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Alumni Spotlight

Welcome to our Alumni Spotlight where we will feature alumni of the East Rockaway School District. The alumni spotlight is designed to keep the community up-to-date with all our students accomplish upon graduation.

Should you like to participate or contribute to the alumni spotlight, please contact Donna Robbins at

Alumni Spotlight

Kevin Shiel

ks Kevin Shiel is a graduating member of East Rockaway High School Class of 2014.  After spending his first few years of high school participating in clubs and sports, Kevin decided to get a job that would help provide him vocational training.  Kevin also started enrolling in Technology and Business classes while attending our high school, which he said helped him think outside of the box, learn how to work with his hands, and learn about the business of owning your own company.  Additionally, Kevin was accepted to an Electrical Technology program at GC Tech, a vocational school in Levittown, New York.  As part of this program, Kevin spent half of his school day at East Rockaway and half of his day at GC Tech.   

After graduating, Kevin spent a semester in college before ultimately recognizing that he was meant for a different path, and left to pursue his passion of running the family business, Shiel Enterprise Inc. Kevin’s advice to students is to “Make sure you consider all of your options.  If you have a passion or a craft that you are interested in, pursue it.  Make sure you do things to continue working towards your end goal even though it may not be the traditional path taken, or what everyone else wants you to do.  There are many paths that can be taken, and it is important to have all of your information to make an informed decision.”

Alan Owens 

After graduating from ERHS in 2000, Alan Owens went on to attend SUNY Delhi and SUNY New Paltz. He graduated from New Paltz with a bachelor’s degree in Business administration and Finance. Alan currently lives in Rockville Centre, New York with his wife and their six children. Alan is currently working in the family business in Lynbrook, New York where he owns and operates a trucking company along with a Logistics company. 

East Rockaway High School has helped Alan in so many ways. East Rockaway allowed Alan to be himself and form lasting relationships with his teachers and classmates.  His classes helped him prepare for college and learn the value of hard work and time management.  Alan also participated in many extracurricular activities, but most important to him were his involvement in Rock Rivalry and being a part of the basketball team.  These are memories that he takes with him to this day.  Alan looks back at his time in East Rockaway fondly and knows that his time spent here played a large role in making him who he is today.  Alan’s advice is to not be afraid to take risks and participate in things that you are passionate about.  East Rockaway has also helped Alan keep the memory of his brothers, Patrick and Kevin Owens, alive.  The faculty has helped out with many charity events and fundraisers over the past few years, and this is something that Alan will never forget.  The support he has received from East Rockaway is more than he could’ve imagined.  


Brian Dessart 


bdAfter graduating ERHS in 1997, Brian Dessart attended Nassau Community College, where he received his Associates Degree in Criminal Justice, and went on to receive a B.A. in Business Management from Molloy College in Rockville Centre. Following college, Brian had stints as the Director of Marketing and Community Relations for Richner Communications, currently located in Garden City, and as an analyst for Mizuho Corporate Bank in Manhattan. At the same time, he felt as if a career in journalism would be his best path, as it was a field that he was very passionate about since a young age. But he was also encouraged to take all of the police and fire civil service exams, as a way to fulfill an excellent, exciting and solid career. 

In Jan. 2018, Brian was hired as a firefighter with the FDNY, and he currently works at Ladder 121 in Far Rockaway. He states “It’s a life decision and career path that I will never regret — definitely one of the best choices of my life. The job is completely awesome, self-fulfilling and the people I work with are some of the best individuals I’ve ever had the opportunity to come into contact with. It’s great to have a team of colleagues — family — who always watch each other’s back”.

After being hired by the FDNY, and working to perfect his craft as a journalist, Brian was contracted by Sports Illustrated to start covering performance, fitness and action sports in 2014 — a position that allowed him to write stories from places such as Beijing, Moscow and Port-au-Prince. And since 2014, he has been grateful to receive the assignment to cover the Ironman World Championship from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. For many sports journalists, being able to write for and have a byline with SI is a dream that very few actually get a crack at. He was very lucky and beyond humbled. Then, in 2016, he became involved with SI’s NHL department and began hosting a weekly digital video series, titled the #NHLNugget, where we would give viewers a quick "60 seconds or less" historic fact about the National Hockey League, its teams and players.

