Mr. Brian Connolly, Principal at Washingtonville High School
By Edie Johnson
It was a breath of fresh air as hints of lingering sun kept rain clouds away from a joyful graduation celebration at Washingtonville High School. Up on the dias Schoo and local officials included Superintendent of Schools Dr. Larry Washington, Board of Education members, Retiring Teachers, Village of Washingtonville Mayor, Tom Devinko and Town of Blooming Grove Supervisor Rob Jeroloman. Throughout the field, the grandstands and the hillside most moms, and dads, tots and teen sisters and brothers were "all dolled up" for the event, while a few friends stopped by in short shorts and listened to their classmates, Class President and Valedictorian, Salutatorian and Principal Connolly talk about what has become know practically as the Legend of Wizard Nation.
Principal Connolly said that even he is a bit awestruck by the success stories that have come from this school, and noted there was even a comment from a newspaper story after one of the recent year's grad ceremony that "There must be something in the water there." Earlier talent had included no less than a Grammy winner, an Oscar winner, a Superbowl winner, decorated military heroes, and the best soccer player to ever come from Orange County, Britany Kolmel. He added that this year's graduates have also shown the Wizard pride and persistence. He credited them for their numerous "back to back wins", including State Track Finals, Odyssey of the Mind performances and surpassing the 4,000 books for a Women's Shelter collected last year...to this year's additional 5,000 books. He attributes a portion of their drive for success to the many students who hace been raised "the Wizard Way" in both Elementary and Middle School. He clearly has understanding and bonds with these students as shown in his closing statement, saying there are many' who have a "Call to believe in believing", stressing that failure is part of the process and it is often grit that brings success, as much as or even more than talent. He finished saying, "I wish you luck, but even more than that I wish you happiness."
Speakers included former WHS star soccer player Brittany Kolmel from Campbell Hall, who rose in the professional ranks:. Brittany began her professional journey with the Hudson Valley Quickstrike Lady Blues. She later played for the Western New York Flash, FC Kansas City, and Utah Royals FC in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL). She represented the United States in the U-20 team at the Nordic Cup in 2006 and the Pan American Games in 2007.
Class President Ayana Ruiz, Valedictorian Katherine Shcherbatsevitch, and Salutatorian Jacqueline Brienza, all gave a good portion of credit for their success to their moms, who they said they relied on and had close friendships as well as a parent-child relationship with especially during the 'time of COVID', which is now referred to finally as a piece of history. They shared favorite memories about friends and pets who had given them solace in the difficult times. Their speeches can be seen in full in the video on the WHS Facebook page. The touching memories give a sight into the lives of each student as well as the class group viz a viz as a "Wizard" team..
As is always the case, the presentation of arms by the JROTC and singing of the Star Spangled Banner by the High School chorus was a highlight.
Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Larry Washington certifies the diplomas as official..... and then the grad hats went flying!