Class of 2023 Accomplishes ‘No Small Feat’

Randolph Academy, a 200-student, New York State Special Act school district which supports, empowers and educates children with emotional and mental health disabilities, celebrated its graduating seniors this week with ceremonies at its Randolph and Hamburg campuses.

Dozens of family members, teachers, administrators, staff members, board members, classmates and friends applauded the 14 collective seniors who earned their diplomas. New York State Regents diplomas were awarded to 10 of the 14 graduates, with the remaining four earning local diplomas.

Superintendent Danielle Cook, Ph.D., reminded the students how far they’ve come, as well as the impressiveness of achieving this milestone.

“To meet graduation requirements in the state of New York is no small feat,” Dr. Cook said. “It requires that students consistently attend school; engage in activities laid out by teachers; inquire, relearn and try again when you don’t demonstrate proficiency; and one of the hardest tasks: pass New York’s Regents exams. You’ve demonstrated that – no matter what life brings your way – you’re able to rise above and achieve.”

Graduate Flynn Jameson’s artistry was on display with a heartfelt mortar board message: “I can’t go back to yesterday because…I was a different person then.”

Board of Education President Mary Myers also shared her congratulations with the graduates, advising, “Wherever the road leads, take with you all of the good that you’ve gained here, and be proud of what you’ve accomplished.”

Each campus featured a keynote speaker from its region’s law enforcement industry. In Randolph, the students heard from Cattaraugus County Deputy Sherriff Kale Luce, a partner to Silas, a member of the county’s therapy K-9 unit.

“Looking back, high school is where I learned to push myself to limits that I thought I couldn’t reach,” said Deputy Luce, who also serves as School Resource Officer for the Randolph Central School District. “High school is where I learned four keys to achievement: drive, want, confidence and character.”

Cattaraugus County Deputy Sherriff Kale Luce shares his advice with the Randolph campus graduates.
Town of Hamburg Police Chief Peter Dienes advises the graduates, “Don’t Give Up!”

In Hamburg, Town of Hamburg Police Chief Peter Dienes shared his own career and life path with the students, noting that things did not go as he originally envisioned.

“If there’s one piece of advice you remember from today,” Chief Dienes implored the graduates, listing each by name, “it’s, don’t give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up!”

Remarks were also shared by class presidents Spencer Laska (Hamburg) and Zachary Davidson (Randolph).

The district’s graduating seniors include:

Randolph Campus:

  • Kassondra Blanchard, of Cattaraugus/Little Valley, who will be attending cosmetology school with the goal of one day opening her own salon;
  • Elisabeth Campbell, of New York City, who hopes to attend college and become a politician;
  • Zachary Davidson, of Fredonia, who will attend SUNY Fredonia this fall and pursue a degree in computer science;
  • Taniya Eldridge, of Pioneer Central, who will attend Jamestown Community College this fall and hopes to one day become a chef;
  • Collin Keeler, of Fredonia, who plans to work in the landscape and/or mechanic industries;
  • Wallace Rankin, of Jamestown, who will enter the workforce but hopes to one day be on TV;
  • Jayden Shugars, of Randolph, who plans to enter the construction industry; and
  • Shayna Thomas, from New York City, who will attend Jamestown Community College this fall and pursue a General Studies degree, in hopes of one day working within the medical field.

Hamburg Campus:

  • Jacob Dietrich, of East Aurora, who intends to take a gap year before deciding his next steps;
  • Ambrianna Engleman, of Lake Shore, who plans to enroll at SUNY Erie and study criminal justice;
  • Flynn Jameson, from Fredonia, who will attend Daemen University in the fall to study nursing;
  • Spencer Laska, from Lackawanna, who will attend SUNY Erie this fall and study cannabis science;
  • Preston Miller, of Lancaster, who plans on entering the workforce and is considering going to college one day; and
  • Johnson Moccasin, of Gowanda, who is deciding between going to college or the armed forces.

The Hamburg Campus’ seniors share their appreciation for their families, teachers and other supporters by forming hearts with their hands.