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Alumni Spotlight

Welcome to our Alumni Spotlight where we will feature alumni of the East Rockaway School District. The alumni spotlight is designed to keep the community up-to-date with all our students accomplish upon graduation.

Should you like to participate or contribute to the alumni spotlight, please contact Donna Robbins at

Alumni Spotlight

Russell PajerRussell Pajer, Class of 1988

After graduating from East Rockaway, Mr. Pajer began his Bachelor of Business Administration in Management at Hofstra University. Beyond his academics, Mr. Pajer was a leader as a Defensive Back on the football team, President of Crown & Lance fraternity, and in charge of student security for special student events. Mr. Pajer’s role in student security helped him learn to build his interpersonal and problem-solving skills. This was also his first taste of life as a dean. At Hofstra, he participated in intramurals, had great opportunities, made lifelong friends, and learned lifelong lessons.

During Mr. Pajer’s time as a college student, his East Rockaway Football Coach, Mr. DeMasi asked him to coach with him. After coaching a season, Mr. Pajer realized he enjoyed being around students, teaching them, and seeing them grow. Additionally, he was Inspired by Mr. Lores to teach, as he had a significant impact on Mr. Pajer’s life. He watched Mr. Pajer play basketball while a student at St. Raymond’s. While Mr. Pajer originally planned to attend Chaminade, the allure of the close knit community led him to East Rockaway. After their initial
meeting, Mr. Lores continued to be a support system. He always looked out and provided real life examples. Every moment was a teachable moment.

Mr. Pajer remained at Hofstra to pursue a master’s in education.

Mr. Pajer worked for Hofstra Public Safety for three years while he taking his education courses. As an employee of the university, he attended as a student at no cost. 1995 was an exceptional year for Mr. Pajer. He got married and started teaching at East Rockaway part-time. He taught keyboarding, careers, marketing, as well as others. He was coaching four sports; Varsity Football, Junior High Boys & Girls Basketball and Softball.

As an East Rockaway student, Mr. Pajer thought this was a great place to grow up. He felt that his teachers cared and were very supportive. Teachers took him under their wings, helped him where he struggled, and made him the person he is today. Mr. Pajer was very active outside of the classroom as an athlete, editor of yearbook, president of drama club, and member of student council. HE was the captain for football, basketball, and track. He received many awards and honors. Mr. Pajer was an all-county athlete and regularly on the honor roll.

Mr. Pajer would like to encourage our students to never give up. When things get tough, he believes that working a little harder will bring success. Additionally, our students should never think they cannot achieve what may seem impossible. We are from a small town and can have big dreams.

Mr. Pajer currently serves as our school dean, business teacher, football and basketball coach. He also teaches drivers education. In his time away from East Rockaway he enjoys being with his wife and two children.
MantleRebecca Mantle, Class of 2009

Our newest School Counselor, Rebecca Mantle has returned home! We are excited to welcome her as the Leave Replacement for Ms. Melecio. Mrs. Mantle was eager to explore a different environment from East Rockaway and pursued her college education at University of Toledo in Ohio. As a student, she studied psychology and minored in counseling. Mrs. Mantle loved living in Ohio. She enjoyed the slower pace, and there were days where she missed the hustle of living in New York. She truly appreciates the ability to have experienced both.

While in Ohio, Mrs. Mantle was the president of local sorority, Chi Delta Pi and became a founding member of the Gamma Tau Chapter of Delta Phi Epsilon. She is currently an advisor for the Hofstra chapter of DPhiE. Her involvement at Toledo went beyond Greek Life. Mrs. Mantle participated in Dance Marathon to support the Children’s Miracle Network where she danced for over 15 hours.

Mrs. Mantle moved back to Long Island after graduating and began her master’s in counseling at LIU. While in this program, Mrs. Mantle was informed of the challenge of finding a position in NY and would have to move, again. While discouraging, she enjoyed the program and opportunities ahead. Mrs. Mantle worked in Massapequa High School as a substitute and security guard. She continued as a Leave Replacements in Valley Stream HS District, both North & Central, and was also an elementary school counselor for BOCES.

Although Mrs. Mantle wanted a change of pace from East Rockaway, she has many fond memories growing up in. She is still in touch with her fifth-grade teacher, Ms. Liberti. SHe credits her for a lot of her current and past successes. Ms. Liberti was at Mrs. Mantle’s Sweet 16, wedding, and has met her 11-month-old daughter, Raelynn. Ms. Liberti was the first teacher to realize that Mrs. Mantle had a learning disability. It took some time for her parents to move forward with obtaining support for this, and she was ultimately diagnosed with dyslexia. Mrs. Mantle hated school. If Ms. Liberti did not take the time to make such a connection, she does not believe she would be where she is today. This helped her recognize she wanted to be a counselor so she could support students who needed that trusted adult to cheer for them.

As an East Rockaway student, Mrs. Mantle was also impacted by her experience in her classes with Mr. Poland Mr. Ezell, and Mrs. Matthews, among many others.

She participated in soccer, track, cross country, band, chorus, and had a role in Rock Rivalry. Mrs. Mantle was also the president of the science club, a member of SADD, and SPO.

Mrs. Mantle believes that we don’t always appreciate what high school has to offer. At East Rockaway, Mrs. Mantle was able to have close connections with teachers that may not have been possible elsewhere. There are many unique aspects and benefits of our districts. She hopes our students enjoy the moments, as she did.

gerken photoMelissa Gerken Goff, Class of 1997

After graduating from East Rockaway in 1997, Melissa Goff began the next chapter of her life at the University of Delaware. She studied within the hospitality program and was offered a position upon graduation In a training program for Marriott. Unfortunately, 2001 was a challenging year economically, and the offer was withdrawn for all graduates.

After graduating from University of Delaware, Melissa moved back to East Rockaway with her family. She stamped and mailed her resume to every hotel in the area and organizations within the hospitality industry. She received a call from Aramark at Shea Stadium regarding a position to manage the owner's areas. This was the most exciting position Melissa held. She attended every baseball game of the season. She had so much fun attending work every day, but with the long hours, she knew the position was not sustainable.

Melissa reevaluated her position with Shea stadium after receiving a call for an interview from a New York City hotel. At the time, Melissa did not have the credentials for the available position. However, her meeting with the Director of Sales went incredibly well and the hotel did not want to lose her. Melissa was offered a position that would provide her with opportunities for growth within the company. That was September 10th, 2001. Given the unfortunate and unexpected circumstances surrounding the tragedy of September 11th, Melissa stayed in her role with Aramark at Shea Stadium and gained the new roll of supervisor for all the suites. She then worked with Aramark in the baseball offseason at Nassau Coliseum running a new restaurant for Hockey Season.

Once the climate shifted, Melissa received a call back from the hotel where she would have begun work in September. She transitioned into a position of sales assistant where she learned the culture of working at a hotel. She then was promoted to reservation manager where she supported reservations, consulted with clients, and learned to always maintain a positive attitude. After a year in reservations, she wanted to get into event planning and a job was open at the NY Marriott marquis, her dream job. Turns out that the interviewing director she knew from the University of Delaware. She was hired for the job. About 10 years later she realized she wanted a more stable work schedule and moved over to sales as a Senior catering sales executive.

Since beginning at the Marquis, Melissa has planned and sold all types of events-meetings, galas, proms, kosher market events, and worked with events from 5 to 2500 people.

Melissa has put a significant effort into women supporting women in the workplace. As a woman in the workplace, she believes that challenges have improved, but it is imperative to find mentors to support career and work climate navigation. Without the women who were her mentors, Melissa does not believe she would have been where she is today. From these experiences and her involvement in supporting others in their career, Melissa learned that networking is a huge component to one's career. It is important to always greet everyone and have a smile on your face, especially in the hospitality industry because you never know when you will see them again in the future. She wants to always be able to give advice to women and support them in their careers. There are people out there who helped her put her best foot forward, and she wants to do the same for others.

While a student at East Rockaway, Melissa enjoyed band with Mr. Schloen. She was a member of the musicals, and always managed to help somehow. Memorable shows were Bye, Bye Birdie, The Sound of Music, and Cinderella. While working on Cinderella, she spent a lot of time with the "little fairies" from our elementary school and kept them on track. Melissa was also co captain of our Badminton Team. She enjoyed being coached by Mr. Baco, who she recalls connecting well with all the players. She also played volleyball and cheered. Her favorite class was Mr. Bishop's art class, and some of her favorite memories were working on Rock Rivalry with friends. She is currently an East Rockaway resident and excited for her son, Tyler to begin as a rock at Centre Avenue next year.
hill photoMargaret McTague Hill, Class of 1981

We were excited for Margaret McTague Hill to return to East Rockaway in March as a Career Week Presenter. She shared her experience as a Registered Nurse with our students. Currently, she is the Program Director for Infection Prevention at Syosset Hospital, and the only Infection Prevention Nurse. Her role has evolved due to the pandemic, and she finds herself incredibly busy with new developments and challenges.

