NEWBURGH – Two Newburgh Free Academy athletes, Haley Dando and Raj Patel have received the 2020 OCIAA Senior Scholar Athlete Award. The Orange County Inter-scholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Senior Scholar Athlete Award is given to a girl and boy in each member school. The four guidelines for selection are: top 20% class ranking, participation in at least one varsity sport, an above average athlete, and outstanding citizenship.
More about Haley Dando:
Haley Dando is a senior at Newburgh Free Academy Main Campus. As an athlete, Haley played Varsity Soccer for four years and was the captain for her junior and senior year. She also played JV Basketball, JV Softball, and Freshman Basketball. The Girls Varsity Soccer Team is coached by Coach David Doulin and Assistant Coach Jen Grogan.
Prior to attending NFA Main Campus, Haley attended Gardnertown Elementary School and Heritage Middle School. Next year, Haley plans to attend Wentworth Institute of Technology and plans to study Architecture with a minor in photography. Her favorite subject at NFA is math.
While at Newburgh Free Academy, Haley was also involved in an array of student activities. Haley is a member of National Honors Society, Science Honors Society, and Spanish Honors Society. She volunteers as a soccer coach to 3-4 year olds. She has raised money for families at Maria Ferreira Children’s Hospital through “Go the Distance Walk.” She mentors kids her age who are going through a surgery she previously experienced. Haley is also a Blood Drive Leader. Finally, Haley is a Sports Photographer for the NECSD website. Her photos can be found on the district website NewburghSchools.org/athletics.
When asked for advice for our younger Goldbacks, Haley said, “Go into every game thinking you are going to play your very best and win. Never go into a game already feeling defeated just because the other team has a better record than you.”
Throughout her time as an athlete, Haley has created amazing memories with her teammates. When asked for her favorite memory of playing sports she said, “Definitely the bond a team can create. Freshman and sophomore year the team was so close, I remember over the summer the older girls would come pick us up and we’d hang out probably almost every day when we weren’t at workouts.”
We wish Haley the best of luck in her future endeavors. She will always be a Goldback!
More about Raj Patel:
Raj Patel is a senior at Newburgh Free Academy Main Campus. As an athlete, Raj played Varsity Tennis, beginning in 8th grade. This year. Raj was one of the senior leaders on the team. The Boys Varsity Tennis team is coached by Coach Dennis Maher.
Prior to attending NFA Main Campus, Raj attended GAMS and Heritage Middle School. Next year, Raj plans to attend St. Bonaventure University and plans to study Biology, 3+4 BSDO program with LECOM. His favorite subjects at NFA are math and science. Raj plans to be a Doctor.
Aside from athletics, Raj has researched the relationship between the methods used by the hospital during and after C-sections and the incidences of TTN in newborns at Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital with Dr. Prabhakar Kocherlakota, a neonatologist at the hospital. His research was approved to be presented at a regional medical conference in March. He volunteers in the Emergency Room at Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital as well as shadowed doctors at hospital. He is a member of National, Spanish, and Science Honor Societies and acts as the Vice President of the Science Honors Society. He is a member of the NFA Concept Vehicle Racing Team (CVRT), NFA Debate Team, NFA Math Team, and Orchestra. He is also a volunteer coach for Goldback Tennis Club.
When asked who had a positive influence on his life so far, Raj said, “All of my teachers have influenced me in one way or another. From my AP biology teacher’s blunt but fair way of showing us the real world to my second grade teacher’s appreciation of life and death with our various class pets, I believe all of my teachers have impacted me in some way and helped shape who I am today. I applaud all of them for taking on the huge task of educating the next generation of our country. Even though they might not know it, they have had an effect on all of their students. They might have convinced a student to pursue a particular field of study because of their unique and insightful teaching methods or helped something positive happen with their daily conversations with students. Teachers are extremely underappreciated in today’s world because most people only see the superficial aspects of their job; they don’t consider the huge responsibility of education, the long hours put in after hours, and the lasting effects teachers have on our youth for the rest of their lives.
My parents and grandparents have also had a huge impact on me. Coming from a long line of farmers in a developing country, the odds did not look too great for my grandpa to become anything other than a farmer. However, through hard work and huge sacrifices, he was able to become one of the best engineers in the state of Gujarat (in India), the only one in his family to become something other than a farmer. My dad continued on that path and became the first doctor in his family and a well respected member of society. My mom had a good job as an accountant but stopped working to take care of my siblings and I. Through hard work and resilience, my family has built the best life I could ask for and has prepared me for my future. They have shown me that the product of hard work and honesty is success. Every time I feel like giving up because its too hard, I remember what my parents and grandparents had to go through and what they sacrificed to give me the determination to keep on going.”
When asked to share advice for his younger Goldbacks, Raj said: “Don’t forget that high school is the first step to the path that is the rest of your life. Make sure you are doing well in all your classes, even in freshman year. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it; no one will judge you for it because everyone else probably has that same question but is too afraid to ask. Make good and loyal friends and stick with them. There will be lots of people that are nice to you because they want something from you; don’t lose your true friends because they’re the only ones that will be there for you when you need it. If you can stay out of trouble and avoid the petty drama that is high school, do it; you just saved yourself from unnecessary mental stress. Don’t be afraid to try new things; join the club, try out for the team, take the classes that you want. Once you find what you love to do, stick with it and high school will be much more enjoyable. Don’t do things just because it’s cool or it’s expected of you, do what you like to do. Once you find your niche, stay there; don’t be afraid of expressing yourself and be proud of who you are. Also, don’t forget to have fun; your teenage years are stressful and it’s important to find time to enjoy your youth before you enter the real world. Lastly, remember that high school is just four years of your whole life; all the little things that seem like the most important thing in the world won’t matter at all a couple years later. Don’t get lost in the fairy tale that is high school; soon enough you’ll be an adult and have much more responsibilities, so enjoy it while you can because graduation will come faster than you think.”