Brian’s advice to the students of ERHS: “There’s no shame in being a bit jumbled and not having your life figured out when you graduate. I was literally all over the place, mentally — I couldn’t find my niche. But give it time, don’t force things upon yourself and end up being miserable. Carefully think out your career objectives, take chances and move forward. Don’t be afraid of rejection — it builds character. Be afraid of not trying in the first place. When someone tells you “no,” make every attempt to show them why they should say “yes.” Be persistent. Have passion. And everything will eventually fall into place”.


Ben Giliberti


ben photoBen Giliberti is an alumnus of East Rockaway’s Class of 2013. Ben received his Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training from East Stroudsburg University in 2017.  During his time at East Stroudsburg, Ben completed clinical rotations at 1 middle school, 3 high schools and a division 2 college, combining over 1,000 hours over his 4 years. He was also a member of the men’s rugby team for 4 years.

He currently is in his second year as a Certified Athletic Trainer at Valley Stream North HS, employed by Peak Performance Physical Therapy.  Athletic Trainers work in the prevention, management and rehabilitation of sports injuries. Athletic Trainers are healthcare practitioners trained in injury evaluation and diagnosis, emergency medicine, first aid, gen. med conditions and therapeutic exercise and modalities.  Ben shared, “the best part of the job is watching my athletes work hard and overcome adversity while competing at their highest level. Sports at ERHS was a major part of my life; athletic training was a way to stay involved and give back to high school student athletes by keeping them safe and provide a positive impact to a special group.”

Ben’s advice to ERHS students is to, “do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life.”

Vincent Arena


ERHS would like to welcome back from the class of 2013, Vincent Arena.  Vincent graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a dual degree in Mechanical Engineering and Design Innovation and Society in 2017.

Currently, Vincent is an Entrepreneur, building sustainable businesses focused on solving problems facing society and the environment. He has spent the last 12 months working on personal ventures and products, the main one being building a new coffee franchise starting in Long Island. One coffee shop is located in Island Park (Tazzetto Coffee) and another one is opening soon in RVC focused on innovation, sustainability, and authentic Italian food, coffee, and culture.  Vincent is also involved in public speaking, and he hopes to make this more of a larger part of his career moving forward. Recently, he gave a talk at Stanford University in front of 300 college students when he was a mentor for the University Innovation Fellows program.

His advice to fellow ERHS students is to “find a MISSION, not a major. Think about what impact you want to have on the world, then figure out how to get there - it may be a path that you never thought was possible.
Carry around a journal, reflect on every day and think about what you are grateful for, and what you will do differently tomorrow. Learning is a lifelong journey and shouldn't just happen in school.  

Critical thinking and creativity are the most important skills for a successful career, so question everything - if you are doing something a certain way just because that's how it's always been done, most likely it could be done differently, or better! If you focus your career on helping others, the money will come. If you are interested in starting your own business one day, being innovative is a mindset. Instead of looking for the next best ideas, look for problems. Once you find a problem worth solving, pursue it with all you got.” 

 Carly Howard


Carly Howard, East Rockaway Class of 2014, just graduated from Molloy College, where she majored in Nursing and is currently a Labor and Delivery Nurse. While attending Molloy College, Carly was a part of the Molloy Nursing Student Association, where she later became the secretary, then eventually the President of the association. Being a part of the club taught Carly to network, learn more about nursing, and explore the different opportunities available with nursing. Carly also got to represent Molloy College and the New York State Nursing Student Association at the annual convention two years in a row, 2017 in Dallas, TX, and 2018 in Nashville, TN. Besides being a part of the nursing association, outside of school, Carly worked at South Nassau Communities Hospital as a Nurse’s Aide where she got to build up on her nursing skills and get more experience with patient centered care.  

When Carly was at East Rockaway High School, she learned to juggle school, sports, and clubs. Being able to be involved in so much at school helped Carly prepare for college. Classes, clinical, running for Molloy’s cross country and track team for a while, and being actively involved with the nursing student association was a lot, but it helped mold her into the individual she is today. Her advice for future Nursing majors is to get involved with your college’s nursing club, get as much as experience as you can. For the rest of East Rockaway’s graduating class, get involved now, balance out school and clubs, it helps you stay organized, be involved, make friends, network, and most importantly, finding yourself. 

