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Hudson Valley Press

June 5th, 2013

Students pursue dreams in mentor program

Onteora student Meghan Heidenberg (left) and photographer Akemi Hiatt prepare to take a portrait during Meghan’s presentation.

BOICEVILLE - "Follow your Dreams!" is the motto of Onteora High School’s Community Mentor Program, which offers students in Grades 9-12 the opportunity to explore passionate interests, intriguing hobbies, and even dream careers, thanks to the generous guidance of community-based professionals. This year’s program led to mentorships in fields ranging from photography to pediatric medicine, fashion to forensic science.

According to Program Coordinator Kay Goldbeck, students are paired with community members who have expertise in their mentees’ areas of interest. In addition to meeting regularly with their mentors, students carry out independent research. "The program culminates in a celebration during which students present complex, polished, authentic projects to a public audience," she said. This year’s celebration was held at the High School on May 23rd.

Among the presenters was Grade 9 student Jack Warren, who worked with Claude Dal Farra of BCDF Pictures, a film-production company based in Kerhonkson. "This mentorship has thrown me into the world of film, and I’m so grateful for that," he said.

Sarah Melvin, an aspiring astrophysicist, shadowed Woodstock-based astronomer Bob Berman. The junior attended some of Berman’s professional lectures, joined him as he hosted call-in radio shows, and observed his hands-on lesson to Bennett Intermediate School’s afterschool science club. For her final presentation, Sarah delivered a lesson on astrobiology to Bennett’s entire sixth grade class. Impressed with his temporary protégée, Berman declared, "Sarah is smart and has all the earmarks of someone who will go far in the sciences."

Junior Meghan Heidenberg, who was paired with photographer Akemi Hiatt (formerly with the Center for Photography at Woodstock and now with Art Omni in Ghent), created a photo exhibit as part of her final project. She also set up a photography studio in the cafeteria, offering free portraits to those attending her presentation.

Junior Dalton Evans’s interest in fashion design and merchandising led to his mentorship with Lou Deering, the proprietor of Changes men’s shops in Woodstock and Rhinebeck. Grade 10 student Myranda Polhemus’s mentorship with Head Pastry Chef Chrissy Balzar and her colleagues at Bread Alone Bakery in Boiceville allowed her to polish her baking skills. Other presenters included Schuyler Hayes, who explored veterinary services under the tutelage of Orman Leighton at Woodstock’s South Peak Veterinary Hospital, and Sella Rega, who learned about journalism with mentor Dan Burton of the Kingston Times.

Senior Jordan Bock’s mentorship with Dahlia and Bryan Graham of Fruition Chocolate in Shokan reinforced his interest in studying business in college - and taught him the secret to a successful career. "If you love what you do and work hard at it," he suggested, "you’ve learned the recipe for success!"

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