Meenu Johnkutty Awared Top Prize in Maryknoll Essay Contest

Meenu Johnkutty stands and receives her prize for her winning Maryknoll essay

Maryknoll chose the theme for their annual middle and high school essay contest to be “Caring for Our Common Home” based on the teachings of Pope Francis and his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si. Pope Francis states that Saint Francis of Assisi was a great influence on his faith and ultimately his direction as the pope because of his love for ecology and the poor.

We would like to congratulate Meenu Johnkutty ’17 who was recently awarded first place out of over 7000 essay writers from Maryknoll’s essay contest. Maryknoll writes…

The 2016 essay theme, “Caring for Our Common Home,” referenced Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ in which he calls on all people to respect and to stop exploiting our world and its limited and diminishing resources. “The earth cries out to us,” wrote Pope Francis, “because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.

Her winning essay garnered a $1,000 prize and recognition in their upcoming edition of Maryknoll Magazine

Meenu Johnkutty receiving her award from Maryknoll



Flying First Class on the Cartesian Plane: 3D Modeling and Robotics with Ms. Jenkins

Kennedy Catholic’s course in 3D Modeling is a little over two years old, and no one is more excited about sitting at that nexus of Art and Science than its teacher, Ms. Antonia Jenkins.

“Yes, it’s fantastic! My background is in Art, but what I am teaching is the foundation of a lot of other things,” she enthused. “You can take what you’ve learned here and apply it to architecture, to engineering, to design. It’s the basics that you need to help grow.”

Currently, 3D Modeling students use Maya, the same industry-standard software used by Hollywood animators. That’s right in Ms. Jenkins’ wheelhouse, having more than a few short films and commercials under her belt. She studied Computer Animation at The School of Visual Arts.

Ms. Antonia Jenkins teaches Robotics, Computer Programming and Computer Modeling at Kennedy Catholic High School

Ms. Antonia Jenkins teaches Robotics, Computer Programming and Computer Modeling at Kennedy Catholic High School

“With 3D Modeling, students start out making simple things, working with the space, getting familiar with the interface, then going on to actually making things, making objects.”

This marriage of aesthete with concrete is emblematic of other courses offered to juniors and seniors at Kennedy, as well. It’s a big component of the Robotics curriculum, taught, again, by Ms. Jenkins.

“I try to blend a lot of the creativity and the science together by having students come up with creative ideas, like telling a story. One of the projects we do at the end of the year is to have the robot tell a story, and then have the robot act it out. So we have the creative side of writing a story and the more scientific side of programming the robot to move, and to change its voice, and to narrate the story, and to make it come to life.”

Students use an application called Choreographe to program the robot. The application breaks the robot-controlling program down into a series of boxes that each manage a different part of the robot’s programming. The students also need to write their own custom code to make the robot perform various tasks.

“Robotics class starts out with basic things,” she explains, ”like making the robot talk. Then we proceed onto making it move and working with its different sensors and do more complicated things.”

The Robot

The Robot

On the horizon? Yanking some of those wireframes and software models out of cyberspace with Kennedy Catholic’s new 3D printer.

“We’ve got some other software that we are working with, including 123D Design and Meshmixer, and we’re going to be learning how to make things in 3D space, how the printer works, and how you what you create digitally translates into reality.”

Ms. Jenkins agrees that making robots tell stories and sculpting objects from aether hits the sweet spot for many Kennedy students who are Math and Science-oriented.

“There is a lot of Geometry that goes into 3D Modeling. So you need to know about the Cartesian plane, basic geometric principles, and the different components of an object. You get to work with that and through that you get to create some amazing things.”

But if it’s a little bit Art, and a little bit Science, what’s the benchmark for success? How does a teacher know that she has the pistons firing on both the left and right sides of a student’s brain?

“When they keep asking me ‘what to do?’ and ‘what to do next?’” Ms. Jenkins explained. “I had a first year student who was really into it, she was always on top of her work, and she always wanted to know, ‘what’s the next step?’”

…and the next step for that student was…?

“I have heard back from her and she is studying to be an architect! That’s fantastic because architects work with a program called Auto CAD, another 3D software program. So I have given her a nice foundation to continue working in 3D.”

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Kennedy Catholic Musicians Blend Styles in a Christmas Concert Master Class

Everyone in the Kennedy Catholic community needed a little Christmas, and the combined forces of Kennedy’s Chorus, String Ensemble and Concert Band delivered it last night in spades.

An aerial view of the concert band

An aerial view of the concert band

…better make that “diamonds,” as glittering stage sculptures crafted by the junior class’s Advanced Visual Arts Collaborative Project filled the stage of the auditorium and provided a perfect setting for the incandescent performances that followed.

