Southern Westchester BOCES names valedictorian and salutatorian of Class of 2024

Animal Science and Culinary Arts students recognized among peers

Southern Westchester BOCES Center for Career Services announced Amy Baez of New Rochelle High School as the valedictorian and Jae-Ah- Lee (Sarah Lee) of Edgemont High School as the salutatorian of the Class of 2024. Amy is in the Animal Science program and has enjoyed her time at SWBOCES learning about and caring for various animals. Sarah is in the Culinary Arts program where she enjoys growing her skills as a baker, as she creates decadent desserts. 

A girl smiling.

Both students said they were honored by the recognition and felt privileged to be recognized for their hard work and dedication.

“I’m very excited. At first I was shocked. There are a bunch of great students at SWBOCES, and I’m honored to be the valedictorian,” said Amy.

“I didn’t expect it. It was a big surprise,” added Sarah. “I feel that I had a very successful school year here at SWBOCES. I learned the most during the competitions, preparing for and taking part in them.” 

Amy and Sarah stated that they were driven by the competitions they took part in during their time at SWBOCES. It encouraged them to study harder and put their skills to the test. 

Over the course of her program studies, Amy's skillset has expanded and she often serves as a second teacher's assistant. She also supervises first-year students during complex animal care and grooming sessions, and works as a hired helper for the Animal Science program over school breaks. Her expertise in caring for the various exotic species has been described as exceptional by her teacher, Michael D’Abrruzzo.

Amy's journey in our animal science class over the past two years has been nothing short of remarkable. She started as an inexperienced, but highly motivated student, and has grown into a true leader in and out of the classroom, earning the respect of her peers through her dedication and hard work,” said Mr. D’Abruzzo. “Amy's transformation and contributions have been invaluable to our program, and I am excited to see how she will thrive in the animal trades.”

Amy and Sarah said they felt they learned valuable lessons through their respective programs and organizations that they took part in, such as SkillsUSA and most recently being inducted in the National Technical Honor Society.

Throughout her journey in the Culinary Arts program Sarah has dedicated time to perfecting her craft. She has spent countless hours enhancing her baking and decorating skills. 

A young lady smiling.

"It has been an honor working with Sarah and being a part of her journey. Sarah Lee has an extremely strong work ethic, natural abilities, and an incredible passion for pastry and culinary arts,” said Culinary Arts Teacher Chef John Damiani. “Sarah has demonstrated a level of consistent effort, growth, and integrity that I feel will follow her well into her career. I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for her, but I am confident that she will continue her path to greatness."

Both students attributed their success to centering their attention on the aspects of their chosen trade, which they connected to the most. They offered the following advice to their fellow peers: focus on your studies but also enjoy your time at SWBOCES.

This past year Amy and Sarah added to their growing portfolio as they competed in SkillsUSA competitions in February and April. Both came in second place in Animal Careers and Cake Decorating at the SkillsUSA Regional Conference, respectively. Sarah also added a silver medal to her portfolio for Commercial Baking at the SkillsUSA Spring Leadership Conference.

“Southern Westchester BOCES is privileged to have students who are so dedicated to their chosen career paths. Amy and Sarah have demonstrated a strong commitment to their studies and a desire to expand their knowledge,” said Dahlia Jackson, Director of the Center for Career Services. “We are honored to call them our valedictorian and salutatorian and wish them well on their continued path.”