With a wealth of leadership experience, community service and academic excellence, John C. Birdlebough High School senior Catherine Musumeci recently climbed her way to the top of the applicant pool and earned a Coca-Cola scholarship.
The Phoenix student is no stranger to accolades, as she has earned numerous awards throughout her academic career, including the title of valedictorian of the Class of 2018. However, the Coca-Cola scholarship came as a surprise, she said, because there were so many students across the nation who applied. Of the 90,000 applicants, Musumeci was one of the 150 students selected for the prestigious scholarship.
“The application process was pretty extensive,” Musumeci said. “The initial application was basic, but the semifinalist application was more in-depth and asked for a statement of impact, two letters of recommendation and things along those lines. Then there was the regional application, which was an interview in New York City.”
For Musumeci, the extensive application process paid off in the form of a $20,000 scholarship, which she will use to pursue a biomedical engineering degree in college next year. Although she is still narrowing down her college choices – Rochester Institute of Technology, Boston University or Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – she has already mapped out her career path.
“I’m really interested in artificial organ research,” she said. “My sister is a Type 1 diabetic, so the artificial pancreas and the bionic pancreas project that are going on are really interesting to me. I would love to be a part of those projects.”
With an eye toward the future, Musumeci is looking forward to the remainder of her high school career and continued service to the Phoenix community. She is class president, a member of the National Honor Society, serves on the Principal’s Cabinet, and participates in tennis and track.
“The leadership skills I have developed coming from a small school and a small community have been very individualized,” she said. “That will benefit me going into a big university or the world in general. Phoenix has given me so many opportunities to be successful.”
Musumeci will be honored along with the other scholarship winners in Atlanta from April 19-22, where the recipients will also participate in the Leadership Development Institute.
John C. Birdlebough High School students had a stellar showing at the recent Scholastic Art Show.
Eight students now have their artwork displayed through March 2 at the Whitney Applied Technology Center at Onondaga Community College, Syracuse, to show Central New York residents how hard they worked on their pieces. The competition’s highest honor of a gold key was awarded to JCB junior Emily Forget for her photograph titled “Sunset over Troubled Waters.” She and her Phoenix Central School District peers were among the young artists in grades 7-12 whose 1,300 pieces of art were honored.
A silvery key award was presented to Nicole Henry for her photograph of “Strategy.” Honorable mention awards were presented to Chloe Calkins for her “Repousse” painting, Kearra Backus for her “Melting Pot” designs, Emilie Hilliard for her “Light Through the Forest” work, Gabrielle Crandell for her “Under a Spotted Sun” watercolor, Marian Sheirer for her “A Midnights Bloom” work and Vanessa Rivera for her “Flower” entry.
JCB art and photography teacher Chris Barrett commended the students for their efforts, and encouraged PCSD supporters and other CNY residents to attend the free exhibit.
JCB student Emily Forget proudly kneels alongside her winning entry “Sunset over Troubled Water,” which is
displayed at the Whitney Applied Technology Center at Onondaga Community College, Syracuse, as part of the
annual Scholastic Art Show.
Coming off a championship season in 2016, the Phoenix Central School District’s marching band had high expectations going into this year, and their final performance at the Carrier Dome did not disappoint.
The Firebird contingent, under the director of Nick Gerling and assistant director Michelle Rudy, cruised to a state title in the Small Schools 2 Class to cap off a stellar fall season. The winning show, “Life on the Inside,” was a transformative piece that combined props and music to propel the Firebirds to the top of their division with a score of 86.4.
“It means that all of the time and effort going into what they’re doing has paid off,” Gerling said. “It’s time well spent.”
While the Phoenix marching band enjoyed its late-season success, Gerling noted that the season had some challenges along the way.
“They started off slow and steady and we really picked up speed during our third competition at West Genesee,” he said. “After that, they were improving five to six points every week. The students stayed driven and confident, but knew never to get comfortable and always stayed humble. While the staff worked to inspire the students during practices, the students ended up inspiring us throughout the entire season too. Together we were a great team.”
Gerling said watching the students experience so much success is a testament to their commitment.
“They’re an asset to the music program. They’re dedicated, responsible, hardworking leaders of the district,” Gerling said.
Twelve students from the Phoenix Central School District were recently inducted into the Tri-M Music Honor Society, an international organization recognizing students for academic and musical achievement.
Criteria for membership includes being enrolled in a performing music ensemble and demonstrating service and character strength, as well as maintaining a minimum grade point average of 95 or higher in music and an overall average of 80.
The twelve students inducted this year were: Isabella Stacy (saxophone), Declan Hawthorne (voice), Garrett Strange (voice), Zaya Koegel (voice), Aidan Trumble (Trumpet), Natalie Brown (clarinet), Thomas Uhl (trumpet), Isabella Allen (voice), Gabriella Allen (clarinet), Lily Roberts (horn), Bryon Halstead (percussion) and Thomas Uhl (trumpet).
Phoenix Chapter Advisor Liza Grethel expressed great pride in the new inductees as well as all current members of the Tri-M Music Honor Society at Phoenix.
John C. Birdlebough High School students and staff members honored the nation’s bravest men and women by offering a special tribute in recognition of Veterans Day.
Local military recruiters from various branches and members of the local VFW Post 5540 honor guard graced the stage, adjacent to the fallen soldier battle cross, as student Catherine Musumeci offered touching opening remarks.
“Today, we recognize and give thanks to those who have protected and continue to protect our way of life,” she said. “Thank you to all who have served and who continue to serve.”
