Getting There From Here: Ms. Carnevalla Maps Out the Path to College

Kennedy Catholic has tripled its number of guidance counselors beginning with the 2017-18 school year. Freshmen and sophomores each get their own mentor, and shepherding the flock during the crucial college-focused junior and senior years is new hire Meaghan Carnevalla. She comes to Kennedy from the White Plains school system, after getting her Masters at Long Island University and doing her undergraduate work at SUNY Albany.

September finds Ms. Carnevalla knee deep in her college rep rolodex. She has scheduled Kennedy’s first college fair for October 19, and estimates there are about 60 schools pledged to attend – which she notes will mean it will overflow out of its normal gymnasium confines and into the hallways. During the fairs, sophomore through senior students get to meet one-on-one with college admission counselors and get a feel or what their college is like. A second fair is being scheduled for the spring.

Ms. Meaghan Carnevalla, Guidance Counselor | Grades 11-12

Ms. Meaghan Carnevalla, Guidance Counselor | Grades 11-12

Carnevalla is also scheduling many college visits (for colleges who want to meet Kennedy students but can’t make the fairs), some instant decision days, application days, and common app clinics.

Wait, what…?

“That’s where kids can come in and work on their applications,” Carnevalla explained. “Basically, kids come to the library for an hour after school and work on their common apps. If they have questions, I sit down with them and show them how to do it. Most kids will actually finish a big chunk of the common app, if not the whole thing, during the clinic.”

Another of Carnevalla’s initiatives is what she is calling an “admissions panel.”

“We are putting together a couple of counselors from each school: financial aid people, admissions people, and we will have a question and answer session. This will give students and parents a point of view that is different from mine. On the panel will be the people who actually review college applications.”

The panels are designed for juniors, and are scheduled to begin in January 2018. In addition to the new stuff, continuing “instant decision days,” a long-standing Kennedy Catholic tradition, is at the top of Carnevalla’s priority list.

“I am in the process of scheduling those now,” she told us. “What happens is, the school will come in and sit down with the student. We’ll provide them with the student’s transcript and test scores, and anything else they want. The colleges will decide – that day, while they are sitting with the student – if he or she has been accepted or not. So you would know in November if you were accepted to a school. And most of the time they will also offer a scholarship. Last year, Siena gave out scholarships to a ton of students.”

Siena hasn’t regretted its decision, apparently. The school is already on this year’s instant decision day calender, along with St. John’s, Dominican, Mount St. Mary, and a few more. If that seems like an awful lot of money is flowing to students without an awful lot of research on the part of the college, Carnevalla has an explanation.

“What I have heard from the reps is that Kennedy has a very good reputation, that we have very high achieving students,” she told us. “If they don’t do instant decision, they might do interview days, where they will come in and speak with interested students and weigh that into their decision. Some schools will do an ‘application day,’ have a kid apply and waive all the application fees. They may then come back and do an instant decision day.”

Carnevalla notes that the college admissions landscape is in flux. She perceives that many are stressing the SAT and ACT less, and taking a more “holistic” approach to making their decisions.

“They’re like, ‘let’s look at the kid as a whole. What are they like in school, what are they like outside of school, what are they doing in their free time, what extracurriculars do they have, are they heavily involved in community service?’ The fact that Kennedy has kids doing as much community service as they do really stands out.”

The number of Kennedy students’ service hours is not just a statistic that impresses college representatives. Kennedy students’ dedication to their communities wowed Carnevalla herself when she first came on campus this past summer.

“Every single kid has to do community service to graduate. But *these* kids actually enjoy doing it! I had several students coming here telling me over the summer they go and volunteer here, or they go over there, ‘I want to be involved with Habitat for Humanity.’ They are constantly wanting to help out in their community, which is wonderful!”

