Editor-In-Chief Robert Schork on April's Successful High Schools Issue
What went into the issue, and what we got out of it.
Our High Schools Issue is one of our most anticipated annual offerings. Each year, we present a data chart populated with statistics and figures relevant to helping you evaluate how your public high school (and everyone else’s in the County) is performing. Recognizing that numbers tell only part of the story, though, we always go beyond the stats to profile some of the schools’ best and most innovative academic programs, recent achievements, and/or latest initiatives. This year, for the first time, we’re pleased to shine our spotlight on the schools’ athletic endeavors, by profiling 14 of the County’s most accomplished high school athletes.
Freelance sports writer Matt Spillane was tasked with identifying and interviewing the current crop of Westchester’s top jocks. “You never know how an assignment will go, because so much depends on how comfortable the interviewees are speaking about themselves, but I was definitely impressed by how articulate the athletes were,” says Matt, who played three sports (football, basketball, and lacrosse) while attending Kennedy Catholic High School in Somers. “They’re all still kids, and some of them have just entered their teen years, so for them to be so at ease communicating with a reporter is impressive. I’ve interviewed adults who have been nervous speaking to a reporter, but these kids had no problem expressing themselves and speaking candidly about their athletic careers.”
Among all of the athletes, two who really stood out for Matt were Bronxville High track phenom Mary Cain and Fox Lane varsity wrestler Matt Grippi. “Everyone knows about Mary and her reputation as one of the best runners in the country, but it’s just amazing to listen to someone who can be so humble, even with such immense talent. It’s one thing to excel in a sport in your immediate area, but to know that there aren’t many people your age in the country, and perhaps the world, who are better than you is hard to fathom. And Matt is so skilled for a young kid. He started wrestling against high school seniors as a seventh-grader, and, this year, as an eighth-grader, he established himself as one of the area’s best wrestlers. To be so confident and effective against stronger, more experienced competitors is eye-opening.”
In another first, this year we’ve also profiled a handful of our public high schools’ most successful alumni, reuniting them with the teachers who inspired them the most, or to whom they credit their success. “I connected with this assignment right away on a personal level, because my parents are both retired New York City school teachers and, growing up, I saw first-hand how many students’ lives they had touched over the years,” explains Features Editor Amy Partridge. “Also, my success as a writer and editor has everything to do with my high school English teacher [Phyllis Fichtenholtz from Curtis High School in Staten Island, now deceased]. She took a tough-love approach—and wasn’t always well liked because of it—but she constantly challenged us to hold ourselves to the highest standards. And her refusal to let me get away with ‘lazy’ writing still sticks with me today. So, it was fun to meet this group of local high school grads who also found inspiration in their former teachers and principals, and it was an honor to help showcase some of Westchester’s best educators, who provide encouragement to their students each and every day.”
Speaking of good writing, I’ve been gratified by the way our new department, “My Westchester”, is being embraced by so many of you. We’ve received several eloquent submissions, which we’re excited to share with you in the coming months. Keep ’em coming! If you’ve got a compelling story to share about your life and times in Westchester (be it fun, funny, serious, or poignant), put pen to paper (or fingers to keys, if old-school’s not your thing) and send us a 500-word essay about it. Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line “My Westchester.”