Christine Del Valle (Brennan), Class of 1988
Life after graduation took Mrs. Del Valle to Nassau Community College. At Nassau, Mrs. Del Valle studied biology – she had a strong interest in the sciences, with an interest in pursuing chiropractic care. After graduating from Nassau, Mrs. Del Valle attended Adelphi, and continued studying biology until she had to take microbiology. At that point, she transitioned to an education major and remained a biology minor. Mrs. Del Valle loved college as she has a true love of learning. Socially, Mrs. Del Valle enjoyed finding her fit at college and people with whom she connected. She enjoyed the proximity of NCC and Adelphi, and the flexibility they provided to go to school, work and come home.
While attending Adelphi, Mrs. Del Valle was the supervisor for SCOPE at Northside Elementary School in Roslyn. She enjoyed managing the breakfast and afterschool program. Additionally, she was a substitute teacher. Mrs. Del Valle enjoyed the age group at Northside. The best part of her days were her afternoons facilitating activities with the kids. Mrs. Del Valle moved to a position closer to home working in the Baldwin Curriculum & Technology department where she loaded computers, programs, and problem solved technology issues.
In 1994, Christine Brennan married John Del Valle. John’s uncle lived across the street from the Brennan family and the couple connected over family racquetball games. Mrs. Del Valle took time off from her role in Baldwin to raise three children, Katherine (23), Daniel (21), and Grace (18). Currently, Katherine is a Pastry Chef in Manhattan, Daniel is part of the Local 25 Electrical Union, and Grace is studying architecture at Cooper Union.
On what Mrs. Del Valle expected to be the best day – the first day to herself after dropping off her youngest child, Grace, at kindergarten – she was recruited to return to East Rockaway. Theresa Garcia bamboozled her into becoming a monitor. She said, “just try it, and if you don't like it, you don’t have to stay.” Mrs. Del Valle remained as a monitor in our district for 12 years. She eventually interviewed with Mr. DeTommaso, and became a monitor at our high school. The school counseling department is thrilled that Mrs. Del Valle is one of the newest team members.
As an East Rockaway student, Mrs. Del Valle struggled to find her place. Despite that, she remained involved, and was a member of the drama club – not to perform, but because it was the only club that went on trips to see musicals, which she loved. Her favorites were Cats, Our Town, and A Chorus Line. Outside of her time as an East Rockaway High School student, Mrs. Del Valle began working at her father’s construction company. She enjoyed working outdoors, learning the industry, including how to fix and build, and that the job did not have a repetitive nature to it. As a result of having a family-owned business, she and her family struggled and worked often. Despite not being close with her classmates during her time as an East Rockaway student, she is currently close with many community members.
Mrs. Del Valle grew up with a strong interest in health and wellness. Her mother cooked every meal, despite neither being a very skilled cook nor enjoying cooking. Mrs. Del Valle grew up going to organic markets, being a part of a co-op, and visiting holistic doctors. She did not try McDonald’s until she was 18 years old. She continues to maintain this passion for health and wellness to this day.
Courtney Ciesla was a graduate of the infamous class that won Rock Rivalry three years in a row. Whenever she meets someone who works or resides in East Rockaway, she makes sure to tell them about receiving the cup as a Sophomore, Junior, and Senior. She has fond memories of working on costumes for entrance, the murals, scripts, props, and the hours of sleepless nights working with her friends. The best part of Rock Rivalry is how it brought the class together and they were all able to spend time with those they may not have otherwise.
After high school graduation, Courtney enjoyed spending the summer with her friends, and was devastated to leave. She enjoyed her time at University of Delaware. Courtney’s favorite class at Delaware was Theatre because it was so different from what she would normally do. She notes her experience playing Rugby as the best time of her life.
Rugby was a sport Courtney didn’t know anything about coming out of East Rockaway. Her friend’s sister played so she decided to give it a shot. Courtney describes Rugby as being similar to football and soccer combined, but with no pads and only a mouthguard. It was a tough sport and a lot of fun. She enjoys watching it as part of the Olympics these days. The camaraderie in the sport is so great that when someone meets another Rugby player, they are instantly friends for life. As such, Courtney still spends time with her Rugby friends from Delaware.
A true athlete, Courtney scored the first ever East Rockaway goal for the Malverne-East Rockaway (MER) Women’s Soccer Team. Courtney began playing on the basketball and softball team, and shared that while basketball was her sport, Mr. Lores convinced her to play just about every sport at East Rockaway. Aside from athletics at East Rockaway, Courtney’s favorite class was Home Economics with Mrs. Donohue. Courtney still uses the sewing box she received at graduation from Mrs. Donohue to this day!
After graduating from Delaware, Courtney continued her education in a three-year PA program at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey that was housed inside of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, NJ. She found that program was great as she was well prepared for her career. She also spent time exploring the town at the Rutgers University Campus where her school was located near.
As a PA, Courtney gets to experience the unexpected which is great, because she doesn’t like the same thing every day. She finds that 16 years after finding her home at Mt. Sinai South Nassau, she still learns something new every day. She transitioned from Assistant Chief seven years after her onboarding, to the Co-Chief the following year. Additionally, she works at St. Francis Hospital twice a month in Employee Health where she administers flu shots, sick visits, physicals, and clearances.
While Courtney describes herself as an academic, she enjoyed the opportunity to be social, as well. She was voted “Most Friendly” and although everyone knew each other, she truly felt like a member of all the social groups where she interacted. As a High Honor Roll athlete in all AP classes, she helped her teammates reach athletic and scholastic success. Courtney’s athletic roles included point guard for basketball, catcher for softball, and captain of the soccer team. There were many positive changes to athletics during her time as a student athlete. She recalls how much her basketball team loved Mr. DeTomasso, and Mr. Gerken as everyone’s favorite teacher. He was her softball coach and science teacher. She enjoyed math with Mrs. Mignella and Mrs. Orzano, and even ran into Mrs. Mignella while vacationing with her family over the summer. Courtney also recalls Ms. Providente and Mr. McAnulla as being some of her favorite teachers and people to this day!
Courtney still has friends in East Rockaway. She has a four-year-old son, Nicholas, and a two-year-old daughter, Chloe. Her husband is a firefighter. Often, Courtney is called ‘the Mayor of East Rockaway’ since she knows everyone that comes into South Nassau (where she is even called ‘the Mayor of South Nassau!). Courtney also makes sure to make her colleagues aware of how great a town and how close knit East Rockaway is as a community. She encourages the East Rockaway community and students to work towards their goals and understand that there will be bumps along the way. Courtney hopes students stop to enjoy their time in high school. She will never forget her time as a rock; she absolutely loved high school.
| Cheri (Nelson) Poland, Class of 1989
After graduating from East Rockaway, Cheri Nelson attended Monmouth University on a scholarship for basketball. For Cheri, Monmouth was a great fit as it was a small school near the ocean with a competitive basketball program. Coming from a small town, Cheri loved the opportunities to travel and experience many parts of the country. She studied education and knew that she wanted to be a special education teacher.