After graduating with a degree in nursing from Adelphi, Margaret completed her Master's at Western Governor's University. Prior to her role at Syosset Hospital, Margaret worked at LIJ Medical Center in infection prevention for seven years. She was previously a medical unit manager for the medical unit. She is part of the Long Island/New York City Board, and part of the Long Island Chapter of Prevention of Infection Control. Margaret feels lucky to be part of such a large health system where there is a collaborative approach to patient care.

Prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic, Syosset was mainly a surgical hospital. Most of what was encountered was orthopedic surgery. Margaret's role was to complete investigations into infections in surgeries. This detective work is what she loved most about her job. She consulted often with the Nassau and Suffolk Department of Health and provided a significant amount of patient education, as well as sharing findings with patient family members and staff. Margaret was the resources person for employee health, nursing, and physician education. With the rise of Covid-19, Margaret's hospital was the first to receive the vaccine. She felt very lucky to report, and investigate each case, as well as conducted contact tracing.

Currently, Margaret lives in Bethpage with her husband and their four children, Michael, Robert, Patrick & Ryan. As an East Rockaway student, Margaret was very involved. She was the Chairperson of Rock Rivalry and Vice President of her class. Margaret was named Queen of the Prom. Additionally, she volunteered with her friend Diane at Rhame Avenue School. Together, they loved reading to elementary school students there. They became friends in Kindergarten and remain friends today.

Margaret's positive experience as an East Rockaway student is also marked by her involvement in choirs with Mr. Miller. Her favorite class was chemistry with Dr. Moglia. Upon graduation from high school, Margaret began her college experience at Stony Brook. Coming from our small community where she was so involved, Margaret felt her transition to Stony Brook, and being away was a bit challenging. She transferred to Adelphi and still longed for the East Rockaway sense of community, as many of her friends were away at school.

East Rockaway is remembered by Margaret as a great place to grow up. She knew everyone, and still knows. She also knows she can still count on these lifelong friends. During Superstorm Sandy, the power in Bethpage was out for a month. Margaret was loaned a generator from an East Rockaway friend. Although Margaret's parents have since moved from East Rockaway, her family is still involved in the town.

Margaret's husband has shared that when you are from East Rockaway, you will find other Rocks all over the world. Margaret even ran into a friend while traveling in Italy. Margaret works with people from East Rockaway, and initially worked in the community at the nursing home next to St. Raymond's. Margaret enjoys that she is still friends with so many people, as well as their families. Her children are friends with their children. Although she doesn't live near any former classmates, they are still very much close.
luke tesoriero standing in front of capitolLuke Tesoriero, Class of 2010

After graduating in 2010, Mr. Tesoriero traveled over six hours from home to attend SUNY Brockport. He quickly found the 45-minute plane ride much easier than driving. Mr. Tesoriero was in the Delta College Program at Brockport. This unique honors program allowed students to experience project-based learning, internships, and hands-on learning. As a sophomore,. Mr. Tesoriero studied abroad at the University of Portsmouth in England. He describes this as the best time of his life. Although studying in England, Mr. Tesoriero took three American History classes and one French History class as he was bound by credit requirements and major restrictions. Students in England spend another year in high school than in the United States, therefore, as a sophomore, Mr. Tesoriero was able to have the freshmen experience all over again. Brockport was significantly different than Mr. Tesoriero’s study abroad experience. Coming from a small campus with brick buildings, in Portsmouth, Mr. Tesoriero found himself in the middle of a city without the intimacy of a campus. Portsmouth is located on the English Channel, which is referred to as “the beach” in England; despite Mr. Tesoriero sharing it lacked sand and just seeing a bunch of pebbles.

Mr. Tesoriero walked 20 minutes to school every day during his experience abroad. On Mondays, he only had one class at 3 PM. This allowed him to spend his weekends traveling. Additionally, he spent a 30-day break traveling all over Europe by himself. During his weekend travels, Mr. Tesoriero visited London and began his longer travel with a trip to Normandy. He loved the historical aspect of what he saw in Normandy, and what he was able to learn about the military. He recalls being put in uncomfortable situations in which his cell phone didn’t work, he was unable to communicate, and found himself disconnected from mainland Europe in the middle of nowhere. After figuring out how to proceed, he took a 36-hour train ride from Normandy to Sicily. Trains were compartment based, and Mr. Tesoriero found himself with an Italian family. His eight years of Italian at East Rockaway made the train ride move a lot more quickly than it would have, otherwise. After Sicily, Mr. Tesoriero traveled to Naples, Rome, Venice, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Paris, and then back to Portsmouth. He has traveled every year since, as the experience was incredible. Now that his wife, Caitlin, is part of his annual travels, he makes sure that there is something meaningful to see wherever they choose to go.

Mr. Tesoriero knew he wanted to be a teacher since he was in fourth grade, as he loved the components of school, the family atmosphere, and social studies. Mr. Tesoriero was a very involved student while at East Rockaway. He was involved in football, baseball, mock trial, SADD, and The Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan. He was also an Eagle Scout. His favorite East Rockaway memories are participating in athletics and Rock Rivalry. While graduating with a larger class of 116, he enjoyed being part of the tight knit community. He believes that the bond is deeper than other places because everyone is able to share in common extracurricular experiences and classes together.

After completing licensing exams, Mr. Tesoriero began subbing in Uniondale and coaching in East Rockaway. He began a full-time position as a Special Education teacher at Queens Preparatory Academy in Springfield Gardens, all the while still coaching football and baseball in East Rockaway. In 2018, he received a full-time teaching position at East Rockaway.

After Mr. Tesoriero’s experience abroad, he truly believes that students should have an open mind about life after high school. He hears many students say they can’t wait to leave, or that they are never leaving East Rockaway. His advice to students is that they push themselves to do their own thing. Just like his experience, one can leave, experience the world, and come back.
pam murano with childPam Murano, Class of 1993

After graduating East Rockaway in 1993, Ms. Murano attended Hofstra University. She loved the campus, the opportunity to study film, and received significant scholarship awards. After two years of studying film, Ms. Murano picked up a camera and hated it. She couldn’t care less about the aperture of a lens. She found it to be so boring and decided to pursue a different field. Ms. Murano continued with Theatre as a minor and decided to study education. Since she was unsure of the level where she was most interested, she chose to double major in Elementary Education and English. She graduated certified in Pre-K through 12th grade.

While a student at Hofstra, Ms. Murano was a member of the intramural softball team, and participated in the Women in Communications club. Upon graduating from Hofstra, Ms. Murano began working as a substitute teacher. While subbing through the end of that year, and beginning the process of her job search, a Teaching Assistant position was available at East Rockaway. She interviewed the day the teachers returned for the school year and began working the next day. Ms. Murano accepted the challenge and to learn what it was like to be in front of a classroom, some classrooms with students just a few years younger. Creating lesson plans and responding directly to student inquiries was much different than her student teaching experience because she was on her own. She met several teachers who became her friends and worked with some teachers who had her as a student. The support she received from all East Rockaway members helped her learn and grow professionally.

As an East Rockaway student, Ms. Murano’s favorite memories include anything that has to do with school musicals. She was a cast member in Annie, Peter Pan, and The Wizard of Oz. Ms. Murano was a student athlete as a member of the volleyball and softball teams. She was also a member of Student Council and the Honor Society.

While in graduate school, Ms. Murano’s favorite class was Museum as the Educator. Every week she explored a different type of museum. Ms. Murano notes that one of her most important classes was Public Speaking. It opened her eyes to the important steps to follow when presenting to others. She was able to record herself with a video camera and examine areas of strength and improvement. Ms. Murano believes she is a much better speaker and teacher because of this class.

Outside of East Rockaway, Ms. Murano loves to spend time at the theatre. Some of her favorite shows are Damn Yankees and Come From Away. She notes that Come From Away is an undersold show with double roles, a small cast, and only one act. Ms. Murano is eager to get back to spending time at the theatre with her family and friends and hopes that it’s soon. Ms. Murano also enjoys singing. She participated in several choral societies that are currently on hold.

