Elmont MUN Wins ‘Outstanding Small Delegation’ Award in Washington, D.C.

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Elmont Memorial High School’s Model United Nations program participated in the prestigious North American Invitational Model United Nations Conference (NAIMUN) from February 15, 2017, to February 19, 2017.

This international conference had nearly 4,000 attending students from nations all over the world such as China, Pakistan, Denmark, Australia, Germany, Haiti, Nepal, Brazil, Israel, and India.

The talented Elmont students represented the nation of Bolivia, and some of the committee topics included demilitarization of space, combating terrorist financial networks, reintegration of refugees, drug trafficking, and natural disasters. Georgetown University students moderated all of the committees.

 

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Elmont Memorial High School’s Model United Nations Program enjoying dinner while in Washington, D.C. for the North American Invitational MUN Conference, Feb. 15-19, 2017. [Photo courtesy of Elmont Memorial High School]

Head delegates Marvin Pierre and Julie Nwaogbe, advisor Mrs. Nkenge Gilliam and chaperone Mr. Phillip Cabrera worked with the team diligently and the students worked very hard throughout the conference.

Ten individual committee awards were received and the delegation from Elmont Memorial High School received the OUTSTANDING SMALL DELEGATION AWARD!

Source: Elmont Memorial High School Model United Nations Program

Congratulations to each of Elmont’s esteemed delegates and dedicated advisors on yet another job well done!

#WeAreElmont #ElmontExcellence #1978 #HigherHeights

Elmont Senior Loses His Mom on ‘9/11,’ Remembers Her Through Photography

A picture is worth a thousand words and a lifetime full of memories.

Just ask Elmont Memorial High School senior and aspiring photographer, Sebastian Bass, whose passion for photography connects him to a bittersweet past but also to a promising future.

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Sebastian Bass (@shotbyseb) Photography

“I love seeing growth,” Sebastian told us in an exclusive email interview. The 17-year-old Brooklyn native has not only grown with each frame as a photographer but as a young man through real-life adversity as well.

“I can’t remember anything about her,” Sebastian said when speaking of his late mother numbered among those thousands who tragically passed away in the wake of terror attacks on September 11th, 2001. He was only a year-old.

Sixteen years later and now preparing for college, Sebastian’s growth has been evident.

Sony camera, lenses, editing software, and a limitless imagination are his tools of choice as Sebastian builds purposefully toward his dream of becoming a professional photographer. “I’m extremely excited,” he says about his next chapter.

Without further ado, please enjoy our interview:

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Sebastian Bass (@shotbyseb) Photography

Full Name: Sebastian Alexander Bass

Age: 17

Year of Graduation: 2017

Schools Attended: Alden Terrace Elementary School, Elmont Memorial High School

What is your life like as a high school senior at Elmont Memorial High? 

Life as a high school senior at Elmont Memorial High School is stressful at the moment. The only reason that it’s stressful is because college is right around the corner. Even though this is my last year of high school, as a senior you have to apply to all your colleges of choice and make sure that all the paperwork is in order.

On top of that, since I will be majoring in photography, I have to send in my portfolio which is nerve racking because I want to show what I can do while giving the college what they are looking for.

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Sebastian Bass (@shotbyseb) Photography

When did your passion for photography begin?

I’ve had a passion for photography ever since I can remember. I have seen pictures of me when I was younger with a camera in my hand. But, I didn’t take my photography seriously until a little more than a year ago.

Describe the difference between someone who takes pictures vs. a photographer?

Everybody can take a picture. Everybody says they’re a photographer. Not everybody is a photographer.

Technology has made it extremely easy for people to take good-looking pictures without knowing anything about photography. A photographer knows how to take a picture without using all this technology to do all the work for them.

A photographer also recognizes everything that is around them. They incorporate everything around them to create the best work that they can. Photography isn’t about just taking a picture. There is so much more that goes along with it.

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Sebastian Bass (@shotbyseb) Photography
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Sebastian Bass (@shotbyseb) Photography
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Sebastian Bass (@shotbyseb) Photography

What role does social media play in your photography plans? How, if at all, does it help or work against you?