The chorus, under the direction of Kennedy Arts Department Chair Mrs. Ines Wilhelm-Boston, and accompanied by Mrs. Lorraine Bernitt, performed first, and would return throughout the evening. Their first performance, “These Alone Are Enough,” based on a prayer by St. Ignatius of Loyola, featured a vocal solo by Rosario Grasso and instrumental solo by percussionist Katelyn Wegener.

Mrs. Boston directs the Chorus

In Charge: Kennedy Catholic Arts Department Chair Mrs. Boston directs the Chorus

The choristers next swung into high gear with the beloved Harry Simeone classic, “The Little Drummer Boy,” featuring Brendan Earl pa-rum-pa-pum-pumming on the snare drum. Lexi Vespucci followed with a powerful solo performance of “O Holy Night.”

Kennedy Catholic Chorus Christmas Concert

Need A Little Christmas, right this very minute? The Kennedy Catholic Chorus are the people to see…

Taking the audience from the traditional to about twenty minutes into the future, pianist Tingya Zhang gave a jaw-dropping, virtuoso instrumental performance of “Senbonzakura” (“Thousand Cherry Blossoms”). The song is from the voice synthesizer software “Vocaloid,” which crowd-sources new musical compositions that are often later performed in arenas “live” by holographic singers. If Ms. Zhang is not filling arenas of her own in 10-15 years, we’ll be very surprised.

pianist Tingya Zhang

The staggeringly talented pianist Tingya Zhang performs “Senbonzakura”

Every Christmas concert should introduce listeners to a less well-known carol that sends them home to flip through old CD collections to see if they own it, and Kennedy’s 2016 concert delivered with “Mary, Did You Know?” The ringing and heart-felt solo vocal performance by Ava Gallo turned a “C” tier carol into a top-of-the-playlist nuevo classic for everyone in the audience.

Before yielding the stage to the String Ensemble, the Kennedy choristers delivered a rousing “Panis Angelicus,” which included solos by Kiely Beltran and Megan Collina. The chorus would return later to perform Mame’s “We Need a Little Christmas,” which pretty much signaled the start of the season for everyone in attendance.

Under the baton of Mr. Frederick Ostrofsky, the 15-member String Ensemble opened with Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 5,” which they followed with a pin-perfect performance of Mozart’s “Flute Quartet in D.”

The Brass Section in the Kennedy Catholic Concert Band

The Brass Section in the Kennedy Catholic Concert Band

The Kennedy Concert Band, which shares members with the String Ensemble, took the stage next, under the leadership of Mrs. Martha Belardo. Their raucous renditions of Yuletide perennials “Sleigh Ride” and “Christmas Fantasy” blew through the auditorium like a bracing blast of arctic air.

The String Ensemble returned to take listeners from the North Pole to the waters off Barbados with their instantly-recognizable medley of music from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” soundtracks, featuring percussionist Christian Pitaccio.

The Kennedy Catholic String Ensemble Performs at the 2016 Christmas Concert

The Kennedy Catholic String Ensemble Performs at the 2016 Christmas Concert

It’s always tough for any artist to follow a good rendition of “Carol of the Bells,” with its famously reverberating and ominous 4-note motif. It’s a special challenge when that rendition is as electrically charged as the one rendered by the Kennedy Concert Band this evening. But follow it the String Ensemble did, with a beautiful “String a Song of Christmas.”

The Kennedy Catholic Concert Band

“Carol of the Bells” was another Triumph for the Kennedy Catholic Concert Band

If you’re planning a concert like this, one that brings together an entire community of students, family, educators and friends there is really only one way to end it (if it really must end…). Of course, that’s with a sing-a-long of “White Christmas.” Sure, not everyone in the audience may have been on key (or even anywhere near the same keyhole), but the enthusiasm — and the rare delight of hearing Kennedy Chorus, String Ensemble, and Concert Band all play together — more than compensated for your cousin’s and grandmother’s imperfect pitch problems.

Fr. Vaillancourt and the Chorus at the 2016 Kennedy Catholic Christmas Concert

Fr. Vaillancourt provided the narration for “The Christmas Tree,” a short film which closed the 2016 Christmas Concert

But although we had reached the end of the scheduled program, we weren’t done quite yet. Instead, the audience was treated to the premiere of “The Christmas Tree,” a claymation short video produced in a collaboration between Kennedy Catholic’s Fine Arts Studio and Media Lab students. Looking like an episode of “Davey & Goliath” but hitting much, much closer to home, the movie was a tale of loss and redemption – and it was all true. It told of the death of the father of Kennedy Principal Fr. Vaillancourt while still a high school student, and how the young Vaillancourt used Faith and Tradition to return Joy and Light to what should have been his family’s darkest Christmas. The short was met with thunderous applause.

