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National Sports Academy holds final graduation

June 1, 2015
By MATTHEW TURNER ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - National Sports Academy held its final graduation ceremony Saturday, May 30 at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.

Emotions were high as the private winter sports school, which has been open since 1977, was set to close for good after the ceremony ended. The occasion had no shortage of happiness, sadness, laughter, tears - and a bit of locker room humor - but most of all the faculty, students and alumni thanked each other for what they described as the "NSA family."

Head of School Lisa Wint began the ceremony by thanking, parents, students, faculty and the school's founder, David Wenn. There was a small group of around 75 people in attendance at the LPCA's auditorium. Wint told the students she was so proud of them and to never forget their NSA family.

Article Photos

National Sports Academy’s graduating Class of 2015 hold their diplomas and post-graduate certificates on stage Saturday, May 30 at the Lake Placid Center of the Arts during the school’s final graduation ceremony.
(News photo — Matthew Turner)

"Now you have an extended family," she said.

Class of 2015 President Devin Peterson, of Connecticut, said he wanted to bring humor to the occasion and did so by roasting several of the members of his graduating class, who were mostly hockey players. Peterson told one of his classmates that when he goes on to be a pro golfer, he knows whom to thank. To another classmate, Peterson quipped that his bedroom was like Davey Jones' locker.

After the joking ended, Peterson said it was time to get serious.

"Being a student and alumni of NSA is something to be proud of," Peterson said. "This year to me, and for everyone, was a year of growth and development - not just on the ice but in the classroom.

"We built an everlasting bond, the chain that is NSA," he added. "I can honestly say with great confidence that there is no better school I could have chosen to attend for my post-graduate, and with honor I can say I am an alumni of National Sports Academy."

Valedictorian Burk McDaniel, of Montana, was described by head hockey coach Nick Unger as a "wonderful young man who made this year special for all of us.

"He was a shy kid who didn't say too much, with everyone following him around," Unger said, introducing McDaniel. "He was a natural leader by just being himself."

McDaniel said it had been his dream since middle school to attend NSA. But that dream wouldn't come easy. He said he had to fight for it, improving his grades and practicing to become a better hockey player.

"If somebody four years ago would have told me that I'd be NSA's valedictorian, I'd have told them they were crazy," he said.

McDaniel concluded by thanking his friends, the faculty and his family, for their support.

"Thank you Lisa (Wint), for all your work and dedication and never giving up on NSA, no matter how hard it was," he said.

Salutatorian Pierce Bartolo, from the San Francisco Bay area, told a personal anecdote about a time he busted a silly move on the dance floor during prom. He simulated the dance move for his graduating class, while onstage giving his speech. The point of the story, he said, was to show that fear should not stop you from your goals.

"Go out and conquer life dancing," he said.

After the student speeches, several awards were given to the students who excelled in academics and sports. Then NSA graduates from the Class of 2000, twin brothers Dr. Paul and Dr. Peter Statsko, spoke to the students about finding their meaning of life and measuring success.

After that, diplomas and certificates were handed out to the students. Wint spoke one last time to conclude the ceremony, saying the school's legacy will live on in the final graduating class.

"Never forget your NSA family and your time in Lake Placid," Wint said. "Bravo and congratulations."

NSA's graduating Class of 2015 includes David Brennan, Bartolo, Jacob Philippe Cornelius Gammelgaard, Lazar Lestaric, McDaniel and Andre Spens. Post-graduates included Liam Careen, Shane McNierney and Peterson. Student Hunter Church was recognized as an honorary senior.

For the roughly 10 students who didn't graduate, it will also be their last year at the school. School officials said they are working with the students and parents to help them find a new school this fall.



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