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Honors abound for Niagara grads A profile of county's 10 school districts reveals wealth of talent and potential

When 17-year-old Lockport High School senior Eric Vasko walks across the Artpark stage to receive his diploma Saturday, it might feel like he's done it all.

He'll have been class valedictorian and co-captain of the football and lacrosse teams. He's in the National Honor Society, on the school's highly successful robotics team, and he even earned near a perfect score on his SAT.

"School's never been a huge challenge," he said. "A lot of it's just knowing how much effort to put in when."

But Eric said he knows graduation is just the beginning, especially since his laundry list of accomplishments helped land him a $170,000 scholarship to Michigan State, where he'll study chemical engineering with a biomedical focus.

"He's a great kid and an all-around student," said Principal Frank Movalli. "He does everything, and one of those kids that's just on autopilot."

Eric is one of roughly 2,300 seniors who will graduate from Niagara County's 10 public high schools by the end of the month. With more than $20 million already banked in scholarships, the Class of 2011 has earned its bragging rights.

Here's a district-by-district look at this year's class, highlighting some of the county's most exceptional graduates:

> Barker

All but one of the 81 graduating seniors are expected to receive Regents diplomas, and 19 of them will receive Advanced Regents With Honors diplomas, guidance counselor Michael Gendrue said.

Eighty-one percent of the graduating class plans to attend college, and those students have already racked up $1.6 million in scholarships, Gendrue said. Most notably, Jessica Hillman won $96,000 over the next four years to attend Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa. She'll major in biology and predental studies.

Eleven percent of the district's graduates expect to enter the military; 8 percent will join the work force. Class valedictorian is Larissa St. Louis, who won a $56,000 scholarship to Rochester Institute of Technology to study biomedical science. Salutatorian is Alexandra Gancasz.

> Lewiston-Porter

Guidance counselor Sandy Girasole expects 187 seniors to graduate this year, all but two with Regents diplomas. Forty-six will graduate as honor students.

The graduating class already won $5.2 million in scholarships -- $1 million more than last year's class, Girasole said. Most notably, class valedictorian Kimberly Alexander will enjoy a free ride at Niagara University, where she plans to study environmental science.

Eighty-seven percent of the class is scheduled to attend college next fall; 8 percent will enter the military; 2 percent will receive technical training; 2 percent will enter the work force; and 1 percent are unsure or considering other options.

Salutatorian is Amber Gurman, who plans to attend the University at Buffalo and study psychology.

> Lockport

Principal Frank Movalli said 422 seniors will graduate this year, 96 percent of them with a Regents diploma, and 102 of them as four-year honor-roll students. Eighty-eight percent of the class intends to start college in the fall, and some students will do so with the help of impressive scholarships.

Nathanial Harris, for example, won a $184,000 scholarship to Brown University, and salutatorian Erin Deeks won $120,000 to Houghton University. In total, the class has already garnered $2.1 million in scholarships.

Five percent of the graduates will join the military; 2 percent will pursue technical training; 3 percent will join the work force; and 2 percent are undecided.

> Newfane

The district can boast of class valedictorian Emily Flagler, who won a $50,000-a-year scholarship to Yale University and intends to study math and biology in a premed track, said school counselor Glenn Smith.

Emily has been honored for participation in community service and her volunteer activities. Salutatorian is Anna Auernhamer.

The students are two of the 154 seniors, out of 160, who will graduate this year, Smith said. He expects 142 of them will earn Regents diplomas, of which 68 will be Advanced Regents diplomas.

Nineteen students will graduate as honor students, and two had perfect attendance. Seventy-three percent of the class plans to enroll in college; 10 percent will enter the military; and 16 percent will join the work force.

> Niagara Falls

Principal James Spanbauer said 462 students are expected to graduate this year, and 33 percent of those will graduate as honor students. Eighty-eight percent will earn Regents diplomas. Sixty-seven percent of the graduating class plans to attend college with a total of $1 million in scholarships.

Amar Shehzad will attend Northeastern on a $120,000 scholarship, and John Adam will receive $20,000 a year to attend Rochester Institute of Technology. The students both scored nearly perfect -- a 720 -- on two of the aptitude tests, math and critical reading, respectively.

Allison Shultz and Diarra Brathwaite will both graduate with nine years of perfect attendance. A total of 17 students will leave the high school without having missed a day of class.

Fifteen percent of the class will enter technical training; 3 percent will join the military; 10 percent will seek employment; 5 percent are unsure or considering other options. The district does not designate a valedictorian or salutatorian, but instead recognizes graduates who have achieved specified grade point averages.

