Brian Sharp, a 2017 Newark High School graduate, recently told students being recognized at the annual Academic Excellence Awards dinner to make the most of every single day in high school. And, more importantly, to enjoy doing so.
Sharp currently studies exercise and sports studies at D’Youville College in Buffalo. He spoke at the dinner at which grades 10-12 students who earned an average of 90 or better during each quarter of the 2016-17 school year were recognized for their outstanding achievement.
Chelsea Fladd, who coordinated the dinner, said Sharp balanced academics and basketball to finish his first semester at D’Youville College with a 3.77 GPA. Fladd teaches special education at NHS.
“Being involved was never something Brian shied away from during his high school career, either,” Fladd said. “At Newark, he was able to achieve a grade point average of 95 while obtaining six varsity letters and first team all-league his senior year. Brian is the type of leader that wants to reach out and help influence others, which he did while holding a Link Leader position for two years as an upperclassman and guided the incoming freshman classes. His genuine concern for others is not only contagious but also refreshing, which he demonstrated this past spring as he assistant coached Newark’s first ever unified basketball team. All of these outstanding achievements and qualities led Brian to be given one of the highest honors at Newark High School, a spot on the Wall of Fame and a lasting legacy.
“Brian Sharp is the quintessence of accomplishing his ambitions and following his dreams of achievement which have led to his success. He started out in the same way you all did, as a student in the same desk you sit in every day. He set goals in his life and took charge of how he was going to accomplish them. He is the epitome of personal victory.”
Sharp opened his speech with an admission.
“After graduation, I thought I was a big man from Newark,” Sharp said. “I thought that people should know who I am, after all I was thinking I was on homecoming court, I was prom king, I was a three-year varsity soccer and basketball player. I thought that people should have known me. But when I was visiting the school over Thanksgiving break, I was walking down the hall and I saw two underclassmen walking in front of me. Both looked back and one of them said, ‘Look we have a new kid.’ This moment was very humbling to me, because I thought to myself I was judging my success from high school based on the awards and accolades that I had won. But now looking back at it, I was looking at it all wrong.”
Having time to reflect, Sharp said he thinks success in high school is best measured by how well it prepares students for what they will do afterward, but that largely depends on each student’s attitude.
“High school can be some of the best years of your life, or some of the worst,” he said. “It all depends on how your outlook is. Personally I loved high school. I believe this was because I tried to get involved in as much as I could, from different clubs to sports and to dressing up for all the spirit days. While I was loving my experience at NHS, some of my friends and classmates did not have the same experience as me. They came into school, sulked around all day and then left at 2:30. They thought of school as more of a prison than anything else. This is why they did not enjoy their time in high school, because nobody really enjoys being prison.”
Sharp offered three pieces of advice to students.
“Take the work seriously, even though you may think that you will never need to balance a chemistry equation or find the derivative or a polynomial ever again in your life,” he said. “You will need to know it for the class, so it is important to learn and to take it seriously.
“Second is to get involved, whether it is in different clubs, sports or drama. This will help to make your high school career more fun, and that will make your time spent here more memorable.
“And finally, try and enjoy every second that you spend at Newark, because before you know it you will be walking across either the stage or the field at graduation, and you will be receiving your diploma. If you are going to spend four years here, you might as well make it as enjoyable as possible.”
Dinner guests affirmed Sharp’s sentiments with applause. Superintendent Matt Cook; Krista Lewis, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction; Susie Earl; Jim Miranda; and Yvonne MacTaggart attended the event.
Principal Tom Roote and Ryan Wagner, assistant principal, presented students with certificates of recognition for their academic achievement.
The following students received Academic Excellence awards.
Class of 2018: Benjamin Allegretti, Hannah Bates, Gregory Bremer, Aleah Buckalew, Mercede Burm, Alejandro Caraballo, Parker Casselman, Nick Cepulo, Madison Chandler, Nicole Garritano, Andrea Hoe, Anna Howell, Michael Hutteman, Grace Kreuser, Logan Moynihan, Nathaniel Payag, Sydney Salone, Emily Schultz, Audrey Smith, Nicholas Stalker, Mackenzie Westcott and Amanda Williams.
Class of 2019: Natalie Acquista, Abigail Belliveau, Haley Brown, Jasmine Bueso, Megan Bullock, Sierra Caldwell, Nichelle Camp, Caitlin Chopan, Alexander Collom, Emma Correia, Anabel Darling, Madison Dillion, Jayden Durfee, Amanda DuVall, Liberty Faliveno, Jacqueline Furfaro, Timothy Huber Hoa Huynh, Bryson LaBerge, Joseph Malach, Bailey McCormick, Katherine Paddock, Danika Ritz, Connor Robbins, Zachary Rodrick, Lauren Smith, Colin Steiner, William VanDusen, Medina VanDuyne, Alexandra Ventura, Madeline Wetmore and Mallory Williams.