It was another fabulous night for the Arts in Northern Westchester, and an unforgettable one for the Kennedy community.

To see more of our Christmas Concert images, visit our Gallery of Images.

Conjugating Verbs on The Bleeding Edge: AP Computer Science Principles with Mr. Anderson

In another of those “quiet firsts” for which Kennedy Catholic has become famous, the school launched an Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles class this year. It’s the first time this course has been offered in the nation, and Kennedy is one of only 450 high schools in the country that are offering the class.

So… so far, so good…?

As with anything else, when you’re on the forefront of something you’re on the ‘bleeding edge,’ but we handle those hiccups,” Allan Anderson, Kennedy’s AP Computer Science teacher, laughed. “We’ve gotten excellent support to help us. I actually adopted the curriculum that was developed by Berkley University, it’s called the ‘Beauty and Joy of Computing,’ so everyday I get emails off a discussion board from Berkley folks who are using this across the country, so if we do run into a problem, we’ve got other people to collaborate with.”

Mr. Allan Anderson, in Classroom

Mr. Allan Anderson, teacher of AP Computer Science Principles at Kennedy Catholic High School

Mr. Anderson received his Masters in Computer Science in 1970 from Purdue University, at that time only one of three schools in the country to offer such a program (We’re sensing a pattern here…). After grad school he spent 23 years at IBM, later working as a network integration consultant in New York City, before moving into academia where he currently serves as Professor of Computer Science and Department Chair of Technologies at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, Connecticut, in addition to his work at Kennedy.

Last year Mr. Anderson taught a class at Kennedy in the popular computer language Python that was extremely well-received. But with AP Computer Science Principles, he is casting the net a bit wider.

This class is meant for everybody going to college,” he explained. “Computing innovations have impacted everything in the world, and they will continue to impact everything in the future. So it’s important for everybody to understand what computing innovations are all about.”

One thing they are not about, Mr. Anderson believes, is exclusivity. He feels his peers haven’t been very effective at involving everyone in Computer Science education.

Let’s face it, the Computer Science population has been predominantly white male individuals. We’re trying to get minorities as well as females involved in Computer Science. And that’s one of the things the Computer Science Principles course is focusing on. It’s not just for nerds.”

Most high school computer classes around the country are fighting a losing battle against their aging hardware, but the computers in Kennedy’s Computer Science Lab are all brand new as of last year. So what kind of obstacles does AP Computer Science Principles face? Are there networking issues, run-time errors, corrupted databases…?

“The obstacles have nothing to do with Computer Science,” Mr. Anderson explained. “They have to do with being able to write well, and to be able to research, to come up with appropriate credible references. It is reinforcing what students probably already learned in an English class.”

It seems that students really aren’t expecting their Computer Science teacher to be hammering them about their grammar. But then, this is Kennedy…

It’s like, ‘Well, I don’t have to use those techniques here, I can treat it more like a ‘texting’ environment,'” Mr. Anderson elaborated. “The answer is ‘No!’ The number one requirement for employers is that their employees be able to communicate: written, orally, and definitely electronically!”

Note to students: Complete your brackets AND conjugate your verbs properly in Mr. Anderson’s class. As Morpheus admonished Neo in The Matrix, “Welcome to the Real World.”

Grammar aside, Mr. Anderson believes the old canard about Computer Science being intimidating for any student to learn is now officially played out. He cites the marketing efforts of one of the country’s largest toy manufacturers as supporting evidence.

Three of my five grandchildren are 3 to 3 and a half years old,” he said. “Fisher Price has a ‘Code-a-Pillar™’ that teaches beginning algorithm development. To a 3 year old! It’s a forty dollar toy, and these grandchildren are going to get one as a Christmas present. The five year old will be getting an Osmo system but that’s another story.”

AP Computer Science Principles makes use of an array of online tools, including Blackboard and a collaborative discussion board. Perhaps surprisingly, many students are a little slow to wrap their minds around the virtual meeting rooms, “…but it’s important for them to learn that,” Mr. Anderson made clear, “because that is what they are going to encounter, not only in their education facilities, but in their future careers, wherever that may take them.”

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Second Kennedy Catholic College Fair Bigger, Even More Diverse

The Kennedy Catholic Guidance Department threw its second college fair of the 2016-17 school year this Tuesday, and the response was enormous. With a nearly 250 percent increase in the number of colleges attending over the first fair, the event blew out of the previous confines of The Commons and into the gym to accommodate the more than 50 colleges in attendance.

Kamal Kornegay, Associate Director of Undergraduate Admission for Monmouth University

Kamal Kornegay, Associate Director of Undergraduate Admission for Monmouth University

Kamal Kornegay, Associate Director of Undergraduate Admission for Monmouth University, was there, and praised the event’s organization:

“I think (Kennedy Director of Guidance) Christine (Gerrity) does a great job of getting everybody together, it’s very well prepared, well-coordinated. I think that every school has some good characteristics but when they are properly prepared that makes for a great event for us, and I think Christine does a great job with that.”

