The Scarsdale High School’s Alternative School class of 2019 gathered in the SHS auditorium June 21 for its graduation ceremony. Usually held outside of the A-School building on Wayside Lane, this year’s bad weather forced everyone inside. But the teachers and classmates made the best of it, decorating the stage with flowers and paintings just like they would have at the A-School building.
The A-School graduation is different from most graduations, mostly because it’s so personal. The senior class has 28 students, and each gets a personalized speech from a teacher about the student’s personality, growth and connections.
A-School director Jennifer Maxwell told the seniors, “It was a pleasure to teach, learn, argue, laugh and grow with you all,” in her opening speech. She thanked the school board, SHS principal Kenneth Bonamo, and the PTA parent representatives for their contributions and support of the A-School.
This year two staff members will leave the A-School: Faye Turitz and Sheilah Chason. Turitz, the A-School’s longtime secretary, will retire from the A-School after 11 years. In a speech about how much Faye meant to the A-School, Maxwell said, “she saves us from ourselves.”
Fallon Plunkett, one of the A-School’s social studies teachers, gave a speech about Chason, who is moving to the SHS STEAM program in the fall. “You’re like a hot cup of tea on a snowy day,” said Plunkett. She referenced the cozy feeling of Chason’s math classroom, and how focused Chason is on student improvement and connection.
The A-School science teacher Michael Giordano was described by emcee Samuel Hoffman as one of the best guys he knows, despite his odd music taste. “Mike ran a class that everyone was excited to go to every day because of what they were going to learn,” said Hoffman. This graduation was especially meaningful to Giordano because it was his first class to see all the way through. His senior advisees were Margaret Brew, Ian Lerner, Julia Loten, Bella Stewart and Sophie Weingrad.
Margaret “Maggie” Brew
Brew joined the A-School as a junior. While Brew can be quiet and reserved, her words were described as impactful. She was always the one in core group to get everyone to focus, helping the core group to grow over the year. Calm, collected and engaged, Brew was a role model to the underclassmen at the A-School. Giordano also described Brew as patient no matter the circumstances, especially during her internship at an art gallery and as a volunteer with the Guiding Eyes Foundation. Brew will attend St. Andrews University in Scotland.
Ian Lerner was described by Giordano as a “unique spirit” who marches to the beat of his own music. Giordano said that Lerner was the first student he developed a strong relationship with when he was a new teacher in the A-School, making him feel appreciated as both a teacher and an advisor. Lerner was described as silly, open, honest and a person who can always think outside of the box to make things interesting. For his senior project, Lerner worked at a local arts center, where he transcribed interviews and conversations, and then made fellow classmates act out the conversations during his senior project presentation. Because of his fun, engaging and reflective presentation, Lerner was the recipient of one of the Senior Project awards. Lerner will attend NYU London.
“No student can make me laugh the way Julia Loten does,” started Giordano. Whether she means to or not, Loten can always make people smile or laugh. Not only is she funny, she is detail-oriented and holds high standards for herself academically. Jeanne Cooper, the SAS English teacher, said she believes that Loten is the best writer in the entire class. Through her three years in the A-School, Loten has come out of her shell and built strong relationships with other students in the A-School. Loten will attend University of Richmond in the fall.
According to Giordano, Bella Stewart can master anything she puts her mind to. Her passions range from crypto-currency to mixed martial arts. Her vastly varied experiences and passions have allowed her to become a unique person, with her own style and distinct personality. Even though she has many interests, she has maintained a love and commitment to fencing. For her senior project, Stewart taught herself the design process, 3D modeling and 3D printing to create a device that would assist her with her fencing gear. “Bella exemplifies the A-School’s value of learning, for learning’s sake,” said Giordano. Stewart will attend Wellesley College.
In her first year at the A-School Sophie Weingrad was quiet and reserved. Over the course of three years, Weingrad came out of her shell to become one of the most honest and forthright students in the community. In core group, she was the first to share what was going on in her personal life, which paved a path to let other students feel comfortable doing the same. Weingrad expressed to Giordano that she wants to become a teacher after college after doing most of her internships in education settings. The relationship she has built with both teachers and students is very important to her. Weingrad will attend Tulane University.
Director of the A-School and history teacher Jenn Maxwell was described as a teacher who can make history come alive and someone a student can go to for thoughtful advice. Her advisees were Anshu Ajmera, Ella J. Ansell, Simon Bradlow, Sam Hoffman, Kate Nova and Hayden Seidman.