Social media plays a huge role in my photography plans. Since everything is now on the internet, I use social media to grow my brand and show my work to others. I also use it to interact with other creatives and see what they are creating. It helps fuel my creativity.

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Sebastian Bass (@shotbyseb) Photography

How would you describe your photography style?  What inspires you creatively?

My imagination is a big part of my creative process. I’m always thinking of shots that I can take and how I can take them. Social media also inspires me creatively. When I’m scrolling through my feed, certain shots peek my interest and I start to think of how I can use that photographer’s shot and put my own spin on it.

Your favorite thing about Elmont:

So a little fun fact about me. I’m actually from Brooklyn. Nonetheless, my favorite thing about Elmont is that it is such a connected community. I’ll be walking home from school or walking in general and I can guarantee that I’m going to see someone that I know. Another thing that I like is that everybody is so connected. It is very easy to find out what’s going on in Elmont and I really like that.

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Sebastian Bass (@shotbyseb) Photography

Besides photography, what are some of your other interests?

Besides photography, one of my other interests is sports. I love to stay active and I will play any and every sport. My favorite sports to watch and play are baseball and basketball. Another interest of mine is playing video games.

My dad introduced me to video games when I was younger and I’ve loved them ever since. I play with my friends and every time we play we have so much fun together even though we’re very competitive.

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Sebastian Bass (@shotbyseb) Photography

One thing people would be surprised to learn about you:

One thing people would be surprised to learn about me is that I’m only seventeen. Yes, I know. Shocking. Most people think that I am way older because of my facial hair and my height but I am truly only seventeen.

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The most challenging life experience you’ve faced:

The most challenging life experience that I’ve faced would be getting over the death of my mother.

My mother was one of the many victims of the September 11th attacks. This is a challenging experience because I was so young when she passed that I can’t remember anything about her. I only know what I am told by people that knew her.

Name one milestone you are most proud of today:

Recently, I passed one year of being a photographer. This is huge for me because photography is something that I really love doing and I’ve stuck with it for a full year. I find joy in looking back at my pictures when I first started and looking at my pictures now. I love seeing growth.

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Sebastian Bass (@shotbyseb) Photography

Tell us what’s next for you:

My next step is college. If you didn’t already guess it, I’ll be majoring photography in college. I’m extremely excited to see what this new chapter of my life bring me. I’m also excited to meet new people that have the same passion photography as I do.

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Sebastian Bass (@shotbyseb) Photography

We sincerely thank Sebastian for granting us this interview. Great things are in store for this young man so keep an eye out for him! For more of Sebastian’s work, visit his website: http://shotbyseb.wixsite.com/shotbyseb.

#WeAreElmont
#HigherHeights

Formerly Undocumented Elmont Grad Becomes A U.S. Citizen, Finds Solace in Art & Illustration

Angelica Maria Melo was born in Colombia.

When Angelica was just six years-old, she had the unique responsibility of adjusting to a new country and learning the English language.

A little over a decade later, Angelica graduated from Elmont Memorial High School and was named the Class of 2011 Salutatorian.

She went on to pursue her college dreams at The George Washington University, in America’s capital, where Angelica earned her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts back in 2015.

Throughout this entire time, Angelica — and her family — were undocumented immigrants in America.

Now proud U.S. citizens, Angelica describes this moment for her family as “strange, but beautiful.”

“I’m finding it so difficult to explain,” Angelica confessed in our interview. “It’s like every year has culminated into this one moment. The moment that was spoken of years ago, while cleaning bathrooms, or houses, or painting, or figuring out how to pay for college ‘when we become citizens…’ [is finally here].”

We caught up with the Elmont grad  via email not simply to learn more of her journey as an undocumented immigrant, but also to talk about Angelica’s rekindled love of art & illustration — a medium she uses to highlight the immigrant experience — as well as her own adventures and misadventures.