The attending colleges were a diverse mix included Vaughn College of Aeronautics, Penn State and a large selection of SUNY schools. The Guidance Department typically goes out of its way to understand the students’ career interests, and books colleges accordingly.

As Julia Feeney’17 explains: “I want to work in fashion so (Mrs. Gerrity) worked to bring in schools that would specifically benefit me — which was very nice of her to do. It helped me get a lot of stats on schools and weed out where it was worth the trip and where it wasn’t so that I’m not going all the way across the country to see a school that is not really for me.”

The great diversity in the schools is a boon to those who are not quite sure of their path, as well. Sabrina Rehfeld ’17 is still undecided about her major and appreciates the wide selection:

“I’m still undecided but Mrs. Gerrity does a great job of bringing in schools that have so many majors,” she said. “She really works with you on finding the right school that is open to offering what you want to do later in college.”

Kennedy Seniors Sabrina Rehfeld, Erin Sullivan & Julia Feeney

l. to r. Sabrina Rehfeld ’17, Erin Sullivan ’17, Julia Feeney ’17

Attendance at the college fairs that Kennedy Catholic holds several times a year is mandatory for all sophomores, juniors and seniors. Erin Sullivan ’17 credits her three years of college fair attendance for helping her decide upon her major:

“I didn’t decide what I wanted to study until recently so going to all these schools and meeting their admissions counselors and talking to them about things they want to see or what types of students are at their college helped me to narrow down my choices and find out what would be good for me.”

Kamal Kornegay says the fairs help colleges make up their minds, as well:

“It helps by enabling us to meet some great individuals from their sophomore year up to their senior year who are just great assets to universities.”

Kennedy Catholic Director of Guidance Mrs. Christine Gerrity

Kennedy Catholic Director of Guidance Mrs. Christine Gerrity

As Mrs. Gerrity explained, the whole process of students getting to meet with the reps of the colleges they may end up attending over a three year period is part of the ulterior motives-laden Master Plan:

“Our seniors have actually applied to many, many schools already at this point in the season. They were able to engage with a lot of representatives who have their applications on file. They are able to connect with the college reps, and in some cases the reps they are speaking with may end actually reading their applications again — another value added aspect for the Kennedy students.”

The third and final college fair of this school year is scheduled for the spring, and Mrs. Gerrity promised it will be “even bigger.”


Kennedy Catholic Fair Starts “The College Conversation”

Kennedy Catholic held its first College Fair of the school year today and it was well-attended and received by students from sophomore through senior years. The tables, literature and reps for nearly two dozen institutions for higher learning filled Kennedy’s Commons for the better part of the day.

Matthew Stabler standing behind the College of St. Rose table at the Kennedy Catholic College Fair

Matthew Stabler, Asst. Director of Admissions for The College of St. Rose

Matthew Stabler, the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions for the College of St. Rose, has been representing that college at every Kennedy College Fair for the past five years. He’s a big fan of the whole experience, and the students he meets in particular.

USMC Staff Sgt. Zapien and Kennedy Catholic seniro Ryan Kennedy

USMC Staff Sgt. Zapien and Kennedy Catholic senior Ryan Panny

“The students are motivated! They walk around, they chat with the colleges, they ask intelligent questions, they know what they are looking for, and it’s always very well organized, very well-represented by the schools,” he praised. “It’s a worthwhile and valuable fair.”

For Kennedy Guidance Counselor Christine Gerrity, who organizes the semi-annual confabs, it’s all about Kennedy students being able to get to know the schools on their own terms, not the college’s.

“Often times this process can be intimidating for the students, and our College Fairs put them at ease because they are surrounded by their peers,” she said. “They’re in a comfortable setting, there’s a short window of time.”

Ms. Gerrity brings the students into the fair in waves organized by their year.

“We brought down the sophomores this morning, encouraging them to start ‘The College Conversation,’” she noted. Juniors, who are a “little bit further along in their search,” and seniors who should already be “crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s on college applications,” will visit throughout the day.

Ryan Panny, ’17, is another fan of the fairs, and owns that they have been “very helpful these last couple of years in figuring out where I want to go and what I want to study.”

Ryan has narrowed his college selections down to either Villanova or Duke, and plans to major in biomedical engineering.

Where the Rubber Hits the Road: Physics at Kennedy Catholic High School

physicsWhile a new report finds nearly two in five schools across the country don’t offer Physics, the course is considered vital at Kennedy Catholic High School. It’s a cornerstone of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, and the U.S. Department of Education is projecting a meteoric rise in STEM jobs at least through 2020 (see below).

