Project Excel Celebrates at OHEKA

Honored guests at the OHEKA Castle Project Excel Breakfast included left to right: Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Ms. April Poprilo, Mr. Bedel Saget, Keynote speaker Ms. Caridad De La Luz, BOE trustee Mr. Andrew Bronson, Coordinator of Student Services Mr. David Perkins, and BOE trustee Mr. Sidney Joyner.
Honored guests at the OHEKA Castle Project Excel Breakfast included left to right: Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Ms. April Poprilo, Mr. Bedel Saget, Keynote speaker Ms. Caridad De La Luz, BOE trustee Mr. Andrew Bronson, Coordinator of Student Services Mr. David Perkins, and BOE trustee Mr. Sidney Joyner.
The morning’s entertainment featured high school students (left to right) TaTianna Lane and Victoria Fiorelli, soloist and pianist respectively.
The morning’s entertainment featured high school students (left to right) TaTianna Lane and Victoria Fiorelli, soloist and pianist respectively.
Silas Wood Sixth Grade Center principal Mr. Steve Toto with many of his students at OHEKA Castle.
Silas Wood Sixth Grade Center principal Mr. Steve Toto with many of his students at OHEKA Castle.
South Huntington Sixth-Grade student Vladimir Jean-Baptiste offers a welcome address to the audience.
South Huntington Sixth-Grade student Vladimir Jean-Baptiste offers a welcome address to the audience.
Left to right: Project Excel Coordinators Mr. Shaka Williams and Mr. Mark Graciani with Mr. Martine MacDonald.
Left to right: Project Excel Coordinators Mr. Shaka Williams and Mr. Mark Graciani with Mr. Martine MacDonald.
Speaker Dr. Marc Bertrand gave a memorable keynote after being introduced by Whitman student Bradley Guiteau (shown in background).
Speaker Dr. Marc Bertrand gave a memorable keynote after being introduced by Whitman student Bradley Guiteau (shown in background).
Keynote speaker Ms. Caridad De La Luz, a poet, playwright, actress and activist inspired our young students to never give up on creating their future.
Keynote speaker Ms. Caridad De La Luz, a poet, playwright, actress and activist inspired our young students to never give up on creating their future.
Mr. David Perkins, Coordinator of Student Services thanks OHEKA owner Mr. Gary Melius and the Melius family and staff for their gracious and generous hospitality.
Mr. David Perkins, Coordinator of Student Services thanks OHEKA owner Mr. Gary Melius and the Melius family and staff for their gracious and generous hospitality.
Project Excel Coordinator Ms. Maria Colon closed the morning by reflecting on the significance of her own upbringing and its impact on her future.
Project Excel Coordinator Ms. Maria Colon closed the morning by reflecting on the significance of her own upbringing and its impact on her future.

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: "Being transformed to embrace your future." 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 Vladimir Jean-Baptiste, a sixth-grader at Silas Wood, opened the morning with a welcome address, followed by District Superintendent Dr. David Bennardo.  One of the many highlights of the morning came when Walt Whitman Soloist TaTianna Lane entertained the audience, accompanied by pianist Victoria Fiorelli.

The Excel students listened intently to an uplifting and powerful message from the morning’s first Keynote speaker Dr. Marc A. Bertrand, introduced by Walt Whitman student Bradley Guiteau. Dr. Bertrand shared his experiences and encouraged the audience to never give up on their goals and aspirations. Stimson student Miss Daniela Ferrera Molina introduced the morning’s second keynote speaker, Caridad De La Luz. Ms. De La Luz is a poet, actress, and activist who shared with the audience her own writings that expressed the power words can hold. Thank you to Assistant Superintendent for Student Services April Poprilo for her presentation and sharing her own story of transformation, and thank you to the always eloquent Ms. Maria Colon for her reflections and 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 Mark Graciani (WW).