Class of 2020: Tatum Arnold, Isabella Bailey, Phoebe Bates, Anna Bouwens, Brendan Briggs, McKenna Briggs, Adria Brown, Benjamin Cepulo, Sami Chamberlain, Alycia Divelbliss, Jenna Duffy, Hannah Fisher, Cherylanne Garrett, Lynzee Havert, Emma Healy, Stephen Hughes, Matthew Hutteman, Felecity Hyde, Julia Kellogg, Lilah Kwiatkowski, Evelyn LoTempio, Lauren MacTaggart, McKinley Miller, Leanna Murray, Kamryn Reyome, Nadia Rothpearl, Connor Simizon, Olivia Smith, Deborah Szarek, Emily Tang, Madeline Tulloch, Elana Verbridge-Day, Daniel Wersinger, Kayla Williams and Makenna Williamson.
Roote said he asked teachers what qualities exemplify students who would be honored at the Academic Excellence dinner. Answers included well organized; pay attention to details; stay organized with a planner or phone; seek assistance; ask questions immediately; are good participants in class; outgoing; go above and beyond; have a personal network; are risk takers; positive leaders; very driven; have great personalities; are funny and upbeat; are soft spoken; kids look up to them; are determined; detail-oriented; thoughtful; inquisitive; ask questions; work well with others; committed to the academic program; constantly questioning; do their own research; their work is polished and pristine; have a great work ethic; very nice; get along with others; ask intelligent, insightful questions; self-motivated; work well beyond regular requirements; strong self-advocates; take advanced classes; and are respectful.
“After spending an hour or so in my role as Peter Parker, scratching down all those thoughts on the different sides of a manila folder, I returned to my office to type them into my speech,” Roote said. “Two things really caught my attention as I typed. The first was an addition, and the second was an omission.
“The addition to the list that caught my eyes was shared by three teachers. Their thinking was consistent with the idea that students are focused on their network. Since there are not a ton of scholarly articles out there on the key attributes of good networking among high school students, I have adapted a bit of wisdom from a couple of articles published for the business world. Both articles claim to help us get projects done with more confidence and less stress.
“Here are a few things to keep in mind. Your network can be vital to your success. A strong and expansive network gives you insight. Consider your network your circle of trust. A successful network must be balanced, meaning you should give as much as you take. If you ask for someone’s help or use someone for your gain, make sure you are ready to give back when called upon. This requires trust from both parties, so link yourself with people whose reputation and ethics you believe in. Chances are good they feel the same way about you.
“Gather valuable opinions and tips from your network. Ask as well as answer questions to create a dialogue and build trust. You never know where one of those conversations could lead to.
“Take care of your network. It is not enough to just have someone in your phone contacts or on an email list; a true working network requires maintenance. Offer up your help if you can. Putting in a little effort can go a long way. Also, do not be afraid to ask for help. You have chosen to have these people in your network for a reason.
“Networking is about spotting opportunities, so you want to spend time asking questions about the person you are talking to, try to see whether they have any problems that you can help with.
“I mentioned I would share an omission from the list of qualities teachers see among this group. Lacking from the dozens of comments I received was the idea of global citizenship. This topic is trending in the work I do as a high school principal as I recently had a chance to sit with the Nazareth College dean of arts and sciences to discuss future cooperation and support. As I listened to conversations around me, I considered our students, our staff and the Newark community. I realized that we are not spending enough time considering our community’s values among global values. We are not working collectively to address human rights, environmental protection, religious diversity, sustainable worldwide economic growth, poverty alleviation, prevention of conflicts between countries, humanitarian assistance and preservation of cultural diversity. We can do more in these areas.
“I will close with this thought from Ronald C. Israel in his article, ‘What does it mean to be a global citizen?’ — ‘We may not yet be fully awakened to this new layer of responsibility, but it is there waiting to be grasped. The major challenge that we face is to embrace our way of being and build a sustainable, values-based world community. Most of us on the path to global citizenship are still somewhere at the beginning of our journey. Our eyes have been opened and our consciousness raised. Instinctively, we feel a connection with others around the world, yet we lack the adequate tools, resources and support to act on our vision. There is a longing to pull back the veil that keeps us from more clearly seeing the world as a whole and finding more sustainable ways of connecting with those who share our common humanity.’
“Congratulations on your past, present and future efforts to earn academic excellence. I hope you can share your gifts local and globally.”
Fladd thanked everyone involved in the Academic Excellence Awards dinner.
“This is the 13th year that the rewards and incentives committee has hosted the Academic Excellence Awards dinner,” she said. “Dinner will be served by Robyn Ross-Squirrell, Amy Austin, Lindsay Lapaglia, Elaine Esan, Robin Uveges, Justin Fladd, Stephanie Specht, Caty Hugunine and Joe Feeney.”
Fladd said students who had been recognized for two or more consecutive years at the Academic Excellence Awards dinner would receive an athletic pass. This pass will allow students to attend all athletic events for the upcoming year at NHS for free.