Owen D. Young Central School in Van Hornesville graduated eight students Sunday.

When Jessica McNally moved from Staten Island three years ago, she left behind a class of about 1,000 students. 

On Sunday, McNally was one of eight graduates at Owen D. Young Central School.
This year’s graduating class of only five females and three males was unusually small, OWEN D. YOUNG
Valedictorian: Jessica McNally. 

Salutatorian: Casey Hajczewski. 

Class President: Jessica McNally. 

Class of 2008: Danielle Belrose, Katie Combs, Joshua Fuller, Casey Hajczewski, Daniel Harvey, Jessica McNally, Michael Miller, Brittany Mortensen. even for a district with a little more than 200 students, interim Superintendent Lawrence Zacher said. Of those eight, only four had attended the district since kindergarten. 

Valedictorian McNally said moving to the district was “culture shock.” Once she came to know her classmates, however, she thought of them like family.
In her valedictory speech, McNally thanked her classmates and teachers for helping her through the loss of her father, and for always being there when she needed them. 

“To Brit, Dan, Josh, Mike, Casey, Katie and Danielle: thanks for everything. No matter where life takes you, no matter how far we go, please stay in touch.” 

Danielle Belrose, 17, said her class originally had about 20 students, but many moved or were held back over the years. Having only a handful of classmates, she said, was nicer than some might think. The students received more one-on-one attention from teachers, and they always knew the people around them. 

With that background, though, she said she does worry about what it will be like trying to make new friends when she starts college at SUNY Cobleskill next year. 

Zacher, however, said he felt very confident about the students’ abilities to succeed in life outside their small school. 

Fewer classmates, he pointed out, meant more opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities. 

All eight students either took vocational classes at Herkimer BOCES or college coursework at Herkimer County Community College during their senior year, he said. 

And several graduated with Regents diplomas. Six of the eight planned to attend college in the fall. 

“Think about this,” he said. “Every person here can say they graduated in the top 10 of their class.”