As Division 1 sports is quite the commitment, Cheri had a lot on her schedule and found most of her friends on her team or from other athletic teams. Following her graduation from Monmouth, she attended LIU Brooklyn, to which she made the commute from East Rockaway while simultaneously working. Cheri taught at Palisades Park High School in New Jersey, a 7-12 school similar to East Rockaway, while she was completing her hours to become an athletic trainer. She interned at Molloy University and Fairleigh-Dickinson University, later graduating with a M.S. in Sports Medicine. She left New Jersey, coming to Long Island to work at St. Mary’s in East Islip; later, she began substitute teaching in East Rockaway. She was called for her position at East Rockaway – replacing Mr. DeTomasso as a teacher and coach after he became an assistant principal – in 1998. In talking about East Rockaway, she says it is a great place; noting it as a small, close-knit community with a lot to offer.
Cheri describes coaching as an opportunity to get to know students, create friendships, bond, and give back what you learned. Within her career, she most cherishes being able to work and teach in the same building as her husband and children. She and her husband, Don, met at Porthole, a restaurant on the Oceanside/East Rockaway border that they both worked at. She still lives in East Rockaway with her husband and children.
During her time at East Rockaway, Cheri described herself as a middle-of-the-road student. She spoke highly of Karl DeMasi, Mr. Lores, and Mr. Friesleben; these teachers stood out as mentors, encouraging her to pursue her goals and dreams. She was involved in a multitude of sports, including basketball, volleyball, and softball, as well as being a class officer and participating in Rock Rivalry. A notable part of Cheri’s life is being a twin – she said that she always had someone to share things with. She and her sister both played all the same sports while they were ERHS students. Cheri hopes that current students can get involved as much as they can. There may be roadblocks and hurdles students may need to overcome but should aim to pursue their passion.
| Aspasia Lonergan (Halatas), Class of 1988
After graduating from East Rockaway, Aspasia Halatas attended Nassau Community College where she studied nursing. With her medical assistant degree from Nassau BOCES and her college experience, she started her career in a doctor’s office and ran the nursing department in different offices. She spent 14 years in an office in Wantagh where she communicated heavily with patients, drew blood, and assisted with minor surgeries, IVs, cardiograms, and x-rays.
Aspasia met her husband Richard through East Rockaway as he was a graduate from the Class of 1983. She went to school with his brother who she met via mutual friends. She and her husband married in 1994 and bought a house in East Rockaway in 1995, which they still reside in today. Together they have four children, Tyler (26), Demi (23), Malena (20), and Shane (17). Currently, Tyler works at Barclays Bank as a VP in Human Resources, Demi works at Cohen Children’s Hospital as a donations coordinator, Malena is studying Early Childhood Education at the University of Hartford, and Shane studied aviation in the BOCES-Barry Tech Program. Mrs. Lonergan also attended the BOCES-Barry Tech Program, which she shared was one of the best things she has ever done. BOCES put Mrs. Lonergan on a career path, where she was able to focus on her areas of strength and shine in areas where her talents were.
As an East Rockaway student, Mrs. Lonergan took typing with Mr. Lores, art with Mr. Bishop, social studies with Mr. Estridge, and science with Mr. Buckery. Her teacher Mr. Spellman was even the photographer at her wedding! Mrs. Lonergan participated in kickline and school musicals. The memory of performing Bye Bye Birdie stands out in Mrs. Lonergan’s head like it was yesterday. She described it as so much fun and had the best time during this experience. She was also heavily involved in Rock Rivalry working on stand decoration, the mural, art interpretation, and was part of the performance. She is currently a host family. Notable peers in Rock Rivalry include Mr. Pajer and Mr. Vito. Mrs. Lonergan also was able to witness budding relationships of friends who are now married with families. Mrs. Lonergan was also a Big Sister in high school where she ‘adopted’ a younger student. This was a program where a senior would ‘adopt’ a student and hang out after school, help them with homework, and help acclimate them to the community. She and her adopted sister are friends on Facebook.
Mrs. Lonergan is still friends with classmates who she had in high school. She loved growing up here so much that she and her husband knew they wanted to raise their family in this special place. Mrs. Lonergan believes that every single one of her children thrived from being at school and were able to take the most out of it. She finds it inaccurate that people say East Rockaway is too small of a district. Mrs. Lonergan says that everyone is somebody and has their own place here to fit in. Everyone knows each other and because of that whenever a situation arises, East Rockaway and her community have never failed to stand by her. She truly lives by the saying of ‘Once a rock, always a rock’.
Susan Janes Torborg, Class of 1972
After graduating from East Rockaway High School in 1972, Sue Torborg went straight into the workforce. She worked as a computer operator for five years in Lynbrook until she had her first child and became a stay-at-home mom. Her husband, Gene Torborg, graduated from East Rockaway the year after Mrs. Torborg. Sue and Gene knew each other in high school through several East Rockaway Fire Dept. functions. Both of their families are very involved in the East Rockaway Fire Department. They started dating in 1973 and got married in 1975. They had four children together that also graduated from East Rockaway- Gene (1995), Scott (2001), Gregg (2004), and Suzie (2007). Her husband ran a local automotive repair shop, where she helped out as the bookkeeper and handled other responsibilities related to the business.
Mrs. Torborg eventually got involved in the East Rockaway School district in 1991. Her good friend, June Conklin, informed her about job opportunities at Centre Avenue, where Mrs. Torborg would go on to support many needs of the school. She spent most of her time as a lunch monitor and office staff. She then decided to take civil service tests and started as a security guard at the high school in 2002. Eventually, she began working full-time in the Main Office, where she currently works. You may say she “wears many hats,” literally.
After graduating from St. Raymond's in eighth grade, Mrs. Torborg started high school at East Rockaway. However, her family moved temporarily to Florida halfway through her freshman year, and she returned for her sophomore year. While a student at East Rockaway, Mrs. Torborg was involved in various extracurricular activities. She was on the yearbook staff, a student council member, a Lincoln Center Arts Club member, and participated in Rock Rivalry. Her best memory of Rock Rivalry was when her class won the cup as Sophomores in 1970. They were the first class in the history of Rock Rivalry to achieve this feat. Mrs. Torborg was extremely involved in sports, noting that she was a three-season athlete. She played field hockey, volleyball, basketball, softball, and was a cheerleader. She was one of only two girls in her grade who participated in athletics, and she dedicated a lot of her free time to these teams. She credits her love for all sports to her former PE teacher and coach, Ms. Joan Faucher. Mrs. Torborg was also a Rho Gamma gym leader, a position in which she assisted her physical education teacher during classes.
Mrs. Torborg has been heavily involved in the East Rockaway community beyond working in the high school. Her family was named the “NYS Baseball Family of the Year” in 1994. Mrs. Torborg co-chaired the 100th Anniversary Committee for the Inc. Village of East Rockaway in 2000 and was awarded the Nassau County Millennium Woman’s Trailblazer Award in 2001 by Francis X Becker. She served as the president of the PTA and received Life Member Awards from Centre Avenue and East Rockaway high school, and served as chairperson on several school-based committees while her children were students.
She has organized her last four class reunions; her former classmates know who to come to when it is time to plan the next event. Their 50-year reunion is coming up in October of this year, and Mrs. Torborg has been preparing for the event.