Ms. Murano notes that the best part of being a student at East Rockaway is that students have the opportunity to choose to participate in so many different activities and clubs. She also notes that any class or elective taken in high school can spark something beyond the credit. It could be a lifelong interest, a hobby, or even a job. She feels from her experience it is important students know they are not locked in and can always change their minds.
aAnayiah Brathwaite, Class of 2017

After graduating in 2017, Anayiah ventured to Coastal Carolina University with plans to major in Early Childhood Education and minor in Hospitality. After recognizing her passion for travel and hospitality, and not wanting to spend the rest of her life in the same place, she chose to major in hospitality instead.

In 2019, Anayiah had a Summer Internship at the Homewood Suites by Hilton in New York City. For a month, she worked in a variety of hotel departments. These included the "front of house" or guest-facing roles. Anayiah worked in housekeeping, human resources, and engineering (maintenance).These roles included Anayiah traveling around the hotel with an inspector to make sure cleaning was properly completed, reviewing engineering work on HVAC units, completing television repairs, and going on the roof every day monitor the water filter and heater. As part of the Human Resources role, Anayiah used the employee lounge to enhance visual appeal and employee satisfaction. This was completed by implementing a running presentation that honored employees. She managed the hotel's social media by walking around the city and posting photos of the hotel and surrounding area to increase their online presence.

While at Coastal Carolina, Anayiah was an active member of the sorority, Chi Omega. As a member of this organization, Anayiah was on the campus activities committee and Greek Week Chair. Greek Week, a similar series of events to Rock Rivalry included Anayiah to monitor attendance of participants and delegate which activities they would attend during this exciting time. Some of Anayiah's favorite events included Mock Rock competition where participants choreographed and performed dances based on movie scenes while the scene of the movie played.

While at East Rockaway, Anayiah was involved with cheer and lacrosse teams. While Anayiah only played basketball for a week, she remained a member of the team as their manager. Her favorite high school memories were winning Rock Rivalry and all of her cheer competitions. Cheer is forever in her heart and she misses it, greatly. Additionally, she believes her favorite teacher Mrs. Rodriguez and her positive experience in Spanish was why she did so well in college.

Currently, Anayiah is job hunting and maintaining her online presence to network in hospitality. She currently has a position collecting data through phone calls. Anayiah is still in Conway, South Carolina in an apartment near the school and 20 minutes from Myrtle Beach. Anayiah does not even own a winter coat anymore due to the weather where she lives. She loves the beach, has a pool in her housing complex, and thrives in the environment with so many outdoor opportunities. One of her favorites is the Waccamaw Hiking Trail that overlooks the swamp with a dock for fishing.

Anayiah describes herself as a social butterfly while a student at East Rockaway. In the small school with a tight knit community, she recalls being friends with everyone. She carried this aspect of her personality to Coastal Carolina as a student and in her future in hospitality. Anayiah's ability to connect with others helped her branch out and network. She is not afraid to try new things. In addition to the strong education program, and desire to be far away, Anayiah's personality helped her thrive far away from home.
j tJaneen Kelley, Class of 1992

Janeen prides herself on having an adventurous spirit and credits her exciting life to her curious nature. After graduating from East Rockaway, Janeen Kelley attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Although she was also invited to audition at Julliard, Janeen was awarded scholarship money upon graduation. This, as well as an opportunity to explore a new location, was appealing to her. Attending Julliard did not seem realistic at the time.

Initially, Janeen majored in Criminal Psychology with a minor in Women's Studies, but she became more involved in music, as it was always a passion. Janeen taught herself how to play bass guitar and spent time as the lead singer in a band, touring up and down the West Coast. Her adventures eventually led her to meet Pearl Jam, whom she had the opportunity to spend a few weeks getting to know. Shortly thereafter, Janeen moved to Seattle upon transferring to University of Washington.
While in Seattle, Janeen's continued participation in the music scene, as well as her interest in women's equality, led her toward greater activism. She volunteered for organizations like Rock for Choice and Rock the Vote which aim at encouraging youth voting. Janeen continued to use her talents to get involved in a variety of areas, as she recognized that inequality was being experienced by many of those around her, and felt she could bring some good to the cause. She shifted her major to Behavioral Psychology and began working in women's shelters and with those who are hearing impaired.

Seattle is also where Janeen met her husband, Tyler. They moved back to New York to marry, and Janeen went back to school at Molloy where she received a Master's in Secondary Education. She and her family moved to Florida where she taught high school English for five years at Pineview School for the Gifted.

When Janeen's first daughter, Lorelai was born, she shifted her career to becoming a homemaker. Taking photography classes during Lorelai's nap time, Janeen cultivated a passion for the art, and soon she began taking children's photos professionally. Janeen greatly enjoyed her time as a lifestyle photographer. It was fun, kept her busy, and allowed her to be creative. Janeen loves all creative endeavors and often wondered how others seem content doing a single profession their entire careers.
Janeen and her family currently reside in the Raleigh area of North Carolina. She loves experiencing the four seasons and believes that this location is a happy medium considering the other places she has lived. Janeen is currently back in school (again!) studying Interior Design virtually at the NY Institute of Interior Design.

As an East Rockaway student, Janeen was a large part of Rock Rivalry. She was Overall Chair, Entrance Chair, on the script committee, choreography committee, writer, and director and carried lead roles in '91 and '92. In 1992, her class broke all the records and set a bar that has not yet been surpassed by another class.

Janeen looks back fondly on her years at The Rock. She recalls failing band with a 64 because she played her own composed music rather than what was directed. This experience taught her a lot about life, and that even in creative settings, there is a time and place for rules and self-expression.

Beginning at her time in East Rockaway, Janeen formed an understanding that if she was going to change things about the world, she couldn't do so in a conventional manner. She had many experiences in which she pushed boundaries, and the world pushed back. Janeen realized that she needed to use her creativity to influence the world in a way that it would accept.

With a graduating class that was so small, classmates felt like Janeen's true family. Despite her opportunities to live in so many different places and experiencing tons of adventure, she still considers East Rockaway home and the people there her family. Janeen's attributes a lot of who she is to being a Rock. She believes East Rockaway taught her to cultivate herself into someone worth knowing.
jack photoJack Drevnyak (Class of 2013)

After graduating from East Rockaway, Jack attended SUNY Oswego. He studied technology education and enjoyed the nature of this hands-on degree. He preferred building and creating over the traditional lecture. Jack also liked that he was not too far from home, but still felt far away. Oswego allowed Jack the opportunity to drive home if he wanted, but he didn't need to catch a plane. Jack also notes enjoying the social aspects of a school like Oswego. It allowed for students to be outgoing and comfortable with their peers.

As an East Rockaway student, Jack was in Rock Rivalry all four years. He recalls the camaraderie of coming together as a grade and hanging out together. As a member of the basketball team, one of Jack's favorite memories and highlights of his time at East Rockaway was a trip to Shelter Island. Academically, Jack describes himself as an average student who thrived in his art and technology classes. He enjoyed his time in elementary school, and has fond memories of Mr. Cohen, his 5th grade teacher. He also remembers going to Wardens and Anthony's Pizzeria during 5th period lunch.

Jack currently teaches technology at Uniondale High School. His focus with his students is electrical engineering, intro to python, robotics, and computer manufacturing. Upon the pandemic, Jack's classes were creating ear savers and shipping them to hospitals.

In addition to his position at Uniondale, Jack owns a technology company where he produces and manufactures charging cables. At first, this was challenging to balance. He set up shipment through amazon as we was able to cast a wider net online.

As a graduate student, Jack was part of the robotics club and technology committee. His extra curricular experience and education led him to four job offers after graduating LIU with a Masters in Education.

Jack did not see himself returning to high school for work, as he did not enjoy the traditional aspects of school. In college, he learned about the free flow of technology, which had less structure than the classes he did not enjoy as a student. His experience leads him to encourage students to think about what they may like in the future, opposed to what makes sense currently. He hopes students will follow their passion. If you make a choice to do something for the rest of your life, you should like what you do. With the exposure to technology at East Rockaway, that is what Jack was able to accomplish.
daitz imageElizabeth Daitz, Class of 1998

Elizabeth Daitz received her Bachelor of Arts from the Honors College at Adelphi University in 2002. After graduating, she attended St. John's University School of Law and graduated in 2005. For nine years, Elizabeth worked for the New York City Law Department litigating federal civil rights cases. In 2014, Elizabeth joined the New York City Police Department (NYPD) as the inaugural Director, Civil Matters, serving as in-house counsel to the agency. Last year, Elizabeth took a leave of absence to serve as a White House Fellow in the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States. Prior to the pandemic, she spent her evenings giving tours of the West Wing. As tours suspended, our students at Centre Avenue and Rhame were some of the only students in the country who were able to experience a virtual White House tour guided by Elizabeth. She enjoyed giving the students a special class trip feeling. This September, Elizabeth returned to the NYPD as the Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives leading the police reform process.