The elephant in the room during any happy and hopeful conversation about college education is its growing cost. Carnevalla noted that, in the past, most schools’ tuition have been in the neighborhood of $50K per year. Now she sees them inching up to $60-70K. She is recommending students take a look at New York State’s new Excelsior Scholarship program. Instituted in April 2017, it provides tuition-free college at New York’s public colleges and universities to families making up to $125,000 a year.

“Any time a scholarship comes across my desk, I send it out via email and post it on Naviance,” Carnevalla said. “I tell kids they should start looking at scholarships as soon as possible because there are specific ones they will qualify for, based on their interests, their major, their community service — there is a ton of local scholarships!

Carnevalla reckons that the biggest obstacle facing many students on their path to college is one they may not recognize until it has passed them: social media.

“Kids don’t realize that something they put out there stays out there forever,” she said. “Colleges do check it. They want to know what you have been posting on Instagram, what you have been posting on Facebook and Twitter. And they will search for a kid, they want to see if he or she is doing something they shouldn’t be doing.”

Carnevalla sees her own biggest challenge as less insidious, but no less daunting:

“Just getting to know all 160 seniors, and making sure everyone stays on track.”

No Free Swings at Bat: Mrs. Gerrity Breaks Down ‘College Prep’

This week Kennedy Catholic students will be attending their third in-house college fair of the school year. During their time at Kennedy, students will attend eight college fairs. With nearly 50 college admissions counselors per fair, that’s a lot of college representation and preparation.

It is a philosophy,” acknowledges Christine Gerrity, Kennedy Catholic’s Director of Guidance. “It is an attitude in the school. When I meet with freshmen and their parents at orientation, I like to stress that ‘college prep starts now.’ We just don’t start talking about college in junior year, it starts as a 9th grader.”

Mrs. Christine Gerrity, Director of Guidance at Kennedy Catholic High School, seated at desk

Mrs. Christine Gerrity, Director of Guidance at Kennedy Catholic High School

Mrs. Gerrity is in her third year at Kennedy Catholic, having joined the school from Good Counsel’s guidance department. Since then, she has increased the number of fairs held each year, and has boosted the number of college reps attending each one, considerably.

But still… do we really need to start this whole ‘college prep’ thing in 9th grade?

It may sound ridiculous,” Mrs. Gerrity conceded, “because 9th graders are busy being 9th graders. But it’s the little things: the little pieces in the Kennedy climate, the way we put the onus on our students to engage their teachers directly, start talking to adults, learn how to talk to adults, have an email relationship with their teacher – college is not going to snapchat you! – all that is very collegiate behavior.”

Although she doesn’t have freshmen filling out FAFSA forms, Mrs. Gerrity does believe that it is never too early for them to be proactive about building a strong high school transcript.

It is a complete fallacy to think that you can become an ‘A’ student in junior year and that it is going to matter,” Mrs. Gerrity warns. “The college admissions climate is so hyper-competitive – it has been on a trajectory straight up! We are seeing alarming numbers of applicants in huge pools, and the priorities in a landscape like that are GPAs and test scores. I hate to say it, but that’s what is going to keep you on the table in a heavy and aggressive admissions review. Your cumulative GPA is going to be born in early July after your junior year closes, and that number consists of freshman, sophomore and junior year grades. There really are not any free swings at bat any more for these students.”

This is why Kennedy Catholic students take a PSAT exam in 9th grade. They’ll take it again – “practice assessments,” Mrs. Gerrity calls them – in sophomore year, before taking the “real” PSAT in the beginning of junior year. All of this is a warm-up for the main event, the SAT, taken the following spring.

When we turn the corner for January of junior year, that’s when we have our College Information Night for parents, a really comprehensive presentation. Next, I start meeting with each and every junior individually, I start asking about where they are in the process,” she explained.

But we do a very good job of not over-serving the details. I know parents really want to get their hands around every little detail, but they don’t need to know how to take the engine apart until senior year. So I try to measure what I deliver, I ask them to hold my hand, ‘we’re going to get through it,’ and get the student to buy in.”

That student “buy-in” is essential because success requires that the student step up.

