Superintendents honor seniors: ‘These are the students who are going to be our leaders’

  • Honorees and their families attend the Franklin County Area Superintendents’ Association annual awards dinner at the Franklin County Technical School Apprentice Restaurant Thursday evening. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Attending the Franklin County Area Superintendents’ Association annual awards dinner at the Franklin County Technical School are: front row, Lucy Koester of Pioneer Valley Regional School, Srichakrika Gudimella of Frontier Regional School and Lauren Ross of Franklin County Technical School; back row, Rory Cronen-Townsend of Greenfield High School, Sean O’Dea of Mohawk Trail Regional School, Paige Sulda of Turners Falls High School and Sienna Moore of Ralph C. Mahar Regional School. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Richard Martin, superintendent of Franklin County Technical School, welcomes those attending the Franklin County Area Superintendents’ Association annual awards dinner at his school’s Apprentice Restaurant on Thursday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 12/3/2021 4:51:02 PM
Modified: 12/3/2021 4:50:29 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Franklin County Technical School hosted the annual Franklin County Area Superintendents’ Association awards dinner to celebrate the achievements of local high schools’ shining stars Thursday evening.

This year’s ceremony celebrated seven seniors: Paige Sulda of Turners Falls High School; Sienna Moore of Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange; Lucy Koester of Pioneer Valley Regional School in Northfield; Sean O’Dea of Mohawk Trail Regional School in Buckland; Rory Cronen-Townsend of Greenfield High School; Lauren Ross of Franklin County Technical School; and Srichakrika Gudimella of Frontier Regional School in South Deerfield. Skyleigh D’Ambrosia of Athol High School was also recognized on the program, but word was received at the dinner that the school would not be attending the event.

“Please try to keep the names of these students in mind,” Gill-Montague Regional School District Superintendent Brian Beck prefaced the award ceremony with. “These are the students who are going to be our leaders.”

Turners Falls High School

Sulda was recognized by both Beck and Principal Christopher Barnes. The speech highlighted not only an excellent academic career marked by a 4.35 grade point average, but Sulda’s history of work within various leadership organizations, such as the National Honor Society, Student Council, Athletic Leadership Council and Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) student embassy.

“Paige Sulda is not simply an outstanding student but a leader whose example leaves an exceptional legacy of leadership, kindness and caring for others,” Barnes said.

Sulda said she felt “very honored to be receiving this award,” crediting Turners Falls High School’s community for fostering her growth.

“Turners has a very close-knit community,” she said. “Everyone is there for each other.”

Ralph C. Mahar Regional School

Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Teahan-Zielinski praised Moore as someone who oozed talent right out of the gate.

“Sienna entered high school like gangbusters,” she said.

Teahan-Zielinski highlighted Moore’s upbringing on a farm to credit for her eventual flourishing in similar arenas come high school. She recognized not only Moore’s high achievement in the classroom, but how she founded her own farmshare program and participated in the Junior Olympics as a pole vaulter.

“Sienna is an amazing young woman who will excel at whatever she puts her mind to,” Teahan-Zielinski said.

Moore said winning an award was “definitely exciting.” She anticipates being accepted to the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, where she was recruited for track.

Pioneer Valley Regional School

Interim Superintendent Patricia Kinsella’s speech was centered around Koester’s versatility and variety of interests. In addition to listing academic subjects, she highlighted Koester’s extracurricular investments, such as her volunteerism and participation in athletics.

“We at Pioneer Valley have a remarkable young woman in our midst that excels in all of these categories,” Kinsella said.

Kinsella added later in her speech that Koester is “a good and capable citizen of the first order” who has the “courage to speak truth to power.”

Koester thanked the staff and faculty at her school for creating “a really supportive and loving environment” and “making the world look bigger.”

“Coming from a small school, it feels really good to be recognized because expectations are a bit different,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to going off to college next year and applying all the knowledge and values I’ve learned at Pioneer.”

Mohawk Trail Regional School

Superintendent Sheryl Stanton recognized O’Dea as an “incredible peer leader” who effectively uses his “voice and energy.” She highlighted his 4.53 grade point average, straight As in full honors and Advanced Placement (AP) course loads, and his participation in the National Honor Society, Student Council, School Committee, and class office as secretary and former president. Stanton also recognized O’Dea’s extracurricular excellence, acknowledging his role as captain on the junior varsity basketball team.

“Sean is a shining example of all the qualities a Mohawk Trail Regional student embodies,” Stanton said.

O’Dea, who is looking to move to a more urban area for college to “broaden (his) horizons” and pursue computer science, said he is grateful to see his efforts recognized.

“I’m just incredibly honored to have all my hard work recognized,” O’Dea said. “You’re up late doing work and wondering if it’s really worth it. ... Times like these remind me that it’s worth it.”

Greenfield High School

Superintendent Christine DeBarge said Cronen-Townsend is “motivated, charismatic, polite and respected,” and “can truly be described as brilliant.” DeBarge praised the “wonderful diversity” in Cronen-Townsend’s course load and recognized her participation in the National Honor Society, volleyball team, theater and “Spectrum” LGBTQ+ advocacy group.

“This diversity shows her ability to excel in a wide variety of academics,” DeBarge said.

Cronen-Townsend made it a point to be honest, calling the ceremony “a lot of attention” for her.

“It feels weird,” she said. “I don’t really know what to think about it.”

She looks forward to connecting her diverse array of interests by studying sociology at a liberal arts college.

“I’m looking for a school where I can support my many interests,” she said, “and that’s important to me.”

Franklin County Technical School

Superintendent Richard Martin emphasized the excellence of Ross’ 3.96 grade point average, while also recognizing how she “stood out with her enthusiasm” in vocational studies. He also praised her for being a “standout student athlete” and being an All-Western Massachusetts softball player, as well as for her volunteerism with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County.

“That’s one thing you can never tell Lauren: that she can’t accomplish something,” Martin said.

Ross displayed a confident hunger to accompany her “astonishing feeling” of gratitude.

“I really just want to leave this school better than I found it and I feel that’s what I did,” she said, adding that her work isn’t finished. “I’m not done yet. ... This is an honor, but I didn’t work this hard just to get this award.”

Frontier Regional School

Superintendent Darius Modestow acknowledged that Gudimella’s “academic drive is deeper than just test scores.” He highlighted her versatility, praising her participation in classical dance, tae kwon do and volunteer work. Modestow especially emphasized her unselfishness and excellence in medicine, attributes he linked to each other.

“Chakri has a keen interest in helping others and an interest in the medical field,” he said.

Gudimella said she was thankful to have been “really involved in the community.” Going forward, she hopes to become a cardiac surgeon.

“I’m just really grateful that I get to represent the school and use this as a platform to help spread change,” she said.

To close out the ceremony, Martin expressed that the tradition of having an awards dinner reminds him how much talent Franklin County has to offer the world.

“I am absolutely, every single year, blown away by the accomplishments in this room,” he said.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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