George F. Baker Class of 2012

Next steps in life are ‘overwhelming’ and ‘huge change’

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  • Photo by Nancy Kriz Greenwood Lake resident Eli Villapiano sits on top of the George F. Baker High Schoolís white rock, which now holds the signatures of the Class of 2012. Those signatures are added to those of former Baker graduates.

TUXEDO — Eli Villapiano’s signature is now on the huge white rock with a red “T” dominating the front of it at George F. Baker High School in Tuxedo, as is tradition for all graduating seniors.

Tonight, Villapiano may be like any of the 105 students graduating from the area’s smallest high school who will pose for a quick photograph in their red or white robes to mark the passing of four years and the beginning of the next part of their lives.

And they know that while their Baker schooling is over, their education in whatever interests them academically or in life continues.

“It’s a little overwhelming because it’s a big step,” said Villapiano, who lives in Greenwood Lake and is captain of the school’s wrestling team, a member of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and a team leader and mentor for Safe Schools Ambassadors. “This is going to be a huge change, from high school to college.”

‘Maturity factor’
Villapiano will attend Middlesex County College this fall to study criminal justice. He plans to then transfer after two years to Centenary College, Keane University or the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to continue those studies.

“I hope to work with a state or federal agency,” he added. “I’m still open to anything.”

Like many others, he’ll be part of an internship this summer to get some basic introductions to the criminal justice field and even the college world.

“There’s always the maturity factor, being able to be responsible, time management,” he said. “And the fact that you have to stay on top of your studies. In college, you’re on your own. I’m pretty good now. I’m taking this all a lot more seriously.”

Villapiano knows an investment in knowledge is an investment in his future, particularly in light of finding work in a troubled economy.

“Having a high school degree is mandatory,” he said. “Even with a master’s degree, you’re fighting for a server job in Applebee’s.”

His sisters’ support
Looking back on his high school career, Villapiano thanked his family - particularly his sisters - for their ongoing support.

“My sisters mean the world to me,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to get along without them. They were my support in high school. I’m grateful that they’ve been by my side for everything.”

He is equally grateful for the educational and social experiences made available to him as a Baker student.

“As I look back, I cherish what I had at this school,” he added.

And what will Villapiano be thinking as he sits with her friends waiting for his name to be called and he accepts his diploma?

“It’s going to be a sigh of relief but it’s also going to be heartbreaking,” he said. “No one wants to leave high school. It’s one of the most fun times of one’s life.”

- Nancy Kriz

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