It’s the student’s voice that these counselors like to hear,” she said. “They are very impressed when the student makes the phone call, engages the adult and asks the tough questions.”

More and more, these tough questions are being asked at a local Starbucks or Panera Bread. Although colleges are conducting fewer interviews with candidates in recent years, many of them are being conducted at coffee shops near the students’ high school, and not on the college campus. Duke, the University of North Carolina, Providence, Yale, Georgetown and Notre Dame are among the colleges who have been favoring these local interviews.

One notion that Mrs. Gerrity is quick to disabuse is that all academics are anti-climactic after junior year.

We do not support our students weakening their transcripts for senior year. We encourage them to take advantage of any rigorous work that they can, to keep the trajectory going. The colleges are going to ask, ‘This is great, what you did in 9, 10 and 11, but let’s see what you are doing senior year,’ and they don’t want to see basket-weaving and bed-making after you have taken three APs in your junior year.”

This makes especially good sense at Kennedy, where electives in computer science, bio-technology and robotics programming are available to seniors – many of whom go on to pursue these subjects in college.

“A lot of engineering programs, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) are trending, pre-med, bio-medical, and the humanities is still huge,” Mrs. Gerrity ticked off the college majors most popular among Kennedy graduates in the past three years. “There has also been a big spike in nursing, we saw it start last year. The whole health sciences field, which exploded 4-5 years ago, is continuing to trend.”

That’s not to say there is any homogeneity among the college paths Kennedy students are taking. They are, quite literally, all over the map.

As demonstrated by where our students do end up going, the message is, ‘you can get there from here,’ Mrs. Gerrity points out. “You can get to an Ivy from here, you can get to a service academy (we do that every year), you can get to a fine arts school. We are starting to get some acceptances in California, we have an international acceptance, we are going west of the Mississippi more, we are going south more.”

Which brings us back to all these college fairs. Now, the typical college fair is held at some central location (the Westchester County Center in White Plains is a popular choice locally) and students from around the region all file into the same hub, making it a very convenient and efficient exercise for the college admissions counselors involved.

So why would as many as sixty of them flock to Somers three times a year just to see only Kennedy students?

When the college representatives realize the quality of the student they are coming to see, that’s why they are coming,” Mrs. Gerrity explained. “They know they are only seeing one school’s worth of students, but it’s worth their morning to see Kennedy students.”

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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.


Kennedy Partners with ADAPP for Enhanced Guidance Progams

On September 12, Kennedy Catholic announced that a representative of the Archdiocese of New York Drug Abuse Prevention Program (ADAPP) would be present on the campus three days a week to serve the Kennedy community. ADAPP’s role at Kennedy will be to support the Guidance Department in the context of student-related issues and concerns.

ADAPP was created in 1972 to provide counseling and education to prevent and intervene in the use of alcohol and other drugs. ADAPP’s focus is on the children, adults and families within the schools, parishes and communities of the New York Archdiocese.

Since its founding over 40 years ago, ADAPP has expanded its charter beyond drug and alcohol abuse to include crisis intervention, suicide assessment, and bullying prevention. The organization accomplishes its goals through an innovative and holistic approach encompassing preemptive education, confidential counseling and the promotion of healthy, responsible lifestyles.


According the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the total costs of drug abuse and addiction due to use of tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs are estimated at $524 billion a year. It is major public health problem that is linked to chronic diseases and it is a contributor to a variety of social problems, including traffic accidents, relationship violence and child abuse.

For the 2016/2017 academic year, ADAPP counselor Ms. Melissa Capozzi will be on campus Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. In her supportive role as an on-site counselor, Ms. Capozzi will meet with students, assess and address their needs, and implement several value-added ADAPP supportive programs into Kennedy Catholic classrooms and curriculums.

Fr. Vaillancourt, Principal of Kennedy Catholic, said, “Contemporary, informative, proactive and ultimately, preemptive initiatives will be presented in both Health and Physical Education classes. Ms. Capozzi will also be making presentations to the upperclassmen as they prepare to transition from high school to the collegiate experience.

