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Best of the class of 2021: Meet this year's top Cayuga County-area graduates
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EDUCATION

Best of the class of 2021: Meet this year's top Cayuga County-area graduates

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This month, hundreds of students from high schools in the Cayuga County are graduating. As part of The Citizen's graduation coverage, we're publishing the names, achievements and reflections of this year's valedictorians and salutatorians.

Auburn Enlarged City School District

Jake Hansen, valedictorian

Jake Hansen

Beyond the classroom: Varsity golf, varsity indoor track, varsity baseball, chemistry club, varsity club, French club (president), history club, and National Honor Society.

What’s next: I will be attending Rochester Institute of Technology in the accelerated 3+2 physician assistant BS/MS program.

How has education influenced your life? Education has always been a top priority of mine, and it has taught me many things in life that I will never forget. It taught me the importance of hard work and the benefits that come along with it. I can’t wait to see what my future education will bring me and I am thankful for those in my life who have made it so worthwhile.

Kathryn Brown, salutatorian

Kathryn Brown

Beyond the classroom: Varsity tennis (captain my senior year), Honor Society, Science Honor Society, Model UN, Varsity Club, Chem Club, History Club, and Y-Pals.

What’s next: I will be attending Le Moyne College to receive a bachelor of science degree in accounting and a master of business administration.

How has education influenced your life? The education I have received in my four years at Auburn High School has influenced my life in a beneficial way. Through my education I have been able to develop lasting bonds with both my peers and teachers. My teachers not only taught me the curriculum, but they supported me and fostered an environment that helped me to succeed. I have made so many memories throughout my career at Auburn High School that I will never forget. All of the various courses offered to me allowed me to find my passion and to realize the career I want to pursue. My time at Auburn High School has been a time I will never forget!

Cato-Meridian Central School District

Grace Stryker, valedictorian

Grace Stryker

Beyond the classroom: National Honor Society (president), French Club 9-12, Seal of Biliteracy recipient, Science Olympiad 10-11, varsity soccer, youth soccer coach, activity club leader and various community service projects.

What’s next: I will be attending SUNY Oswego in the fall while majoring in biochemistry. I plan to transfer into a chemical engineering program junior year.

How has education influenced your life? Education has helped me challenge my abilities and ways of thinking. Receiving an education at Cato-Meridian has also provided me with more than just academic knowledge. Because I've had teachers who care about and support their students, I can say I've gained lifelong values and skills, and developed a helpful attitude through education.

Micah Stavenhagen, salutatorian

Micah Stavenhagen

Beyond the classroom: Three years of varsity soccer (captain for one year), one year of varsity football, four years of Drama Club, National Honor Society (vice president), French Club (vice president)

What’s next: I will be attending Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University. I hope to gain connections with others and have financial freedom to give back to communities.

How has education influenced your life? Education has always given me a space to work hard and achieve my goals; but more importantly, it has allowed me to make friendships and relationships. While I pushed myself to become salutatorian, I gave an even greater effort to create conversations with people or to make someone smile. Cato-Meridian is my home and a big part of who I am today is because of the opportunities I had at school.

Jordan-Elbridge Central School District

Kasey Jackson, valedictorian

Kasey Jackson

Beyond the classroom: 1st degree black belt; science Olympiad; girls varsity basketball; bowling; national honor society; science national honor society. Outside of school I bowled in a league and competed in various tournaments. I also practiced martial arts receiving the rank of first degree black belt. Overall, I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, playing games, solving puzzles, traveling, and participating in other random activities.

What's next: I plan to attend Syracuse University studying computer engineering.

How has education influenced your life? Jordan-Elbridge has provided me the fundamental resources to excel. In other words, I would not be in the position I am without the help of the wondrous, wise, and compassionate teachers I have been able to study under. Furthermore, the friends I have made and community I have been surrounded are close knit, but nonetheless amazing people!

