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Rotary/PTSA Students of the Year

by jmaloni
Fri, Jul 5th 2013 12:40 pm

Annaliese Corrao

Annaliese Corrao, a senior at Grand Island High School, has resided on Grand Island since moving here from Miami, Fla., with her mom and her sister in 2001. She has been a student in Grand Island schools, including Sidway and Huth Road elementary schools and Veronica E. Connor Middle School. In addition to her studies, she is involved in sports, music and community volunteer activities year-round.

She began her involvement in sports when she was 8 years old as part of the Grand Island girls softball Little League. She quickly fell in love with the sport and has continued to play on Little League and All-Star teams, modified, junior varsity and varsity, travel and premier travel teams, including the Grand Island Vipers, Lou Gehrig Lasers, WNY Finesse, and the Easton Heat Gold. She has also been involved in GIHS track, running indoor and outdoor track her freshman through senior years. Additionally, Annie has played three years of varsity tennis and was co-captain of the tennis team, receiving the Viking Award.

Annie has achieved many accomplishments throughout her academic career, maintaining honor roll or high honor roll status since sixth grade. She has taken various honors-level or Advanced Placement courses throughout middle school and high school. Because of her academic diligence, she has received the Academic Award of Excellence, earned her academic varsity pin and letter, and attained Scholar Athlete designation in every sport in which she has been involved. Annie was recognized as Pride of the Island in her sophomore year and in her junior year was inducted into the National Honor Society, an organization that recognizes its members for their academic excellence, character and service in the community.

Volunteering her time in her community has always been a significant part of Annie's life. She participated in service projects as part of her religion classes in middle school at St. Stephen, assisting families in need during the holidays and raising funds for victims of natural disasters. While at Grand Island High School, Annie volunteered her time at numerous events, including freshman orientation and open house as well as assisting at special events at Huth Road and Sidway schools. Additionally, Annie has been a committee member and participant in Relay For Life and volunteered as Mount St. Mary Hospital and Health Center during summer vacations. Annie is also a participant in school clubs, including DECA, Donate Life and Blue Crew.

Annie is currently a member of the Grand Island High School Select Wind Ensemble. She began playing clarinet in the fourth grade and has played clarinet and bass clarinet as part of the Huth Road Elementary and Connor Middle School bands, Middle School Jazz Band, and the Grand Island High School Concert Band.

Annie also has a creative side. Her hobbies include photography, drawing and painting. She has had numerous pieces displayed in school art shows.

After graduation, she plans to attend college and become a nurse. She hopes to continue playing softball and tennis in college and plans to become involved in school and community activities as well.

Kelsey Ruszkowski

Kelsey Ruszkowski is grateful to have been a student in the Grand Island school system because that is where she has found lifelong friends, supportive teachers and has built a foundation for a successful future.

One of Kelsey's strengths is balancing her academics with her community service work. While she has increased her service efforts, she remains an honors student despite taking a challenging course load. She is a member of the GIHS National Honor Society.

At Grand Island High School, Kelsey has been a member of the Art Club, including a year as president of the club. Members of the club dedicated their artistic talents to creating hand-made ornaments for the Share the Holiday Magic tree auction to benefit the Grand Island Neighbors Foundation, carved pumpkins for Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and formed a team for the Grand Island Relay For Life. Kelsey is also a member of Interact, the student-run arm of the Rotary Club of Grand Island, and took part in making food for a local soup kitchen, and running a flag football tournament fundraiser. Kelsey even served as a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army, singing carols, passing out candy canes and dancing in a gingerbread costume.

Her proudest accomplishment was joining with her sisters and neighbors in collecting thousands of items for the Neighbors Foundation food drive over the past six years.

Most recently, Kelsey was named by the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce as one of Grand Island's Youth Ambassadors to represent fellow students at Island events.

Kourtney Hoppel

Kourtney Hoppel has been a resident of Grand Island all of her life. She has been enrolled in the Grand Island Central School District since kindergarten at Sidway to her senior year at Grand Island High School.

Academically, Kourtney has consistently achieved honor and high honor roll status through middle school and high school. She has received the Pride of the Island Award, in addition to being awarded the Academic Excellence certificate, pin, letter and bar. She has earned her varsity blue and white letters, her first and second pins and gold bar for musical involvement for four years. She is listed in United States Achievement Academy 2011 National Awards. She is a member of the National Society of High School Scholars, is an active member of the National Honor Society, Interact, DECA, Student Council, Class Officers, Character Council and Viking Vision.