John J. Budion

john photoAfter graduating from East Rockaway, I went on to attend New York University where I studied Visual and Special effects for Film and TV. Concurrently, I was interning at several prestigious Post Production companies to put into practice, the theory I was learning in the classroom.

I graduated NYU in 2003 with my Bachelor's degree, and I currently live and work in New York City.  My occupation is completely influenced by my experience participating in the tradition of "Rock Rivalry," something unique and special to East Rockaway High School.  Being a part of RR opened my eyes to the many aspects of entertainment, creation of content, and the importance of working as a team.

In NYC, I am self employed as a Writer and Film Director, while also running a Visual Effects Company. I have a feature film titled "ROCKAWAY" that I filmed in my hometown of East Rockaway, releasing in early 2019.  The film reflects my love for basketball, which I played for 4 years under Coach Joe Lores, and the bonds of friendships that I formed in the village of East Rockaway.


Damian Amiruddin


damian photoI am currently attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for a fifth year to obtain my M.S. in Chemistry. At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute I participate in Rensselaer Chemistry Society, Sigma Chi fraternity and work as an independent researcher to write my thesis, Calcium Phosphate Synthesis using a Montmorillonite Template. I also participated in Relay for Life, Club baseball and J.V. baseball for the school team. I have also been a part of many community service events while attending RPI. A major notable one is Derby Days, a large event put together by my fraternity that donates the money obtained to the Huntsman Cancer Institute. After I receive my Masters Degree in May, I am hoping to obtain a job working in a laboratory setting. I greatly enjoy being hands on with the chemicals and my goal is to either work in a Research/Development or Quality control department in the government sector. My advice is to work hard and not try to coast by when attending higher level education. For me, there was a huge difference between high school and college. It was a huge awakening after receiving my first grade back that I needed to work harder and put more effort in to my work. 



Katherine Devlin

Katherine Devlin is an ERHS graduate from the Class of 2015. Recently she graduated from Nassau Community College and transferred to Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry where she is currently pursuing a degree in Social Work. While in school, Katherine is a Community Habitat Worker for adults with disabilities. It is her goal after graduation to pursue her studies at the graduate level and receive her Master’s in Social Work. Katherine plans to continue her work with adults who are disabled in a Residential Facility. Her advice for our ERHS students is to, “push yourself outside your comfort zone, don’t compare yourself to others, work hard but enjoy yourself and most important, trust your instinct.”

Felicya Schwarzman

Felicya Schwarzman is an alumnus from the class of 2013. She graduated in May 2017 from Ithaca College with a major in Music Education. During her time at Ithaca, she was a Leadership Scholar, Corresponding Editor and Editor for Sigma Alpha Iota (professional music organization). Felicya graduated magna cum laude and was also an ALANA scholar (African, Latino, Asian, and Native American Scholars) and received several merit based awards and service-related awards. One of her highlights was presenting at the American String Teacher’s Association National Conference.

She currently is a High School Orchestra and Guitar Director. Felicya is in her first year of teaching and teaches 9th grade orchestra and high school guitar ensemble, as well as, beginning a 3rd grade program at Half Hollow Hills CSD. She is also a SCMEA (Suffolk County Music Educators Association) Chairperson and is running the Division I West Orchestra All County Festival.

Felicya’s advice for all of the students at East Rockaway is “to be involved in as many activities as they are interested in. Trying out a bunch of hobbies, clubs, and sports contributes to discovering your interests that you can later pursue in college and later on in your career. Strive for excellence and don't be afraid to take risks. My biggest advice is to make meaningful connections with your teachers, professors, and other colleagues. Your network is so important and can really help you achieve your goals.”