Francesca Brown, salutatorian 

Francesca Brown

Beyond the classroom: I have been a member of National Honor Society for the last three years, and have earned various academic awards including the Jordan-Elbridge Fields Award. After school I participate in the Scouts BSA program, Jordan-Elbridge Art Club, Master Minds, and the drama department and musical players. I’ve been to All-County Chorus three out of my four high school years, the fourth of which was cancelled due to COVID-19. Around holidays I volunteer with the local food pantry.  Between juggling school and various extracurricular activities, if I do get free time I like to spend it outside, with friends, or most often just relaxing watching TV.

What’s next: I plan to attend SUNY Potsdam in the fall to study music education with a double major in math. I’m hoping to be certified to teach both subjects.

How has education influenced your life?: I had a lot of really great teachers through my years at Jordan-Elbridge, and I don't think I would have chosen the path I'm on without all of their support and passion for their jobs inspiring me every step of the way.

Moravia Central School School District

John Read, valedictorian

John Read

Beyond the classroom: National Honor Society, vice president of student council, drama club, marching band, SADD Club, alliance club, jazz band, outdoors club, ACE, all state choir. I was also a member of the Millard Fillmore 4-H Club and participated in community service projects with them, and was a member of the Absolute Dance Company.

What’s next: I will be attending SUNY Fredonia to major in musical theater with a minor in dance. I plan on becoming a professional performer after college.

How has education influenced your life? My education has instilled in me a love for learning in all forms and a strong work ethic that has allowed me to work towards my goals and aspirations in life. I am grateful for the teachers and mentors I have had throughout my education at Moravia High School, and I will always appreciate their investment in my growth and education.

Laura Landis, salutatorian

Laura Landis

Beyond the classroom: Field hockey, basketball, softball, concert band, marching band, jazz band, chorus and Chorelaires, student government, student council and SADD. I also coached youth field hockey, biddy ball, march madness and softball clinics.

What’s next: I'm pursuing an engineering degree at Texas A&M University, with plans to participate in a study-abroad program.

How has education influenced your life? My experience through high school has offered me an endless list of opportunities to better develop who I am both personally and professionally. I love that Moravia is such a tight-knit school and community and as such, that I have had the chance to be involved with as many clubs and organizations that I have. Along with all the vocabulary words and multiplication tables, my education has taught me how to collaborate with others and how to adapt to changing circumstances. I've learned how to operate under high-pressure situations and how to ask questions when faced with a challenge. High school has taught me a variety of learning styles, and I'm excited to carry these lessons with me into the next chapter of my life. I have no doubt that Moravia has done a good job preparing me and all the other graduates to face the real world after high school and reach for success.

Port Byron Central School District

Madalyn Jordan, valedictorian

Madalyn Jordan

Beyond the classroom: I am a member of the varsity field hockey team, which won a sectional title in 2019. I am also a member of the Environmental Club, Yearbook Club, and the student government association. Lastly, I am the vice president of the class of 2021, which gave me the opportunity to build my leadership skills in planning fundraisers, prom, and senior functions. Above all, I was able to support my classmates as the vice president by providing them with anything they needed, whether it be academic, extracurricular, or personal. I feel honored to have upheld this position.

What’s next: After I graduate, I plan to attend Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to study environmental engineering with a minor in Spanish. I hope to work internationally, preventing and cleaning up natural disasters in the future.

How has education influenced your life?  My education has had a tremendous impact on my life. Especially as a young woman, being educated has empowered me and made me feel like I have a real purpose in this world. It has inspired me to work hard, and has instilled in me many amazing qualities like leadership and compassion. Being educated has made me more aware of the disadvantages of others, and has made me feel even more empathetic toward those around me. I thank everyone at Port Byron for influencing the person I am today, and I am eternally grateful to the teachers and administration who supported me, and always made me believe in myself.

Sadie Tratt, salutatorian 

Sadie Tratt

Beyond the classroom: Throughout high school I played volleyball and participated in student government, Environmental Club, Yearbook Club, and National Honor Society.