Currently, Mrs. Torborg has one granddaughter, Tara Torborg, Grade 11, in East Rockaway high school. She has a total of eight grandchildren and says that a couple of them will be students in the East Rockaway School district in the future.
When asked if she had any advice for current students in East Rockaway, Mrs. Torborg said, “Take it seriously, look towards your future, and be respectful.”
Linda Correnti, Class of 1976, written by Emily McLaughlin
After graduating from East Rockaway in 1976, Linda attended Fordham University in the Bronx. She initially thought she wanted to study Journalism, and wrote for the student newspaper, The Ram, during her time at Fordham. She wrote an article for The Ram about the teacher certification program that Fordham offered; a program she eventually completed. While studying at Fordham, Linda worked part-time at Pathmark. She originally worked at Pathmark in East Rockaway and transferred to a location in the Bronx. Linda recalls that her job as a Cashier Trainer helped develop her love for teaching others. She would make worksheets for her co-workers to help support their experience. One of her co-workers asked if she was a teacher because of her worksheets and organization.
While residing in the Bronx, Linda began teaching English in Far Rockaway, which was an interesting journey from East Rockaway. She still loved Journalism and writing, leading her to become an advisor for her school’s newspaper. Upon receiving her degree in administration, Linda looked for jobs outside of New York City. She landed a job at Liberty High School, a small school in Sullivan County, New York. Though it was a tight-knit community, like East Rockaway, she did not have a favorable time in a rural school. She told her principal that she would be returning to the “safety and serenity” of the New York school system, where she worked in alternative school and programs.
Linda and her husband both retired from the New York City School System in 2013. Upon being displaced by Superstorm Sandy, they then took time to rebuild their house. Their displacement and retirement eligibility helped gear them toward this decision.
While a student at East Rockaway, Linda was heavily involved in the school. She participated in various extra-curricular activities like The Gull, Yearbook, Student-Council Officer, National Honor Society, and Spanish Club. She was also the Entrance Chair for her class, helping organize their performances for Rock Rivalry. Her favorite classes were ones related to English, Journalism, History, and Foreign Languages. Linda describes her younger self as a “Nerd Child” and is proud of her love for academia.
Linda encourages students to take chances and that suggests that our paths may be determined by what they feel is an insignificant occurrence, like her experience as a part-time cashier. According to Linda, “Your path will evolve in an unlikely and still rewarding way.”
Currently, Linda resides in Upstate New York and Fort Myers, Florida. She and her husband are “snowbirds.” She was recently part of the planning committee for her 40th-year high school reunion. She connected with classmates she did not spend a lot of time with while in high school, and developed a close knit group. They get together as much as possible and formed a nice connection.
|Brandon Crescitelli, Class of 2014
When East Rockaway was temporarily shut down for two weeks after Superstorm Sandy, Brandon spent time with his family in Florida. During that time, he visited Florida Gulf Coast University. He fell in love with the idea of going away for four years and coming back home. After graduating from East Rockaway, FGCU became Brandon’s next home.
Brandon began his collegiate studies as an undecided student. While he was unsure of what he wanted to study, he knew he wanted to be creative in whatever he did. After taking several interesting marketing classes where he learned about the creative and analytical components of this career, he decided to study marketing and entrepreneurship. In addition to the classes that introduced Brandon to his current career, he studied abroad in Barcelona where he studied international marketing and gained a different perspective on everything he learned up until that point.
His superlative of Most School Spirited at East Rockaway translated to FGCU where he was equally as involved. As an FGCU Eagle, Brandon was heavily involved in Student Advisory boards. These roles allowed him to be a voice for his peers, as he made decisions on student issues such as class times and majors.
As graduation approached, Brandon was still unsure of what he wanted to do with his degree and decided to move back up to New York City to hopefully pursue a career in marketing. After interviewing at multiple companies, Brandon decided to take a job as an event brand strategist at Splash.
From 2017-2021 Brandon worked on events for Tik Tok, Bumble, Google, as well as others. As the pandemic hit, he learned how to hold virtual events. Recently, he began a product marketing position at Smartly. In this role, Brandon works on behind the scenes release of new products. He researches how to sell and how new initiatives should be introduced to the market. In this position, Brandon is no longer client facing, and works with all social media applications to help companies advertise on these platforms. Some of the companies you may see from Smartly are Smile Direct Club, Airbnb, and Spotify.
In a family of teachers, Brandon always imagined that he would pursue a career in education. He concluded that in his role, there is certainly an element of teaching. Brandon is a mentor and coach to new employees. He supports training and directs new hires on how to sell.
While a student at East Rockaway, Brandon recalls being part of every club possible. He participated in all four years of Rock Rivalry as Entrance Chair, and his class won three out of their four years. He described this experience as “so much fun.” Brandon was also a member of Student Council, Yearbook, Honors Society, and played the Viola in our orchestra. He has very fond memories of his English teachers, Ms. Murano, Ms. Terranova, and Ms. O’Shea. Brandon recalls them as being “super influential, and supportive with his college essay process.” They guided him through everything.
After participating in Career Week 2022, Brandon was excited to learn that East Rockaway offers a marketing class. He wishes that was an option when he was a student. Classes he most enjoyed were Media & Journalism, Intro to Theatre, AP World History, and AP Language. He took several AP and Dual Enrollment classes as a high school student. He believes this enjoyable experience set him up for success as he graduated a semester early and was ahead of his peers in the workforce. There was also financial savings as a result. He hopes current students can keep an open mind to such a great opportunity and continue to electives that they enjoy. Brandon believes that if you are passionate about something, there will be a career that satisfies that passion, and any area of interest can translate into a future career.
|Kristine (Klose) O’Hagan, Class of 1987
After graduating from East Rockaway, Kristine attended Nassau Community College earning her AA in Liberal Arts and furthered her education at Molloy College, where she earned her BS in Business Management. She later went to Hofstra University for the Graduate Level Paralegal Certification with a concentration in Real Estate, Contract Law, Legal Research and Writing. Currently, in the State of Florida, she is a licensed 215 (Life, Health and Annuities Insurance Agent and a 220 Property and Casualty Insurance Agent).
While attending Molloy College she was offered an internship at John Hancock in Garden City where she learned a vast knowledge of the Insurance Industry. When she arrived in Florida she debated Law School, yet after a bit of time working in the legal field she decided to pursue insurance. Over the years she has worked for several well-known Florida Insurance Agencies and was the President of O’Hagan Insurance Agency in Stuart, FL. Currently, Kristine is the Lead Production Agent at Great Florida Insurance of Sebastian. She enjoys assisting with the insurance needs of her clients, and has mentioned that it is very rewarding helping many of her former classmates who relocated to Florida. After being in Florida for over 24 years Kristine definitely has knowledge of the Florida topography, logistics and of course the fair share of hurricanes! “The worst Hurricane that I have gone through was Frances and Jeanne, they hit our community 10 days apart both with equal devastation. Supplies and resources were outrageously limited. So, when I tell people I know hurricanes and tornadoes when they are across my desk, I do.”