Taylor Clarke

Taylor Clarke is a graduate from the class of 2014. Currently, Taylor is a student in Hofstra University’s Honors College, pursing a degree in journalism with a minor in American studies. On campus, Taylor serves as a transfer mentor for incoming students and is the News Editor at the campus newspaper, The Hofstra Chronicle. In the summer of 2018, Taylor will travel to Washington D.C. to work as a Junior Faculty Advisor for the Washington Journalism and Media Conference, a national event that is part of the Washington Scholars program that Taylor attended as a high school student! After graduation, Taylor hopes to work in the field of political journalism, aiding candidates on the campaign trail or being part of the communications staff of an administration. Some advice that Taylor has for the students at ERHS, “Follow your passion. Getting involved in a variety of activities and classes can really help you to pinpoint what you like and dislike. Once you find something you are really passionate about, hold on to it. Passion and determination will really take you far!”

Nadine Robinson

Nadine Robinson is an alumnus of East Rockaway’s class of 2014. Currently, she is completing a Music Therapy degree with a minor in Psychology. After graduation, Nadine will be applying to graduate school to pursue her PhD in Clinical Psychology. It is her hope to conduct research for Music Therapy and work with active members of the military to work toward lessening the effects of PTSD.

Berklee College has specialized music classes making it different than most schools that require liberal arts as a prerequisite for classes. Nadine has learned how to balance tons of school work, with liberal arts work and practicing multiple instruments for an allotted time every day. She is thankful for the ERHS music department and how diligent and passionate Mr. Schloen and Mr. Ceglio were throughout the band.

Nadine shared some advice for our ERHS students. “First, don’t write off the clubs or arts programs you’re in. I found my passion from being in the East Rockaway band through elementary school and continuing through high school. Don’t let anyone tell you that your hobby can’t become a legitimate career. Second, make sure you have a good work ethic. It starts with high school where your time management is key, and that never goes away. Whether it’s with homework or a work-study job or practicing an instrument, it all goes back to time management. But what’s most important in that time management is making sure that you take time to keep your head straight. Find that balance between working hard and pushing towards your passion without overwhelming yourself and causing mass amounts of stress. As long as you don’t lose sight of your end goal, you’ll be golden.”

Cody Hirashima

JS imageCody Hirashima is a graduate from the Class of 2012.  Cody received his Bachelor of Engineering degree from The Cooper Union and earned a Masters of Science in Chemical Engineering from Columbia. His internship experience at AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers) led him to his current employment as an Engineering Associate at the world’s leading organization (AIChE) for chemical engineering professionals.

Cody explains that his experiences at East Rockaway helped shape him for his current success.  “AP and Honors classes provided a taste of the increased workload and independence of college courses. These provided a good stepping stone for diving into the responsibilities and time management required to properly balance college life. I would credit my experience in AP Chemistry with driving my interest in pursuing Chemical Engineering, to explore the inner workings of how the world works and how to drive change that can directly impact and improve society.  I was a member of the Band and Drumline throughout my time at East Rockaway and also participated in Cross Country and Track & Field. I believe my experiences in these activities helped me to be a more well-rounded individual. Especially in band and drumline, it's important to have a creative outlet during your studies to ensure that you maintain a mental balance beyond a purely study focused mentality.”

The advice that Cody would like to share with the students at ERHS is that, “never hesitate to ask more questions, even a "stupid question" can lead to a lesson learned and never settle for "good enough". If you think your grades are "good enough" then aim for exceptional, if you always stop at good enough you'll never find that you can do something great.”

Josh Warner

Josh WarnerJoshua Warner is a graduate from the Class of 2012.  Currently, Josh is a full time Technical Director and Adjunct Lecturer of Scenic Design at CUNY York College. Most of his day is spent planning/mentoring students on how to build or actually building for one of the four productions per year. He also continues a freelance career outside of academia designing for various theaters throughout NYC and beyond. Josh opened 4 shows this past month and is looking forward to his Off-Broadway debut in February. 

Josh received an Advanced Regents Diploma from ERHS.  He decided to take 5 credits of tech courses rather than a foreign language, which allowed him the opportunity to be exposed to more visual thinking classes with tech teachers. Josh received a BFA from Emerson College in Theater Design & Technology with a concentration in Scenic Design. While in college, Josh worked part time in the carpentry shop, was involved in the student theatre and played a few games with the Quidditch team.  By the end of college, Josh had designed over 15 fully produced productions with his hand in over 50 others.