Kourtney has been an active member of the community. Starting at a young age when she first enrolled in Girl Scouts, she has done her part to help her community. She earned her Bronze and Silver awards in Scouting and earned her Gold award in June. Kourtney has also participated in Relay For Life for the past five years as a team member and volunteer in the Kids Zone. Kourtney joined St. Stephen's Youth Group her freshman year and has been involved with raising money for different charities for the past four years.

Kourtney also performed in three of the St Stephen's Parish Players musicals, including one that was acted out on the Riviera Theatre stage. Kourtney has been a member of the ABC Amherst Bel Canto Choir since the sixth grade and has performed with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Buffalo Philharmonic Choir at Kleinhans Music Hall and Shea's Performing Arts Center. Notables for the choir are: performing and recording a lullaby CD for infants and recording performances throughout the years that are then sold to the public.

Some additional activities she has participated within the community are: Interact Club (secretary), bell-ringing at Tops for the Salvation Army, making soup and cookies for a homeless shelter, planting bulbs in the high school's library courtyard, helping out at LobsterFest, and the annual flag football tournaments these past two years where money was raised for the Neighbors Foundation and Jake Spencer's family. In addition, she has also helped out with several food drives that benefited the Neighbors Foundation. For PTSA, she volunteered at Huth Road School open house evenings, the high school's freshman orientations and school open houses and also sold PTSA memberships.

In the summer of 2012, Kourtney was a junior volunteer at Mount St. Mary's Hospital, Lewiston, where she worked 45 hours in the volunteer office. During her senior year, she also completed an internship at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center on the labor and delivery floor. These positions have served as confirmation that a career in the medical field is her true calling.

Kourtney's future goal is to become a nurse practitioner. At an early age, she was interested in watching medical-related shows on television and reading articles pertaining to medical advances. She has been accepted into the nursing program at Niagara County Community College and will start in September.

Lauren Shepard

Lauren Shepard has been a resident of Grand Island for all but one year of her life. She has attended school on the Island at Charlotte Sidway School, Huth Road Elementary, Veronica E. Connor Middle School, and is now a senior at Grand Island Senior High School.

Lauren has been heavily immersed in academics during all four years of high school. She has been taking honors-level courses since eighth grade. During high school, Lauren has taken several AP level courses including AP world history, AP U.S. history, AP biology, and in her senior year AP physics and AP calculus. Lauren has maintained high honor roll or honor roll status each quarter since sixth grade. She has had academic success, shown by her being in the top 10 percent of her class, and has received awards for her success with the Academic certificate, pin, and letter.

Lauren has been involved in athletics at GIHS by participating in varsity tennis since 10th grade. She has received her varsity letter and bar for tennis, and has also been a scholar athlete each year on the team.

In addition to athletics, Lauren has been involved with the music program for years. She first started playing the clarinet in fourth grade and has continued since then. She has been a member of the wind ensemble at Grand Island for the past three years. The group is comprised of the top musicians in the school and requires an audition to be placed in the band. Lauren also has been involved with the pit orchestra, having played the clarinet in 10th grade for the spring musical, and playing the bass clarinet in this year's orchestra for "Anything Goes."

Aside from academics and extracurricular activities, Lauren also has been a member of Girl Scouts for 12 years. She is now a troop leader for a group of younger girls and works with them once a week. She has been involved with helping the community since she first joined in first grade. Despite the amount of time needed for school, Lauren still makes time to help out others.

Lauren plans on attending college locally at the University at Buffalo after graduation in June and is planning on majoring in biomedical engineering.

Marina Scerra

Marina Scerra has lived on Grand Island her entire life with her parents and older sister. She has been enrolled in the Grand Island School District, where she is highly involved with various clubs and activities and has maintained academic achievement.

Marina began taking honors classes in middle school and furthered this challenge by enrolling in Advanced Placement courses in high school. Currently, she is enrolled in two AP courses as well as two college-level classes. Throughout high school, Marina has always maintained honor roll and high honor roll status throughout every marking period. She has received many Scholar Athlete awards, while even becoming an All-Western New York Scholar Athlete Team honorable mention. She has also received academic awards from Grand Island High School in addition to receiving the AP Scholar Award and the Pride of the Island award.