“Both the Administration and the Guidance Department wholly embrace ADAPP’s presence on campus and we look forward to all the benefits to be realized by our students.”

Ms. Capozzi’s office will be located in the lower library. She can be reached by email  or by phone at (914) 232-5061 ext. 134.


Spring Guidance Fair


Northern & Southern Westchester College Conferences

The Northern and Southern Westchester College Conferences are open to students & parents. It will take place on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 in Northern Westchester (NW) at Yorktown High School from 6:30-9:00 p.m. and on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 in Southern Westchester (SW) at the Westchester County Center from 6:30-9:00 p.m.

We recommend arriving early for parking purposes. To see a complete list of the colleges and universities attending, please visit

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TACHS Preparation Test for Entrance into Catholic Schools

Kennedy Catholic will hold test preparation for the TACHS test this fall for entrance to Catholic schools, including Kennedy.  Six classes will be held from 3:30 – 4:45 pm on the following dates:

Meeting Dates: September 25, October 2, 9, 16, 23, and November 6.

The cost of the 7 classes is $275 and all classes will be held at Kennedy Catholic high school and taught by our faculty. Students taking the classes need to purchase Barron’s TACHS Review Book for use in the classes.

Please submit the registration form and check payable to KCHS.

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Guidance Hosts College Fair

The Kennedy Catholic Guidance Department hosted over three dozen colleges and universities for a College Day designed for juniors, sophomores and freshmen.  College representatives have historically visited Kennedy on an individual basis throughout the fall season.  The Guidance Department chose to sponsor this event so that Kennedy students would have access to a variety of representatives in order to compare schools more effectively.

“The goal is to bring our students face-to-face with admissions representatives as early and as often as possible,” Director of Guidance Samantha Black said. “In addition to making a positive first impression, it also gives them an opportunity to learn more about the schools and opportunities that might interest them.”

The list of colleges included 19 New York schools, 5 Connecticut colleges and 2 from New Jersey, plus another dozen from beyond the tri-state area.  Among the Empire State schools were St. John’s University and SUNY Albany, which along with Iona College, collectively offer 72 college credits to Kennedy students through an ongoing partnership.

In anticipation of the event, the Guidance Department prepared students in advance on how to maximize their interaction with the college representatives.  “The College Day is an opportunity for students to learn whether a college is a potential match based on their strengths and interests,” Marie Riffel said, “so we encourage our students to prepare in advance by thinking about issues such as campus location, student life and majors.”

Mrs. Black said last year’s graduating class earned more than $17 million in merit scholarship awards, which she attributes to the strong student-teacher dynamic at Kennedy, and to the achievements and accomplishments of our talented student body.

I.T Specialist Mike Kealy has been utilizing the Naviance college application system to communicate the event to students, parents, and faculty. He has generated enthusiasm within the school community and has created a partnership with Kennedy and the colleges attending.

Tables were set up in the Commons for representatives, and students had ample opportunity to frequent them during their lunch periods as well as designated class visits. For more information, please write to

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College Acceptance News!


42 College Offers of Acceptance and Over $2.1 Million in Scholarships All Before Christmas!

The KCHS Guidance Department is pleased to announce that the instant decision college days held at Kennedy this fall have been a tremendous success!  Mrs. Black invited St. John’s University, The College of St. Rose, Mount Saint Mary College, and Manhattanville College to our campus.  The instant decision days offered KCHS students a unique opportunity to meet with the college admissions officer, interview, and have their applications reviewed and processed the same day all while having their application fees waived!

The results:  42 college offers of acceptance and over $2.1 million in scholarship funds awarded to our students.   This opportunity certainly puts Kennedy students at an advantage over other area applicants who usually have to wait until spring to learn of their college admission decisions. These offers of admission provide our seniors increased opportunities and options when making their final college choice.