As an East Rockaway student, Elizabeth graduated fifth in her class. She had great teachers that definitely inspired her success after high school. She recalls Carol Sanders saying a scuba suit was needed to review her homework, as it was often stained with food and coffee. Elizabeth has since worked on this (with limited success)! John Bishop was a hero to Elizabeth. It was because of his influence that she minored in Fine Arts at Adelphi. As the class advisor of 60 graduates, Kathy Curcio was kind, wonderful, and inspired Elizabeth's love of reading and writing. She gave Elizabeth the chance to lead.

Elizabeth believes that one of the greatest things about East Rockaway is that you can join programs that might otherwise be inaccessible to students in other districts. She was the Entrance Chair for Rock Rivalry, a cheerleader, participated in school productions, and spent one hilarious year attempting to run track. Competitive or not, there was nothing too exclusive at East Rockaway. This allowed for it to be a great environment to try new things and be part of teams. Elizabeth made great friends from her time in our elementary and high school. She still has the same core group of friends since 1985, and her father still lives in the same house on Lawrence St. where she grew up.

Recently, Elizabeth's best family friend's daughter ran for something in school and was not elected. While at the White House, Elizabeth learned that you do not have to be elected or chosen to be a leader. You must show up, work hard, exhibit empathy, and people will follow. Character and drive have a stronger influence than someone's official role.

Elizabeth believes that anyone from East Rockaway can do anything. She never imagined walking out of the West Wing while a high school student. Elizabeth does not come from a lineage of lawyers. Neither of her parents went to college. Her sister Lauren ('96) paved the way. It was her experiences at East Rockaway that prepared her for work in college and in the future.
The DeMatteo familyDaniel and Theresa DeMatteoDaniel & Theresa DeMatteo, Class of 1999

After graduating from East Rockaway High School, Daniel began working in New York City. He regularly walked by the Fashion Institute of Technology and was compelled to check it out. His passion for art was clear as an East Rockaway student. He recalls spending a lot of time with Mr. Bishop who was instrumental in encouraging Daniel to pursue a career in the arts. Although it never dawned on Daniel to pursue fashion, his artistic abilities and enrollment in FIT began it organically.

After graduating at the top of his class at FIT, which brought him to France, Italy, and all over the world to study menswear design, he landed his first fashion job at Nicole Miller.

In 2005, Daniel started his own business. It was an uphill battle the entire way, but he wouldn't change it for anything. While Daniel is a menswear designer by trade, he is also an entrepreneur and a consultant, as well. He worked with every major brand in the garment district; Donna Karan, Kenneth Cole, Ralph Lauren, and more. His business in design and consulting catapulted his career in fashion. In 2012, he launched his own fashion brand. He is grateful for his career which has taken him all over the world; China, India, Japan, and many others.

As an East Rockaway High School athlete, Daniel played football, basketball, and volleyball. As an elected East Rockaway School District BOE member, he is eager for the field to be rebuilt and takes great pride in the opportunity to give back to the community by having played an integral part in its development. Daniel believes his connections from East Rockaway were instrumental in shaping his future. The most important connection is meeting his wife, Theresa DeMatteo, his ERHS sweetheart. While he thought Theresa was cute and loved her little braces, she was not always the nicest to him, she was a spicy Italian. Daniel shared that he fell in love immediately while courting her and knew they would get married. He believes that when you find something good you do not let it go. He describes Theresa as everything beautiful and pure. She is a great mother, wife, and partner in life. Daniel feels that Hurricane Sandy is one of the most incredible things that he has ever experienced. He is so proud of the town for showing how something so horrible can become something so beautiful by the way the community came together.

While Theresa began elementary school at East Rockaway, she briefly moved to Oceanside. She spent only a year or two at Rhame Avenue and returned to East Rockaway in 7th grade for the rest of her Junior High School and High School years. Theresa believes she would be remembered as quiet and studious. She valued academics while in school and played an instrumental role in Rock Rivalry performances, her class still holds the record for winning three years in a row, these experiences crafted some of her fondest memories at ERHS. Athletically, Theresa tried out for volleyball and cheered for a bit as well. She recalls only wanting to cheer so she could wear Daniel's football jersey around the school. Theresa has memorable experiences with many teachers at East Rockaway HS, for starters, Mr. Gerken, who was always motivating and supportive. He left a lasting impression on both Theresa and Daniel. Theresa also recalls fond memories of Mr. Cuttita, Mrs. Leary, and Mr. Pajer, however, it was Ms. Orzano that motivated Theresa to become a teacher, herself. She will forever be grateful for East Rockaway because it brought Daniel into her life, who she describes as a dedicated, hard-working, and loving husband and father.

After graduating from East Rockaway HS, Theresa studied education at Adelphi University. She graduated with a BA and MA in 2004 and has been an elementary school teacher in Brooklyn since then. Theresa is continuing her education with The College of St. Rose's CITE program, where she will graduate in 2021 and receive her school administrative license.

Theresa and Daniel were married on July 15, 2006. Although they lived in other towns and even had plans to move out of the country, they are so happy that East Rockaway has remained their home. They have always wanted to be close to family, and while visiting Daniel's parents in 2006, they saw a house for sale. Daniel suggested that they just take a look. They loved the block, fell in love with the house, and purchased that home in 2007, right before their daughter was born. Theresa and Daniel currently have a daughter in eighth grade at ERHS and a fourth-grader at Rhame Avenue. Daniel and Theresa love that their children are going through the ER Schools.

All the things that are so beautiful about East Rockaway's, "small, home-town feel," are why the DeMatteos are glad they stayed and are raising their children here. What East Rockaway lacks in numbers it makes up for in heart, tradition, and pride.
Erica Pandolfo, Class of 2009

Erica PandolfoAfter graduating from East Rockaway, Erica Pandolfo went to King's College. She received their Presidential Scholarship to study education. In 2013, she graduated with a B.A. in Elementary Education. Erica wanted to take her background in elementary education and special education and focus on educational law. She continued her studies at SUNY Buffalo Law School and graduated in 2016 with her J.D. She became an Excelsior Fellow in Albany, which is an initiative, launched by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, to bring highly talented recent graduates of law, graduate and professional schools into government service. Erica completed her fellowship at the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities and ultimately turned into a permanent position with the agency. Erica continues working on advocacy and law. She helps develop rules, regulations, and policy as it relates to the needs of the population she serves.

Erica has interned at the Nassau County District Attorney's Office in their Special Victims Bureau, focusing on crimes against children and the elderly. Additional experience includes working with the Buffalo Board of Education, Buffalo Family Court, and the United States Department of Education in Washington, D.C.

In Erica's current role as a Senior Attorney, she works on a variety of subject matter, including supporting individuals with developmental disabilities as they age out of their free and appropriate public education and into their adult services post-education. She helps program staff navigate a wide range of legal issues. Erica continues learning in her role every day as she works to resolves legal issues.

While currently based in Albany, Erica misses "downstate." Nothing compares to being able to hop on a train and go to the city or the beach. However, she enjoys working as a civil servant for NYS and its constituents. Erica also enjoys many hobbies and participating in her local community. For example, Erica enjoys exploring the Adirondacks and participating in local community theatre. She is a participant of the Junior League of Albany, which is an organization that promotes voluntarism, develops the potential of women, and improves its community. Junior League women are hands-on volunteers with dozens of community organizations and receive high-level training to make them valuable community leaders.

Erica was involved in theatre in high school and college. She was a member of East Rockaway musicals ever since elementary school, and fondly remembers chorus with Mr. Ezell. Erica became co-captain of the badminton team and had significant roles in Rock Rivalry, the Peer AIDS Educators, the Kiwanis Club, and Science Club. Though Erica has many cherished teachers and mentors from East Rockaway, her favorite teacher was the late Mr. Bishop. She keeps in touch with his partner and is the owner of one of his beautiful paintings.