Please enjoy our interview:

Full name: Angelica Maria Melo

Age: 23

Schools attended & areas of study: The George Washington University, B. A. in Fine Arts, minor in Biological Anthropology and Human Anatomy

Year graduated from Elmont:

2011

Tell us about “Kika Illustrations?”

I have always harbored a passion for drawing and making cards for friends and loved ones, but it had only just been a hobby. Once I decided that pursuing art as a career would be pursuing my dream, I created Kika Illustrations. Initially, it was to sell greeting cards, but then it became more of a platform through which I could share my art and maybe bring a little light into the days. For me Kika Illustrations is a space in which I can speak out and hopefully, one day inspire.

How would you describe your artwork or the world you seek to create with your art/illustrations?

With my art, I wish to give voice to the immigrant. I wish to create a world that understands that two cultures can exist within a body.

At the same time, I’d like to create an environment that is welcoming to the immigrant by creating art that speaks to their experience, celebrating the culture, the language, the struggles and the accomplishments.

In addition, my work with children has inspired me greatly, and I wish to write and illustrate bilingual children’s books with diverse and empowering characters.

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In what ways has art & illustrating helped you to better shape your understanding of our world?

Illustrating the world around me has allowed me to be less fearful about sharing my opinions and the way that I see the world. It has also allowed me to appreciate the dark and the light, figuratively and literally. One of my favorite things to do is to take an uncomfortable or difficult situation, find one strand of humor in it and make it into a cartoon.

no-inglish_voicenotheardDescribe Elmont in one sentence:

Elmont is a body of memories, culture, and inspiration that is constantly transforming and evolving.

Back in Elmont Memorial High School, did you have a passion for illustrating? If so, did you have any support?

While I was in High School, my interests lay more in Biology and illustrating was more of a hobby. I would doodle on the margins of my notes, or spend my lunch at the library working on a sketch just for fun.

If you had a time machine, what would you go back and say to your “younger self” in high school?

I would say “Hey, you’re right! Thank you.”

My younger self proved to be very wise. I recently received a letter I wrote my senior year to “My Future Self” and one of the things I wrote was “…but if you realized that your interest lies somewhere else that is FINE! As long as you are happy, you feel accomplished, and you are pursuing further education!”

Having changed career paths a year before graduating college (from the sciences to the arts), there has always been a shadow of doubt about having made the right decision. It’s nice to see that my younger self had an idea this would happen, and to be reminded of what is important.

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The most challenging life experience you have faced?

Being an immigrant (and an undocumented immigrant) has been the most challenging life experience. My family and I could tell so many stories about the things we’ve had to do, –the jobs, the places we lived in and misadventures with the English language. Among financial struggles, and feeling limited in the things that I could dream of accomplishing, there is this feeling of not belonging here nor there that I’ve struggled with.

I think it stems from being an immigrant at a young age, growing up in the states, but growing up latina. Having these two cultures that sometimes clash, not within you, but in the outside world.

Not being able to do things because I was an immigrant — because I was undocumented — was also very challenging as it felt that it was something I could not control. It felt unfair when I was qualified in all other aspects.  Nevertheless, I’m grateful and proud of this experience as it has prepared me for life, inspired, and shaped me into the person I am today.

What is one milestone you are most proud of today?

My family and I became US Citizens in 2016.  I’m most proud of that because of the years that led to it. Most of my life in the United States has been spent waiting and dreaming for this moment when a door of possibilities would open.  

I’m finding it so difficult to explain. It’s like every year has culminated into this one moment. The moment that was spoken of years ago, while cleaning bathrooms, or houses, or painting, or figuring out how to pay for college “when we become citizens..”  

To finally be at this moment is strange but beautiful, it feels as if I’ve entered a new chapter in life; one in which I can vote, and have the same opportunities as everyone else.

no-inglish_theonlyonenotacitizenHas any place, thing or experience in Elmont helped to inspire you creatively?

The view from my window inspires me every day. The window overlooks the cemetery and I get the privilege of witnessing the most beautiful sunsets.