A fun fact about Kristine is she has not been all work, no play. She read an advertisement for Flight Attendants way back in 1996 and applied for the position. “I never thought I would be hired, and when I was called that I was heading off to St. Louis it was a bit of a shock. Off I went! Who would not want to travel and see the world!” Kristine worked the midwest region and eventually landed at JFK. “Flying is so different in comparison to when I worked for Trans States Airlines, the feeder service for TWA. My parents were relieved when I did stop. Especially after Flight 800 exploded. I was in the air flying from DCA to JFK at the same time. The FBI was in the terminal with dogs, it was so surreal. The plane blew up right near a home I had purchased in Center Moriches. It was so hard not to run out and help search and rescue.” She still flew on her Archer II Piper Cub and stayed friends with the many wonderful people she met in the airline industry.
As a Student at East Rockaway High School, Kristine was like her three older brothers she was active and participated in school extracurricular activities. “My brother’s (Bobby, Wally and Ronny) had more experiences with sports, since I was a toddler I was warming the benches with my parents, Football, Basketball, Baseball, yet I was off to the skating rink with Gerry Chapel or the swimming pool.” While she was one of the smallest girls in her class, and others were selected for sports, Kristine played NCAA Tennis when attending Molloy. At East Rockaway, Kristine was on the yearbook, and the school newspaper “The Gull”, and of course Rock Rivalry. Rock Rivalry helped her later in life with working with diverse folks coming in from different angles with diverse thoughts and yet in the end have to work towards similar goals. “Whoever thought of the concept for the class competition was a genius because we all worked together. Really, for the few weeks in the winter months everyone worked together as a team, good, bad or indifferent we worked together.” Both her parents, Ken Klose and Ann (Jones) Klose were active in sports and Rock Rivalry. Her nephew Brian, was even wrapped up in the ERHS gig of being creative and he was the Entrance Chair! Kristine did stay steady with her educational journey from the time she was in ERHS to the present. “I concentrated on Business and Art, thinking I would go right into Commercial Art. At the advice of a woman I met who worked for the NY Times told me to take as many writing courses as possible. Thank heavens I did because when my business did not pan out as expected, I was able to freelance as a Journalist and Photographer. I was actually one of the society writers to TC PALM and The Press Journal, covering events held by non-profits. What a wonderful experience to help get the message of the missions of the non-profits out to the public eyes and in the meantime meeting some fabulous famous people. I was star struck by Joan Lunden, and Nancy Lopez!”
Over the years Kristine has been following in her family members footsteps with volunteering, former member of Indian River Junior League, Former Board Member of CASTLE, Former Advisory Board, Finance Committee, Development Board for Youth Guidance, 2015 Ambassador of the Year Martin County Chamber of Commerce, 2015 Dancing with the Stars -dancer for Health Start Coalition. Member of McKee Botanical Garden and ELC – Environmental Learning Center. She is working with a new non-profit in Vero Beach to help raise money for individuals with emotional needs to pay for their Art Therapy classes. “My first love was art, painting, and drawing; I still take Art Classes.”
Kristine resides in Vero Beach, FL with her partner Matthew T Geis III. Her adult Children Ryan (Jessica), Liam and her two grandchildren Lindsey and Luke also reside in Vero Beach. She is constantly learning and appreciating the moments of life. Kristine is an avid reader, boater, artist, and recently has been taking Piano, Guitar, and Uke lessons (at the same studio Jake Owen started out). She and her granddaughter, Lindsey were featured in a local drum circle hosted by the Treasure Coast Percussion during the annual EcoFest in March 2020.
To all alumni, and current students Kristine encourages students to take skills and continue to move forward. “Spearhead your life!” Find an interest in their education, no matter what else is going on in the room. Find your passion, and pursue your desires, take the path, and enjoy your journey.
|Bernard Maffuci, Class of 1952
Bernard Maffuci graduated from East Rockaway in 1952 on a Tuesday and began working full time in a machine shop on a Thursday. In December of 1952, he began working at the electric company, Long Island Lighting and held various jobs. Jobs held were within the claims department, and eventually he became the Division Manager. Bernard retired in 1996. Bernard is very proud of his family. He is very close with his granddaughters, and his children.
In 1963, Bernie got married and moved to Merrick with his wife Vicky. They were married for almost 50 years; she passed away in 2009. He sold his house in 2011, and currently resides in Oceanside. When Bernard was a student at Rhame Avenue in 1939, there were cows in a pasture across from the school. After cows left, students used the field to play ball. Bernard recalls the mud that formed when it rained.
The graduating class of 1952 had 62 students: 30 boys and 32 girls. As a student, Bernard met a lot of great people and had a lot of fun. Academically, his favorite class was history. When Bernard was at Rhame, his principal was called to service. By the time Bernard was a Jr./Sr. High School student, the principal returned from service and was his principal again.
When Bernard turned 18, his school counselor helped him with his draft card. He was in the reserves for six years, from until 1963. Throughout his time in the reserves, he was stateside as a combat engineer. Thankfully, there was not combat during his service.
Growing up, Bernard's grandfather had a speakeasy in Brooklyn. Bernard is proud of his family, and his childhood. If he could do it all over again, he wouldn't change a thing. His brother, Peter graduated in 1961. Their family owned a tavern, in Oceanside, at the current location of PC Richards. His mother began the work at the tavern was when his father passed. Previously, Bernard's father was the town barber.
Bernard is still in touch with one friend from class, Paul, who he worked with at the supermarket across from the library. Paul currently lives in Florida with his wife. Bernard has heard from East Rockaway friends over the years and is glad to hear that Rock Rivalry is still going strong. He recalls it as the best thing of the school year because everyone was together. Bernard's class won in 1951 and 1952. He participated in the Rock Rivalry refreshment stand three years in a row. In order to complete the stand, Bernard recalls pulling weeds from the swamp, weaving them together with bamboo and lumbar to create the winning masterpiece. Athletically, Bernard was involved in football and basketball.
Molly DeBenedetto, Class of 2012
Molly recently bought a house in Bethpage, where she lives with her husband, and dog, Cali. She is currently a permanent substitute teacher at Rhame Avenue. Molly is a career changer and just graduated with her Masters in Education. Prior to her current position, Molly spent three years working in recreational therapy. As a Recreational Therapist, Molly worked in an assisted living center where she helped improve quality of life through different activities. She primarily worked with adults with Alzheimer’s and dementia where she would plan activities that supported memory. There was a focus on senses, recreating decades through theme parties, and viewing old photos of themselves. Often her residents didn’t recognize themselves in the mirror but looking at photos of their younger selves was comforting, and helpful. They told stories about the photos of their youth.
While Molly loved the recreation aspect of her job, as she was always very crafty, however, she was moved to sales, and other roles within the setting. She recalls enjoying her time lifeguarding, and teaching swim lessons, so explored opportunities working with children. Since it is never too late to go back to school, she applied to Touro College in Bayshore where she completed her degree.
