The Message at OHEKA....Excel!

Left to right: Walt Whitman student Frantz Jean Baptiste, Town of Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, Ms. Avery Harper of News12, and Stimson student Miss Jamie Jaco Garay.
Left to right: Walt Whitman student Frantz Jean Baptiste, Town of Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, Ms. Avery Harper of News12, and Stimson student Miss Jamie Jaco Garay.
Stimson Soloist TaTianna Lane brought the audience to a standing ovation.
Stimson Soloist TaTianna Lane brought the audience to a standing ovation.
Walt Whitman students’ l-r: Cindy Gonzalez, Ashley Guiteau, and Charlie O’Riordan read from a poem that related to the theme of the morning.
Walt Whitman students’ l-r: Cindy Gonzalez, Ashley Guiteau, and Charlie O’Riordan read from a poem that related to the theme of the morning.
Silas Wood principal Steve Toto with some of his students grab a photo with their favorite News12 reporter Averi Harper.
Silas Wood principal Steve Toto with some of his students grab a photo with their favorite News12 reporter Averi Harper.
Averi Harper is excited to report the news at home after spending time as a morning reporter at KRON 4 News in San Francisco. Averi joined News 12 Long Island in July of 2017 and holds a Master of Science in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Averi Harper is excited to report the news at home after spending time as a morning reporter at KRON 4 News in San Francisco. Averi joined News 12 Long Island in July of 2017 and holds a Master of Science in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Honored guests responsible for the success of the district’s Project Excel program join Town of Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and Ms. Avery Harper.
Honored guests responsible for the success of the district’s Project Excel program join Town of Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and Ms. Avery Harper.
Walt Whitman teacher Kaitlyn Meyers, left, and student Gabby Rows share their reflections about the many positive aspects of Project Excel.
Walt Whitman teacher Kaitlyn Meyers, left, and student Gabby Rows share their reflections about the many positive aspects of Project Excel.

Eighty students from South Huntington’s Project Excel program took part in a grand celebration at OHEKA Castle recently.  This special recognition brunch was dedicated to this year's theme: "No excuses, we are unstoppable in reaching our goals." The brunch was donated entirely by OHEKA owner Gary Melius.

The assembled guests were treated to a morning of motivational presentations, skillfully facilitated by program director David Perkins. Excel student Shamaar Spratley, a sixth-grader at Silas Wood opened the morning with a welcome address, followed by School Board President Nicholas Ciappetta, who related how when he was first running for the Board of Education and the obstacles he faced and overcame.  One of the many highlights of the morning came when Stimson Soloist TaTianna Lane entertained the audience, accompanied by pianist and Stimson teacher Ms. Dana Cavanaugh.

The Excel students listened intently to an uplifting and powerful message from the morning’s first Keynote speaker, Ms. Avery Harper, an on-air news reporter at Cablevision News12. Stimson student Miss Jamie Jaco Garay introduced Ms. Harper.  Walt Whitman student Frantz Jean Baptiste, one of the few in the room who can see eye-to-eye with the next speaker, introduced our Town of Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci who encouraged the audience to never give up on their dreams and goals. Other student presentations were well received as the audience eagerly applauded for Cindy Gonzalez, Ashley Guiteau, Charlie O’Riordan, and Gabby Rows. Thank you to Kaitlyn Meyers for sharing her reflections, and the always eloquent Ms. Maria Colon and Dr. Jacqueline Harris for their closing remarks.

We would like to commend our Project Excel Coordinators on helping to ensure the morning was such a success: Ian Denson (BW), Maria Colon (MW), Shaka Williams (SW), Jen DeNoble (SMS) and Roberto Torres (WW). And of course, Bidania Criscuolo for her excellent work with Project Excel. We want to especially thank our social work interns for all their hard work as well:  Nicholas Aprigliano, Wesly Bazemore, Kristie Bohn, Lisbel Collado, Marc Etts, Maria Jaramillo, Jonathan Rosen, Marisa Seslowsky, Bridget Vaher, Daniela Venegas, and Ana Alicia Walsh.