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The best advice you’ve ever gotten:

“don’t lose sight of your dreams”

We wish to thank Angelica for sharing her time & insight with us! Special thanks to Elmont alumna Alicia Munian (’11) for the heads-up as well. Keep connected to Angelica and Kika Illustrations here: kikaillustrations.com.

By Karl Valere for The Elmont Excelsior, Inc. 

#WeAreElmont #ElmontExcellence #HigherHeights

Letter to the Editor: Edit Your Rhetoric for Evolving Elmont

Words by Alexandria Harvey*

If I were leading a seminar about Elmont, I would probably begin with the following inquiry:

When you tell people that you are from Elmont, what is their reaction?

If you are like me, you are all too familiar with the widened eyes, raised brows, and gaping mouths. Some recipients of our news try to hide their disdain although we lucidly see through the disguise. For those individuals who choose to speak, we all know what comes next: Oh, so how do you like it there? What’s that area like? So . . . how is it over there? I heard that area is a little rough.

I spent most of my first 24 years living in the adjacent Valley Stream. Not knowing too much about Elmont or any neighboring community, my perceptions of the hamlet were thin. My parents and I went to Elmont to visit the defunct Flowertime (defunct to the point that I cannot confirm whether the spelling is “Flowertime” or “Flower Time”), to take Nan to Western Beef (a shop that is alive, thriving, and clearly two words), or to dine at Gino’s with friends when Blessed Sacrament School allocated its students half days.

Just shy of seven years ago, I found myself purchasing a house in Elmont with my now husband, then fiancé, and herein my experience with raised eyebrows and gaping mouths began.

At first, I fell prey to the perceptions; virtually everyone around me marginalized Elmont, so I felt some pressure to believe their visions. Despite a lifelong proclivity toward and support of individual thought, I am, fortunately, my parents’ child in some ways. Mom, gone like Flowertime/Flower Time, and Dad, alive and thriving like Western Beef, did not subscribe to the marginalizing language that governs Long Island’s definitions of “good” and “bad.” In other words, I did not grow up surrounded by the denotations of these words that, as I later discovered, so many supported.  

Several years ago, I began asking myself why Elmont received this “bad” reputation.

My early and continued research into this inquiry yielded few fruits. The school districts have high ratings; Neighborhood Scout has reported a steadily decreasing crime rate over the past several years; the community has active associations; Elmont Memorial Library is brilliant; the hamlet is home to longtime staples: King Umberto’s, Teddy’s, Stop 20, Sapienza, and Barney’s Hardware, just to name a few; beautiful and capacious new homes are popping up in multiple places. Aren’t these features the hallmarks of a “good” community?

My passion for and intrigue in writing and words eventually led me to a reason: rhetoric.

While rhetoric is broad in meaning and scope, its definition certainly encompasses words themselves. Words are enigmatic as they are both powerless and powerful. Words, as Ferdinand de Saussure, a Swiss linguist, demonstrated, cannot properly capture the true essence of anything.

Saussure is famous for his “signifier” and “signified.” Take the word “bird.” The word “bird” is the signifier; the actual bird is the signified. The word “bird” has nothing to do with the true nature of the bird. It is the word “bird” that provides us with the image. However, it is also the word “bird” that limits our understanding of what the bird actually is. We cannot understand the true essence of a bird; therefore, we invent words to invent meanings.

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Source: Oxford University Press

Since we cannot access absolute reality, we must use words to create reality.

Maybe at one time, Elmont schools did not have the same ratings that they do now; maybe at one time, crime was increasing in the area. Maybe at one time, housing and businesses were stagnant. If that was ever the truth, that is not the truth now. If we never changed the words we use to describe a place, we would still call this hamlet a bucolic farmland.

And that is precisely why we must change the language that we use to describe the Elmont of today.

It is not okay to say “Elmont is bad.” Not only is it inaccurate, but these words come with real meaning. Saussure shows us that words are not simply vacant devices; words allow our creation of reality. When you use negative words to describe a place, you are making the place negative.