As an undergraduate student, Molly began her education at Towson University. It was too big for her and didn’t feel like home. After her first semester, she returned home, and received her Associate’s Degree from Nassau Community College. She felt and still believes that Nassau is a great place to explore options and earn general education credits if students aren’t sure where they see themselves. Some of her professors at Nassau also taught at some of the most prestigious and competitive institutions in the nation. To begin sophomore year, Molly attended SUNY Cortland, and this school felt like home. The athletic drive in the school community reminded her of East Rockaway. There were different options to engage in sports, not just varsity. Playing varsity sports is a huge commitment, and as a member of a club sport, there are more opportunities to play different sports. Molly used this opportunity to stay active and make friends. She joined cheer and instantly had 30 best friends.
Molly began as a biology major, as she really enjoyed science. She was unsure if she wanted to stay at Cortland because she wasn’t enjoying her major, and her mother encouraged her to explore other areas of study. Upon exploring other options, Molly dropped a couple of science classes, and picked up physical education classes. A class that semester included high ropes, obstacle courses, and jungle gyms. Molly asked her professor how she got involved in teaching such a class. Her professor shared she was working with endangered youth on ways to support emotion regulation, and positive ways to have fun. This is how Molly discovered recreational therapy, and sure enough, it was a major at Cortland. Another student in this physical education class was also exploring majors, and she and Molly began their studies in recreational therapy together. One of her favorite courses in this major was a leadership course which she still uses in every aspect of her life. She learned different ways to lead different types of people and learned significant life skills. She used this for practical experience running an after-school program taking turns leading activities.
As a student at East Rockaway, Molly was involved in Soccer, Cheer, and Softball. She joined the Yearbook her senior year, and wished she participated since 9th grade; it was so much fun. Molly was awarded Most School Spirited, as she was very involved in all aspects of the school community, especially decorating hallways. Academically, Molly enjoyed science electives. Her experience in Forensics allowed her to take a field trip to an actual crime scene. Molly loved that Mrs. Orzano had a comforting way about her. She encouraged Molly to be her best self. She has fond memories of Mr. Collins as her soccer coach. The dynamic on this team allowed Molly to be the closest she ever was to teammates. Prior to each game, Mr. Collins would read an inspirational quote, and had a printed copy for each player. The girls kept the copy in their shin guards to stay with them as they played.
Molly hopes that current students won’t be afraid to go away to college, but also hopes that they do not feel obligated. Everyone knows themselves best. If they are not ready, that is their call to make. She also encourages students to get involved as much as they can, because before they know it, high school is over. When it comes to visiting colleges, take advantage of siblings and older friends to gain a true sense of what it would be like. College tours are great, but they are a snapshot of what staying with someone for a day might look like.
|Tara Caccavo-Hobson, Class of 1991
After graduating from East Rockaway, Tara attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. She spent her first two years in accessory design with a focus on children’s products. After enjoying her time creating a collection with happy faces and other youthful designs, she wanted to continue her education at FIT, but wasn’t sure of her focus. Tara met someone who was working towards their Bachelor’s in Toy Design, which piqued her interest. This program was extremely competitive as it was the only one in the country at the time. Tara was accepted and spent her next two years at FIT working towards her Bachelor’s in Toy Design.
Tara attended her first semester in college as a commuter. As an East Rockaway resident, she did not live far enough to qualify for housing. Commuting took up time that Tara could have been getting involved in activities, which was central to who she was as a high school student. She eventually met someone who needed a roommate which allowed her to spend her time outside of the classroom as part of student government and planning activities for the school community. This was beneficial especially since days studying toy design were very long. Classes were 9 AM-6 PM, and Tara spent much of her evenings in school labs designing. She also had classes on Saturdays.
After graduation, Tara got a job in Manhattan working in a packaging department. She wanted to work at a toy company in whatever capacity and took advantage of this available position at Tyco. While working with Tyco, Tara met someone in the plush department who learned of Tara’s background in soft goods at FIT. When an opening in this department presented itself, Tara began working with Sesame Street, Looney Tunes, Nickelodeon properties, Blues Clues, Barney and more. It was a very cool time to be working for this company, as they were doing so well. E-bay was newer, and sellers were tring to profit off what was accessible to everyone. This was not as crazy as the Cabbage Patch Craze in the 80s, but still, a $20 item was being sold for hundreds of dollars.
When the Coast Guard relocated Tara’s husband to California, she secured a position with Mattel. Mattel ran much differently than Tyco. Tara worked nine months to develop a product in New York, but at Mattel there were more meetings, check-ins, and similarly, product development took longer. At Mattel, Tara worked on Disney Girls properties, Barbies, and plush. One of the interesting things about working at Mattel was the access Tara had to all stages of development. She worked with sculptors, hair rooters, seamstresses, and hand painters as everything to create a toy was physically able to be done onsite.
When Tara’s husband was transferred to Philadelphia, Tara reached out to her boss from Tyco who was excited for her to return. She remained at Tyco for a few years, then ventured to a different company in PA, and is currently working for Just Play. At this company she covers a wide range of products including pre-school toys, intellectual properties, dolls, and all things Nickelodeon. Every place Tara worked allowed her to build on what she knew and seeing a child with a toy brings her such joy. Her favorite toy was Sing and Snore Ernie which came out a year after Tickle Me Elmo. Tara worked on this item from beginning to end.
As an East Rockaway student artist, Tara was involved in hands-on design, and loved art during her high school years. Tara had a creative mind, but since she wasn’t an illustrator, she didn't think she was an artist. Mr. Bishop was very good at exposing students to different aspects of art such as 3-D sculpture with copper and developing photos in the darkroom which resulted in Tara becoming the yearbook editor. Tara recalls being most inspired by model making class, and a class where industry professionals visited and allowed her to explore different areas of art. She continued this passion through weekend classes at FIT and explored areas of art she most enjoyed. Mr. Bishop helped her create her portfolio for art school which landed her admission to FIT. Mr. Bishop is the main reason Tara attended FIT. In addition to the constant support and celebration of her work, he spoke with her mother about her acceptance. Given the competitive nature of FIT, he encouraged Tara and her family not to pass on this opportunity.
Outside of the classroom, Tara loved being involved in a variety of things, as she classifies herself as a joiner. Once she mastered something, she was eager to discover the next step. Tara loved high school and most notably spent four years heavily involved with Rock Rivalry, including as the Entrance Chairman.
Tara and her three siblings all attended East Rockaway, and while all had different experiences, they believe that there is something special and unique about East Rockaway. You cannot equate the experience to something else, and if you don’t live it, you can’t explain it. Tara credits much of what she and her brothers accomplished to her family involvement in East Rockaway, with her mother as a member of the PTA, and the care and effort of the teachers. Tara loved class with Mrs. Orzano, Mr. Yousha, and Doc Moglia.