Throughout high school, Marina has been extremely involved in extracurricular activities: sports - particularly soccer and lacrosse - are very important to her. As a freshman captain of the JV lacrosse team, she exhibited leadership skills to others. As a sophomore, junior, and senior, Marina played on the varsity lacrosse team as a strong, well-rounded player. She has also been involved with Grand Island soccer, playing JV for two years of high school and varsity during junior and senior year.

Marina plays the violin and participated in the school orchestra from third to 11th grade. She excelled with music and received awards like Rookie of the Year, All-County Musician and All-State Musician in her beginning years of high school. Marina was involved with the Venture Yearbook, where she was an editor. For the past three years, Marina has been a member of DECA, a business club, where she has competed in regional competition and qualified for states all three years in the event of human resources, taking state titles and receiving medals in this event every year. Furthermore, Marina is the fundraising chair and volunteers most of her time to help with DECA. During her junior year, Marina was inducted into the National Honor Society, and during her senior year she became involved with Student Council as a student representative on the Board of Education.

Marina has a passion for volunteering her time and getting involved with her community. She has been a junior volunteer with the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center for four years, and has also volunteered with the Kids Create Hope Organization for five years. This family-run organization sells handmade gifts from cancer patients, where all proceeds are donated to Roswell Cancer Institute for cancer research. Throughout the summers of her freshman, sophomore and junior years, Marina was a coach for U-6 soccer through the Grand Island Soccer Club. Marina has also volunteered with the Make-A-Wish foundation and with school events like Vikings for Veterans and Share the Holiday Magic.

With ambitious goals for the future, Marina plans to attend college in order to pursue a business degree with a major in human resources management and a minor in international business.

Rachel Bailey

Rachel Bailey has attended Grand Island schools for 13 years, and in that time academics and giving back to her community have always been important to her.

Rachel has been on the high honor roll or honor roll from sixth to 12th grade, and graduated in the upper 10 percent of the Class of 2013 at Grand Island High School.

Among her extracurricular activities, Rachel has been a member of the school's string orchestra program since fourth grade. Athletically, Rachel is a longtime soccer player, and captained the Vikings girls varsity soccer team in her senior year.

Helping other people has always been a passion of Rachel's. She joined the GIHS Interact Club in her sophomore year and has since volunteered at the Rotary LobsterFest, bell-ringing with the Salvation Army, making food for soup kitchens, and fundraising for various charities. She also belongs to the youth group at St. Vincent DePaul Parish and has volunteered at Stella Niagara working with the retired nuns, Heart and Soul soup kitchen, the Boys and Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity, Ann Marie Zon's Nicaragua mission, the Mental Health Association, and Hospice. During spring break, Rachel volunteers at Young Christians at Work, sponsored by the Diocese of Buffalo.

Lydia Bernatovicz

At Grand Island High School, Lydia Bernatovicz has learned to balance academics, artistic performance and community service in a way that is beneficial to both the Grand Island community and to herself.

Lydia has been on the honors track since seventh grade and challenges herself by taking the hardest academic courses. She continued to challenge herself to do her academic best by taking six Advanced Placement courses in her senior year. She ranked third in her class with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.

Lydia says there is nothing better than the rush of performing, and sharing her voice and talents with the community has always been the most fulfilling part of her life. She is active in her school's choirs, including the Concert Choir, Women of Note, Madrigals and Vocal Jazz. She is also a member of the Buffalo Niagara Youth Choir's Chamber and Pop, Broadway and Jazz groups, and has had roles in the high school's spring musical. She has danced at Step-in-Time dance studio for 11 years, taking tap, hip-hop, and modern classes.

Outside of the performing arts, Lydia is the varsity captain of the Masterminds team, qualified for state competition in the regional DECA business event, and served as vice president of Art Club. With the Art Club, Lydia was part of a team that built a haunted house as a community fundraiser.

When there are opportunities to help, Lydia looks for ways to volunteer in her free time. She teaches a religious education home group for seventh-grade boys, and she volunteered to raise awareness of voter registration

In her free time, Lydia enjoys writing poetry and blogging.