The language must change.

When I look at Elmont, I do not see “bad.”

I see a hamlet that needs a community center.

I see a neighborhood that needs more restaurants that serve high-quality food.

I see a space that needs more events and programs for its residents.

I see an area that has too many empty storefronts.

I see brilliant young people with ambition.

I see beautiful diversity that is unmatched in many, many other places.

I see families who have lived here for generations.

I see a phenomenal library, ready to nurture the minds of all who enter.

I see charm and character in houses that reflect individual style.

I see businesses that have stayed put for decades.

I see a cultural infusion of food.

I see schools where the teachers and administrators care about their students.

I see a community filled with magic.

I never said Elmont was perfect; no place is, but you must allow Elmont to have its positives and negatives, as other communities do. We must use words to describe the benefits of living here; we must use words to encourage change to obtain more of what our community craves.

Language defines reality. Language is used to marginalize because we use words to exclude others. Change the language that you use so that your words are inclusive and motivational. When you change your language, you change perceptions. When you change perceptions, you change reality.

To every resident of Long Island, Elmont is part of you. We are part of you. I am part of you. A team cannot function properly when many of its players scorn one member.

To the readers of this piece whom I know personally, please grant me this favor: The next time you hear people degrade Elmont—whether they blame us for crime in a neighboring community, shame our schools, or shame us in another way—explain the inaccuracy of these words. If you catch yourself using negative rhetoric to describe my home, please remember my words here.

To my neighbors, Franklin Square, Cambria Heights, Floral Park, Bellerose, Valley Stream, Rosedale, Stewart Manor, New Hyde Park, Lynbrook, Malverne, West Hempstead, Garden City, and all others who compose this corridor of the welcome area to Long Island, I support you. I support your businesses; I support your success. Support Elmont. It is in our diverse offerings that we all work together to build this intersection of Nassau and Queens. Give Elmont a chance.

To residents of hamlets that are also marginalized, don’t let people spew negativity about your community either. When you hear people describe your neighborhood as “bad,” avoid internalizing that language. Ask yourself the following: “Do I want to let other people use language to define my neighborhood as ‘bad,’ or do I want to use my language to define it as ‘good’ and to build a community that I love even more?”

To people seeking homes on Long Island, don’t scratch Elmont off your list immediately simply because it is Elmont. Evaluate it with the same criteria that you would any other community. Giving Elmont a chance on your list is giving Elmont a voice. Most of us want to experience some magic in our lives, whether it is of an ethereal or a corporeal nature; give yourself the opportunity to play a part in the blossoming magic that is today’s Elmont.

To my fellow Elmont residents, stop shaming your own neighborhood. We must stop apologizing for living in Elmont! Tell your relatives and friends about your visit to a local spot without the caveat that it’s in Elmont. Shop at our local stores and proudly verbalize your experience. Write reviews on Yelp as you would for any other restaurant and praise the fact that local business is thriving. Encourage your children to stay in this sparkling neighborhood when they search for their own homes. Elmont in 2017 and in the future is “the better” that you want them to seek.

Let’s use positive language to describe the positive experiences I listed above; let’s use positive language to fill in the gaps that I listed above. If you have a restaurant or store you’d like to see in the community, research the contact point and write a letter or email. If you are debating whether to open your own restaurant or business in Elmont or elsewhere, choose Elmont; play a role in that magic. Look at the success of new places, such as Red Snapper Seafood Kitchen, Target, and the Starbucks at Target; these spots are busy. The demand is here. Elmont residents want these changes. We must use our language to show we appreciate the additions and that we want more.

To my fellow Elmont supporters, Long Island is well-known for residents in one hamlet looking down upon residents in another. We know what it is like to have the worm’s eye view, so let’s not use that rhetoric to define other communities. You may feel that our school districts have better programs than some others. You may feel that Elmont’s streets are safer to walk than roads in other communities. You may feel that we have more to offer in terms of both growing ambition and current services than other hamlets. If your answer is yes, we do not need to vocalize those answers in the denigration of other communities. Instead of describing them as lesser, call to mind the Dalai Lama’s words and find a way to follow the concept expressed in the first sentence:

“Our prime purpose in life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

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Photo courtesy of LinkedIn

Alexandria Harvey is a pseudonym.