As Tara reflects on her time at East Rockaway, and all she has since accomplished, she encourages current students to follow their passion as she believes her Saturday classes at FIT were pivotal in finding her place. There are so many classes available to high school students during the summer and on weekends and hope current students can take advantage of this opportunity, as she did. Participation in these settings help us see what we enjoy, and what we don't. As she began in the toy industry in packaging with a passion for toy design, she believes that once students begin their careers, they should embrace the opportunities that are put in front of them. We may not always understand why certain things are happening, but sometimes, we are on the right path and can be put in contact with the right person and offered the position of our dreams. Tara’s greatest accomplishment is her family; her husband Jake and three girls, Sophia, Madeline, and Julia.
|Jake Pellegrino, Class of 2012
After graduating from East Rockaway, Jake Pellegrino went on to Nassau Community College where he majored in Liberal Arts. While a student at Nassau, Jake explored a variety of different courses as he was unsure exactly where he saw himself professionally immediately out of high school. He enjoyed the environment socially and made many friends that he is still in touch with today. He used the resources and guidance learned from the East Rockaway school counseling office to support him when it came time to transfer to a four-year school, especially that of Mrs. Katzman and was accepted everywhere he applied. Fortunately, all of his credits transferred, and he continued his studies at Hofstra University where he initially explored film as a major.
Jake was always interested in film, especially analyzing and writing about film. At East Rockaway, he even gained a reputation as the school’s “film critic,” where his classmates would ask him for film recommendations. However, he soon discovered that the program at Hofstra was more based on production and making movies rather than writing about film. When exploring majors that would better suit his skills and interests, he transitioned to the journalism major and thoroughly enjoyed his experience. He didn’t know much about journalism but figured it involved writing so it would be close to his original goal. If it didn’t turn out to be a good fit, he figured journalism being in the communications field would cast a wide net of other possible job opportunities, but he turned out to love it and is what he has continued to do ever since.
An internship at Herald Community Newspapers became available to Jake after graduating from Hofstra. While the company publishes the Lynbrook/East Rockaway Herald, the papers Jake was assigned to were the Franklin Square/Elmont, Malverne/West Hempstead and Long Beach Heralds. This opportunity set Jake on the course of local, community journalism. While he believes all journalism is important, he enjoys the fact that local journalism impacts readers lives’ more on a daily basis.
While looking for a full-time position after the internship, Jake freelanced at several outlets including Anton Media Group in Mineola, which publishes various central Long Island newspapers, HuntingtonNow Media, a hyperlocal online news site covering the Town of Huntington; and Newsday. Ultimately, Jake accepted a position at CJ Publishers Inc.-the publishers of the Massapequa Post, Amityville Record, and Babylon Beacon.
At CJ Publishers, Jake had the fortune of working with renowned journalist Carolyn James. While learning from her, he was able to cover all types of community happenings. After some time, he became intertwined within the community and people began to know him, recognize his face, and trust him, which helped improve his reporting. Stories he covered included school board meetings, various community press conferences, where he enjoyed standing shoulder-to-shoulder with famous television journalists he had seen on TV and obituaries, which involved interviewing the families of the deceased. One of the most significant stories that Jake had the opportunity to cover here were the local elections in 2019. This was Jake’s first experience with political reporting. While Jake didn’t have much experience with this type of reporting and didn’t know much about politics he enjoyed learning about the candidates and going canvasing with them, which provided him a taste of what it would be like to be on a political campaign. To top it all off, his hard work navigating these uncharted waters was handsomely rewarded as it earned him one of his first journalism awards, which was one of his most rewarding career experiences thus far. For this story on the 17th Nassau County legislative district elections, he received the “Election Coverage Folio Award” from the Fair Media Council, a Long Island-based media watchdog and news advocacy group. Additionally, that same year he won another award from the Fair Media Council called the “Community Service Newspaper Folio Award” for his stories in a special series of stories called “We Remember the Boys Who Went Off to War and Never Came Home.” These stories allowed Jake to shed light on military community members who passed in the line of duty. Their names may be featured on plaques, memorials and monuments but few know who they actually were, and Jake wanted to highlight the real dimension of the character of these young men.
In August of 2020, Jake was impacted by layoffs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and since March of this year, he began working for the Long Islander News, a local newspaper based in Huntington. In this role, Jake enjoys the independence in being able to find his own stories to write. Although, he has only been there for less than a year so far, some of his fondest memories include covering the 2021 Huntington GOP election night party, the closing of Book Revue, the Harry Chapin family concert, the Cinema Arts Centre renovation, shows at the John W. Engeman Theater and the tragic death of beloved East Northport skateboarder Nicholas “Blueberry” Woodworth.
At East Rockaway, Jake has fond memories of Mrs. Orzano, Mrs. Lagnese, Mr. Duet, and Mr. Rinn. He was hardworking, and believed his teachers saw that. He utilized extra help and attributes his success in certain classes to his teachers encouraging him, and noticed they did so with others, as well. Some of his fondest memories include “donut hole Tuesdays” with Mrs. Orzano, sharing laughs and writing college essays with Mrs. Lagnese, learning about new music from Mr. Duet and sitting with Mr. Rinn at lunch talking about film, music, and his lifeguarding work. Additionally, he remembers becoming friends with Lauren Pentola and Ashley Boland, some of his closest friends still to this day.
Jake was involved in Key Club and recalls going to the Ronald McDonald House every year for the holiday season to distribute toy donations. This experience was incredibly rewarding, as he enjoyed seeing the happiness on the children’s faces as the gifts were received. In middle school, Jake’s classmates voted him as President of National Junior Honors Society. They, too, noticed his work ethic and saw Jake fit to represent their group. He was honored to be voted by his classmates. Although he was involved with these groups, looking back, he would have liked to be even more involved and encourages current students to take on leadership roles and participate in all opportunities presented. because high school goes by very quickly.
|Marc Crocco, Class of 2018
After graduating from East Rockaway, Marc worked construction for his cousin’s company focusing on Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) in residential and commercial buildings. While in high school, he began working in this field during his junior year and over the summers; it eventually became his full-time job. He learned about and works with air ventilation in walls and connections to units. In his role, he makes sure systems are installed accurately to maintain desired temperature, keep out air that is too hot or too cold, and also filter and clean air to maintain healthy humidity and comfort. Marc has gotten accustomed to the 5 AM wake ups and commute to Manhattan. Working in HVAC exposes him to collaborating with carpenters, masons, glassworkers, and other trade professionals. He enjoys the camaraderie in their work environment. Marc is currently looking to get A+ certified in IT. He built his own computer and has a strong comprehension of how they work.
Marc returned to East Rockaway from Oceanside as a junior. It was not a difficult transition because he was a student at Rhame until 5th grade. He remembers his classmates being happy to see him again. He enjoyed class with Mr. Altamore. Marc describes him as great, and funny. Mr. Altamore helped him understand math a lot better. Marc’s teachers loved the idea of Marc becoming a lawyer, because he always stated facts, but Marc knew that wasn’t his path.
As an East Rockaway student, Marc was very involved in the law club, and brought in the pride club. Although he won second place at Poetry Madness, the support and applause were better than first place. Marc shared his personal experience of being closeted, and how much it hurt. Poetry Madness became his platform to share an important piece of himself not just with his peers, but with the entire student body. Marc describes this opportunity as liberating. Marc’s experience at Poetry Madness was a heavy push towards recruitment and involvement in the pride club. He raised awareness and involvement amongst his peers to join the pride club by inquiring about the level of interest and if students would show up. Marc believed it was important for his personal growth, and growth of his peers to have this club as an option. It became a safe place for everyone to go. Students involved discussed LGBTQ+ news, events, movies, and talked about how they feel in school.
