West Seneca East and West Senior High Schools provide real-world opportunities to students

West Seneca Marching Band is part of the Large School 2 Class.

By WSCSD Community Relations Intern Natalie Maloy

Success is where preparation and opportunity meet. Through the West Seneca Central School District, there are opportunities given to students that teach children you don’t have to see the whole staircase, just the first step.

Academy Programs
There are five academy programs provided for the students to apply for: business and finance, digital media, life science, visual arts and engineering. The academies give students the opportunity to start planning for their careers and succeed before they ever thought they could.

“One of the opportunities given is an internship. It gives the kids real-world experience to be able to add to their resumes and test out a career,” said Renee Day, one of the academy teachers. Many local businesses such as banks, insurance agencies, research labs, emergency rooms, doctors’ offices and more reach out each year hoping a student could become their intern. Academy students also take a business and education employability portfolio class to learn how to create cover letters and resumes. They prepare themselves to sell themselves.

Jason Perna, an art teacher at East Senior, believes art teaches you to become a much better outside-the-box thinker and there is always a different perspective to everything. In each student’s junior year in the Academy of Visual Arts, individuals work an extensive portfolio containing their artwork and get to showcase it to college professors, local artists and more to get advice or compliments on their artwork. Senior students have the opportunity to participate in an art show at Enjoy The Journey Art Gallery in West Seneca, offering the chance to have their artwork displayed at a professional art gallery. “A total of six kids sold work right out of the gallery this year,” Perna said.

Extracurricular Activities
There are multiple clubs and organizations offered throughout the district including DECA, a nationwide business club offered at both schools. “Through participation in DECA activities kids learn how to communicate their thoughts and ideas, how to organize a presentation, gain problem-solving skills and to be able to work together with other,” said Rio Harden, DECA advisor. DECA members strive to work with the community and gain skills to better their future.

Each year students compete at a regional DECA competition in hopes of advancing to states in Rochester, and WSCSD is proud to announce two junior students from East Senior won awards. Katherine Klein placed third in decision making while Andrew Beehler placed first in job interview. “It was an amazing experience I will carry with me throughout my entire life and professional career. I know this program will truly make a difference in a lot of young student’s lives,” Klein said. 

There is no power of change greater than a community discovering what it cares about. Key Club is an international service organization high schools all over the world participate in for students to be aware of how they can impact their community. Kelly Hart, a science teacher and Key Club advisor, explained, “Here at West we put together multiple fundraisers for students to give back to the community.” Each year, West Key Club holds a canned food drive for the Kiwanis Club, donates to a giving tree at Christmas and makes dog toys for the SPCA. Recently, West held a coin drive for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. “We in Key Club foster the giving nature that lays in the students at West,” Hart said.

Music Education
Music is subjunctive to everyone’s unique experience. Philip Farugia, a chorus teacher at East, wanted to clarify. “Music teaches kids confidence and to develop as a person with the ability or desire to tackle challenges.” Anyone is welcome to participate in the music programs offered, including band, orchestra, chorus and musicals. No matter who you are, where you are from or what your interests are, there’s always a place for you in music. “The music department might just become your second home,” Farugia said.

This year East offered a half-year guitar class taught by Farugia for students to partake in. Through this class, East students were able to perform in concerts for the school. 

“Music has helped me speak out and show my voice. I have learned skills that I can’t wait to use in the future,” said Andrew Beehler, a junior at East Senior who has participated in musicals such as “Seussical,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Peter Pan.”

Sports are a big part of the district. Various JV and varsity sports are offered for all three seasons during the school year for both boys and girls. 

“Sports are a big part of my life and it truly shaped me and my values and morals. That’s something good I took away from high school sports,” said John Speyer, a junior at West who played on the New York State championship varsity football team.

“I consider any sport a power sport teaching the team life skills such as preparation, sacrifice and types of work ethic. It’s a vehicle turning young adolescents into hard-working successful individuals,” shared Mike Vastola, a social studies teacher and coach at West Senior.

In each sport students are rewarded with awards and scholarships to attend college and continue the process of learning life skills. Jacqueline Rabey, a health teacher at West and indoor track coach as East, explained, “Track isn’t just running; it is a sense of discipline and being able to be committed to something. It is also great for your health and something to help with keeping momentum.”

Participation is the key to the start of success. At East and West Senior High Schools, students are given an abundance of options to start their ideal career path. The staircase may be steep, but sometimes the best opportunities in life aren’t always the easiest and they just might take a bit longer to achieve.

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