#WeAreElmont #HigherHeights

#GirlPower: Elmont’s Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna Joins Youngest of Forbes ’30 Under 30′ Recipients

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Earlier this month, Elmont native Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, graciously splashed into headlines once again when the Elmont Memorial High School Class of 2016 Valedictorian, was named to Forbes’ world-renowned “30 Under 30” List in the Energy 2017 sector.

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At just 18 years-old, Augusta joins rare company among 2017’s youngest recipients of Forbes’ elusive annual honor. 

According to Forbes, it is more difficult to make their ’30 Under 30′ list than to earn acceptance into any of the nation’s eight Ivy League universities. Luckily for Augusta, she was accepted into all of them — and then some.

One might say Augusta defies the odds if she didn’t seem to always bend them in her favor. The Forbes list achievement is only the latest in a series of milestones for the Elmont Memorial High School alumna, now closing out her freshman year at Harvard University in Boston where Augusta is pursuing a degree in Science.

“I am reminded that I have a responsibility to be a role model for others and use my experiences to encourage and inspire others, especially young women,” Augusta said in a statement back in 2016 upon learning news of her Ivy league sweep.

“My parents have always taught me the value of hard work, and I am very thankful for that,” she said. “My teachers at Elmont Memorial have also played a major role in my development.”

Augusta was recognized in the Forbes feature for her project, “Rheological Characterization of Attapulgite Nanoclay Modified Cement Slurries for Oil Well Applications,” which she conducted in the Civil Engineering and Mechanics Laboratory at Columbia University under the mentorship of Dr. Shiho Kawashima. The project analyzed oil well cementing practices, particularly those linked to the 2010 Gulf spill. [Sewanhaka Central High School District]

Elmont residents far and wide celebrated Augusta’s accomplishment on social media with thousands of Facebook “likes,” shares, and positive comments reflecting a unified sense of community pride.

In her 2016 statement, Augusta beamed with that same sense of pride. “My recent accomplishments reflect the hardworking ideals of the town of Elmont, my supportive parents, and my dedicated teachers. I am elated, but most importantly, I am thankful.”

Congratulations, again, to Elmont’s Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna for continuing to astound, inspire, and represent the Elmont community.

#HigherHeights #ElmontExcellence #WeAreElmont

Elmont Senior, Michael Bailey, Nominated for US Presidential Scholar Program

Source: Sewanhaka Central High School District

Elmont Memorial senior Michael Bailey has been nominated for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program.

One of only 25 New York State high school seniors nominated for the prestigious award, the Presidential Scholar recognition is one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students. The award honors one male and one female student from each state in the nation.

The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964, by executive order of the President, to recognize and honor some of our nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors. In 1979, the program was extended to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, creative and performing arts. Last year, the program was expanded to recognize student excellence in Career and Technical Education programs.

Students chosen as U.S. Presidential Scholars receive an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. in June and the U.S. Presidential Scholars medallion at a ceremony sponsored by the White House. During their visit to Washington, scholars will meet national and international powerful people including government officials, educators, authors, musicians, and scientists.

Principal Kevin Dougherty and the entire administration congratulate Michael on this outstanding achievement.
Congrats to Michael, his teachers, family, and friends on behalf of all of us here at The Elmont Excelsior! #WeAreElmont #HigherHeights

A Letter to Petro: 10 Years Later

Words by Sophia Sunshine Vilceus (Class of 2007)

A decade ago, on a cold February night, the legendary Elmont Memorial High School Basketball Coach and Guidance Counselor, Gregg “Petro” Petrocelli, passed away.

It was February 27th, 2007 — I was seated directly next to him during our Championship Game.