Rachael Ruszkowski

Throughout her years attending Grand Island High School, Rachael Ruszkowski has been actively involved in both her school and her community.

Starting in seventh grade, Rachael and her triplet sisters began a food drive around their neighborhood, first distributing flyers and later collecting the donations. The food drive continued throughout her high school career, where each year students continuously brought in more donations, raising the bar higher than before until finally, in her senior year, the new record of 1,077 goods was reached for the event. Aside from planning the annual food drive, Rachael is also an active member of Interact Club, Art Club, Donate Life and National Honor Society in addition to participating as a representative for the Class of 2013. In her free time, Rachael also enjoys playing the piano.

Academically, Rachael challenges herself with a variety of Advanced Placement courses and diligently works to remain on the high honor roll as she has for her entire high school career. She will be receiving an Advanced Regents Diploma with Honors when she graduates this June. Rachael also strongly believes in teamwork and dedication, exhibiting these principles through her remarkable improvements amid the past three years while running cross country and while running for the outdoor track team her junior year. Rachael is best noted for her passion for writing, which she has furthermore developed and pursued since she was 10 years old. Currently, Rachael is finishing a book with her sister and is in the process of finalizing their past three-and-a-half year endeavor. Aside from this 600-page book, Rachael hopes to publish another novel she is concurrently striving to complete.

Adam Stanczyk

Adam Stanczyk has been a student of the Grand Island School District his entire life as he attended Sidway, Huth Road, Connor Middle School and Grand Island High School. In his high school career, he has participated in numerous extracurricular activities, sports and community service programs.

Adam has been able to achieve and maintain academic success throughout high school though attaining grade-point averages that consistently establish him on the honor or high honor roll every semester. He has taken advantage of the rigorous Advanced Placement and honors courses available, and has successfully earned academic awards of excellence such as his Academic certificate, pin and letter as a result of challenging himself. In addition, Adam was inducted into the National Honor Society his junior year of high school, and he has received the Clarkson Academic Achievement Award in addition to being one of the few nominees for the Hewitt Award. Adam also joined DECA his senior year and qualified for the state level in his event.

Adam has played hockey throughout high school for the Niagara County Coyotes and for the Grand Island Vikings JV and varsity teams, earning his varsity letter and pin for his achievements. While on JV, Adam won the Most Valuable Forward Award and the Sportsmanship Award while leading his team to the State Championship Tournament. He has also played baseball throughout high school for the Niagara Current as well as for the JV and varsity teams for Grand Island, where he has earned his varsity letter in addition to the team Scholar Athlete Award. As a member of the varsity golf team his junior and senior years, Adam earned his varsity letter and pin in addition to earning the Most Improved Player Award and the team Scholar Athlete Award for both years of his participation.

Through finding numerous opportunities to volunteer in his community through the Riverside Presbyterian Church Vacation Bible School as a group leader for the past two summers, and through the St. Stephen's fish fry, the VFW Fourth of July party setup and cleanup committees, Niagara University Equipment Drive, and through participation with Huth Road Elementary second grade orientation and the first-ever Vikings for Veterans 5K Run, Adam has dedicated himself to improving society.

In the fall, Adam hopes to attend the University of Virginia in order to study engineering.

Katelyn Ruszkowski

Katelyn Ruszkowski believes in the Grand Island community and enjoys giving back to it.

A senior at Grand Island High School, Katelyn has left her mark on many clubs at GIHS with which she has volunteered her time, including Donate Life, Interact, Art Club, student government and National Honor Society. As an Art Club officer, she helped form a Relay For Life team and played a major role in constructing the Haunted High School project that drew 300 attendees in the first year of the fundraiser. With Interact, Katelyn has cooked soup for soup kitchens, and baked treats for sale at the annual flag football tournament. She has even danced and sang while bell-ringing for the Salvation Army at Christmas.

Katelyn's volunteerism extends outside of school as well. She and her triplet sisters have held a food drive for the last six years and have collected more than 3,100 items over the years. The endeavor is one she plans to continue for years to come.

Margaret Weiser

Maggie Weiser has balanced athletics, academics and community service during her time on Grand Island.

A senior at Grand Island High School, Maggie has been involved in local community events her whole life. This past year, she participated in the Susan G. Komen race, Family Promise, Mended Little Hearts Foundation, freshman orientation, Grand Island CROP Walk, the Miracle League, and Share the Holiday Magic, to name just a few.

