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March 2018

A Conversation with Two Great Leaders from the Class of 2018

Superintendent Dr. Marty Semmel

We have terrific students in all of our buildings and I wanted to highlight two of our graduating seniors who were just awarded the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education Leadership Award.  Students selected for this award show a commitment to both academics and leadership.  Both Maria Cesare and Amy Ieronimo have become truly outstanding leaders here at THS and I spent some time interviewing these two young women for this article.

Both Maria and Amy are focused on completing their high school careers in a positive way.  They are enrolled in a number of Advanced Placement (AP) courses and want to do well on the upcoming AP exams to validate their hard work and potentially earn college credit at the same time.  Amy is also very excited about the upcoming softball season as she looks to finish her four years as the Varsity catcher in triumphant fashion.  Maria, an outstanding goalie for our soccer team, is looking forward to leading the National Honor Society with additional community based activities (i.e. their already successful work with the food pantry). 

Maria, was more reserved at the start of high school, but grew in confidence as she watched other leaders work and she herself took on additional challenges.  She believes a trip to the South Pacific prior to the start of her sophomore year helped her grow a great deal as well.  In order to attend, she needed to fundraise, which meant going door-to-door and dealing with rejection.  The trip itself required her to meet and socialize with a lot of new people.  She also credits her involvement with activities like the school newspaper, National Honor Society and the soccer team with growing her leadership skills.  As the goalie of the soccer team, Maria can be heard barking out orders to her teammates.  As the president of NHS, she recognizes the need to listen to each voice and generate collaborative solutions.  She still believes that you do not need to be the loudest or most outspoken person to be a leader. 

Amy credits her leadership development to many experiences as well.  She attended a leadership conference that required her to meet other people and “step out of her comfort zone”.  As the oldest sibling and cousin, she has had the opportunity to lead by example her whole life.  As the catcher for the softball team, she is charged with calling all of the pitches and directing the defense.  She jokes that by the end of the season, her voice is raspy from overuse, but she still loves every minute.  Both Maria and Amy also believe their ability to learn quickly came in handy as they developed their leadership skills.  They both saw helping other students through re-teaching as important to their development as a leader.  Finally, they both recognize the importance of understanding other people in order to help lead them. 

I asked them about what they like most about Plymouth/Terryville and once we finished the discussion about what the name of the town really is, I heard some very similar thoughts and ideas.  Both of these student leaders really enjoy the appeal of the small town.  They credit the size of the school and town with the feeling of connectedness.  “Opportunities” came up repeatedly as both of them appreciate how many opportunities exist for all students if you are willing to get involved.  School pride pervades the environment as the students “Pack the Pouch”, a metaphor for attending games, concerts, and other activities.  Maria believes there are some folks who don’t expect great things from students from small towns and she has used that to motivate herself to find success.     Maria really appreciates the opportunity to get to know her teachers and work with them more closely and she sees how her efforts within the community improve the lives of those she helps.  Her community involvement work at the food pantry has allowed her to hear the stories of other residents and has made authentic connections with her fellow volunteers. 

One of the greatest joys of working in education is the opportunity to work with such talented students on a daily basis.  However, we must let go of our students as their high school education comes to an end.  Both Maria and Amy will be pursuing a higher education.  They are both looking to attend good four-year colleges with Amy hoping to be a high school Biology teacher in the future and Maria setting her sights on medical school.  They do have some advice for the rising freshman to help them be successful at THS.  First, walk on the correct side of the hallway (the right side).  Nothing is apparently more irritating than wrong way traffic.  On a deeper level, Maria suggests that you should get involved at school.  Certainly, getting involved helps you build your resume, but its impact on your life can be that much greater.  She has been surprised to see how her involvement in different clubs and sports have shifted and changed throughout the years as she became more confident and broadened her experiences.  She joined some clubs only to change her mind and try something different.  Amy’s suggestion is to stop caring about what other people think of you.  She remembers being a scared little freshman concerned that others would make fun of her if she put herself out there.  Thankfully, she stopped caring about what others thought and was true to her self.  She believes that THS “runs on school pride” and that means you have to be willing to be a bit silly, have fun, and see each other as classmates, not adversaries.

Maria Cesare and Amy Ieronimo are just two terrific examples of the students we have the pleasure to teach and support.  We congratulate them on earning the CABE leadership award and we look forward to helping them complete their work here at THS.  We are confident that both Maria and Amy will be successful on many levels in the future

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