Village School celebrates individuals at graduation

Janelle Clausen
Nearly a dozen students graduated from Great Neck Village School on Monday. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
Nearly a dozen students graduated from Great Neck Village School on Monday. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Brianna Kohler said that a few years ago, she almost didn’t get into Village School because of a disciplinary record.

But the staff fought for her, she said, painting a fuller picture of her personal situation. And while she struggled in the beginning, particularly in biology, her teachers never gave up on her.

Now, coming off a senior internship at Mercy Medical Center in the radiology department, Kohler is set to attend St. John’s University to major – “of all things” – in biology.

“I couldn’t see it then, but I could definitely see now that this was the exact path I was supposed to take,” Kohler said, “despite how many bumps, hills and mountains there were to overcome.”

Kohler was just one of nearly a dozen students to graduate on Monday afternoon from Village School, an alternative school in the Great Neck school district with smaller class sizes.

The ceremony also featured Sam Dolgin, who embraced a love of guitar during his high school years, performing “Across the Universe” by the Beatles with teachers Stephen Goldberg and Sam Yellis.

Kathleen Harvey, the Village School PTA president, said students choosing the school “have chosen the road less traveled.” This made all the difference for her son Ryan, who plans to attend Hofstra University in the fall, she said.

Village School has embraced the concept of “Just Different,” Harvey said, catering to individual students, offering a more personal approach and teaching lessons in mutual respect and encouraging an appetite for learning.

“My advice to you today is to take those lessons and passions with you, bring with you your different views of the world – your difference and uniqueness is your gift,” Harvey said. “Take that gift and share it with your new college classmates, your new professors, your new peers. Continue to dare to be ‘just different.’”

Principal Stephen Goldberg urged graduates to embrace kindness, understand the benefit of doing the right thing and not let others define them.

“You deserve happiness. You deserve success. You deserve love,” Goldberg said, “And my hope is Village School has extended you a helping hand. I want you to have learned the benefits of kindness, but also of effort.”

This year’s Village School graduates are Taylor Bank, David Berfond, Annabella DeCeglie, Sam Dolgin, Fen Dougharty, Maxwell Fineman, Ryan Harvey, Brianna Kohler, Arielyn Rosas, Ethan Sanft and Emma Strassberg.

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