Erica continues to maintain close friendships with her classmates from Kindergarten through High School. She believes the current societal climate has placed an increased importance on strengthening interpersonal relationships. Erica believes East Rockaway is a place that can create, support, and maintain meaningful relationships. The magic of East Rockaway is where it lives - within the community. She encourages students to give back to the community because it can serve them well if they serve it well. She also encourages students and the larger community to listen to each other, cherish one another, and be kind. Erica hopes that students can use what they learn to make East Rockaway, New York, and ultimately the world a better place.
Alison Bashford, Class of 2016

Alison BashfordAlison graduated from Muhlenberg in 2020. While a sophomore, Alison joined a research lab. At Muhlenberg, labs were set up by professors with an application based system to participate. Based on her interest in the topic, Alison sent an email to the professor. She was interviewed, and asked to join the lab. Her ability to seek opportunities that were advertised within her major exposed her to lab work studying memory and PTSD.

Alison danced her whole life and performed in Suessical, Little Shop of Horrors, Willie Wonka, and Mary Poppins while a student at East Rockaway. She knew she wanted to continue dancing while in college, and also wanted to study science. AP Bio with Mrs. Pietrantonio (Ms. Mendyk at the time) was Alison's favorite class. It spearheaded her interest in science and health. Muhlenberg offered the opportunity to pursue both of these passions. With strong programs in both of these fields, it was the best choice for her post-secondary education.

As Alison continued to explore the sciences, she realized was more interested in the brain than the whole body. In addition to exploring areas she loved, there was an overlap in course requirements. Alison concentrated in "Dance Science" in which coursework included anatomy, movement science, and more. She enjoyed diving deeper into the more scholarly aspects of dance.

Alison took advantage of the opportunity to study abroad, and continued her dance education in Arezzo, Italy; a small city in Tuscany. She believes that her experience on the Europe trip while an East Rockaway helped her make an informed decision about living abroad for six months. Studying abroad made Alison more independent and changed her perspective. As part of the program, Alison was tasked to create a solo which was one of her fondest memories of her time abroad. She merged her interest in dance and science by performing to a speech by Amelia Earhart, rather than a musical piece. In addition to the unique education, Alison traveled all over Europe to locations such as Slovenia, Copenhagen,. Denmark, Portugal,. Paris, Venice, Rome, and Florence.

Alison is currently working at NIH (National Institute of Health) where she is researching Neuroscience. She is studying stress processing and involvement with behaviors of mental illness. This position is part of a program for recent college graduates looking to pursue a post-bachelor/pre-graduate experience. Next year, Alison will apply to neuroscience PhD programs in as many East Coast cities as possible.
Daniel O'Moore (Class of 2018)

o mooreDaniel O'Moore is a student at University of Florida studying Hospitality Management. As one who is quite tech savvy, Daniel is interested in pursuing a career in the computer side of hospitality. At UF, Daniel is involved in several clubs. He is a member of the College Republicans, Gator Teck and Baptist College Ministry. Gator Teck is a hands-on computer club where Daniel has the opportunity to use different computer languages. Some of these include cyber security, data science and sintech. He found that the experience in Baptist College Ministry has been a fantastic place to meet friends and gain sense of community.

While Daniel has enjoyed dorm life for two years, he is currently at home, making remote learning work. Last March, transition to remote instruction was a challenge. He felt fortunate to have family 45 minutes from Gainesville, where UF is located. Daniel's dorm experience was a Learning/Living community of "Out of State" Gators. The building was structured with boys on one side, girls on the other, and a common space in the middle of the dorm. This made it easy to get to know people and transition to dorm life. Daniel feels he knew his community, his resident assistant and appreciates all the opportunities to get to know his neighbors, like riding the elevator. He loves Florida and misses it terribly, but is glad to be home with family.

As an East Rockaway student, Daniel was an activist. He was eager to create opportunities for his classmates, like trying to get a grant to secure a track and turf field. Daniel met with members of administration to advocate for what he felt would best support our community, and is very happy about the bond and breaking ground in March! As a member of the East Rockaway Cross Country Team, Daniel loved running. He still loves it, and is part of a running team in Florida. Before he became a Gator, Daniel played the trumpet from 4th-11th grade. He has fond memories of Mr. Schloen. His mentorship meant a lot to Daniel. As a student at East Rockaway, Daniel participated in Shrek the Musical and The Little Mermaid. He loved math class as a student, especially those with Mrs. Mignella.

While we are currently in tough times, Daniel hopes that he can encourage East Rockaway students to keep going and keep looking forward. He suggests that students try to learn organization by knowing when assignments are due and what is upcoming. This can be completed with Google Calendar, a planner, and most importantly-just writing things down somewhere. Daniel also believes there is such an importance in establishing relationships with teachers. He enjoyed having teachers to debrief with and the opportunity to talk to someone about everything. He hopes that current students are able to build the same types of relationships by reaching out to peers and teachers.
Katherine Del Valle, Class of 2017

del valleKatherine attended Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island after graduating from East Rockaway. As an East Rockaway student, Katherine enjoyed her time in the Culinary Program with Nassau BOCES. She was encouraged by a friend to attend, and they were able to enroll in BOCES together. At BOCES, Katherine participated in hands-on classes and labs. She enjoyed learning about baking and loved that BOCES classes were small. She had the opportunity to bake and cook daily. While Katherine learned culinary arts, she felt like it was different from school. Although she was learning, she was already pursuing her passion. She preferred the baking portion of the culinary program to cooking which was why Johnson & Wales was the perfect fit; she had the opportunity to focus just on baking.

Katherine's love of culinary arts began when she was five years old. While sitting on the stairs watching her grandparents cook at this age, she remembers the happiness that came out of the kitchen. As such, this career was perfect for her. Katherine currently has a small business, Cakes by Kat. She makes cupcakes, cakes, pastries, pies and special occasion sweets.

While at East Rockaway, Katherine most enjoyed Earth Science with Mr. Crowley. She appreciated that he always took the time to talk to her, and broke down what she didn't understand. Katherine also enjoyed the hands-on opportunities that the class provided. Outside of academics, Katherine loved Rock Rivalry. Some of her best East Rockaway memories were decorating the hallways, building the materials, and coming together with her class. She was also a participant in East Rockaway musicals including, Call Me Maybe and Seussical.
While painting murals for Seussical, the show at East Rockaway was cancelled because it was the year of Hurricane Sandy, but the remake took place at Malverne High School.

Katherine encourages East Rockaway students to follow their dreams. She believes that if you like something, you should do it! Rather than being afraid to try something new, we should be excited.
Tatianna Ossa, Class of 2014

t o After graduating from East Rockaway in 2014, a cheerleading scholarship brought Tatianna Lott to Lindenwood University in Illinois. Tatianna finished her last two years at SUNY Old Westbury where she earned her Bachelor's in Psychology. She most recently earned her Masters in Education in School Counseling at LIU Post and began her first school counseling position this year at Ward Melville.

Tatianna's graduation from LIU Post was held over Zoom. She didn't find this easy, as she loved being in the classroom setting and seeing her classmates. Tatianna shared that while it was different to learn on the computer screen, she realized that there was a lot for which she was grateful. Missing out on being on the college campus, seeing friends, and the one-on-one reaction with her teachers enabled her to have a new perspective. She will no longer think twice about what can be accomplished and appreciated today.

Tatianna moved to East Rockaway as a 10th grader; the first day of second semester. Coming from a very large high school in Florida where she was a competitive cheerleader on two teams, East Rockaway was quite a change and not an easy transition. While she continued to cheer at East Rockaway, she began to lose interest in many things that once were exciting, and experienced a lack of motivation. Upon participating in Senior Seminar, much of that changed. Although Tatianna notes that she was not the star student with great attendance, Ms. Hecht agreed to host her as an intern with the guidance department. Tatianna believes that the opportunities that presented themselves in Senior Seminar changed her life. She grew significantly from this experience as she and took on meaningful projects. Tatianna's grades and attendance improved. She was excited to come to school every day. She found her calling through Senior Seminar and the internship. She remembered who she was and figured out that there was a career where she could make people feel good about themselves.

As our current students navigate the challenges of a new way to learn, Tatianna is reminded of Hurricane Sandy washing out our school her junior year. While she remembers adjusting to a new location getting bussed to Baldwin, she also notes good memories, like a free prom. After learning and growing from challenges, Tatianna takes every day as a blessing. She experienced a genuine care and responsiveness at East Rockaway that allowed her to develop. She hopes current students take advantage of what the school has to offer.
Ken Anderson, Class of 2010

kaKenneth earned his Advanced Regents Diploma from East Rockaway in 2010. He spent the next four years at SUNY Albany where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Criminal Justice, and Art Minor. Upon graduation from Albany, Ken began working for Northwell Health at South Oaks Hospital in Amityville. He is currently the Lead Certified Rehabilitation Counselor in their vocational department to support clients with mental health disorders achieve job success, as well as young adults with disabilities. Ken works with local school districts to support students transition from high school to their postsecondary goals.