As the guests of honor saluted the flag and attendees stood proudly, JCB student Hannah Grabowski sang the national anthem before a series of video clips about Veterans Day were played. The crowd fell silent as Sgt. Erica Loucks, of the New York Army National Guard, recited the Soldier’s Creed, in which U.S. Army soldiers vow to be guardians of freedom and the American way of life.
Several students shared patriotic poems and the crowd collectively sang “God Bless the USA” and “God Bless America” before JCB students Dixon Ameele and Olivia Ripley presented Taps in honor of the flag that was folded for Teaching Assistant Katherine Lathrop, for her father who served in the military
JCB Social Studies Teacher Carol Blackburn, who organized the assembly, said she tears up each time she sees her father’s military photograph, which was featured in slideshow presentation, along with several other photos of JCB staff members, their families and former students who are veterans.
VFW member Bob Halstead said it was remarkable to see multiple generations come together to support those who have served and offer small gestures of appreciation.
“There’s no greater thing that can happen to a G.I. than to come home and be thanked for their service,” he said. “If you see a veteran walking in the streets, thank him for his service.”
During a recent Veterans Day assembly, members of the VFW Post 5540 ready to fold the American flag, which was given to John C. Birdlebough High School Teaching Assistant Katherine Lathrop, in honor of her father who served in the military.
With a focus on helping others, the Phoenix Central School District recently switched from its Firebird orange to a rosy pink during a recent girls’ volleyball match.
In collaboration with the John C. Birdlebough High School Student Council, the volleyball team wore pink shirts and helped raise funds in the hopes of Spiking out Cancer. Student council members sold T-shirts, baked goods and novelty items, while also holding a 50/50 raffle and collecting donations throughout the evening.
“The student council would like to extend its sincerest gratitude to our school and community,” said student council adviser Lisa Spereno. “Thanks to everyone involved, we raised $842 for Golisano Children’s Hospital. Student Council will be providing an additional $158 to send a check totaling $1,000 to the hospital.”
Spereno noted that student council president Natalie Hart and council member Emily McDonald worked hard to make sure the event was successful. Additional volunteers included students Catherine Musumeci, Makayla Newvine, Taylor Mattice and Lauren Schmidt.
“Thanks also to coach Matt Fuller and coach Anna Turner, the volleyball team and parents for decorating the gym and providing baked goods, Nicole George for helping to sell pretty much everything, and John Jeffries and Thomas Bailer for their absolutely unwavering support,” Spereno said. “It was also fantastic to see so many middle and high school teachers who attended the game!”
With a focus on making positive choices, students in the Phoenix Central School District recently wrapped up Red Ribbon Week with a guest speaker whose inspirational message left a powerful impact.
Jeff Yalden, a nationally renowned speaker, met with students at the middle school and high school to share his uplifting message and encourage positive life choices. He told his story as someone who battles mental illness and has overcome many obstacles on his road to self-discovery. That road, Yalden said, was paved with self-esteem, ownership and perseverance.
“I am a man with a mental illness, but I’m not a victim,” Yalden said. “Don’t ever play that card. Every single day you’re responsible for your attitude and your choices.”
Yalden shared personal stories of his family and his experiences as a father, a coach and motivational speaker. He focused on his journey to achieve happiness.
“Life is not about perfection; it’s about progress,” Yalden said. “Happiness comes from you. Stop waiting to be validated by your parents, teachers or coaches. Whatever you do in life, it starts with you.”
Principal Thomas Bailer noted that Yalden’s no-nonsense, “tell it like it is” presentation seemed to resonate with the John C. Birdlebough High School students. He encouraged the students to absorb Yalden’s message.
“There’s always an opportunity to make a positive change,” Bailer said.
After nearly 15 years as a social studies teacher for the Phoenix Central School District, longtime teacher Helen Abbott is getting acclimated to a different role this year.
Abbott began a position as the academic dean at John C. Birdlebough High School for the 2017-2018 year. Her familiarity with the students and faculty, combined with her passion for the greater Phoenix area, has made the transition a seamless one, Abbott said.
“I like working with the students and staff,” she said. “Phoenix is an amazing community, and I love being part of this community.”
Abbott noted that there have been changes to the Response to Intervention and Information and Communication Technologies initiatives provided at the high school. These changes, she said, will require additional support from a variety of personnel, but that is a challenge she is ready to tackle.
“I am looking forward to working with and supporting students and teachers in these areas,” Abbott said.
As a member of the Phoenix Central School District community, you can make a difference in the lives of local high school students. Phoenix Dollars for Scholars is proud of its tradition of providing financial assistance to our high school seniors. With almost all of our dollars raised going directly to scholarship funds, your contribution is vital to the ongoing success of Phoenix DFS.
In 2017, the Phoenix Dollars for Scholars awarded scholarships to more than 40 students totaling almost $50,000. This was possible thanks to generous contributions from community members like you. DFS Scholarship recipients are ambitious young adults who have demonstrated an ability to strike a balance between academic achievement, extra-curricular activities, family and social obligations, and community service involvement, among many other personal attributes. With the Class of 2017 launched, DFS is eager to focus on the upcoming graduating class.
The fundraising campaign for the Class of 2018 scholarships is now underway. Your tax-deductible contributions will allow us to recognize local students for their past achievements and support them in their future educational endeavors. Phoenix Dollars for Scholars is in their 31st year of this volunteer-driven organization dedicated to supporting deserving Phoenix students in their collegiate pursuits
A robotics opportunity is available for Phoenix Central School District students in grades seven through 12. The team, Firebird Sprockets, will meet twice per week from September through February. Students will build robots and compete against other teams as part of the First Tech Challenge.
For more information, or to register, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.