Not only is Anshu Ajmera an active member of the A-School community, she is also a member of the White Plains Youth Court, where she helps give out sentences for teens such as community service hours. Maxwell was not surprised when she learned that Ajmera served on the WPYC, since Ajmera has always been interested in justice and equality. Ajmera furthered her love of law when she did her senior options with a Westchester Supreme Court judge. Even when frustrated or stressed, Ajmera remains calm and dignified, always ready to listen. These traits, along with Ajmera’s multicultural ties to Scarsdale and India, make Maxwell believe Ajmera will be a great judge one day. Because of her impressive senior options work, Ajmera was the other student to win the Senior Project Award. Ajmera will attend Villanova University in the fall.
Ella Ansell was described as looking like an orchid, delicate and beautiful, with the spirit of a dandelion, full of resilience and grit. Every difficulty that Ansell faced, she used as a learning experience. “I welcome mistakes, as these are essential for inquiry,” Ansell wrote in one of her reflections. When things got hard, Ansell relied on the help of her friends and family, and would always return the favor when friends or family needed her. Over the years at the A-School she has learned to see mistakes as learning opportunities, to persevere, and to take ownership of one's life. Ansell will attend the University of Michigan.
To everyone at the A-School, Simon Bradlow’s passion for music was obvious. Over the years at the A-School, he took internship opportunities to expand on his talent by working at a record shop and recording studio, while also practicing instruments outside of school. “He knows that art is not just a matter of talent and inspiration, but also deep thinking, experimentation and constant learning,” said Maxwell. While Bradlow can come off as a laidback musician, he also has an appreciation of well-chosen words whether he’s writing lyrics or analyzing poetry. Bradlow felt that over his years at the A-School he has become a more welcoming and understanding person. Bradlow will attend McGill University in Canada in the fall.
As the emcee of the A-School graduation, Samuel Hoffman made an auditorium of people laugh with his jokes while also showing how important the A-School and the staff meant to him. Hoffman was also elected to co-emcee the talent show, twice, where he showed off his invisible juggling skills. He co-planned core war and was a multimedia editor for Maroon, the school's newspaper. Maxwell commented that Hoffman is so funny because of how observant he is, while also being a natural leader with a gift for words. Hoffman will attend the University of Texas, Austin, in the fall.
When Kate Nova first came into the A-School, she had strong views on everything from feminism to Russian politics and had an iron will when it came to defending her views. While Nova still feels strongly about many of these issues, Nova developed listening and empathy skills, which made it possible for her to approach ideas in new ways. “She became less sharp without being less strong,” said Maxwell. Despite a strong exterior, Nova was often anxious or doubtful of her abilities, highlighted by her time leading outings or directing the senior class pay. Even though she was nervous, Nova persevered and put on a great show. Nova was one of the two winners of the Tony Award, for the students who most embody the principles of the A-School. Nova will attend Tufts University in the fall.
While Haden Seidman loves to read fictional books, he “does not substitute fantasy for reality,” according to Maxwell. Even though Seidman can be quiet in class and community, whenever he speaks up it's always something thoughtful and meaningful. Seidman was also described as a problem solver and a quick learner. He showed off those traits while working at Digital Arts Experience where he had to take apart and put together a bulky printer multiple times, but knew exactly how to do it after one explanation. As a junior, Seidman worked with motorcycles and learned how to do a routine maintenance check after hearing the explanation once. “In a world of flash without substance, Haden is substance without flash,” said Maxwell. Seidman will attend Tulane University in the fall.
According to Hoffman, Fallon Plunkett may be a witch, mostly because her children are “suspiciously cute.” She is a teacher that doesn’t shy away from experimental lessons and loves to lead a little yoga session to get everyone back on track. A newcomer to the A-School community, she has integrated herself into the school flawlessly. Instead of a speech, she wrote letters to her advisees and offered them each a book recommendation to take with them to college.
Plunkett wanted a better word than “nice” to describe Paige Barlow. While everyone agrees that Barlow is “nice,” Plunkett said she is also funny, smart, thoughtful and hardworking. With a great understanding of actions and consequences, Barlow never rushes into things and always thinks things through. In the two classes and core group that Barlow had with Plunkett, she always brought a positive attitude with her. As a great listener to her friends and fellow A-Schoolers, people always felt heard by Barlow. The book Plunkett offered Barlow was “The Most Magnificent Thing” by Ashley Spires, because of the protagonist's determination to learn from mistakes and meet her goals. Barlow will attend Cornell University in the fall.
Even though Nathan Boockvar has a laidback persona, with little issues rolling off his back, he is also a very hardworking student. Even though he joined the A-School as a junior, no one seemed to notice, he blended in so perfectly, quickly making connections with sophomores and seniors. It was clear from the start that Boockvar valued fostering relationships and his education. For his internship, Boockvar worked everywhere from a butcher shop to auto shops to the entertainment industry. The book Plunkett offered Boockvar was “Pete the Cat” by Eric Litwin and James Dean. Pete the cat is a calm, open-minded, friendly character, just like Boockvar, with an amazing ability to be in the present. Boockvar will attend Tulane University in the fall.