For Georgia Ioannou, a former engineer and Math teacher who has been teaching Physics at Kennedy for 7 years, the reason to teach Physics is even more basic than laying the groundwork to getting a good job.

“Physics actually makes you think. There is a reason for everything, and usually the reason is physics,” she says. “It’s all around us.”

The daughter of Greek immigrants, Ioannou went to St. Demetrios grammar school in Astoria and the Bronx High School of Science before receiving a degree in Electrical Engineering from Cooper Union and her Masters at Manhattan. From there, she went to work for the aerospace company, Loral.

“The stuff I did back then is so obsolete now, because we are moving so fast, but the basics really haven’t changed all that much since Newton, so we just build on it.”

But the way Ms. Ioannou teaches Physics goes far beyond objects at rest and equal and opposite reactions. For her and her students, it’s a matter of learning how to think.

“The majority of my Physics students are Juniors, so they need to start owning their own learning,” she told us, “and I try not to spoon feed them. I force them to do their own learning, make their own decisions.”

That’s all very easy to say, but how do you make a classroom full of seventeen year-olds day-dreaming about driving to Froggy’s after school focus instead upon momentum and inclination?

Easy. You make it all about about cars.

stem-infographic“Most of my lessons deal with transportation,” Ms. Ioannou laughed. “We’re driving! Because if I can make them think twice about going too fast around a turn, then I’ve don
e my job. And that’s exactly where they connect with me. They’ll say, ‘the other day I was driving in the snow, and all I could think about was the coefficient of friction!'”

It’s this elevation of pragmatism which is the hallmark of the ex-engineer’s lesson plan. In Ms. Ioannou’s class, all the coefficients in the world aren’t worth bupkis if you can’t create something with them.

“We’re a technological society. We need to be able to make things, build things, know how something works. How do you make a table stand and not collapse on you? That’s all part of Physics,” she explained. “Maybe you’re not aware of the Math behind it, but you need to have the reasoning skills behind it.”

The Physics teacher’s daughter just graduated college with an engineering degree of her own, and the proud mom notes she is now designing toys for Melissa & Doug. Has being a female engineer, and the mother of a female engineer, made her a crusader for girls in STEM education?

Ms. Ioannou puts it this way:

“When I was getting my teaching certification, I did a paper, ‘Are Boys Better than Girls at Math?’ And basically the answer is, “no.” They think differently, even though it is the new ‘PC’ to say otherwise, but don’t let anyone try to convince you. Yet I would have girls who had higher grades turn around and tell me that the boys were better than them and I would say ‘Excuse me? How could you say that?’ These are the norms of society, so I am trying to work through that.”

Other than shattering societal biases that have been in place for millennia, what is the big difference at Kennedy? Is it the well-equipped labs, the comprehensive slate of Advanced Placement courses, the overwhelming percentage of her students that go on to university…?

“What I love about Kennedy is that we start each day with prayer and the pledge. I love that we start each of my classes with a prayer. I have wonderful colleagues, I am very impressed with the teachers here. I find that the teachers here really care. We all care.”

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It’s College Admissions Time!
 – By Katie Kennon ’17

Advice from Courtney Kelly of Notre Dame - Photo Courtesy of Notre Dame

Advice from Courtney Kelly of Notre Dame – Photo Courtesy of Notre Dame

Here are some tips from Courtney Kelly, a University of Notre Dame admissions counselor.

If you’ve been walking the halls of Kennedy Catholic recently, you may have noticed most seniors looking awfully stressed. There is a simple explanation for this mass hysteria: the college admissions process!  Ever since the Common Application became available for students on August 1st, the urgency to complete college applications has continued to grow. This madness will persist through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even into early 2017. What will seem like just a few months for most people, to high school seniors will feel like the longest and most stressful time of their lives.

Luckily, there are many opportunities for students to learn about and become more comfortable with the college admissions process, during and even before their senior year to ease some of the stress. There are school guidance counselors, college seminars, Naviance, numerous websites filled with advice, and friends and family that can share their experiences and tips. One of the best opportunities for students is when college admissions counselors visit their High Schools.

Aerial View of ND, Fighting Irish

Image courtesy of The University of Notre Dame

This Thursday, September 22nd Courtney Kelly, an admissions counselor for the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, is coming to Kennedy Catholic. I reached out to her last week to see if she would share her experiences and give the seniors some pointers on this daunting admissions process. In the true “Spirit of the Irish” she agreed to help and so began our “Cyber-Interview.”  These are Miss Kelly’s much valued responses to my inquiries:
The first question I had for her was about what had attracted her to her job as an Admissio
ns Counselor and how long she had been doing this type of work.

