By Karl Valere

Dear Neighbors,

What a year it’s been!

2016 will likely go down in history as a year filled with amazing highs and heartbreaking lows. Elmont was not immune to this trend, as the community experienced historic milestones and suffered intense losses.

This year saw Elmont Alumni living out their dreams, while doing wonderful and exciting things to help make the world a better place.

Elmont Memorial High School — the community’s crown jewel — also flourished in 2016, not just as an academic institution, but by way of the school’s athletics and extracurricular programs as well.

For Elmont, 2016 marked the year our unincorporated community became more of a household name, with such newsworthy events as yet another Ivy League ace, a State Championship title, and a former U.S. President coming to town.

Without further ado, here are The Elmont Excelsior’s Top 20 Moments of the year 2016:

20. Charity Begins at Home: Elmont Grad Goes from “The Giveback” to Black Entrepreneurship

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Mister Clean: Elmont alum, Daniel Alexis, says he first learned about mobile car wash services while visiting family in Coral Springs, Florida. Today, Daniel’s started a mobile car wash service of his own based out of Elmont, Long Island. [Photo by Eisenmyer Princima]
Elmont Class of 2012 graduate, Daniel Alexis, followed up his viral video challenge with even more givebacks, and the announcement that he was co-founding an Elmont-based mobile car wash service along with a longtime friend. Read the full story here.

19. Young Black Women Sponsor All-Girls School in Haiti

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Guardians of the Heart: Board members of Keys of the Heart, Inc., an Elmont, Long Island-based nonprofit organization, are pictured here along with CEO+Founder, Rachalie Barthelemy (far right). Barthelemy grew up in Elmont where she says her experiences have informed her nonprofit work in Leogane, Haiti. [Photo courtesy of Keys of the Heart, Inc.]
Rachalie Barthelemy, a 24-year-old Elmont native, inspired many as she joined forces with her family and friends to create Keys of the Heart, Inc., a nonprofit organization that offers health, education, and inspiration services to underdeveloped regions of Haiti. Read the full story here.

18. Elmont Graduate, Sophia Sunshine Vilceus, Becomes a Best-Selling Author

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On Saturday, February 27th, 2016, The Elmont Excelsior welcomed community members, childhood friends, family, and supporters to The Sanctuary Church in Elmont for “Meet the Author: A Conversation with Sophia Sunshine Vilceus (right).” Elmont resident, Assemblymember Michaëlle C. Solages (left) made a surprise visit and presented Sophia with a citation for releasing her first-ever book, The Last Pew: Journeying Back to God’s Will After An Affar.” [Photo courtesy of Patrick Labossiere]
The Elmont Excelsior joined Elmont alumna, Sophia Sunshine Vilceus (’07) in celebrating the release of her debut novel, The Last PewWith the unwavering support of the Elmont community, the book quickly peaked on Amazon’s Best-Selling charts in its first week!

On Saturday, February 27th, Sophia welcomed community members, childhood friends, family, and supporters of her literary debut to The Sanctuary Church in Elmont for, “Meet the Author: A Conversation with Sophia Sunshine Vilceus,” co-hosted by Karl Valere of The Elmont Excelsior. Read the full story here. 

17. #BlackGirlMagic: Elmont Memorial Student Named 2016 Intel Semifinalist

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Elmont Class of 2016 Valedictorian, Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, had a stellar academic year including an Ivy League sweep, a trip to the White House Science Fair, and enrollment at Harvard University. [Photo courtesy of the Sewanhaka Central High School District]
In January, Elmont Memorial High School senior Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna was named one of 44 semifinalists on Long Island in the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search.

Augusta was selected for her project, “Rheological Characterization of Attapulgite Nanoclay Modified Cement Slurries for Oil Well Applications.” She worked in the Civil Engineering and Mechanics Laboratory at Columbia University under the mentorship of Dr. Shiho Kawashima to conduct a project that analyzed oil well cementing practices, particularly those linked to the 2010 Gulf spill. Read the full story. 

16. A Smooth Transition: Welcome To New Elmont Principal, Kevin Dougherty

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Welcome to the Neighborhood: Principal Kevin “Doc” Dougherty addresses the crowd at Dutch Broadway Park during the First Annual Elmont Family Fun Day this past September. [Photo courtesy of Marvin Hodelin]
Last summer, many Elmont natives learned of news that Mr. John Capozzi was leaving Elmont Memorial High School as Principal to step into a new role as Assistant Superintendent of the Sewanhaka Central High School District.

The Elmont Excelsior conducted an exclusive interview with Elmont’s newest Principal Mr. Kevin Dougherty (pronounced “Dockerty”), back in August of 2015, to get a better gauge of the monumental transition. Read the full story here.