The first word that came to Plunkett’s mind when she thought of Fletcher Faden was passion. Specifically, Faden has a passion for justice, politics, fairness, and people in general. When engaged in debate, Faden isn’t afraid to quote current studies, old philosophers and modern statistics to defend his position. Faden’s internships are a great example of his passion for social justice: in his junior year he interned at the law firm of Brodsky & Peck, which dealt with family law, and for his senior options he worked for the BLBG law firm, finding corporations who have wronged people. A talent show emcee, core warhead, and a member of Maxwell’s hiring committee, Faden has taken every opportunity the A-School has given him. Plunkett’s pick for Faden was the original social justice warrior, “Robin Hood.” Faden will attend Lafayette College in the fall.
Plunkett described Ross Forman as a “generous spirit,” who always puts others before himself. Plunkett cited many times when Forman gave his time to help friends and classmates over the years, even taking a poll asking students to raise their hands if they had texted or called Forman for help — most of the students rose their hands. Forman’s love of learning is prominent, even saying that he “missed numbers” and “couldn’t wait to get back to math.” Bright and focused, Forman lets ideas foster in his mind before putting them into action, which is why Plunkett’s pick for Forman was “What Do You Do With An Idea” by Kobi Yamada. Forman will attend Washington University in St. Louis in the fall.
Kimberly “Kimmy” Markowitz
A prominent member of Model UN, Kimberly “Kimmy” Markowitz knows how to command a room. When she first started at the A-School, however, she was timid and shy, but had amazing ideas she wanted to get out. By her senior year, members of her core group could count on her for direct and honest advice, taking younger students under her wing. An organized and meticulous student, Markowitz is also known for her great work ethic, with Chason going so far as to say she’ll “slay” her math final. Her organizational skills carried over to her internships where she worked on her technology skills, especially in Photoshop. Plunkett chose “The Paper Bag Princess” by Robert Munsch, because of the princess’s willingness to get things done, no matter the circumstances, just like Markowitz. Markowitz will attend Lehigh University.
Three words to describe Avery Rubin are loving, compassionate and empathetic. Ruben never shied away from tough topics or telling people how she felt, and was never afraid of starting powerful conversations with friends, teachers and the A-School community. Rubin has held many leadership positions in the A-School, and came up with a mentor program that will be implemented in the A-School next year. Interning at three different school settings, Rubin was able to take a step back and reflect on how each classroom taught her something different, encouraging her to look into teaching as a possible career path. Plunkett picked “Horton Hears a Who” by Dr. Seuss because he felt Rubin understood the core message, “a person is a person no matter how small.” Rubin will attend the University of Vermont in the fall.
Described as “mother of the A-School,” Chason sets clear expectations for her students but offers them all the encouragement they could ever need by baking pumpkin bread for the class or texting students before tests, complete with a flower emoji. A woman who is passionate about math, she wants to share her love and interest by making her class relevant and making students work on real world problems, like measuring a doorframe. Her advisees were Lindsay Donat, Aidan J. Londa, Kodai L. Morikuni, Daniel Silk and Grace Vericker.
Even though Lindsay Donat is quiet, she is always pushing herself. An avid horse rider, double bass player and fashionista, she is always learning and exploring. For her senior project, Donat taught herself how to sew and up-cycle clothes, a trend that transforms old clothes into something new. During her senior options presentation, she wore a sundress that she made herself out of her dad’s dress shirt. As a freshman in high school, Donat started attending and performing at Juilliard, with all day lessons and rehearsals, as well as hours of practice at home. Donat wrote in her reflection that she would not give up when things became more difficult. Donat will be attending Juilliard in the fall, where she will continue to study double bass.
Aidan J. Londa
In Chason’s math class Aidan Londa was always prepared and attentive. He often collaborated with other students in the class when they were having trouble. Golf is a passion of Londa’s, volunteering and interning at First Tee in the Bronx, a nonprofit that looks to improve the life of kids by teaching morals and healthy choices through golf. Londa has also been involved in student government throughout high school, earning a “grill master” nickname. After every football game he would be outside cooking burgers for the class. Londa will attend the University of Texas in Austin in the fall.
Kodai L. Morikuni
Chason’s first memory of Kodai Morikuni was in his sophomore year math class when he handed out Japanese candy that he had brought from overseas with the sole purpose of sharing it with his classmates. He used the A-School as a fresh start, an opportunity to make friends and connections. While friends and community are important to Morikuni, he is not afraid to stand alone when it comes to defending his morals. A natural born teacher, one of his internships was spent in a middle school classroom, where his sponsor wrote that he was the best intern she had had in 16 years.