What’s next: After graduation I plan to attend The Ohio State University to study in the Fisher College of Business. I will be majoring in business administration.

How has education influenced your life?: Education has provided me with many opportunities. Through school I have been able to form many relationships with my peers and create unforgettable memories. I’m very thankful for my teachers at Port Byron who taught me the curriculum and life lessons that will help me in the future. As a high school student I learned that there are many responsibilities when it comes to being successful and that it requires a lot of dedication and a strong work ethic. Port Byron has prepared me for college and for the real world that lies ahead.

Skaneateles Central School District

Liliana Arias, valedictorian

Liliana Arias

Beyond the classroom: Some of my extracurricular activities are varsity swimming and track, solar panel club, Model UN, math tutoring, volunteering in my school’s English as a New Language (ENL) classroom, skiing and being a part of the Skaneateles Education Foundation’s Student Advisory Council. I also like to read, bake, exercise, and watch Netflix.

What’s next: I will be attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and I plan to study either nuclear engineering or linguistics.

How has education influenced your life? I really enjoy learning, and my education has opened the door to a variety of different fields for me. For example, my school’s Project Lead the Way engineering classes helped to interest me in engineering, and a documentary that my honors chemistry teacher showed the class helped to interest me in nuclear power. Additionally, learning Spanish at school made me intrigued by the structure of language and its evolution, and inspired me to take a historical linguistics class at Harvard, which I greatly enjoyed. As a result, I would also like to pursue linguistics. Finally, having strong teachers who really cared about the material helped me to stay engaged with my classes.

Kenneth Byrne, salutatorian

Kenneth Byrne

Beyond the classroom: Varsity football (senior captain), varsity golf, student council treasurer, student improvement team class representative, Lakers for Veterans Club, Laker Link freshmen mentor, Mottville Boat Race for Charity founder, sailing instructor at Skaneateles Country Club, skiing instructor at Song Mountain, American Legion Boys State participant.

What’s next: I plan to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study finance and data science where I will also be playing Division III football.

How has education influenced your life? I attribute my education to forming the foundation of several of my core values such as my work ethic, sense of responsibility, and dedication. I appreciate all the opportunities and teachers that I’ve been exposed to at Skaneateles High School as I’ve been able to develop my own interests and build strong relationships.

Southern Cayuga Central School District 

Bridget Davis, valedictorian

Bridget Davis

Beyond the classroom: Class treasurer; National Honor Society treasurer; student council secretary; student-athlete leadership committee; varsity swim and track & field.

What’s next: I'm attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

How has education influenced your life? I've always been pushed by my competitive nature and love of reading to do well in school. I would like to thank Southern Cayuga and all the wonderful teachers there for always challenging me and pushing me to be both a better student and a better person. A special thanks to our high school librarian, Ms. Sedorus, for letting me check out as many books as I wanted at a time and get a sneak peek at new arrivals. And of course, I would like to thank my parents who support me in everything I do. Thank you for the great times Southern Cayuga and Go Badgers!

Benjamin Stiadle, salutatorian

Benjamin Stiadle

Beyond the classroom: Secretary of National Honor Society; Regular volunteer at King Ferry Food Pantry, member of grant-writing team; varsity cross country and indoor/outdoor track team member; band and jazz band member, playing French horn and trumpet respectively; Y-pals mentor

What’s next: I plan to attend Ohio University for the next four years and major in biology. I would also be interested in either double majoring or minoring in applied mathematics or statistics. I hope to use my time as an undergraduate to evolve into a sound researcher within the field by developing a versatile academic skill set.

How has education influenced your life? I believe education to be an invaluable asset; it provides a platform for real-world success and inspires innovation. Without my experience at Southern Cayuga and the lessons instilled by my family, I would lack the motivation and intellectual tools necessary to prosper at the next level. I recognize the journey has only begun and must capitalize on my higher educational opportunities to make a difference in the world.

