Four students, teachers honored by Rome College Foundation


ROME — Two senior students each from the New York State School for the Deaf and Rome Free Academy, along with an educator each student feels has had the most significant impact on his or her life, received certificates as part of the Rome College Foundation’s annual Student/Teacher Achievement Recognition program.

  • Recipients from the NYSSD were: Evan Hawkins with his most influential educator, Chris Kimball; and Cody Sharpsteen with his most influential educator, Susan Sharpsteen.
  • Recipients from RFA were: Lauren Dorfman and her most influential educator, Melissa Downs; and Dominick Cangialosi, and his most influental educator, Riccardo Dursi.
  • Suzanne Carvelli, president of the Rome College Foundation, moderated the annual event, held this year at the RFA cafeteria.  

Each student also received a $400 grant, made possible by the Rome College Foundation and the Sears Family Foundation.

Students were selected by the administration of each school using the following selection criteria:

  • One of the top senior students academically;
  • Strong SAT and/or ACT scores;
  • Participation in school and community activities; and
  • Excellent citizenship qualities.

Dorfman is the valedictorian of Rome Free Academy’s Class of 2022. She is also president of the RFA LEO Club, secretary of Rotary International, vice president of National Honor Society, recipient of the Clarkson University High School Leadership Award, team captain of the RFA varsity soccer and RFA softball teams. She has been accepted to the U.S. Naval Academy.

Downs has been an educator in the Rome City School District for 20 years, teaching chemistry and Advanced Placement chemistry. She has coached soccer for 15 years including three years as the RFA varsity soccer coach. Downs is a graduate of Virginia Wesleyan University where she majored in chemistry and minored in education.

Cangialosi is the salutatorian of Rome Free Academy’s Class of 2022. He was co-captain and vice president of the Vex Robotics Club, president of National Honor Society, an RFA Knight Guide, a member of the RFA varsity bowling team, and a member of Science Club. He is the recipient of the Rochester Institute of Technology Computing Medal Junior Award.

He has been accepted to Binghamton University and is interested in pursuing political science, education, and/or computer science.

Dursi has been an educator in the Rome City School District for 25 years, teaching AP U.S. History and is a member of the City of Rome Common Council. Dursi is a graduate of Rome Free Academy and SUNY Potsdam where he majored in history, education, and anthropology.

Hawkins has been a student at NYSSD since 2010. He came to America when he was 7 years old. Upon arriving to America he enrolled at NYSSD with limited language, but school officials say, he has displayed the motivation and work ethic needed to overcome many obstacles that he has faced. He will graduate on Friday with his high school diploma.

Hawkins will be completing his second year in the Culinary Arts program at Madison-Oneida BOCES, where he was awarded the Outstanding Student Award for the Third Marking Period of the 2020-21 school year. He is also a member of the NYSSD soccer team. Hawkins will enroll in the Culinary Arts program at Monroe Community College this fall.

Kimball has worked as the school counselor at NYSSD since 2011, providing counseling, both formal and informal, to students and is the coordinator for the school’s social emotional learning (SEL) instruction for the school.  

Sharpsteen has been a student at NYSSD since 2005 and is the school’s top performing student academically. In his junior and senior year, he enrolled in classes at RFA in an effort to prepare him for the academic rigor that will come once he attends college. He was selected for the Rome Science Hall of Fame. He is a member of the school’s soccer and softball team.

He will graduate with a Regents diploma and will enroll in Gallaudet University in the fall and major in history.

Susan Sharpsteen, who is also Cody’s mother, works in both education and residential programs at NYSSD. Susan is a positive deaf role model for our students and staff, officials said, adding she is quick to support our staff and students from pre-K through grade 12. She is an alumni of Gallaudet University and in the fall will see her son, Cody, follow in her footsteps at the university.


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