Ms. Lichtman, who he says made his high school experience worthwhile and less stressful. “Ms. Lichtman did an absurdly good job of keeping me on a path that has challenged me academically but hasn’t broken me down mentally,” he says. “I could never thank her enough.”

And Ms. Lichtman speaks fondly of him as well. “When Matt commits himself to an idea, a class, a job or community service project, he feels a personal responsibility to put forth his best effort. He is a valued teammate, a serious student, and an individual of strong character, integrity and values,” she says.

Velbeth Cifuentes

Velbeth Cifuentes

“The friends I made and relationships I created with teachers will never be forgotten,” Velbeth Cifuentes says. “MHS has provided me with so much knowledge and will to help others.”

With plans to continue her educational studies at Manhattan College, Velbeth is currently enrolled in the School of Engineering. She also will further pursue her love of music and playing of the violin.

According to Velbeth, during challenging times in high school when her stress level was high, she had music and her violin to keep her calm. “Music at school was something that brought me to people I never thought I’d be friends with. I thank Ms.Gellert for showing me that music always brings people together, and she is a major reason as to why I want to continue playing the violin in college.”

Velbeth challenged herself at MHS with rigorous courses such as AP Environmental Science, AP AB Calculus, and AP Spanish. “Ms. Andrews was such an amazing teacher, and I could really tell that she loves her job. To her, we are young adults. She expresses that in the way that she treats and teaches us,” she says. Velbeth also was involved with the Amigos Club, serving as vice president her senior year; a member of the Mahiscan Yearbook staff, and a member of the National Honor Society and Student Council. Additionally, she was a member of the MHS Chamber Orchestra and Sinfonia Pops Orchestra and played a valuable role in the orchestra pit of West Side Story.

Charlie Randall

Charlie Randall

If you ask Charlie Randall about the teachers he had at Mamaroneck High School, he’ll tell you about Mr. Goldberg and sum up what he learned in AP U.S. History class this way: “Mr. Goldberg taught me, fundamentally, how to think and how to be the best student I could be. From the beginning, he was never lenient on me (or anyone else in my class), ensuring that we worked for a grade and never coasted. His lessons were fun and engaging, and through them I learned more than history -- I learned how to teach myself information and how to discuss said information in a way that allowed me to think at a much higher level than I had in previous years”. He’ll also talk about Mr. Greene, who taught one of his favorite classes, AP European History, and how he learned through him the value of a well-rounded education.

While at MHS, Charlie was an active member of the Policy Debate Team, spending a significant amount of time outside of school travelling to tournaments around the country (ten in fact)...everywhere from Emory University to University of Michigan and University of Chicago. “Debate taught me a million skills,” he says. “Most importantly, it taught me how to form opinions. Whenever a thought comes into my head about a political issue, I immediately think of the other side... Debate forced me to consider both sides to an argument, and taking that into the real world gives debaters an open mind which I think a lot of people lack nowadays. I've also made friends and connections that will last a lifetime...I loved every second of it.”

Charlie -- who his guidance counselor Ms. Kearon says can be distinguished by his intellectual curiosity, analytical mind, and outgoing personality -- heads off this fall to the University of St Andrews in Scotland to study International Relations. “I am so happy I got to go to high school here,” Charlie added “It shaped me more than I ever thought it could."

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