In addition to education at SUNY Albany, Ken received his Masters of Education in Rehabilitation and Mental Health from Hofstra University. He is a nationally certified rehabilitation counselor (CRC), and has a limited permit in mental health counseling. We wish Ken well as he prepares for his licensing exam in mental health counseling (LMHC).

You may know Ken as our Head Coach for Boys & Girls Varsity Cross Country, and Boys Varsity Track. He has been the Head Coach for the past three years and coaching with East Rockaway since 2015.

Ken loved growing up in East Rockaway. He enjoyed the family atmosphere, where "everybody is somebody." Some of his favorite classes included art with Mr. Bishop, math with Mrs. Orzano, and Italian with Mr. Cuttita. Ken enjoyed participating in Rock Rivalry as part of the Entrance and Sports Night. His class won the cup as juniors and seniors. Ken competed in "Its Academic Quiz Bowl" against other schools on Long Island. He was also a member of the football team since he was in 7th grade, and the Track & Field Team since 8th, where he and the team qualified for State. He enjoyed contributing political cartoons to the Gull Newspaper and being a member of National Honors Society. Since East Rockaway is so small, Ken advises current students to take advantage of everything they can. While there might be more options at larger schools, he believes at East Rockaway there is more opportunity.
Andrew Machovec

1Andrew Machovec began his undergraduate degree at Notre Dame University after graduating from East Rockaway in 2018. He is currently a double major in Pre-Medicine and Scenic Design for Theatre. In addition to his studies, Andrew is a proud member of the Notre Dame Fencing Team. He recently won the ACC Men’s Foil Title and helped Notre Dame win the ACC team championship. Andrew aspires to attend medical school after he graduates Notre Dame, and anticipates participating in the 2024 Olympics.

Through the Scenic Design major, Andrew worked as a stagehand. He was promoted to Assistant Scene Manager at the end of his Freshmen year. Some of the responsibilities in this role include assuming the role of his supervisor in their absence, and making decisions on change of design. Some memorable shows include Pirate of Penzance, Great Gatsby, and Imaginary Invalid. While a student at East Rockaway, he participated in musicals working on A/V effects, and stage set. This participation ignited his interest in set design. Memorable shows include Mary Poppins, Shrek and The Little Mermaid. He was a member of Senior Band, Jazz Band, and Marching Band where he played alto sax & baritone sax.

As a high school student, Andrew shared one of his most memorable classes being AP Art. He enjoyed the independent experience that allowed him to explore and discover himself. His project in Mrs. Galante’s class focused on furniture design. Andrew believes that his experience at East Rockaway was unique to students at other schools. He shared that the teachers at East Rockaway really care about their students. Andrew encourages current students to create teacher relationships, adding that they are even worthwhile once you graduate. He is still in touch with a lot of teachers, and values his relationship with Mr. Schleon, his former band teacher.

As a Notre Dame student, Andrew is challenged, while having a lot of fun. He believes AP classes, like AP Biology really prepared him for the rigorous environment. While in college, time management is extremely important due to Andrew’s classes and fencing travel schedule which runs 10 weekends out of the semester. Typical conditioning practice is Monday through Friday, twice a day. Last season, Andrew made the US World Team again, and is ranked 1st in the country! For the ACC championships, he was named first in individual, and in team, ACC fencer of the year, and MVP for men's Notre Dame fencing.

During Andrew’s sophomore year, he traveled to Europe. The pandemic is the longest time that Andrew has been home since. His mom likes that everyone is together during this time, and he and his brothers are getting along so well.

Some advice to East Rockaway students is to create a schedule, and stick to it. Even though classes are currently online and coursework can be completed whenever students choose, Andrew maintains the times of his in-person classes to study and complete assignments. Sometimes, if we say it will be done “eventually,” it doesn’t always get done. He also believes that even though East Rockaway is a small town, anything can be accomplished if you put your mind to it. After all, the number one fencer in the country is a Rock!


Justin Jonas

jjJustin is a 2012 graduate from East Rockaway Jr./Sr. High School and a 2016 graduate from Towson University. While an undergrad, Justin studied Sports Management. Justin received a Masters in Athletic Administration from Adelphi University.

As an East Rockaway student, Justin played football and basketball, and was a referee for local basketball leagues. Some of his fondest memories as a Rock include playing the junior and senior football championships at Hofstra University, being on the Quiz Bowl Trivia Team, and playing The Game of Life in Mr. Lores’s Sports Marketing class. Justin believes the perspective he learned on his future in this class enabled him to understand his capabilities, and perhaps inspired him to pursue his current career path.

While in college Justin worked with the Washington Redskins in recruitment scouting. Not only was this a valuable experience, but it led him to a position with front office sales. His career continued in sports working in ticket sales for the Brooklyn Nets. Justin played an instrumental role in opening the new Nassau Coliseum, which was over a two year process.. This brought back the Long Island championship for basketball in over 30 years with the G League Franchise of the Long Island Nets. One of Justin’s current roles is running youth basketball programs that provide youngsters with an opportunity to play at Barclays.

Justin’s suggests that students can be successful by learning to get out of their comfort zones by meeting and interacting with new people. He believes that time management skills are critical in college and career success. In his current role, Justin finds that relationship building helps basketball programs grow and create a lasting impression on their athletes.


Kevin Shiel

ks Kevin Shiel is a graduating member of East Rockaway High School Class of 2014.  After spending his first few years of high school participating in clubs and sports, Kevin decided to get a job that would help provide him vocational training.  Kevin also started enrolling in Technology and Business classes while attending our high school, which he said helped him think outside of the box, learn how to work with his hands, and learn about the business of owning your own company.  Additionally, Kevin was accepted to an Electrical Technology program at GC Tech, a vocational school in Levittown, New York.  As part of this program, Kevin spent half of his school day at East Rockaway and half of his day at GC Tech.   

After graduating, Kevin spent a semester in college before ultimately recognizing that he was meant for a different path, and left to pursue his passion of running the family business, Shiel Enterprise Inc. Kevin’s advice to students is to “Make sure you consider all of your options.  If you have a passion or a craft that you are interested in, pursue it.  Make sure you do things to continue working towards your end goal even though it may not be the traditional path taken, or what everyone else wants you to do.  There are many paths that can be taken, and it is important to have all of your information to make an informed decision.”

Alan Owens 

After graduating from ERHS in 2000, Alan Owens went on to attend SUNY Delhi and SUNY New Paltz. He graduated from New Paltz with a bachelor’s degree in Business administration and Finance. Alan currently lives in Rockville Centre, New York with his wife and their six children. Alan is currently working in the family business in Lynbrook, New York where he owns and operates a trucking company along with a Logistics company. 

East Rockaway High School has helped Alan in so many ways. East Rockaway allowed Alan to be himself and form lasting relationships with his teachers and classmates.  His classes helped him prepare for college and learn the value of hard work and time management.  Alan also participated in many extracurricular activities, but most important to him were his involvement in Rock Rivalry and being a part of the basketball team.  These are memories that he takes with him to this day.  Alan looks back at his time in East Rockaway fondly and knows that his time spent here played a large role in making him who he is today.  Alan’s advice is to not be afraid to take risks and participate in things that you are passionate about.  East Rockaway has also helped Alan keep the memory of his brothers, Patrick and Kevin Owens, alive.  The faculty has helped out with many charity events and fundraisers over the past few years, and this is something that Alan will never forget.  The support he has received from East Rockaway is more than he could’ve imagined.  


Brian Dessart 


bdAfter graduating ERHS in 1997, Brian Dessart attended Nassau Community College, where he received his Associates Degree in Criminal Justice, and went on to receive a B.A. in Business Management from Molloy College in Rockville Centre. Following college, Brian had stints as the Director of Marketing and Community Relations for Richner Communications, currently located in Garden City, and as an analyst for Mizuho Corporate Bank in Manhattan. At the same time, he felt as if a career in journalism would be his best path, as it was a field that he was very passionate about since a young age. But he was also encouraged to take all of the police and fire civil service exams, as a way to fulfill an excellent, exciting and solid career. 

In Jan. 2018, Brian was hired as a firefighter with the FDNY, and he currently works at Ladder 121 in Far Rockaway. He states “It’s a life decision and career path that I will never regret — definitely one of the best choices of my life. The job is completely awesome, self-fulfilling and the people I work with are some of the best individuals I’ve ever had the opportunity to come into contact with. It’s great to have a team of colleagues — family — who always watch each other’s back”.