Grebory Bullock, Margaret Garito, Adam Grana, Nicholas LaGamba, Matthew Laurrie, Ameliah Martinez, Timothy Rusaw, Kelly Schucker and Allison Schultz will receive valedictory honors for graduating with at least a 94 percent average, completing at least three Advanced Placement courses, and earning an Advanced Regents with Honors diploma.

> Niagara Wheatfield

Interim Principal Paula Missana expects 98 percent of her seniors -- 365 of them -- to graduate this year, and 44 of them to do so with honors. Twenty of the graduates have never missed a day of high school.

Eighty-five percent of the class plans to enroll in college; 1 percent will enter the military; 1 percent will enter the work force.

Devon Lizzio, Cameron Cusik and Kristiana Reguson each received the Haudenosaunee Promise Scholarship to Syracuse University, which will pay their full tuition, room and board. Nicole Contrino won the New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal Scholarship in the amount of $5,000 for submitting an essay on special challenges in her life. Nicole has a learning disability and Aperts Syndrome.

Class valedictorian is Mariska Raglow-DeFranco, who will attend Brown University for pre-medical studies. Salutatorian is Meghan Gonyea, who will attend Canisius College to study English.

> Niagara Catholic

All 36 graduates will receive Regents diplomas this year, said Maura Cattarin. Two will receive Regents with Honors diplomas, 11 will receive Advanced Regents diplomas, and three will receive Advanced Regents with Honors diplomas.

The class garnered more than $2 million in scholarships. Graduation ceremonies were held June 10.

Class valedictorian was Beatrice Preti; salutatorian was Charmaine Merchant. Stephen Rodriguez was appointed to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

> North Tonawanda

Principal James Fisher expects approximately 300 students to graduate this year who began classes at the high school in the fall of 2007. Of those graduating, 111 will earn Regents diplomas, 19 will graduate as honor students, and one will have never missed a day of school.

The class won $158,000 in scholarships, close to double that won by last year's class. Most notably, Lydia Golach won $18,000 to attend Plattsburgh State College for biology. Jennifer Kleman will study biochemistry at Daemen College on a $15,000 scholarship.

Eighty-five percent of the graduates plan to enter college; 4 percent will enlist in the military; 2 percent will enter technical training; 8 percent will join the work force; 1 percent are undecided.

Class valedictorian is Andrea Parish, who will attend Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., on a $42,000 scholarship. She'll major in biology on a premed track.

Salutatorian is Kelly Pyrak, who won an $11,500 scholarship to Ohio State University for biology and premed studies. She plans to become a heart surgeon.

> Royalton-Hartland

The graduating class of 112 students has already banked $3 million in college scholarships, almost triple that of last year's class, said school counselor Colleen Albee.

Most notably, valedictorian Connor Callaghan won $125,000 to attend Albany College of Pharmacy for four years. Bridget Shanahan won the same award to attend the University of Wyoming.

Class salutatorian is Brendan Conley, who will attend the University at Buffalo for premed studies on a Provost Scholarship.

Seventy-nine of the seniors will graduate with Regents diplomas and 24 as honor students. One student achieved perfect attendance.

Seventy-three percent of the class plans to enroll in college; 7 percent will join the military; 7 percent will enter the work force; 13 percent are unsure or considering other options.

> Starpoint

Principal Gil Licata said he expects 232 seniors to graduate this year, 95 percent of them with Regents diplomas and 41 percent as honor students. Ten students will graduate having never missed a day of class.

The class has received $520,000 in scholarships so far among the 88 percent of graduates who plan to attend college. Four percent will enter the military; 3 percent will pursue technical training; 4 percent will join the work force; 1 percent are considering other options.

Class valedictorian is Haley Keeley, who was awarded full tuition to study psychology and theater at Niagara University. Class salutatorian is Anthony Paolini, who will attend Binghamton University for environmental studies.

> Wilson

Principal Daniel Johnson said all 105 of his graduates will receive Regents diplomas this year, and 33 percent will graduate as honor students.

Alaina Kopchick set herself apart this year, becoming the second student to ever earn an associate's degree from Niagara County Community College before earning her high school diploma.

Matthew Koroschetz will graduate with perfect attendance since the day he started kindergarten. His sister Jordynn had achieved the same feat when she graduated as salutatorian last year.

The class as a whole racked up a little more than $5 million in scholarships. Most notably, Shannon Tierney will study physics at Canisius College on a $180,000 scholarship. Alaina won $120,000 to attend D'Youville College and become a physician's assistant.

Eighty-four percent of the class plans to go to college; 3 percent will enlist in the military; 2 percent will enter technical training; 9 percent will join the work force; 2 percent are undecided.

Class valedictorian is Molly Curry, who won a $100,000 scholarship to St. Bonaventure University and will major in accounting. Salutatorian is Nicholas Schwarzmueller, who will study music education at Potsdam State College on a $21,000 scholarship.

e-mail: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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