Daniel Silk is described as a giving person, always willing to lend a hand to a friend in need. In junior year, Silk helped a friend understand math concepts whenever he was struggling, and if the friend didn’t get it, he tried another approach. During one of his internships, Silk went to Northern Westchester Hospital to volunteer. His job was to take his guitar and play for any patient who wanted to listen, often taking requests. Silk is also an avid golfer, using the hours on the course to practice and make connections with old and new friends. Silk will attend the University of Wisconsin in the fall.
As a junior, Grace Vericker knew every new sophomore’s name by the end of outing. She didn’t want any sophomore to feel left out or unheard, so she became their unofficial ambassador. She offered rides, took them to lunch and constantly invited them to join herself and her friends. Beyond the sophomores, Vericker puts effort into making meaningful and playful relationships all around her. Respectful and attentive, Vericker leads by example. Vericker wants to go into the medical field, utilizing the internship opportunities to take an EMT class and work in an infectious disease unit. Her sponsor wrote that she has a passion for patient care, making connections with even the grumpiest of patients. Because of Vericker’s empathy and caring, she was chosen as one of the two winners of this year’s Tony Award. Vericker will attend Penn State’s Eberly College of Science.
After Hoffman compared Cooper to a strict mother, he said “I’m sure I speak for myself and many other A-Schoolers when I say I’m not sure where I would be as a writer, a thinker and a person if it was not for Jeanne.” Her advisees this year were Morgan Costello, Natalie Gee, Liana Givner, Zachary Reyman, Jonah Schneider and Alexandra Wilson.
A dedicated athlete who plays volleyball and lacrosse, Morgan Costello is full of heart and grit. Costello may have the highest number of injuries for the senior class, which includes three concussions and four knee injuries. Her first internship was with a physical therapist because she developed an interest in the profession after spending so much time with one. Even with all her injuries, Costello always had a positive, upbeat attitude. After she joined the A-School as a junior, she reached out to everyone, made friends, and led one of the first community meetings of the year. She was always looking our for her fellow A-Schoolers, often giving encouragement when she saw a classmate nervous about answering a question with a “You got this!” Costello will attend Marist College in the fall.
Natalie Gee was noted as a key contributor in Cooper’s core group, often bringing ideas for the group to talk about and encouraging other students’ participation. As much as she loves learning and classes, always coming well prepared to quizzes and tests, Gee loves experiences outside of the classroom. Over the past three years Gee ran two art-related business, which have taught her about marketing and accounting. Gee is also well connected to her Jewish heritage, doing the March of the Living in Poland and Israel for her senior options.
Cooper compared Liana Givner to a fireworks display, someone who is a ball of energy with a smile that can light up a room. A deep and thoughtful core grounds Givner’s outgoing personality. When it comes to getting work done, no one is more serious than Givner. All of her academic evaluations cited her dedication and work ethic. As a natural leader, Givner was elected an officer of For Good Measure, the high schools a capella group, after only one year. Cooper noted that Givner knew the importance of stepping back and doing nice things for no reason. Givner will attend the University of Wisconsin in the fall.
The first word Cooper used to describe Zachary Reyman was “complicated.” In his junior year he was picked for varsity A soccer, “because of his hustle, work ethic and heart.” Even though he can be competitive, Reyman has a sensitive understanding of other people, and believes all people are of equal worth and are equally vulnerable to pain. Reyman came into the A-School as a junior, and saw all the new students as potential friends. When he interned at Lange’s Deli as their last intern ever, he made close relationships with his co-workers, even taking the initiative to help them find new jobs. Reyman will attend Syracuse University in the fall.
There was a plethora of adjectives that Cooper used to describe Jonah Schneider: reliable, responsible, disciplined, orderly, methodical, calm, confident. Schneider is a problem solver who never shies away from trying something new or looking at things differently. During his time in the A-School Schneider did work for nonprofits, becoming an assistant teacher at a synagogue, interning at a program for underprivileged kids and serving on the board of an annual charity fundraiser. As much as he loved working for nonprofits, his real love is finance, using his senior options to intern at a hedge fund. Schneider will attend the University of Michigan in the fall.
Alexandra Wilson loves a healthy debate, seeing conflict as necessary for growth, and saying that the debates were her favorite part of the A-School program. During the debates, she was open to a variety of points of view and always listened to what her classmates had to say. Wilson believes that healthy competition can bring out the best in people, teaching them to push their own limits, and win or lose with grace. During her time with her indoor track team, Wilson tried hard to foster team spirit despite all the events being individual. Because of her efforts, the track team elected her co-captain. Wilson has also served as an ambassador for the A-School, sitting in on the hiring committee that chose Maxwell as director, and was chosen by the staff to speak at parent information night. Wilson will attend Harvard University in the fall.