His advice to ERHS students is to “push yourself to try something that you may have an interest in - you still have plenty of time to decide if isn’t for you. Engulf yourself in what you love and don’t second guess your abilities. As I was worried about applying to Emerson and if I’d get in, Mr. Bishop looked up from his painting and said “If not you, then WHO do they want?” Believe that you are the best and push yourself to become that person.”

James Anemone

James_AnemoneJames Anemone is an alumnus of East Rockaway’s  Class of 2014.  James is currently a senior at West Chester University of Pennsylvania.  He will be graduating this May with a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance and a Minor in Music History. James explains that the extra-curricular activities that he got involved in at ERHS, including playing in the musicals, Jazz Band and Concert Band, prepared him the most for what he is now experiencing at college.

After graduation, he plans to attend Temple University to pursue a Master’s degree in Piano Performance. He resides in Exton, PA and operates his own Piano studio.  James still performs in many concerts and competes across the country. He most recently performed at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. 

The advice that James would like to share with the students of East Rockaway is, “students need to realize that it’s okay to be undecided with what you want to do. Attending college is your best opportunity to throw yourself into a learning environment where you live life to a new level of independence while meeting new people, and exploring different possibilities for future careers. Life is far more elastic and interesting than we sometimes make it seem, and opportunities are endless.  The most important thing for a High School student who is preparing for college or beyond is to simply take all of the opportunities that comes forth. Hardly ever say no because you never know which job, internship, or class you take will be life changing.”

John Machovec


John Machovec is an alumnus of East Rockaway’s Class of 2014. John recently graduated from Syracuse University and majored in Information Management and Technology.   He received an offer to join KPMG one of the Big Four Accounting firms in New York City and will be working in their Cyber Security Services Division.  John shared that many of the classes he took here at East Rockaway, especially honors and AP courses, helped prepare him for his experiences at Syracuse.  Being enrolled in these classes also allowed John to transfer 30 credits towards his Syracuse Degree. These credits put him in an advantageous position while applying and at college.  His advice would be to not underestimate what you can accomplish while still in high school. The work which you put in now can set you up in the future in ways you may not even anticipate.”

While in college, John participated in activities outside of his academics. He chose clubs and internship experiences that were related to his major/career choice.  John discussed, “as president of the Cyber Security Club, I participated in national competitions against other schools, branches of the military, hackers and information security professionals. Our team placed in multiple national competitions winning cash prizes and the opportunity to meet the best in the field.”   John also worked as an information security intern with Sony Music at The Orchard, the industry’s leading independent distributor and label services company.

Jonathan Schloth

JS imageJonathan Schloth an alumnus of East Rockaway’s Class of 2014. Currently Jonathan is a Junior at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Jonathan shared that many of the classes he took at East Rockaway helped prepare him for the more intense workload of college. He believes that more students should get involved in college level classes that are offered at ERHS to “help the transition from high school to college.”

Jonathan has had some great experiences while at George Mason University. He is currently in an accelerated Master’s program and will be graduating in the spring of 2019.  He hopes to become a social studies teacher upon graduation.  This field has lead Jonathan to have professors that are historians, former Congressmen, lawyers, etc. Jonathan states “These are not only experts in their field, but they are experts in how we learn their content. I have not only learned facts, but critical thinking skills on a very high level that allow me to formulate rational thoughts and opinions.”

Jonathan has an extremely demanding schedule, where he has learned to balance his academics and being an athlete at a Division 1 school.  He is a member of the Cross Country/Track team.  One of the many positives of college athletics is having a consistent schedule.   His schedule consists of on most days, wake up, morning run, class in the morning/afternoon, then do homework, next go to practice for 3-4 hours. Then go get dinner with the team and do some more homework. Then I wake up the next morning and repeat. There simply isn’t the time to slack off. 

Jonathan plans to return to Long Island after he graduates to pursue a full time teaching position.  The advice he would like to share with the ERHS students is, “to take a variety of classes in high school to see what interests you, but to also challenge yourself to a more vigorous workload. If you get accustomed to the work of the harder classes, the transition to college will be so much easier. Don’t try and coast through high school even if you do not plan on going onto college. The skills you gain from learning to work hard can be applicable to anything students do in life.”