The 90th Annual New Paltz High School Graduation honoring the class of 2022 took place under blue skies and fair winds at the Floyd Patterson Athletic Fields June 24.
Parents cheered and cowbells rang as names were called, scholarships were given and seniors passed through a trellised archway onto the football field in robes of satin maroon and white. Liz Duncan-Gilmore and her family were seated along the fence to the track where they could get a close-up and shaded view of the festivities as their daughter Caroline received her diploma.
Asked what she felt were some of the more rewarding aspects of her daughter’s NPHS experience, Duncan-Gilmore said, “mock trial, the Black History classes, and studio art which was incredibly demanding but has taught her so many skills; and Laurene Pountain (the teacher) created an environment that really pulled the art out of these kids.”
Caroline is poised to head to London where she will take part in a semester-long theater program at the Globe Theater through Nazareth College in upstate New York.
Local artist, Ryan Cronin and his wife Melanie where on hand to celebrate their 3d NPHS graduate, Ava Grae Cronin who plans on attending Hartwick College where she will continue to play Lacrosse.
Asked what they felt set New Paltz apart from other school districts, Ryan said, “the community here, the culture that is so supportive of the arts and of athletics and academics. We’ve made so many great friendships through our kid’s athletics and activities and that really forms a solid community for our children.”
Like Cronin himself, a painter, sculptor and muralist who owns and operates his own gallery, Cronin Art at Water Street Market in downtown New Paltz, his children have both an appreciation for the visual and cultural arts as well as being competitive on the field.
“We have two children who played lacrosse at New Paltz High School and are playing in college,” he said. “Ava at Hartwick in the fall and Degan (Cronin, a college sophomore) is at SUNY Purchase where he is studying art management.”
Cronin also coaches Lacrosse for the school.
The proud family of NPHS graduate, Emmanuel Breedlove was on hand cheering when he won the Nadia DiMasi Memorial Scholarship.
“We just moved here from Wallkill recently and I was so relieved that he was able to keep his grades up and be able to make new friends and receive support from the teachers here. I was very worried but he did it and I am so proud of him! 12 years of school and he made it and will go on to college,” said his mother Latoya Breedlove who was there with her daughters, Iyanna and Haniyyah and her granddaughter Cortana. “I’m so proud of my baby brother,” added Iyanna.
Donna Lapolt has seen her share of graduates walk across the football field off of South Putt Corner’s Road including her three children, and three of her six grandchildren. “I loved raising my children in New Paltz and being fortunate enough to see some of my grandchildren grow up here. There are so many community programs for arts and athletics. We have independent businesses on Main Street and the mountains. I’ve always felt that New Paltz is very inclusive.”
Her granddaughter, Tessa Lapolt, is passionate about music and plans on studying early childhood education at SUNY Potsdam. “She’s a real feminist and this is not a good day for her (the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade.) But who is it a good day for? We just took a giant step back.”
While the monumental rollback of women’s civil rights was taking place in Washington, here in New Paltz, there seemed to be an air of hopefulness.
Valedictorian for the class of 2022, Lora Johnson, opened up their remarks by thanking family, friends, schoolmates, teachers and administrators for their support. They then proceeded to talk about a memory that stuck with them from her senior year. “It’s about sports and I know not all of you are into sports, so bear with me,” they said. “I was fortunate enough to play on the New Paltz Varsity Girls’ soccer team that won MHAL’s (Mid-Hudson Athletic Association) for the first time in history. But that’s not what I want to talk about.”
Johnson went on to say that it was a memory on route to clinching the title that they remembered. “We were playing at Wallkill and the announcer introduced as us the ‘Lady Huguenots.’ That’s not what our name is, nor are all of us ‘ladies,’” they added. “I felt the mood change on our team because without saying it, we all knew that they wouldn’t announce the guy’s team as the ‘Gentlemen Huguenots.’”
Later, Johnson was told that a few of their teammates spoke with the announcer to ensure that the mistake was corrected and they were referred to as simply, “The Huguenots,” from that moment on.
“It was a small thing,” they said, “but it was reflective of how accepting and caring and compassionate my teammates are.”
Johnson, an accomplished high school soccer player and pole-vaulter will go on to study astrobiology at Brown University.
They finished on an encouraging note by saying, “Keep standing up, keep speaking out and keep working towards a more inclusive and compassionate world.’”
Several awards were handed out by the New Paltz Teacher’s in memory of Charlie Karsten, a beloved New Paltz Middle School teacher and firefighter who was also known as “Fire-Truck Chuck.” Solo Diedhiou and Kendall Lucchesi received the Michael Oremus Foundation Scholarship, $1500 each and Natalee Watts received the Marjorie W. Tighe Scholarship in the amount of $6000.