WVHS students embark on intensive, self-led Senior Project program


WVHS students embark on intensive, self-led Senior Project program

December 18, 2023

The Senior Project program at Warwick Valley High School encourages students to…

“Explore your passion; discover yourself!”

Last week, a group of nine highly inquisitive and motivated Warwick Valley seniors officially embarked on their own 2023-2024 Senior Project explorations during an announcement ceremony on December 13. WVHS teachers and program advisors Jeanine Fogler and Nick DiLeo welcomed an audience of students, faculty and district families to the high school auditorium, where they were the first to hear the topics, goals and mentors chosen by this year’s ambitious candidates.

“These nine students are to be commended for their risk taking and for their dedication,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Leach in his opening remarks. “I can’t wait for that day in June, when we can celebrate you, learn from you and honor all of your hard work and accomplishment.”

View a gallery from the event below this story.

Senior Project is nationally-recognized program that combines project-based learning, real-world performance opportunities and professional networking, to give its participants invaluable know-how, insight, and experience into the fields of study that interest them most. The class’ largely self-led framework is a relevant and challenging test of graduates’ readiness for today’s fast-paced, global community. The rigorous course includes completing “The 4 P’s.”

  1. Project: What each student chooses to study, and goals they set to accomplish with their mentor.
  2. Paper: A collegiate-level paper, seven to 10 pages in length, on their topic, which presents the students’ knowledge of their topic, including findings and outcomes.
  3. Portfolio: This piece chronicles each student’s process, including documentation, correspondences, photos, and anything else related to the project.
  4. Presentation: Students give an oral presentation on their topic and outcomes to a panel of judges drawn from the District and the community.

The keynote speaker for this year’s kick-off event was Damon “DA” Amendolara. Damon is a 1997 WVHS graduate, former CBS Sports Radio host, and current host of The D.A. Show with Babchik on SiriusXM Mad Dog Sports Radio. Damon said he can track his career straight back to the halls of WVHS, to a time when his own interest in broadcast sports journalism was first piqued. 

View a gallery from the event below this story.

“In high school, I didn’t know what my career was going to be, but I knew I loved sports,” Damon shared. “I loved watching sports, I loved playing sports, and most of all, I loved when people talked about sports. I loved listening to sports talk radio and I thought, ‘I’d love to do that.'”

During Damon’s sophomore year he became involved with a video production class here at the high school, as well as the local cable access channel in Warwick at the time. He was encouraged in his initial explorations by past English teacher Elizabeth “Betty” Hurd, who was also the innovator of the Communications/TV Production program at WVHS. Besides knowledge and guidance, Ms. Hurd also equipped Damon and his classmates with cameras, microphones, tape decks; everything they needed to create their DIY segments. That supportive environment empowered Damon to tell the cable access station that he was “willing to do anything that it takes” and that he’d “just love to help out.”

He was calling Warwick football and basketball games for cable access the very next year! And… he’s been calling big games and analyzing sports on air ever since.  

“I had this fire and I had the work ethic, but I needed an environment that would foster the dream I had, and Warwick was it,” said Damon. “That two-year [tv production] program was everything for me! Because Ms. Hurd gave us everything we needed, including the freedom to just go and do it!”

WVHS Principal Georgianna Diopoulos also shared her encouragement with this year’s group, and let them know how proud and excited she is to see them set such challenging goals and aspire toward such positive, fulfilling outcomes.

“Being a part of Senior Project is really a testament to your own commitment to academic and personal growth,” she said. “I encourage you to embrace the qualities of our district’s Portrait of a Graduate as you work on your projects — creativity, collaboration, overcoming challenges, and being problem-solvers. The experiences you have and the things you learn through this process, will be part of a strong foundation for whatever you choose to do next!”

View a gallery from the event below this story.

This year’s Senior Project participants and their topics are:

Cristina Ceglia will be producing a documentary about the role of police officers in national emergencies. Her mentors will be Dan Cecconie, WVHS video production teacher, and retired NYPD Lieutenant Jeremy Hands.

Daniella Mastrantoni will be choreographing a division 2 cheerleading team’s competition routine, working alongside mentors Gianna Roma, a director of the youth cheerleading, and Alexa Roman, a D2 cheerleading coach. Her project will examine the mental and physical health effects of beginning sports at a young age.

Angelina Natoli will be adding to her own repertoire of dance styles, by learning pom dancing. She will work with dance teacher and occupational therapist Alyssa Blazofsky. Angelina’s project aims to highlight the importance for every individual to perform some type of physical activity to achieve a balanced life.

Lillian Potter will be designing and sewing a line of disability-inclusive clothing. She will work with professional seamstress Bunny Daw as her mentor. Lillian’s project will focus on the need for more accommodations in the workplace for
people with disabilities.

Kira Sarine is planning, and will host and run, a cornhole tournament in Greenwood Lake to benefit the Backpack Snack Attack program. Kathleen Holder, the Village Clerk of Greenwood Lake, and Jenna Price, Director of Backpack Snack Attack, will be mentoring Kira, whose project aims to bring attention to the topic of food insecurity and how it actually puts people at a higher risk for obesity.

Eva Saucedo is choreographing her own own solo dance routine for the 2024 competition season. She will be working with mentor Chelsy D’Antono, studio owner, artistic director and choreographer of D’Antono Dance Academy. Eva will explore the effectiveness of dance movement therapy in adults who suffer with mental illnesses. 

Samantha Silva is constructing a business plan for a future operation, working with restauranteur Juan Manuel Santamaria. 

Sienna Thurber is creating a business plan for a potential future enterprise — a multi-week sleepaway summer camp for kids. She will be working with mentor Alison Barone, a worldwide event planner and founder of Alison Barone Events. Sienna’s project aims to highlight the benefits of implementing a management class into every high school curriculum.

Abigail Willner is learning the art of candid photography with Nadine Tlili, a destination wedding photographer and videographer based in Warwick. Abigail’s project will also examine the negative effects that social media can have on teenagers’ mental health.


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