My college experience meant the world to me.  I gained knowledge, independence, and became a better person in four years.  I decided to work in admissions in order to help students achieve a similar experience.  I am  passionate about aiding students in finding the right ‘fit’ for them during their college search process.  It is important to find the college or university that fits the type of experience you want and that will help you match the person you want to become. It took me two years to complete my master’s degree in higher education administration with a concentration in enrollment management.  During this time, I was able to work in that institution’s admissions office.  I have only been working at Notre Dame for about six months but I am often able to utilize the experiences I’ve gained at a previous institution.  As soon as I started at Notre Dame, I felt engulfed by and immediately welcomed into this community, so it feels like I have been here much longer!“

Many students help out with our own Kennedy Open Houses so my next question was if Miss Kelly also was involved in open houses before she decided to make this her career.

“I wasn’t!  I originally wanted to work in marketing so after receiving a business degree, I moved to Manhattan and worked in corporate marketing for Conde Nast, a major magazine publisher.  After about three months in this job, I realized the corporate world wasn’t for me.  My passion lied in higher education, being on a college campus, and working with students about to embark on four years of discovery.  If I had realized this earlier I would have tried to get involved.  But hey!  That just goes to show that what you major in doesn’t have to define your career for the rest of your life.  The University of Notre Dame’s most successful finance major is the romance novelist, Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, anyone?!)” 

Since Miss Kelly is responsible for a large geographic area that spans not just Westchester but also NYC, Connecticut, and Long Island, I inquired about her favorite moments in what must be a very hectic career.

“Easy question.  Answer – the students.  I absolutely adore the opportunities to present to, meet with, and advocate for prospective students.  They are all amazing and simply looking for guidance about the leap they are about to take.  I love to hear their stories, offer advice, and talk about whether or not the University of Notre Dame might be the best fit for their college experience.

By hearing her response, it was evident that she loves her job so I then asked her main reason for coming and visiting the schools. I also inquired about the options for a student isn’t able to meet with her.

Two reasons.  To learn and to share.  I want to learn about the region I represent, the high schools in the area, and the students interested in Notre Dame.  I also want to share about the college experience at Notre Dame, the mission, the application process, and answer any questions that students might have.  Applying to college can be stressful and confusing so I want to ease the pressure and help students in any way I can.
 If someone can’t attend my visit and still wants to learn about the University of Notre Dame, they can see when I will be hosting ND on the Road Information Nights near their area (  If those dates don’t fit in their schedule, they are welcome to learn about Notre Dame through the website, or email me directly if they have any questions.  It is not a big deal if students can’t make the visit, so don’t stress!”

I then asked if she felt that these visits were mostly for students to learn about her school or if she wanted to learn about the students.

“Both!  I want to meet the students and guidance staff, and learn about the school.  I also want the students to ask any questions they have about the University of Notre Dame, the application process, or applying to college in general.

I know many Kennedy students were raised University of Notre Dame fans. Maybe it comes from memories of watching “Rudy” and “Knute Rockne, All American” or, perhaps, hearing our parents and grandparents talk about Lou Holtz, Touchdown Jesus. Or maybe it was seeing pictures and hearing about The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes and the Golden Dome. Some may even know that one of the writers of the “Victory March” (Without a doubt the most recognizable collegiate fight song in the nation) Father Michael Shea, was a pastor from St. Augustine’s in Ossining, where many Kennedy students are parishioners. But I wanted to hear from Miss Kelly what she felt was unique about Notre Dame. She did NOT disappoint.

I could spend hours talking about what I think is unique about Notre Dame.  To keep it short, the community and mission of Notre Dame are particularly unique.  The community here is awe inspiring.  At the home football game against Nevada, I sat behind six alum in their 70’s who returned to campus together to watch the game.  They were decked out head to toe in gear and cheered, high fived with every point scored, and at the end of the game stood up along with the entire student section, linked arms, and sang their Alma Mater.  I teared up sitting behind them because there is such an undeniable passion for this university – whether you are/were a student, a staff/faculty member, or simply a Fighting Irish fan.  You feel it with every alum you speak with, every step you take on campus, and every current student who tells you their story.  Notre Dame is a community of support, exploration, and faith.  The mission of the university is what inspires this community.  The broadly stated mission gives students the opportunity to develop students as whole human beings and have them graduate as a force of good for the world.  We are looking for students who are willing to be this force for their local community, the nation, and the world.  We want our students to be successful, of course, but to use that success in a way that enhances their surroundings.

As we wound down the interview, I asked what the most important “take-away” is that Miss Kelly could share with students.