Upon meeting with his friends on the track team after coming out at Poetry Madness, they expressed that they were unaware. He shared that he didn’t expect them to know because it wasn’t part of his identity as a friend, it was part of who he is, but did not drive his social experience. He also used this opportunity to speak to Mr. Rinn’s health classes about sexuality. It was informative and enjoyed by his peers and classmates.
Marc enjoyed his time participating in Rock Rivalry. He was involved in the stand because it was his background. He loved tug of war at Sports Night. Marc encourages students not to be too hard on themselves. As far as assignments go, his words of wisdom are to get things done, and get them in. There will always be time for fun. Looking back, he feels he missed out on certain things and hopes current students will take advantage of all opportunities.
|Brian Klose, Class of 2009
Brian Klose is a third-generation Rock, as his father and grandparents graduated from East Rockaway, as well. Of the 97 graduates in Brian's senior class, seven attended Mt. St. Mary, also known as "The Mount." Brian recalls visiting his neighbor in college there and knew it was where he wanted to attend. He was initially denied but continued to self-advocate, interviewed, and eventually became a student studying communications. Brian loved the communications program at the Mount. He was able to complete a capstone project at the end of four years in event planning. Brian hosted a fundraiser for a homeless shelter in Hudson Valley. This huge gala involved all student leaders, a night of dancing, unique foods, and guest speakers talking about leadership in college. Brian loved the hands-on experience at the Mount in and out of the classroom. He participated in theatre, campus events, and was student body president. Last weekend he visited for Alumni Weekend.
During Brian's senior year of college, he interned with the office of admissions. He was offered a job prior to graduation and was incredibly happy that he didn't have the same stressors of searching for a job as many of his classmates. For several years, he recruited all over Long Island. One-third of the entire population at the Mount is from Long Island. One of his favorite parts of this position was managing the tour guide program. It allowed him to work with training students and building leaders.
After Brian's years at the Mount, he moved to Pennsylvania with his fiancée. Until he found a position in admissions, he worked at Hollister. Brian held positions at Marywood University, Penn State, and is currently working at St. Peter's University. While at Penn State, Brian was the Digital Media and Enrollment Specialist. In that role, he recruited students and oversaw social media for the entire campus. He created and analyzed content for social media pages and created marketing videos for admissions events. He was recruited for his current position by his former director from Penn State. The position is different from what he has experienced so far, as he will be traveling to China and India to recruit students in the spring. Some of the things that Brian likes most about St. Peter's is a great destination for international students due to its proximity to NYC, its diverse environment, and great support.
In addition to Brian's admissions work, he is also a business owner. After purchasing a Kitchen Mixer on Amazon Prime Day, he began to make cupcakes. Prior to this he had never cooked or baked but thought the mixer would look great on the kitchen counter. Shortly after bringing cupcakes to work, his university hired him to bake for events and activities. Sweet Cupcakes by Brian were also sold at farm stands and local events. It was easier to make cupcakes in NY because of laws; in Delaware where he currently resides, bakers need separate kitchens if they have pets. Brian and his husband have a dog named Leia; they are huge Star Wars Fans! They got married in Disney in 2020. Brian's husband also works in higher education.
Brian began East Rockaway as a shy version of himself. His involvement in Rock Rivalry allowed him to develop magnificent leadership skills. He took these skills to college, and still uses them in his career. Brian was an actor in all school musicals. He played the Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist, acted in Annie, Hello Dolly, Damn Yankees, West Side Story, and City of Angels. He wishes he got involved in more clubs. As a student, he enjoyed classes switch Ms. Murano, and music with Mr. Ezell. Brian loved how all the teachers cared about the success of their students.
Brian hopes that current students can take advantage of community service. He believes this helps students grow, and it is good to give back to the community. When looking at schools, he suggests students tour big and small to find their best fit. As one who specializes in higher education, he also encourages students to research trade schools, and options other than college. He encourages students not to be afraid to leave home and to do it while they are young.
|Molly Bastow, Class of 2013
After graduating from East Rockaway, Molly attended the University of Tampa for two and a half years. When Molly realized the level of academic commitment while adjusting to her new environment, she refocused her education to public health; previously she did not know she could marry her love for business and science. Molly loved the beautiful campus and weather; she felt like she was at a country club. Molly loved the size of Tampa, especially coming from such a small high school. She recalls feeling overwhelmed by the 1000 students at Freshmen Orientation which reinforced her wise decision not to attend a larger university. Within a month at UT, Molly began to recognize faces as she walked around campus. When she began her undergraduate career, Molly was not as personable or open as she is now. Her experience at UT helped her grow personally; most of her friends were the same students she was in class with at Centre, so learning how to make friends as a young adult was a new challenge. She continued to be involved through cheer and Pi Beta Phi Sorority.
Eventually, Molly decided she wanted to be back home, and transferred to SUNY Old Westbury. Molly loved the closeness to home and commuting. While at Old Westbury, Molly was incredibly focused and did very well in her classes. She worked in sales part-time at European Wax. Molly began exercising at Orangetheory Fitness. The gym was part of the same franchise as European Wax, so she knew people who worked at the company. As you have the opportunity to make connections everywhere you go, one of the managers at Rockville Centre saw Molly as a potential team member. She was offered a job in the Northport location at the front desk managing customer service. Due to a management change, she was able to hold a managerial role quickly. When the Hewlett location opened, she was eager to shift into a role closer to home. After three years of managing the Hewlett location, Molly became the regional manager of all of Nassau County. Molly loves that in her job she gets to meet so many different people in 10 studios all over Nassau County. She has the awesome chance to develop and train people with the same drive and passion for their health and wellness journey. It is important to Molly to share her journey and make the world a healthy place.
While an East Rockaway student, Molly prides herself in having a good relationship with everyone. She was the class president, the overall chairman of Rock Rivalry, and played volleyball and cheered. With two older sisters, Molly was determined to make a name for herself, and not just be the "Littlest Bastow." Molly was crowned homecoming queen, alongside her king, Ben, with whom she currently resides in Long Beach. Molly loved high school and anything that had to do with science. Her favorite teachers were Mr. Poland, Mr. Seavers, and Mr. Gerken. Molly left her mark on our community most significantly by winning her class a free prom! After Superstorm Sandy, East Rockaway students finished their year in an abandoned elementary school building. Molly came across a contest with Rent the Runway. Everyone received a free dress costing upwards of $8,000, tuxes, and they celebrated their senior year at the Sands Point Preserve.
Molly would like to remind our students that people won't always remember what you said or what you look like, but they will always remember how you made them feel, so be nice, be kind, and leave your positive impact.
|Gail Beyrer, Class of 1992
After graduating from East Rockaway, Mrs. Beyrer attended Salisbury State University. Mrs. Beyrer had yet to experience the type of disappointment from not getting into her first choice school, SUNY Geneseo. She was disappointed with the SUNY system,and as a result, ventured to Maryland.
In addition to the positive experience in the education program at Salisbury State, Mrs. Beyrer marks her college education as a time in which lessons were plenty. As a manager in food services, her supervisor told her she acted too much like a leader, and not enough as a manager. She was collaborative and tried to discover new ways to complete general processes and procedures. While her feedback of being too much of a leader was not meant in a positive way, this position allowed her to define her leadership role as inclusive and proactive.
