Newark High School’s Project Lead The Way — Biomedical Science program recently celebrated its first graduating class of Pathfinders with a ceremony.
Six seniors have been in the program since it started at NHS in 2013: Joseph Colacino, Sarinah Hernandez, Tristan Laws, Ian MacTaggart, Nicholas Tarplee and Ryan Velte. The ceremony also recognized Jackson Correia, a senior who has been in the program for three years.
Each received a distinctive medal for their participation in the program.
PLTW — Biomedical Science is a college and career readiness program that provides a transformative learning experience for students, introducing them to medicine and human body systems and preparing them for potential careers in medical and health-related fields. NHS is one of few schools in the Finger Lakes region to offer the program.
The program is overseen by a community partnership team made up of area biomedical professionals, parents, educators and students.
Chairman Richard Martin welcomed parents, seniors and other PLTW — Biomedical Service student participants at NHS and others to the event held in the Large Group Instruction room.
He discussed how nice it has been to witness the growth of the program since its inception in 2013 at NHS, and commended graduates for their willingness and “intestinal fortitude” to become involved in a rigorous and unique program.
Superintendent Matt Cook said what excites him most about the NHS program is that it aptly fulfills the goal educators want to attain — that of greater educational relevancy of instruction being provided.
“I’m really proud of these kids,” Cook said.
Principal Tom Roote credited NHS biomedical sciences teacher Shawn Flanagan for the program’s success, and asked everyone to join him in thanking him with applause.
“I know he will give all the credit away,” Roote said.
Then, he commended the program graduates.
“I want to share how proud I am of not just your achievements in the PLTW program, but your achievements at NHS over the course of the last four years,” Roote told the seniors. “Working as hard as you have as a freshman, sophomore and junior could have prompted you to take your foot off the accelerator. Instead, you chose to continue to access rigorous course work.
“It is very natural for a typical high school student in any high school to start a sequence of courses in their instrumental music program and remain committed for four years. The same holds true for our vocal music kids and even the artists in the building. What is noteworthy here is that each of you have remained committed to a sequence of science courses required for graduation — the living environment, earth science, chemistry and physics — and you have committed to a sequence of PLTW science courses running parallel.
“What this group has accomplished would be similar to an instrumental music student working for four years in the ensemble and then also taking four years of music electives on top of that. Here is an even simpler analogy, this would be like Steph Curry playing two sports, with both taking place in the same season.”
Newark Police Chief David Christler, the keynote speaker for the event, said it was a “privilege and an honor to be celebrating the Pathfinders journey, which began in 2013.”
“You represent a four-year commitment to a national program, and you can say proudly, ‘I did it,’” Christler told the seniors. “Throughout the last four years, it has been about the journey and not the destination. Why the journey? Because throughout your lives you will set and re-set your destination. Getting to your destination is always a journey, and as you travel down this road you will engage many people and gain the experience you will need to be successful. But first, we have to believe in ourselves and trust in others.
“Your parents, generally, are the first to shape your future, and psychologists tell us that the first five years are the formative years. After that, it will be your peers that seem to influence you the most. And if we think about it, good kids hang with good kids and vice versa. Beyond that, it will often be a teacher that sees something special in a student, and his or her mentoring can make all the difference in how a young adult sees themselves. Their future is often the result of a teacher that cares.
“There is no doubt in my mind that my life was changed by a teacher that saw something in me that I did not see in myself. His encouragement when I entered high school changed my career destination and put me on a path which is still evolving today. And it was all about self-esteem. Believe in yourself and you can go anywhere and do anything.
“The biggest challenge in high school is focusing on a career. Students agonize over these decisions and often follow the lead of their best friend, only to find they have no interest in the area they chose. You, very wisely, volunteered to be part of the PLTW — Biomedical Sciences program. Some of you may have found that this is your true north, while others may have found no interest or passion in this work. Don’t worry. This is normal and you’re not lost. Every experience you have or will have can be a positive lesson if you have a positive attitude. Open your minds to everything. When I talk to young people about careers, I always tell them to think of something which really interests them. It may be several things. Things that are fun. Then brainstorm and find related interests that can become careers.
“I have been in law enforcement for 41 years and love what I do. It is not for everyone, but for me it was a perfect fit because I love people and like helping them. Often I have been asked, ‘What would you do if you were starting all over again?’ My answer, ‘I would do the same thing.’ I have had a wonderful career and a wonderful family. These two things keep you happy and happiness is success.
“You are where I was in 1966. Mr. Flanagan works tirelessly to encourage his students to strive for whatever spark might glow. Identify your destination and start the journey. The people you meet and the experiences you gain will forever change your life. Life evolves not in a single day, but over a lifetime. Someday you will look back on this day in high school and see what a difference this class made to you and to those close to you. Continue the journey. And may you find happiness in your destination.”
Flanagan shared anecdotes about the unlikely twists and turns of his own career journey, including the startup of the PLTW — Biomedical Sciences program at NHS that received the distinction last year of becoming nationally certified.
He expressed thanks to all the students involved in the program, including the sixth Pathfinders and members of the community partnership team.
The event included an unveiling of the seniors’ poster display boards that highlighted key points and memorable experiences from their journey in the program and a glimpse into their futures.
Flanagan presented the six Pathfinder members of the graduating class with a special plaque to memorialize their four years of hard work in the program. Every student in the program was awarded a pin to wear on their lab coats relative to their studies in 2016-17. Graduates were given their lab coats to take home and, if appropriate, wear in college.