 Find your fit.  There are thousands of colleges and universities in the United States.  Each one offers a unique college experience.  I know that the Notre Dame experience isn’t the fit that each prospective student is looking for so I try my best to help students figure out exactly what they want from their college experience.  Think about academics, location, community, mission, clubs, activities, sports, size, research opportunities, study abroad opportunities etc. and try your best to picture yourself on each campus.  Where will you excel?  What experience will guide you to be the person you want to become?  Where will you have fun?

Lastly, I asked Miss Kelly if she recommends that people visit the schools to which they are applying. As someone who is considering schools that are far away, I have had difficulty organizing college visits.

“Personally, I think visiting colleges or universities is very beneficial when decided where to attend college.  Prospective students can see the campus, speak with current students, and really get the feel, or vibe, of the place.  The University of Notre Dame, however, doesn’t take demonstrated interest into account so if you are too busy to visit before you apply, that is not a problem!  It might be a great option to visit after you’re admitted so you can really lay out your options and see what college experience, community, and campus if the best fit for you.  College is an adventure and you want to be sure to pick the adventure that is best suited for who you are and who you want to become.”

I would like to thank Miss Kelly for participating in the interview and for coming to Kennedy this Thursday! The story about the group of 70-year-old alumni especially brought a tear to my eye and without a doubt, made me want to experience the “Fighting Irish” spirit for myself! In the meantime, I will review Miss Kelly’s helpful pointers and follow her advice throughout the college admissions process and hope that all my fellow seniors will do the same.


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“GOOD MORNING, SUNRISE!” – By Kelsey Baron, ’17


…shouted approximately 800 rising high school seniors at 5:30 in the morning. A normal high schooler wouldn’t want to be awake at 5:30am, but this group was different. These 800 candidates were not only awake, but motivated and excited for the hour-and-a-half of sunrise PT (physical training) that was about to begin. I and one other of my Kennedy classmates, Nick Goebelbecker, had the privilege to be among those 800 high schoolers, who were invited to attend The United States Naval Academy Summer Seminar, NASS. It is a week long immersive experience into life as a Naval Academy Midshipman. The program’s acceptance is even more competitive than getting accepted into the Naval Academy itself. During my week spent at the Academy, PT was part of our morning routine just about everyday. We would then move onto tours and intramural sports, classes, or sea trials, depending on the day.

 Echo company, 2nd platoon, 1st Squad

We call ourselves “Echo Elite”

Each candidate was placed in a Company, Platoon, and Squad. This was how most of our daily activities were organized. I was a proud member of Echo company, 2nd platoon, 1st squad.(Easy day Echo!) During the week I came to have great pride in Echo-2-1, and grew very close with the new friends I made, especially those in my squad. We called ourselves Echo Elite, and supported each other throughout the seminar. We came from all over the U.S.; from New Jersey to Texas to California. I’m still close with members of my squad, we share application experiences and advice with each other. At meal times we ate with our squad. Although it was challenging with about 900 people talking at once, we managed to get to know each other during meal times and enjoyed some USNA traditions. One such tradition was opening a new jar of peanut butter by standing on your chair, yelling “Beat Army!!” and smashing the jar on your head so that the seal popped off, followed by a round of applause from the rest of the dining hall. During the latter half of the week, we attended Naval Academy classes taught by Academy professors. From discussing military scenarios and what the right decision would be when placed in them, to getting soaked learning how to patch a leaking pipe, all learning was hands on.

Wet, dirty push-ups during NASS

NASS Students participate in “Wet and Sandy”

One of my favorite parts of NASS was our day of Sea Trials. Sea Trials is a 13 hour experience that plebes (freshman) at the academy complete towards the end of their first year. We had a mini version of sea trials that was about 8 hours long, and consisted of four phases. My favorite part was “wet and sandy”, during which we jumped in the Severn River, fully clothed, then rolled around in the muddy sand and proceeded to do push ups and team building exercises. It was challenging, cold, and slightly disgusting; but also, exhilarating, fun, and an experience I will never have anywhere else.

End of Junior Year Experience at USNA

End of Junior Year Experience at USNA

During NASS we attended many briefs about everything from academics at the Academy, to ethics, to job opportunities that would be available after graduation. My favorite brief was presented by a woman named Ryan Manion. She spoke of her brother, Travis Manion, a Navy seal who made the ultimate sacrifice when hit by enemy sniper fire while aiding and drawing fire away from his wounded comrades. Travis’ actions that day allowed every other member of his patrol to survive the ambush. His sister, Ryan, and their mother created the Travis Manion Foundation in his honor. Its purpose is to serve veterans, remember the fallen, and inspire the next generation to live in a way that honors those who fought for their freedom. When asked why he was willing to go out on another deployment, Travis Manion answered, “If not me, then who?” Ms. Manion challenged all of us attending NASS to live out this idea and now, I want to pass this challenge on to you as well.