While at Salisbury State, Mrs. Beyrer also volunteered as a Daisy Girl Scout Leader. Working with Kindergarten aged children in this role was one of the experiences that influenced Mrs.Beyrer to pursue elementary education, rather than high school, as she initially planned. This experience allowed Mrs. Beyrer to continue to give back to the community, while having fun with the children. This tapped into her helping skills.
Mrs. Beyrer's college experience was vastly different from her previous education experience at East Rockaway, which she described as a "Fish Bowl," In a place where she had very involved parents, was a little sister of brothers everyone knew,and Dr. Meagher's daughter, she was excited to figure out who she was on her own, be herself, and find out who that would be.
At a career fair, Mrs. Beyrer was presented with the opportunity to teach in Baltimore, with a recruiter telling her, "you are exactly the kind of person we want to come teach." Apprehensive about moving to a new city, Mrs. Beyrer completed two years of service with AmeriCorps, feeling that she understood New York City more than Baltimore, which would allow for a smoother transition. In this role, Mrs. Beyrer taught, hung out with kids, learned, and trained. She highly recommends this to future teachers, leaders, and anyone still figuring out what they want to do after graduating college. Some exciting highlights were conferences and workshops that allowed her to travel to South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Arizona.
Wanting to be the next Diana Friedman, Mrs.Beyrer graduated college with an English Concentration in Secondary Education. After continuing exciting opportunities in an elementary school classroom within her AmeriCorps service, taking youngsters to the Coney Island Aquarium, running groups, Mrs. Beyrer fell in love with providing education and support to elementary aged children. She was so successful in a job that supported children when school was out, that the principal called to offer her first teaching position. Prior to working at P.S. 28 in Washington Heights, Mrs. Beyrer trained teachers in computer use.
First teaching jobs often lack glamour, but Mrs. Beyrer shares that she had a very cool first year. She taught fifth grade, in a school where 250 students were in the graduating class. There were 32 in her class, and she most looked forward to their Saturday School Reading Program. She and her students ate breakfast together,while they read and talked about books. Her students became her allies as she managed challenges in the classroom.
Through the smallness of East Rockaway, at an Ed Foundation Fundraiser, Mrs. Beyrer's first grade teacher, Elaine Rauch, took her by the hand and told her to teach here. After interviewing, Mrs. Beyrer began teaching at East Rockaway with seven other teachers to include Ms. Muscarella, Dr. Soto, Mr. Weber, and Mrs. Healey. Currently at Rhame, she loves the community with whom she teaches. There is something so beautiful about East Rockaway and the helpful people. An example of this is that if she forgets to bring lunch, any of her colleagues would either buy her lunch, or share their food, the same as she would for them.
One of the most exciting things about working at Rhame Avenue was the ability to photocopy anything you wanted. This was quite a change from the protocol in New York City that required an approval process. Another change Mrs. Beyrer enjoyed was the ability to easily connect with teachers, support staff, and administrators to collaborate in order to support students.
Mrs.Beyrer Loves teaching at Rhame. She loves when she gets to see her kids, which are her students; her kids at home being her "personal children." She loves seeing them grow, hearing what they remember, and learning about where they are in their lives.
As an East Rockaway Student, Mrs. Beyrer recalls Rock Rivalry as a big favorite. She was the overall chair for four years, and served with her fellow alumni Michelle Healey. They sometimes get to teach together, and have been friends for years. In addition to Rock Rivalry, Mrs. Beyrer enjoyed school musicals. Her favorite was playing Wendy in Peter Pan, alongside Ms. Murano as Mr. Smee, and Ms. Healey as Captain Hook.
One way that a skill learned in Rock Rivalry has helped her current role is through the writing of a play with her colleague Heidi Kreit. It was basically written to be similar to a rock rivalry entrance; about 30 minutes in length with plenty of opportunities for a variety of characters to have a part, big or small, a clear beginning, middle and end and chances for updates and jokes to be added as they arose. The students embarked on a journey through a narrative and learned some lessons about writing along the way while encountering their favorite fairy tale characters. It was great fun to create and great fun to bring to life.
Teaching inspiration comes from Diana Friendmen, her favorite teacher. She was someone who let students sit in circles and talk about books in the late 80's and early 90's when that type of education was not the acceptable norm. Mrs. Beyrer wanted to lead her life doing the same. She recalls positive experiences with her former social studies teacher and mock trial advisor, Mildred Block, who unfortunately passed away. Practices allowed for an inclusive, intimate, and community feel, while the members of the team enjoyed a fancy lunch in her beautiful home.
Mrs. Beyrer is the happy mother of three really active boys. She is married to a great guy, Joe, who plays bagpipes for our community on St. Patrick's day, even though he teaches in Lynbrook. As the president of ERTA, Mrs. Beyrer believes she has a deeper understanding of the school community from her experiences, which helps inform her work in that role. She believes it is so Important to be kind, and help others, and however you live your life, whatever you do, do the best you can.
|Dylan Gross, Class of 2011
After graduating from East Rockaway, Dylan enrolled in Five Towns College in Dix Hills. While a college student, Dylan got involved in as many performance groups as possible. There were opportunities to participate in work with the computer and music department. As a Music Education major, Dylan loved teaching music, but didn't feel the school setting was appropriate for him, right away. The internship experience versus the student teaching experience did not compare, and the course load was unappealing.
Dylan continued playing music and spent a lot of time in orchestral work. He played upright bass, some electric, drums, theatre work, and hip hop. You name it, he played it. Dylan began subbing at School of Rock in Rockville Centre. Flash forward six years, and he is still there today. His role is quite different from when he began, as he is currently the Chief Operating Officer and Regional Director for Music Education. He directly oversees the music development of staff and students. Additionally, he manages the day to day operations, hirings, training, show selection, student progress, and has his ear to what is happening in three locations locally (Rockville Centre, Huntington, and Syosset/Oyster Bay). His transition from a substitute to the COO is one of the perks in working for a small business. He shared his experience with our students during Career Week last year, and we hope to have him back again!
As a freelance musician, Dylan mostly plays rock & roll; Foo Fighters meets Deep Purple. In high school, Dylan listened to Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and a lot of No Doubt. While he feels he did his own thing, he participated in the school musicals as a member of the orchestra, chorus and cast. He was in West Side Story and Sound of Music. As a rock, he overall had a good time, but notes that high school is tough for everyone. He knows the students with whom he currently works face more challenges than he might have while in high school.
Dylan loved being in Senior Seminar. All though it was never planned, he and Mr. Duet always managed to dress the same. That was one way to get through the year! He recalls that Mr. Ezell's class was awesome and had so many good times there.
|Russell 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.
|Rebecca 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.
|Melissa 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.
|Margaret 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, 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, 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.
|Anayiah 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.
|Janeen 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 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.
|Elizabeth 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.
Daniel & 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
After 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 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)
Daniel 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
Katherine 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
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
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
Kenneth 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 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 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 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.”
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.
After 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 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.”
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, 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
After 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.
I 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 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.”