After being hired by the FDNY, and working to perfect his craft as a journalist, Brian was contracted by Sports Illustrated to start covering performance, fitness and action sports in 2014 — a position that allowed him to write stories from places such as Beijing, Moscow and Port-au-Prince. And since 2014, he has been grateful to receive the assignment to cover the Ironman World Championship from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. For many sports journalists, being able to write for and have a byline with SI is a dream that very few actually get a crack at. He was very lucky and beyond humbled. Then, in 2016, he became involved with SI’s NHL department and began hosting a weekly digital video series, titled the #NHLNugget, where we would give viewers a quick "60 seconds or less" historic fact about the National Hockey League, its teams and players.

Brian’s advice to the students of ERHS: “There’s no shame in being a bit jumbled and not having your life figured out when you graduate. I was literally all over the place, mentally — I couldn’t find my niche. But give it time, don’t force things upon yourself and end up being miserable. Carefully think out your career objectives, take chances and move forward. Don’t be afraid of rejection — it builds character. Be afraid of not trying in the first place. When someone tells you “no,” make every attempt to show them why they should say “yes.” Be persistent. Have passion. And everything will eventually fall into place”.


Ben Giliberti


ben photoBen Giliberti is an alumnus of East Rockaway’s Class of 2013. Ben received his Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training from East Stroudsburg University in 2017.  During his time at East Stroudsburg, Ben completed clinical rotations at 1 middle school, 3 high schools and a division 2 college, combining over 1,000 hours over his 4 years. He was also a member of the men’s rugby team for 4 years.

He currently is in his second year as a Certified Athletic Trainer at Valley Stream North HS, employed by Peak Performance Physical Therapy.  Athletic Trainers work in the prevention, management and rehabilitation of sports injuries. Athletic Trainers are healthcare practitioners trained in injury evaluation and diagnosis, emergency medicine, first aid, gen. med conditions and therapeutic exercise and modalities.  Ben shared, “the best part of the job is watching my athletes work hard and overcome adversity while competing at their highest level. Sports at ERHS was a major part of my life; athletic training was a way to stay involved and give back to high school student athletes by keeping them safe and provide a positive impact to a special group.”

Ben’s advice to ERHS students is to, “do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life.”

Vincent Arena


ERHS would like to welcome back from the class of 2013, Vincent Arena.  Vincent graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a dual degree in Mechanical Engineering and Design Innovation and Society in 2017.

Currently, Vincent is an Entrepreneur, building sustainable businesses focused on solving problems facing society and the environment. He has spent the last 12 months working on personal ventures and products, the main one being building a new coffee franchise starting in Long Island. One coffee shop is located in Island Park (Tazzetto Coffee) and another one is opening soon in RVC focused on innovation, sustainability, and authentic Italian food, coffee, and culture.  Vincent is also involved in public speaking, and he hopes to make this more of a larger part of his career moving forward. Recently, he gave a talk at Stanford University in front of 300 college students when he was a mentor for the University Innovation Fellows program.

His advice to fellow ERHS students is to “find a MISSION, not a major. Think about what impact you want to have on the world, then figure out how to get there - it may be a path that you never thought was possible.
Carry around a journal, reflect on every day and think about what you are grateful for, and what you will do differently tomorrow. Learning is a lifelong journey and shouldn't just happen in school.  

Critical thinking and creativity are the most important skills for a successful career, so question everything - if you are doing something a certain way just because that's how it's always been done, most likely it could be done differently, or better! If you focus your career on helping others, the money will come. If you are interested in starting your own business one day, being innovative is a mindset. Instead of looking for the next best ideas, look for problems. Once you find a problem worth solving, pursue it with all you got.” 

 Carly Howard


Carly Howard, East Rockaway Class of 2014, just graduated from Molloy College, where she majored in Nursing and is currently a Labor and Delivery Nurse. While attending Molloy College, Carly was a part of the Molloy Nursing Student Association, where she later became the secretary, then eventually the President of the association. Being a part of the club taught Carly to network, learn more about nursing, and explore the different opportunities available with nursing. Carly also got to represent Molloy College and the New York State Nursing Student Association at the annual convention two years in a row, 2017 in Dallas, TX, and 2018 in Nashville, TN. Besides being a part of the nursing association, outside of school, Carly worked at South Nassau Communities Hospital as a Nurse’s Aide where she got to build up on her nursing skills and get more experience with patient centered care.  

When Carly was at East Rockaway High School, she learned to juggle school, sports, and clubs. Being able to be involved in so much at school helped Carly prepare for college. Classes, clinical, running for Molloy’s cross country and track team for a while, and being actively involved with the nursing student association was a lot, but it helped mold her into the individual she is today. Her advice for future Nursing majors is to get involved with your college’s nursing club, get as much as experience as you can. For the rest of East Rockaway’s graduating class, get involved now, balance out school and clubs, it helps you stay organized, be involved, make friends, network, and most importantly, finding yourself. 

John J. Budion

john photoAfter graduating from East Rockaway, I went on to attend New York University where I studied Visual and Special effects for Film and TV. Concurrently, I was interning at several prestigious Post Production companies to put into practice, the theory I was learning in the classroom.

I graduated NYU in 2003 with my Bachelor's degree, and I currently live and work in New York City.  My occupation is completely influenced by my experience participating in the tradition of "Rock Rivalry," something unique and special to East Rockaway High School.  Being a part of RR opened my eyes to the many aspects of entertainment, creation of content, and the importance of working as a team.

In NYC, I am self employed as a Writer and Film Director, while also running a Visual Effects Company. I have a feature film titled "ROCKAWAY" that I filmed in my hometown of East Rockaway, releasing in early 2019.  The film reflects my love for basketball, which I played for 4 years under Coach Joe Lores, and the bonds of friendships that I formed in the village of East Rockaway.


Damian Amiruddin


damian photoI am currently attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for a fifth year to obtain my M.S. in Chemistry. At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute I participate in Rensselaer Chemistry Society, Sigma Chi fraternity and work as an independent researcher to write my thesis, Calcium Phosphate Synthesis using a Montmorillonite Template. I also participated in Relay for Life, Club baseball and J.V. baseball for the school team. I have also been a part of many community service events while attending RPI. A major notable one is Derby Days, a large event put together by my fraternity that donates the money obtained to the Huntsman Cancer Institute. After I receive my Masters Degree in May, I am hoping to obtain a job working in a laboratory setting. I greatly enjoy being hands on with the chemicals and my goal is to either work in a Research/Development or Quality control department in the government sector. My advice is to work hard and not try to coast by when attending higher level education. For me, there was a huge difference between high school and college. It was a huge awakening after receiving my first grade back that I needed to work harder and put more effort in to my work. 



Katherine Devlin

Katherine Devlin is an ERHS graduate from the Class of 2015. Recently she graduated from Nassau Community College and transferred to Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry where she is currently pursuing a degree in Social Work. While in school, Katherine is a Community Habitat Worker for adults with disabilities. It is her goal after graduation to pursue her studies at the graduate level and receive her Master’s in Social Work. Katherine plans to continue her work with adults who are disabled in a Residential Facility. Her advice for our ERHS students is to, “push yourself outside your comfort zone, don’t compare yourself to others, work hard but enjoy yourself and most important, trust your instinct.”

Felicya Schwarzman

Felicya Schwarzman is an alumnus from the class of 2013. She graduated in May 2017 from Ithaca College with a major in Music Education. During her time at Ithaca, she was a Leadership Scholar, Corresponding Editor and Editor for Sigma Alpha Iota (professional music organization). Felicya graduated magna cum laude and was also an ALANA scholar (African, Latino, Asian, and Native American Scholars) and received several merit based awards and service-related awards. One of her highlights was presenting at the American String Teacher’s Association National Conference.

She currently is a High School Orchestra and Guitar Director. Felicya is in her first year of teaching and teaches 9th grade orchestra and high school guitar ensemble, as well as, beginning a 3rd grade program at Half Hollow Hills CSD. She is also a SCMEA (Suffolk County Music Educators Association) Chairperson and is running the Division I West Orchestra All County Festival.

Felicya’s advice for all of the students at East Rockaway is “to be involved in as many activities as they are interested in. Trying out a bunch of hobbies, clubs, and sports contributes to discovering your interests that you can later pursue in college and later on in your career. Strive for excellence and don't be afraid to take risks. My biggest advice is to make meaningful connections with your teachers, professors, and other colleagues. Your network is so important and can really help you achieve your goals.”