The United States Naval Academy Summer Seminar was one of the best weeks of my life. I highly urge high school juniors to consider applying for NASS and the Naval Academy itself. NASS is a fantastic opportunity, and an experience like no other. It will challenge you, push you farther than you ever thought you would go, and reward you in ways you can’t even imagine. You will form friendships that will last across the country and learn lessons about character and morals that will stay with you throughout your life. I could not be more grateful for my week spent at the Academy. It is my dream to attend the Naval Academy, graduate as a part of the class of 2021, and to serve in our nation’s Navy. After all, “If not me, then who?”.


To learn more about NASS at the United States Naval Academy, click here!

Kennedy Class of ’16: Where Are They Now?

us-news-logoThe U.S. News & World Report just published their annual compilation of the “Best Colleges,” and well over two dozen members of the Class of ’16 are now attending “nationally ranked” universities by that magazine’s reckoning.

Not everyone is a fan of the magazine’s list, of course. The New York Times views the magazine’s keenly-awaited annual assessment as a “marketing ploy,” yet it is tough to argue with U.S. News’ methodology. The schools are ranked on up to 15 academic quality benchmarks, and factor graduation rates in heavily. (Higher education isn’t much good if you don’t finish it.) But for these naysayers, the magazine tabulated the best colleges and universities as determined by high school guidance counselors. Another couple dozen Kennedy Class of ’16 grads can be found attending these schools as well.

You’ve seen these names flash by on the sign outside the school throughout the summer, now here’s that same list of schools along with their most recent ranking in U.S. News & World Report:

School U.S. News & World Report 2016 Ranking
Bentley University #3 in the North (tie)
Boston University #39 Nationally
Brooklyn College CUNY #75 (tie) in the North
City College of New York CUNY #85 (tie) in the North
College of Charleston #10 in the South (tie)
College of the Holy Cross #32 (tie) in National Liberal Arts Colleges
College of Mount Saint Vincent #128 (tie) in the North
Dickinson College #41 (tie) in National Liberal Arts Colleges
Drexel University #96 Nationally
Emmanuel College #171 (tie) in High School Counselor Rankings
Fairfield University #2 in the North
Fairleigh Dickinson University #67 (tie) in the North
Florida Atlantic University #247 (tie) in High School Counselor Rankings
Florida State University #92 (tie) Nationally
Fordham University #60 (tie) Nationally
Franciscan University of Steubenville #22 (tie) in the Midwest
George Washington University #56 (tie) Nationally
Georgetown University #20 (tie) Nationally
Hunter College CUNY #42 (tie) in the North
Iona College #75 (tie) in the North
Ithaca College #6 (tie) in the North
John Jay College of Criminal Justice CUNY #108 (tie) in the North
Johns Hopkins University #10 Nationally
Loyola University Maryland #3 (tie) in the North
Manhattan College #15 in the North
Manhattanville College #171 (tie) in High School Counselor Rankings
Marist College #9 (tie) in the North
Mercy College
Michigan State University #82 (tie) Nationally
Mitchell College
Monmouth University #38 (tie) in the North
New York Institute of Technology #32 (tie) in the North
New York University #36 Nationally
Pace University #188 (tie) Nationally
Pennsylvania State University #50 (tie) Nationally
Providence College #1 in the North
Purdue University #60 (tie) Nationally
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute #39 (tie) Nationally
Sacred Heart University #44 (tie) in the North
Saint Anselm College #171 (tie) in High School Counselor Rankings
Saint John’s University #164 (tie) Nationally
Savannah College of Art and Design
Siena College #106 (tie) in High School Counselor Rankings
St. Thomas Aquinas #99 (tie) in the North
State University of New York at Albany #146 (tie) Nationally
Stevens Institute of Technology #71 (tie) Nationally
Stony Brook University SUNY #96 (tie) Nationally
SUNY College at Cortland #61 (tie) in the North
SUNY College at Geneseo #14 in the North
SUNY College at Oneonta #44 (tie) in the North
United States Merchant Marine Academy #3 in Regional Colleges North
United States Military Academy West Point #1 (tie) in High School Counselor Rankings
University of Alabama #103 (tie) Nationally
University at Buffalo SUNY #110 (tie) in the North
University of Connecticut #60 (tie) Nationally
University of Delaware #79 (tie) Nationally
University of Hartford #188 (tie) Nationally
University of Missouri #111 (tie) Nationally
University of New Hampshire #107 (tie) Nationally
University of North Carolina #30 Nationally
University of Notre Dame #15 (tie) Nationally
University of Rhode Island #159 (tie) Nationally
University of Tampa #21 in the South
Villanova University #50 (tie) Nationally
Virginia Tech #74 (tie) Nationally
Wagner College #35 (tie) in the North
Washington and Lee University #11 in National Liberal Arts Colleges
Westchester Community College