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VVS students shine at state-wide conference

Posted 3/25/23

Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Central School students were the stars of the New York Council of School Superintendents’ Winter Institute in March.

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VVS students shine at state-wide conference


VERONA — Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Central School students were the stars of the New York Council of School Superintendents’ (NYSCOSS) Winter Institute in March. Both elementary and secondary students shared inspirational speeches and powerful messages of inclusivity, diversity and acceptance. 

Seven students from W.A. Wettel Elementary set the tone for the Institute’s Opening Keynote, performing the speeches “I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King Jr. and “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman. These students were selected because they were the top seven performers in the Wettel Elementary Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Competition that the school holds each year.

“All of our teachers and staff support this experience,” said Wettel Principal Vince Pompo. “Most of the practice and inspiration in preparing our students comes from our Student Council Advisor, John Protheroe, but our families are also very supportive, often working with their children at home. It is especially amazing to see our families’ pride when they hear their child speak with so much conviction in front of a big crowd.”

“I was excited and nervous at the same time, but I love the speeches that we do,” sixth grader Lyla Werner said when asked about her experience. “They are so powerful and this was a great opportunity.”

“I like public speaking because it is a way to express yourself,” fifth grade student Nicole Collins added. “It’s fun to have a crowd listen to you and hear important messages.”

The students received a standing ovation for their performance.

On the second day of the Institute, eighth grader Ananya Bismark represented the student perspective during the educational session, “Listening to Students and Working Together for Change,” facilitated by Peter Horn, post-doctoral fellow in democratic and civic engagement at the University of Pennsylvania.

Along with her mother, Rashmi Bismark, VVS Middle School Social Worker Christina Ballard and VVS Superintendent Martha Group, Ananya shared her experiences as a bi-racial and minority student.

“The most important thing was showing the other superintendents that it’s important to get students involved, and to teach them how to get students of color to talk to them and share their experiences with them,” Ananya said. “I’m passionate about this topic and showcasing the value of student voice.”

Her mother also spoke from the parent and community member perspective during the presentation.

“For me it’s very simple: we can all know what we want to do and hypothesize about what we could achieve, but putting it into action is what matters,” Rashmi Bismark said. “That’s what many superintendents should take away from the session - anyone can create a vision and mission, but then you must get all stakeholders involved, including students, to take action.”

Group, who is the president of NYSCOSS this year, said she was proud to have VVS students share their talents and perspectives at the state-wide institute.

There are amazing students at VVS, she complimented.

“Our public schools exist to serve and prepare our students for success in the world we live in today, and for the world in which they will live in the future,” Groups said. “It is essential that we listen to their voices to appreciate their needs, hopes, and dreams, along with those of our entire school community.”


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