15. Elmont Track Team Races to Cornell University

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Elmont Memorial High School’s 2015-16 Winter Track team raced to Cornell University in qualifying for the state competition. [Photo courtesy of Sewanhaka Central High School District]
Back in February of 2016, 7 student-athletes from Elmont Memorial’s track team qualified for the 2015-16 Winter Track State Meet at Cornell University: Adrienne Barnes, Brianna Harris, Christal Thompson, Khalia Whyte, Briyanna Jones, Erykah Camal and Demoni Gilkes. [Photo courtesy of Sewanhaka Central High School District]

14. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton To Appear in Elmont on Tuesday

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Former U.S. President Bill Clinton appeared at The Vault Café (now-closed) in Elmont On Tuesday, April 5th, 2016 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. as he campaigned for Democratic Presidential candidate Secretary Hillary Clinton.

On Tuesday, April 5th, 2016, none other than 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, appeared at The Vault Café in Elmont, as a stop along his campaign trail in support of Democratic Candidate Hillary Clinton.

Political implications aside, the visit by a former U.S. President is a remarkable event in the history of the Elmont community. Read the full story here.

13. Elmont Graduate Takes A Stand Against Cyber-Bullying, Hopes To Inspire Young Women

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Elmont Class of 2011 graduate, Stacy Pierre-Louis, hopes to inspire other young women with her fight against cyber-bullying. Stacy says her birthday makeover photo (above) went viral and received many negative comments on social media.

She got the idea to create a video response and start the #BeautyOverBullying movement from her best friends, Brenda, and Chazara, encouraging women to take selfies without makeup. “I am confident in who I am, flaws and all,” Stacy says. “The video is for girls who aren’t in the same place I am.” Read the full story here.

12. Elmont Graphic Artist Designs His Own Blueprint for Success

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“Find something you love to do, something where you can perfect that craft or hobby and invest as much time in it as possible to then make people want to see you do that as a career. In the end, it’s doing what makes you happy.” -Elmont Class of 2012 graduate, Oswald Wallace III, Professional Graphic Designer

An Elmont Memorial High School Class of 2012 graduate, Oswald C. Wallace III, or “Ozzy” as he is typically called, began drawing at an early age and cultivated this skill through self-determination and with support from his parents.

Today, Ozzy has started his own business and is taking the professional graphic art industry by storm, especially in the Hip Hop market where his work ethic has earned him collaborations with acclaimed artists such as Migos, 21 Savage, Juelz Santana, Fetty Wap, Remy Ma and Gucci Mane to name a very select few. Read the full story here.

11. Elmont Class of 2016 Valedictorian Named Intel Science Talent Search National Finalist

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Elmont Class of 2016 Valedictorian and Intel Science Talent Search Finalist, Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, is pictured here with two future scientists! [Photo courtesy of David Gaines of IntroducingNajwa.com]
Elmont Senior and Class of 2016 Valedictorian, Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, was named an Intel Science Talent Search National finalist in January of 2016.

Augusta was one of 40 finalists who earned an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. in March to compete for additional prizes, including the top three awards of $150,000 each. Read the full story here.

10. Fellow Alumni Join Elmont Graduate’s Fight Against Cancer

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Elmont graduate, Katiana Fongsam (’07), 26, announced that she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cervical Cancer on Friday, February 26th, 2016. Fellow Elmont alumni joined Katiana along with her friends and family to show love and support at a pancake breakfast fundraiser entitled, “Helping Our Kati.” [Photo courtesy of Katiana Fongsam via Go Fund Me]
Friends, family, Elmont alumni and perfect strangers showed an outpouring of support online for Elmont Class of 2007 graduate, Katiana Fongsam, 26, who learned back in February that she was battling Stage 4 Cervical cancer.

The Elmont native, who is described as “vibrant,” “silly,” and “outgoing” on her Go Fund Me Page, says she came into the year 2016 with goals just like anyone else but had no idea that she would soon be fighting for her life. Read the full story here.

9. Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, Lerone Clark Named Valedictorian and Salutatorian of Elmont Memorial’s Class of 2016

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Meet Elmont Memorial High School’s Class of 2016 Valedictorian (Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, right) & Salutatorian (Lerone Clark, left). [Photo courtesy of Elmont Memorial High School]
In January, Elmont Memorial High School named Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna as valedictorian and Lerone Clark as salutatorian of the Class of 2016. Augusta once said that she plans to become a doctor, while Lerone planned to study chemical engineering in college. Read the full story here.

8. Elmont Graduate Becomes a Doctor, Triumphs in the Face of Sickle-Cell Disease

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Elmont Class of 2006 alumna, Melissa Jackson (3rd from the left, center), continues to excel in her professional career beyond high school, but not without facing some tough challenges along the way. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Jackson’s Facebook)

Elmont Class of 2006 graduate Dr. Melissa Jackson has achieved great success in her journey, despite her continued battle with sickle-cell disease.

Melissa told us that if her story could help inspire or motivate anyone, especially current students, she would love to share it. Read the full story here.

7. Elmont’s Newest Esquire: Meet Darian Bryan, Esq. 

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Elmont’s Esquire: Darian Bryan, a graduate of Dutch Broadway elementary and Elmont Memorial High Schools in Elmont, proudly (yet humbly) pictured here on his graduation day from the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. Darian successfuly passed his bar exam and is now a lawyer! [Photo courtesy of Darian Bryan]
Elmont Class of 2007 graduate Darian Bryan graduated from the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University this past Spring.

