In February, the Highland Educational Foundation holds their annual “Snowball Fundraiser” that provides teachers with funding for additional educational opportunities for students beyond the regular school curriculum. Superintendent Thomas Bongiovi said they awarded, “$1,000 scholarships to five different teachers in the district, each with a kind of outside-the-box unique idea for the classroom.”
Carole Crimi-Varoli, who is the President of the Foundation, highlighted how each of the teachers will use their $1,000 grants. At the Elementary School Colleen Gimetta will purchase additional STEM materials to enhance her 3rd grade curriculum; at the Middle School Elise DiGiacomo has invited a repertory company from Albany to perform a play about the Underground Railroad while Theresa Cilento and Michael Milliman are conducting a program that teaches kids bicycle mainteance and safety while promoting healthy lifestyles. At the High School, additional funding will allow Domonique Felicello to purchase a tent with a special logo for use at Flex program events that she takes her kids to during the school year. Band Director Daniel Shaut will use the funds to bring seasoned musicians to school to perform a ‘rock concert’ along with his young students.
Bongiovi said the Foundation also donates to the Presidential Scholarships at SUNY Ulster.
“We have five 9th graders who each have a full scholarship to SUNY Ulster and the Highland Educational Foundation is one of those sponsors,” he said.
Bongiovi said 2019 is very special because the district has established the Alumni Hall of Fame. The first two inductees are the late Benjamin Bragg, Class of 1943 and Dr. Kathy Magliato, Class of 1981. Their plaques will be hung in the High School auditorium.
Heather Bragg inducted her late grandfather into the Hall of Fame.
“I am very proud of him because I know it would have been something that meant a lot because school and community were so very important to him,” she said.
Heather was moved by the honor given to her grandfather. He was a WW II Veteran and established a successful electrical business upon his return home.
“It was very touching that at the first class they wanted to give one of the spots to him. It is just so fitting for everything he dedicated his life to,” she said.
Dr. Magliato is a 1981 Highland graduate and now resides in Pacific Palisades, California. She is one of a handful of female Cardio-thoracic Surgeons in the world and founded the Multidisciplinary Women’s Health Center at St. John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica, California. Magliato is also the author of ‘Healing Hearts: A Memoir of a Female Heart Surgeon’ that inspired the NBC show ‘Heartbeat,’ for which she was the Co-executive Producer.
Magliato traveled home specifically for this event.
“Highland is where I built the roots of my life and then I left and had all these amazing adventures in my life,” she said. “It’s so great to come home and be recognized for the work that I’ve done my whole life. My friends and family are still here and home is where the heart is and you’re hearing that from a heart surgeon.”
Magliato reserved a special thank you to, “all of the people of Highland who supported me. I’m the first person that I know of who went on to medical school from Highland High School and there’s been others after me. But I have to tell you...the town itself, the people in it were always so proud of me and supportive, and I tell you that is like having wings beneath your wings; it’s amazing.”
Magliato was shocked to learn that she was being honored back home.
“I never saw it coming,” she said. “The biggest thing about it for me is that we are in the inaugural class of this honor, so moving forward all these honorees will come after us but we’re the first and that is so amazing; that to me is what’s really special about it.”
Bongiovi said the first ‘Huskie Pride’ award was presented to French teacher Lionel Heath, who has gone, “above and beyond the call of duty,” for his students and the community.
Heath said he is just one of many who have helped the students in Highland.
“It’s great to be singled out but I think teachers in general come into the classroom to try to make a difference in the world,” he said.
Heath has accompanied many students to Europe over the years, noting that travel is one of the greatest of educational experiences.
“I’ve watched them become much more social and much more culturally sensitive,” he said.
Bongiovi said the Foundation will, “continue the education of our students well into the future, and just having people like Dr. Magliato and Mr. Bragg as part of this, continues to inspire adults and children; it’s priceless.”