Taylor Clarke

Taylor Clarke is a graduate from the class of 2014. Currently, Taylor is a student in Hofstra University’s Honors College, pursing a degree in journalism with a minor in American studies. On campus, Taylor serves as a transfer mentor for incoming students and is the News Editor at the campus newspaper, The Hofstra Chronicle. In the summer of 2018, Taylor will travel to Washington D.C. to work as a Junior Faculty Advisor for the Washington Journalism and Media Conference, a national event that is part of the Washington Scholars program that Taylor attended as a high school student! After graduation, Taylor hopes to work in the field of political journalism, aiding candidates on the campaign trail or being part of the communications staff of an administration. Some advice that Taylor has for the students at ERHS, “Follow your passion. Getting involved in a variety of activities and classes can really help you to pinpoint what you like and dislike. Once you find something you are really passionate about, hold on to it. Passion and determination will really take you far!”

Nadine Robinson

Nadine Robinson is an alumnus of East Rockaway’s class of 2014. Currently, she is completing a Music Therapy degree with a minor in Psychology. After graduation, Nadine will be applying to graduate school to pursue her PhD in Clinical Psychology. It is her hope to conduct research for Music Therapy and work with active members of the military to work toward lessening the effects of PTSD.

Berklee College has specialized music classes making it different than most schools that require liberal arts as a prerequisite for classes. Nadine has learned how to balance tons of school work, with liberal arts work and practicing multiple instruments for an allotted time every day. She is thankful for the ERHS music department and how diligent and passionate Mr. Schloen and Mr. Ceglio were throughout the band.

Nadine shared some advice for our ERHS students. “First, don’t write off the clubs or arts programs you’re in. I found my passion from being in the East Rockaway band through elementary school and continuing through high school. Don’t let anyone tell you that your hobby can’t become a legitimate career. Second, make sure you have a good work ethic. It starts with high school where your time management is key, and that never goes away. Whether it’s with homework or a work-study job or practicing an instrument, it all goes back to time management. But what’s most important in that time management is making sure that you take time to keep your head straight. Find that balance between working hard and pushing towards your passion without overwhelming yourself and causing mass amounts of stress. As long as you don’t lose sight of your end goal, you’ll be golden.”

Cody Hirashima

JS imageCody Hirashima is a graduate from the Class of 2012.  Cody received his Bachelor of Engineering degree from The Cooper Union and earned a Masters of Science in Chemical Engineering from Columbia. His internship experience at AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers) led him to his current employment as an Engineering Associate at the world’s leading organization (AIChE) for chemical engineering professionals.

Cody explains that his experiences at East Rockaway helped shape him for his current success.  “AP and Honors classes provided a taste of the increased workload and independence of college courses. These provided a good stepping stone for diving into the responsibilities and time management required to properly balance college life. I would credit my experience in AP Chemistry with driving my interest in pursuing Chemical Engineering, to explore the inner workings of how the world works and how to drive change that can directly impact and improve society.  I was a member of the Band and Drumline throughout my time at East Rockaway and also participated in Cross Country and Track & Field. I believe my experiences in these activities helped me to be a more well-rounded individual. Especially in band and drumline, it's important to have a creative outlet during your studies to ensure that you maintain a mental balance beyond a purely study focused mentality.”

The advice that Cody would like to share with the students at ERHS is that, “never hesitate to ask more questions, even a "stupid question" can lead to a lesson learned and never settle for "good enough". If you think your grades are "good enough" then aim for exceptional, if you always stop at good enough you'll never find that you can do something great.”

Josh Warner

Josh WarnerJoshua Warner is a graduate from the Class of 2012.  Currently, Josh is a full time Technical Director and Adjunct Lecturer of Scenic Design at CUNY York College. Most of his day is spent planning/mentoring students on how to build or actually building for one of the four productions per year. He also continues a freelance career outside of academia designing for various theaters throughout NYC and beyond. Josh opened 4 shows this past month and is looking forward to his Off-Broadway debut in February. 

Josh received an Advanced Regents Diploma from ERHS.  He decided to take 5 credits of tech courses rather than a foreign language, which allowed him the opportunity to be exposed to more visual thinking classes with tech teachers. Josh received a BFA from Emerson College in Theater Design & Technology with a concentration in Scenic Design. While in college, Josh worked part time in the carpentry shop, was involved in the student theatre and played a few games with the Quidditch team.  By the end of college, Josh had designed over 15 fully produced productions with his hand in over 50 others.

His advice to ERHS students is to “push yourself to try something that you may have an interest in - you still have plenty of time to decide if isn’t for you. Engulf yourself in what you love and don’t second guess your abilities. As I was worried about applying to Emerson and if I’d get in, Mr. Bishop looked up from his painting and said “If not you, then WHO do they want?” Believe that you are the best and push yourself to become that person.”

James Anemone

James_AnemoneJames Anemone is an alumnus of East Rockaway’s  Class of 2014.  James is currently a senior at West Chester University of Pennsylvania.  He will be graduating this May with a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance and a Minor in Music History. James explains that the extra-curricular activities that he got involved in at ERHS, including playing in the musicals, Jazz Band and Concert Band, prepared him the most for what he is now experiencing at college.

After graduation, he plans to attend Temple University to pursue a Master’s degree in Piano Performance. He resides in Exton, PA and operates his own Piano studio.  James still performs in many concerts and competes across the country. He most recently performed at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. 

The advice that James would like to share with the students of East Rockaway is, “students need to realize that it’s okay to be undecided with what you want to do. Attending college is your best opportunity to throw yourself into a learning environment where you live life to a new level of independence while meeting new people, and exploring different possibilities for future careers. Life is far more elastic and interesting than we sometimes make it seem, and opportunities are endless.  The most important thing for a High School student who is preparing for college or beyond is to simply take all of the opportunities that comes forth. Hardly ever say no because you never know which job, internship, or class you take will be life changing.”

John Machovec


John Machovec is an alumnus of East Rockaway’s Class of 2014. John recently graduated from Syracuse University and majored in Information Management and Technology.   He received an offer to join KPMG one of the Big Four Accounting firms in New York City and will be working in their Cyber Security Services Division.  John shared that many of the classes he took here at East Rockaway, especially honors and AP courses, helped prepare him for his experiences at Syracuse.  Being enrolled in these classes also allowed John to transfer 30 credits towards his Syracuse Degree. These credits put him in an advantageous position while applying and at college.  His advice would be to not underestimate what you can accomplish while still in high school. The work which you put in now can set you up in the future in ways you may not even anticipate.”

While in college, John participated in activities outside of his academics. He chose clubs and internship experiences that were related to his major/career choice.  John discussed, “as president of the Cyber Security Club, I participated in national competitions against other schools, branches of the military, hackers and information security professionals. Our team placed in multiple national competitions winning cash prizes and the opportunity to meet the best in the field.”   John also worked as an information security intern with Sony Music at The Orchard, the industry’s leading independent distributor and label services company.

Jonathan Schloth

JS imageJonathan Schloth an alumnus of East Rockaway’s Class of 2014. Currently Jonathan is a Junior at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Jonathan shared that many of the classes he took at East Rockaway helped prepare him for the more intense workload of college. He believes that more students should get involved in college level classes that are offered at ERHS to “help the transition from high school to college.”

Jonathan has had some great experiences while at George Mason University. He is currently in an accelerated Master’s program and will be graduating in the spring of 2019.  He hopes to become a social studies teacher upon graduation.  This field has lead Jonathan to have professors that are historians, former Congressmen, lawyers, etc. Jonathan states “These are not only experts in their field, but they are experts in how we learn their content. I have not only learned facts, but critical thinking skills on a very high level that allow me to formulate rational thoughts and opinions.”

Jonathan has an extremely demanding schedule, where he has learned to balance his academics and being an athlete at a Division 1 school.  He is a member of the Cross Country/Track team.  One of the many positives of college athletics is having a consistent schedule.   His schedule consists of on most days, wake up, morning run, class in the morning/afternoon, then do homework, next go to practice for 3-4 hours. Then go get dinner with the team and do some more homework. Then I wake up the next morning and repeat. There simply isn’t the time to slack off. 

Jonathan plans to return to Long Island after he graduates to pursue a full time teaching position.  The advice he would like to share with the ERHS students is, “to take a variety of classes in high school to see what interests you, but to also challenge yourself to a more vigorous workload. If you get accustomed to the work of the harder classes, the transition to college will be so much easier. Don’t try and coast through high school even if you do not plan on going onto college. The skills you gain from learning to work hard can be applicable to anything students do in life.”