The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) announces Mahopac High School (Section 1) as the 2016 winner of its Community Service Challenge program.
“This is an award that means a lot to us and says a lot about what our school can accomplish,” said John Augusta, Director of Athletics, Health and Physical Education at Mahopac. “It’s an honor to win. We preach excelling in the classroom and in the community and the kids will really take hold of this award when they realize what they accomplished and the honor they are receiving.”
Established in the fall of 2010, the program encourages students to get involved in their local community and beyond. Students and schools determined and executed a project, then submitted the project to their Section and the NYSPHSAA office with a description, the participants, implementation plan, and project goals then finished with a reflection of their work. A committee reviewed the projects and determined the winner.
The Mahopac athletic program won the award based on the success of a “Senior” Prom, a lunch and dance put on by the Mahopac Student Athletic Council (SAC) for local senior citizens. The event is conducted the Sunday before Thanksgiving each year and takes place in Mahopac High School’s gymnasium. Starting in June of the previous year, SAC begins meeting twice per month under the advisory of Valerie Trefny, a school social worker, and Augusta. The SAC is made up of 50 student-athletes in grades 9-12 but by the time the event is conducted nearly 75 people, which includes non-athletes, parents and teachers, have their hand in the success of it. Since 2002, the event itself has been a themed catered lunch with a DJ playing music for nearly 200 senior citizens attending. The prom, which has been themed Western and 70’s in the past, is free of charge for the seniors thanks to the year round fundraising efforts of the SAC. SAC conducts numerous fundraisers including a cookie dough sale, bake sale and car wash to pay for every expense associated with the prom. Attending students dance with senior citizens and serve food after spending several days decorating and setting up the school gym for the event.
The fundraising and event itself “allows students to gain an appreciation for a forgotten part of the community, the elderly,” said Trefny. She and Augusta realize that students at Mahopac are taking community service very seriously and the student-athletes truly enjoy participating in the event each year. “It was really fun to give back to the senior citizens and spend the day with them,” said Tara Ravoli, a four-year member of the Student Athletic Council. Senior Andrew Winogradoff added, “The Senior Prom has been a long standing event that we take pride in organizing every year for our community. Seeing the youth and the seniors coming together to enjoy each other’s company is a great representation of what Mahopac’s community is all about.”
“I think what inspires our kids is the attitude of giving back, their willingness to support their community and their athletic program,” said Augusta. “The Mahopac community is at a level of involvement that I have never seen before with so many individuals and local businesses supporting the school, students and community. I think our students realize that and want to be a part of it.”
Six sections throughout the state submitted their winners for consideration of the State Champion award. Mahopac High School will be presented a plaque and recognized for their accomplishments at the NYSPHSAA Central Committee Meeting and Luncheon on July 26 in Verona, NY.