After receiving his J.D., Darian took a prep course to prepare for the Bar Exam which consisted of daily lectures, practice problems, and individual review of different subjects. In all, it was about 8-10 hours of studying each day. Darian learned he passed in Bar Exam in the Fall of 2016, but insists the road was not easy. Read the full story here.

6. Elmont Alum, Goldie Harrison, Launches A Scholarship for Elmont Memorial High School Seniors

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Elmont Class of 2012 graduate, Desique “Goldie” Harrison, is making waves again with her latest enterprise, “Stop Sleeping On Your Dreams,” a scholarship created just for students at Elmont Memorial High School. [Photo courtesy of Goldie Harrison/Facebook]
Elmont Class of 2012 graduate, Desique “Goldie” Harrison, teamed up with her best friend, fellow Elmont native and New Paltz grad, Christine Rivera, to create, “Stop Sleeping On Your Dreams,” a scholarship fund exclusively for students at Elmont Memorial High School.

“Too many times, students think that they may not be good enough or that their dream job isn’t possible,” they write on the scholarship website.

Harrison and Rivera say they wish someone told them to simply “follow your dreams,” and to “forget the boxes that society places you in and [to] be exactly who you dreamed of being.” Read the full story here.

5. Target ‘Flexible Format’ Store Sets Aim in Elmont

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The 24,500 square feet “flexible format” Elmont location is located inside Plainview Shopping Center at the intersection of Plainview Avenue and Hempstead Turnpike.

Elmont welcomed its first Target “flexible format” retail store in December of 2016. The Target store replaced an Office Max supply store which went out of business. Other stores in that center are Home Depot and Marshall’s. Read the full story here.

4. Elmont Mourns Again: 12 Year-Old Elmont Student, Gabrielle Christina Johnson, Fatally Struck by Car While Crossing the Street to Elmont Memorial High School

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Elmont Memorial High School 7th grader, Gabrielle Christina Johnson was fatally struck by a car on the morning of February 1, 2016, while crossing the street with her twin sister, Courtney. [Photo courtesy of family]
An Elmont seventh-grader described by her family as a “star” was fatally struck by a sport-utility vehicle Monday morning as she crossed a busy street with her twin sister on their way to school, officials said.

This tragedy was the latest to grip the Elmont community in only a matter of months. Read the full story here.

3. Green Acres Commons: Plans Unveiled for a New Shopping Mall Experience in Valley Stream

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The Green Acres Commons shopping center, site of the former Sunrise Multiplex Cinemas, was built on 20 acres next to the Green Acres Mall. It officially opened in the Fall of 2016, and features several big-box retailers. (Long Island Herald/Macerich Company)

Anybody remember Sunrise Cinemas? 

In 2016, the site of the former movie theater was redeveloped by mall owners Macerich Company, and transformed into a new shopping center called Green Acres Commons.

“The new offerings at Green Acres Commons, combined with the strong pull of Century 21 and H&M as well as the strategic enhancements to the mall itself, make Green Acres an increasingly important destination for retailers and shoppers,” said a senior Macerich representative. Read the full story here.

2. Déjà Vu: Elmont Valedictorian, Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, Accepted Into 8 Ivy League Universities & MIT

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Elmont Class of 2016 Valedictorian, Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, has been accepted into each of the eight Ivy League universities and MIT, according to Elmont Memorial High School. Augusta is the second senior from Elmont in as many years to accomplish this significant milestone. [Photo by Elmont Memorial High School]
For a second consecutive year, an Elmont Memorial High School senior earned acceptance into each of the prestigious eight Ivy League Universities, not to mention the world-renowned MIT.

Class of 2016 valedictorian Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna made headlines when she and the school announced that Augusta had achieved a rare “Ivy League sweep,” just one school year after Harold Ekeh achieved the same incredible feat. Read the full story here.

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Daniel Alexis, 22, of Elmont, starts #TheGiveBackChallenge, encouraging others to perform acts of kindness and love on their birthday. (Directed by Elmont native, Shanel Charles/Sponsored by Elmont-based apparel brand, Hard Work Clothing.) [Image Courtesy of YouTube/Vimeo.]
In January of 2016, Elmont graduate, Daniel Alexis, released a video on his birthday that gained organic momentum quickly went viral on social media. The video amassed over 11,000 shares on Facebook and even landed Daniel interviews with CBS 2 News, a feature on News 12 Long Island, and other online magazines.

Daniel rounded up all of his friends in Elmont and set out on a mission to feed the homeless of New York City. Finding a new way to celebrate his birthday, Daniel documented his journey and created “The Giveback Challenge,” daring others to show the same brand of kindness as well.

“I believe the greatest gift God gave us is to give with love,” Daniel says in the Shanel Charles directed video entitled#TheGiveback, encouraging others to commit acts of kindness and love on their birthday.

Read the full story here.

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What a year it’s been!

Thank you all for your continued support. 

#HigherHeights

#WeAreElmont

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