WELLSBURG - Toni Shute, head principal of Brooke High School, told those attending the first induction of the school's Wall of Excellence the occasion represents not only the accomplishments of the first five to be inducted but also the journey they took to achieve their goals.
And the inductees made it clear their years at Brooke High School played a major part in that journey.
Roger Clem, a 1996 Brooke graduate and assistant professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York; said he became interested in science at an early age but he's sometimes wondered where he would be without teachers - like Mike Rafa, who introduced him, who encouraged him to pursue it as a career.
WALL OF EXCELLENCE INDUCTION — Five Brooke High School alumni were inducted Thursday to the school’s new Wall of Excellence for their academic and professional accomplishments. Taking part were, from left, inductees Roger Clem and Pam Lazear Quinones, Mark Rihel, who represented his son and inductee Jason, who is in England; and inductees Craig Underwood and Darrell Velegol. -- Warren Scott
Clem has a doctorate degree from Carnegie Mellon and post doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. He has researched such issues as how emotional experiences leave a structural record on the brain, contributing not only to natural response to rewards and threats but also to addiction and posttraumatic stress.
Pam Lazear Quinones, a 1970 Brooke graduate and past president of the American Dental Hygienists Association; said she was fortunate to have grown up in a school system and community that taught her and others that with hard work, they could attain their goals.
A 1973 graduate of West Liberty State College, where she has been named to its hall of fame; she also is founder and president of Dental Hygiene Associates Inc. of Rockville, Md., a dental employment referral service representing more than 1,200 dental professionals.
She also has taught dental radiology to dental hygiene students and led a privately funded volunteer dental health clinic that provides dental care to people who can't afford it.
Jason Rihel, a 1994 graduate and senior research fellow with the University College of London's Division of Biosciences in England; couldn't attend but asked his father, local school principal Mark Rihel, to share his reflections.
Rihel, whose findings have been published in many scientific publications and who has been invited to speak on his research in Japan, France and many other countries, has studied genetics that regulate sleep and wakefulness.
But he said it was a different kind of dream that his teachers and classmates encouraged him to pursue as a student at Brooke. Rihel said over the years he's found that "Brooke High School's achievement ethos, philosophy and spirit are extraordinary."
Craig Underwood, a 1975 Brooke graduate and founder or co-founder of several businesses and nonprofit organizations, said when he came to Brooke at the age of 15, he was concerned about being popular but the school's warm environment encouraged him to focus on being himself. He said his teachers influenced him with the value of both hard work and creativity.
Underwood went on to launch the Air Miles Reward program in Canada, which employs more than 2,000 and serves more than 70 percent of Canadian households; and Sports Loyalty Inc., a venture aimed at revolutionizing traditional customer loyalty programs and the way businesses connect to sports teams and fans.
His nonprofit ventures include Year Up, a nationwide program that recruits and trains innercity youth for entry level careers in technology.
Darrell Velegol is a 1998 Brooke grad whose many honors include being named Distinguished Professor at Penn State University, where he teaches chemical engineering. For his success he credited many teachers, but especially Kay Bilal, who guided him, the only student in her advanced placement chemistry course, through two college textbooks and encouraged him to compete in various chemistry competitions.
In addition to writing numerous papers on a variety of topics in his field, Velegol has penned books on how students' interest in various subjects can be piqued by engaging them in a scientific-style investigation and goals individuals may set for themselves to bring about change to themselves and their communities.
Shute credited the idea of a wall of excellence to her father, former Brooke principal Tony Paesano, saying "He wanted it back in the 1980s and it's finally here."
Paesano said he was concerned that some believe the school has valued sports over academics, though students have been recognized for academic achievement in various ways.
Velegol recalled the pep talk he and other members of the school's academic team received from Paesano before going on to win the state academic championship and it was noted the team's pennant hangs beside those won by various athletic teams over the years.
Shute said in addition to being recognized on plaques on the wall of the school library, each year's set of inductees will be invited to speak at the school's academic awards program.
Following a dinner honoring them, the five inductees joined Superintendent Kathy Kidder-Wilkerson, Shute and the school's assistant principals at the program.
Since the early 1980s, school officials have recognized students who earned a 3.5 grade point average for each consecutive semester of their high school careers by presenting to each senior, junior and sophomore a gold, silver or bronze pin.
Receiving gold pins were the following seniors: Devon Ansell, Joshua Beck, Gabrielle Bennett, Olivia Best, Cassidy Bland, Casondra Camilletti, Abbie Carpenter, Ashley Clutter, Erin Conaway, Shelby Cronin, Kayla Davis, Adam Eckersberg, Kylie Greathouse, David Hardisty, James Harrick, Brandi Hawken, Emily Hone, Sydney Johnson, Megan Lancaster, Haley Law, Amanda Loughrie, Amy Marosz, Alyssa Neville, Shelby Richards, Lauren Shelton, Patrick Simpson, Brenna Smith, Ethan Sole, Caroline Staffileno, Noah Teaff, John Thompson, Rachel Trimmer, Alexandra Velegol, Cindy Wells, Alexander Wilson, Michelle Woodstuff and Sarah Young.
Receiving silver pins were the following juniors: Amber Adams, Lauren Altobell, Cole Armstrong, Hannah Armstrong, Emily Beatty, Jennifer Brezny, Kayla Bryant, Alexandra Burdick, Maddison Carroll, Krista D'Ulisse, Chessie Donini, Justin Elliott, Samantha Foresha, Natalie Fowler, Zane Gray, Paraag Gupta, Megan Hanlon, Jakob Heilman, Natalie Irey, Matthew Jackson, Andrea Jenkins, Mackensey Kohout, Jentzen Kowcheck, Emily Kubincanek, Jennifer Luck, Bradley Maderia, Reagan McClain, Casey Otto, Antonio Pizzuti, David Postlethwait Jr., Yasmeen Riggs, Olivia Sabatino, Kylie Sellman, Lindsay Six, Dylan Stephen, Hayleigh Sutak, Kylie Toner, Sarah Wagstaff, Jessica Wayne, Emma Wells and Abigail Yachini.
Receiving bronze pins were the following sophomores: Abigail Ayers, Hope Beatty, Alivia Brown, Jacqueline Carbasho, Katie Castellucci, Amanda Casto, Katherine Conaway, Daniel Cooper, Caitlin Cuomo, Dominique Deavers, Mekenzie DeFranco, Carlie Diserio, Matteo Filippelli, Lauren Fritz, Drew Garrett, Brette Geary, Alexa Gerrard, Jessica Good, Taylor Hair, Brittney Hawken, Natalie Henwood, Isaac Herron, Ashley Hinton, Cheyenne Hudson, Abbey Jackson, Kaylee Johnson, Tristan Kowcheck, Raeann Lahita, Thomas Lahita, Thomas Lancaster, Matthew Lazear, Justin Loughrie, Marco Marino, Madeleine Marks, Mara Miller, Dalton Minger, Lucas O'Brien, Sean Owings, Shyann Parr, Saegan Sacripanti, Kelly Schambach, Ty J. Sicurella, Taylor Simala, Jason Sprinkle Jr., Shyla Stroud, Gabriella Taverne, Alexis Turner-Davis, Ashley VanCamp, Logan Virtue, Ashley Watts, Alisha Wells and Morgan Zopp.