Over the years, Maggie has volunteered coaching youth soccer, and with the Journey to Adulthood program at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, Relay For Life and the Buffalo City Mission.

Success has come to Maggie both on the athletic field and in the classroom, and she has been able to meet the demands in both arenas. She is a Scholar Athlete playing soccer year-round, has earned a spot on a premiere-level soccer team, all while consistently maintaining a 3.7 or higher grade-point average. Since her sophomore year, she has been involved in AP courses, and is a member of the GIHS chapter of the National Honor Society.

In the future, Maggie plans to study early childhood education in college because she finds it gratifying to work with children.

Meghan Federico

Living and learning on Grand Island has taught Meghan Federico the value and importance of a community.

Meghan contributed to her school's sense of community as vice president of Student Council. She helped organize events the students look forward to, such as Spirit Week, pep rally, Homecoming, and the Winter Ball.

Meghan's efforts with Student Council extended to the community as well, with the planning of charitable events, including the Vikings for Vets 5K run and the Share the Holiday Magic fundraiser at Christmastime. These endeavors raised thousands of dollars for WNY Heroes and the Grand Island Neighbors Foundation.

In her junior year, Meghan discovered the reward of mentoring young girls who share the same passion and drive as herself in their pursuit of cheerleading. She established a cheerleading clinic, allowing experienced cheerleaders to improve their skills, and helping new cheerleaders discover the sport for the first time.

Meghan feels Grand Island offers an enriching and supporting environment that exposed her to a variety of perspectives and opportunities. She took full advantage of these opportunities by participating in DECA, Student Council, cheerleading and a brief trial on the law team. Meghan has grown in each club and advanced to leadership positions. She was voted by her peers to be a Vikings cheerleading captain, and by the student body to vice president of Student Council.

Grand Island schools have given Meghan the opportunity for success academically. Meghan has taken a mix of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes. She is ranked in the upper 10 percent of her graduating class.

James Rustowicz

James Rustowicz is a lifelong Islander and has attended Grand Island schools since kindergarten. Throughout his educational career, he has strived to do his best, achieving grade point averages on honor or high honor roll since sixth grade. In addition, James challenged himself by taking on a strenuous course load, which includes band, advanced college-level and honors classes, and business courses. He is a multiple-time recipient winner of the Pride of the Island award and has won the President's Award in both elementary and middle school. Last spring, as a junior, James was accepted as a member of the National Honor Society and additionally received his academic letter for academic excellence. Furthermore, James has received the United States Achievement Academy National Business Education Award twice.

In addition to academics, James has been very involved in extracurricular activities. James has played soccer for the high school for five years, and was captain of the junior varsity team as a freshman and of the varsity team in his senior year. He has earned varsity letters and bar awards in soccer, indoor track and in outdoor track, and has represented Grand Island at the sectional level and in the Junior Olympics in pole vaulting, placing first at regionals. James has also represented Grand Island High School in DECA at the regional and state levels since his sophomore year. He is an active member of several school clubs, including Donate Life, AV Tech Crew and Viking Vision, and he has also been a teacher assistant, is an editor for the Venture Yearbook, a senator in Student Council and is treasurer for the Class of 2013.

James has always been taught that it is important to give back to his community, and therefore he has consistently volunteered throughout his educational career. As a child, James participated in the Beach Sweep and other cleanup activities around the Island. He is very involved in the St. Stephen R.C. Church Parish, particularly through the theatric Parish Players via roles both on and off the stage. James has also participated in community theater with the Niagara Regional Theatre Guild. Additionally, he has been a travel and house soccer coach for the Grand Island Soccer Club since his freshman year. Other volunteer activities include PTA events and participation with the Neighbors Foundation of Grand Island and Make-A-Wish Foundation, Lions Club Special Kids Picnic and local soup kitchens. Of these significant volunteer experiences, James' work as a cadet with the Grand Island Fire Co. has been one of the most influential in his life as he furthered his ability to give back to his community and aid the citizens of Grand Island during their times of need. This extensive service leadership has been instilled in James through the examples set by his parents for the better part of his life, and will be evident in his future as he plans to pursue a career in business and marketing.

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