Highland and New Paltz schools to celebrate commencement and moving up

New Paltz grads at last year’s ceremony. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

New Paltz grads at last year’s ceremony. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

It’s that time of year again for students; bittersweet endings and exciting new beginnings. Highland and New Paltz schools will celebrate commencement for graduating seniors next week, with eighth graders in both districts participating in moving-up ceremonies.


New Paltz High School graduation

Students at New Paltz High School will claim their diplomas on Friday, June 24 at 6 p.m. Graduation ceremonies will be held on the Floyd Patterson Field at the high school. A PTSA-sponsored reception will follow. In the event of rain, graduation and the reception will move to the Wellness Center on the SUNY New Paltz campus. The decision will be made by noon that day and any changes that need to be made will be posted on the school’s website at www.newpaltz.k12.ny.us.


Graduating senior Darren Tsai is valedictorian of the NPHS class of 2016, earning the distinction with a grade point average of 101.354. “It’s a great honor,” he says. “It feels like the culmination of years of hard work and an affirmation of the time I’ve spent trying to achieve this.”

Tsai is a member of the National Honor Society. The son of Chingo and Chihyang Tsai of New Paltz, he is co-president of the Engineering Club and captain of the New Paltz Mock Trial Team. Tsai has been a member of the New Paltz Science Olympiad team and was a member of cross country and track teams from middle school up to varsity level in high school, although time constraints and injuries curtailed that activity this year. Tsai plays first trumpet for the NPHS marching and concert bands as well as the jazz ensemble. He was selected for All-County Band for four consecutive years, and he also writes for the school newspaper, The Maroon.

Tsai’s volunteer activities included teaching English to impoverished youth last summer, through the Assisting Individuals With Disadvantages program in Taiwan. He also volunteered at Elting Memorial Library, where he taught children the basics of chess and how to think analytically. Tsai plans to attend Cornell University in the fall, where he’ll major in computer science. He currently works as a survey and site manager for local firm Ted Clark & Associates.

The salutatorian for NPHS is Sarah Rubin, daughter of Peter and Leslie Rubin of New Paltz. Her grade point average is 100.866. She plans to continue her education at the University of Chicago, where she will study molecular engineering, followed by graduate or medical school. Rubin played clarinet in her first two years of high school and made a mark locally through her competitive softball achievements, including recognition as the Mid-Hudson Athletic League Senior Scholar Athlete this year. She, too, is a member of the National Honor Society and participates in the Science Olympiad, where she and Darren Tsai both earned medals in cell biology. Rubin was also awarded the University of Rochester’s Xerox Award for innovation and information technology.

Rubin’s extracurricular interests include teaching Hebrew classes and tutoring her NPHS classmates, and she is gaining work experience at Wallkill View Farms. “I am extremely honored to be the salutatorian of New Paltz High School,” she says, attributing the achievement to “the community and support system I have grown up with.”


New Paltz Middle School’s moving-up ceremony

Eighth grade students in New Paltz will mark the occasion of moving up to high school at a moving-up ceremony to be held on Thursday, June 23 at 9 a.m. at the Athletic & Wellness Center on the SUNY New Paltz campus. A “fiesta” celebration that afternoon was planned for Moriello Pool from 3-5 p.m.; no word from the district yet on an alternate location for the party given the need for pool repairs.


Highland High School graduation

Graduates of Highland High School (HHS) will don cap and gown on Thursday, June 23 at 7 p.m. Commencement ceremonies will be held on the football field.

Highland’s valedictorian is Alfred Worrad, who ranked first in his class with a grade point average of 102.03. The son of Cynthia and Michael Worrad of Highland, he plans to attend Clarkson University in Potsdam this fall, where he’ll study chemical engineering. During his years at HHS, Worrad served as captain of both the varsity soccer team and varsity track team. (A highlight for the scholar athlete came last year when his soccer team won the Section 9, Class B title.) Worrad also broke a 20-year-old school record last year for the pentathlon, an athletic competition composed of five different events.

Worrad is a member of the National Honor Society. He is the senior class vice president and president of the French Club and the French Honor Society. He participated in Science Olympiad this year, receiving medals in two different categories. His community efforts include participating in the annual town clean-up, collecting nearly 75 pounds of trash near the Bridgeview Plaza in Highland. “Getting out and getting involved in the community was a great learning experience,” he says.

The second-highest ranking graduate of the HHS class of 2016, with a GPA of 101.78, is Michelle Pirrone, who will deliver the salutatorian address at graduation. The daughter of Lynn and Joe Pirrone of Highland, she is also a very active student at HHS. She is the yearbook editor, a Science Olympiad medal-winner and a member of the National Honor Society, the Spanish Honor Society and the community service-oriented Interact Club. Pirrone played the xylophone in her freshman, sophomore and junior year, proud to have earned a perfect score in a music competition hosted by the New York State School Music Association. She plans to attend SUNY New Paltz this fall, where she’ll study mechanical engineering. Helping to organize two fundraising dances to benefit her friend, Sara Pironi, diagnosed with a rare cancer, was a memorable part of her Highland school years. “Helping others always makes a person feel good,” Pirrone says.

The Town of Lloyd historian’s office is creating a special tribute to graduating seniors this year, requesting pictures of the students’ parents, grandparents and siblings in order to make a photo display as part of what they hope to be a new annual tradition. Photos may be brought to Town Hall at 12 Church Street or e-mailed to highlandhsptsa@gmail.com.

The Highland PTSA is working with school administrators to host a graduation walk this Friday, June 17 at 9 a.m. beginning at Town Hall with a continental breakfast sponsored by the PTSA and local businesses. The town supervisor will recognize the valedictorian and salutatorian and the students will be able to view the display of photos created by the town historian showcasing the graduating class and their families. Then wearing their “Class of 2016” t-shirts, seniors will walk through the halls of Highland Elementary and Middle School one last time to be recognized by the students in each of the schools. T-shirts will be provided by the PTSA and local businesses.


Highland Middle School’s moving-up ceremony

Youngsters in Highland moving up from eighth grade to high school will celebrate the transition in a moving-up ceremony held on Wednesday, June 22 at the high school gymnasium.