Tyburn Academy of Mary Immaculate

Krysha Pierce, valedictorian

Krysha Pierce

Beyond the classroom: She has received the Hands of Christ Award from the Diocese of Rochester, the Joseph A. Daloia Sr. Memorial scholarship, and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship by the Apostolic Methodist Zion Church and the CIAO Club annual scholarship. Krysha also has two pieces of published work; an untitled Poem in "Together: a Collection of Student Poetry,” and a play titled “The First Day,” which was performed by the Syracuse Stage. She has been a peer tutor and a teacher's assistant in multiple classrooms throughout high school. She has been an active member of the Maria Goretti Guild since her freshman year, She is a member of the Fr. Albert J. Shamon chapter of the National Honor Society. She has held leadership positions in the school musicals, yearbook club, and newspaper club.

What’s next: Plans to study at Nazareth College in the fall, but is undecided as to what she will be studying.

How has education influenced your life? I have attended Catholic school for my entire life. My catholic education heavily impacted the type of person I grew to become, and the sort of people I wish to be surrounded by. Going to Tyburn and being surrounded by people of high moral standings has helped me to improve myself as a person and in my faith. Nothing could compare to the education I received over these last thirteen years of Catholic schooling.

Union Springs Central School District

Wyatt Patterson, valedictorian 

Wyatt Patterson

Beyond the classroom: I am a seventh-generation dairy farmer, spending my time outside of the classroom on the farm. Besides that, I am a member of Ski Club, and am the class president. I like to do anything outdoors, specifically hunting and fishing in my free time.

What’s next: I am attending Clarkson University for mechanical engineering and will do my four years for my bachelor’s degree.

How has education influenced your life?  Education has opened my eyes as well as my possibilities as to what I can do with my life. It has allowed me to be capable of being an engineer as well as the drive to make that happen.

Emma LoMascolo, salutatorian

Emma LoMascolo

Beyond the classroom: Aside from my academics, I can be found volunteering at Y-Pals, at my part-time job Nino's Pizzaria II or leading the local chapter of National Honor Society as president. In the remainder of my time, I participate in the sport of CrossFit, as well as Olympic weightlifting.

What’s next: Upon graduation, I plan on furthering my education at Elon University. I hope to go into the field of business, specifically finance, in order to become a financial advisor.

How has education influenced your life? My education has single-handedly influenced my life unlike any other factor. I believe that a solid educational foundation is truly the catalyst to success and happiness, and my time here at Union Springs has really shown that. I think the relationships I've created with educators have impacted my life greatly, and have inspired me to always keep bettering myself. Moving forward to Elon, I am confident that I will push myself to do great things, and create the bonds that will last a lifetime!

Weedsport Central School District:

Tyler Hill, valedictorian

Tyler Hill

Beyond the classroom: I enjoy hunting, fishing, shooting, and working. I play video games and play the drums. I am the class president and a member in the NHS. I was on the math team and the Envirothon team. I played in jazz band and on the worship team at church.

What’s next: I plan on attending Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia for four years. I was recently accepted there. I have not decided what I want to study yet, but I know that I want to do some sort of engineering program or work with computers.

How has education influenced your life?: It has taught me that I need to work hard if I want to succeed and that I have to sacrifice my free time to put in the work to my best.

Erin Grady, salutatorian

Erin Grady

Beyond the classroom: I am a member of National Honor Society, vice president of my class, and usually participate in math team but we weren’t able to have that this year. I’ve always played basketball and field hockey and this year I’ve also gotten the opportunity to play bowling, volleyball, and golf. 

What’s next: I haven’t decided what college I want to go to yet but I am planning on majoring in animal behavior to someday earn a PhD in zoology or veterinary medicine and hopefully work at a zoo.

How has education influenced your life?: Education has taught me that if you want something, you have to work hard for it. Even when things are tough you should never give up and always strive to succeed. Along with that though, you should never be ashamed of failure and instead should use it as a lesson and to motivate you to do better in the future.

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