I can never forget my shrill to the crowd, frantically shouting, “Something is wrong with Petro!” when he collapsed beside me, or the loud yell that I let out in my bedroom when it was confirmed on News 12 that he indeed had passed away.

I remember every single, hard detail of that emotional evening.

So many of those memories, including when the entire Lady Spartans Team- along with our parents prayed for Petro in the middle of the cafeteria of the school where we were playing, are latched to so many of our spirits.

For me, it still feels like a horrific scene from a film that I try not to replay.

The way that I have personally coped throughout the years, is to let the warm and happy memories that I have with Petro and my fellow Lady Spartans outshine the somber and difficult moments leading up to his passing.

His passing was so abrupt. It seemed as though he had so much life and coaching left in him. There were so many words that were left unsaid.

Quite often, Petro imparted words of wisdom or quotes for us to adhere by on the Basketball Team. Ironically enough, that last season with Petro, his line that he gave us was “Unfinished Business.”

In celebration of his remarkable life and his legendary legacy, here is an open letter that I drafted in honor of the 10 Year Passing of my counselor, my friend, my coach — the incomparable “Petro.”

Dear Petro,

10 years later, the imprint you have left on my life is palpable. Though I can never fully capture the essence of you in one single letter, here are a few things I have gleaned and remembered because you lived.  

I will never forget how you took us to Children’s Hospitals to visit and play with those that were ill, to remind us how fortunate we were and that we were always able to be a beacon of light.

Hospitals always brought me tremendous anxiety, even as a little girl, so I was often very nervous every time we had to go. 

But every time we left, I felt grateful not only to have dedicated my time to making those young children smile but for facing and ultimately conquering a legitimate fear. Thank you for that.

I particularly remember your great distaste for Ketchup (though you were not allergic) and how we were not allowed to sit next to you in your office or at a diner if we were eating something with Ketchup.

I remember that you needed an Orange Gatorade for Good Luck during our games. I remember the tiny intricacies that made you so unique. 

You illustrated that we all had our quirks and to be proud to own them.

I can still taste the cold, stifling  November air as we ran up and down the track and the inclines of “The Sump” in our Pre-Season workouts. I dreaded those workouts for many reasons, mainly because I was frequently coming in last. 

But you taught me that everyone’s best looks different. You never made me feel inferior or dispensable. You showed me that there was always a place for me. 

Perhaps, this is why I enjoy running so much now. It doesn’t matter who comes before or after me in life, I am special and gifted in my own right.

I vividly recall our “Two-A-Day Practices” and having a full blown workout before the rest of the school even got to First Period. 

You taught me that early mornings and late evenings, diligence and preparation are what distinguish the mediocre from the exceptional. I carry that principle with me daily; in my career and in my relationships.

I will never forget the Fall of 2003 when I walked into your office broken, fragile, and hurting because my mother had just lost her quick battle with Cancer, a few weeks prior, and how you counseled me, set up bereavement groups for me, and just assured me that life would get better. 

You shared with me your own fight with Cancer and you gave me the courage to believe that I could be happy again. I am grateful that I have gotten to that Happy.

You were a figure, for many of us, who showed us care, concern, structure, and genuine love.  You exemplified exemplary work ethic and genuine goodness. 

Though I am saddened that so many people were not afforded the opportunity to know you, I am grateful that you have deposited so much goodness in so many people, that we are now able to sprinkle your integrity, laughter, and grace around the world. 

Thank you, Petro, for loving me and choosing me. I speak for so many when I say, “everything you touched, you changed.”

Rest Well My Friend,

Soph

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Sophia Vilceus graduated from Elmont Memorial High School as her Class President in 2007. She went on to The CUNY City College of New York to pursue her undergraduate studies, then to Howard University for an advanced degree. Sophia is currently based out of Maryland where she is an Adjunct Professor of English at the University of Maryland, Montgomery College, and Prince Georges Community College. She has been published in Heart & Soul Magazine and The Praying Woman. Sophia says her greatest life’s work so far is her new book, The Last Pew: Journeying Back to God’s Will After an Affair, available for purchase now at Amazon.com.