Meet the finalists for the 2019 Newsday Marcus A. Henry Award.
This award, in memory of former Newsday sports reporter Marcus Henry, is presented annually to a Long Island high school student who excels in the classroom and in athletics, and also displays great leadership. The winner will be announced in the July 7 edition of Newsday and at newsday.com/highschool.
CARLY BOLIVAR, SEWANHAKA
Alex Soupios can’t come up with enough words to describe Carly Bolivar.
The Sewanhaka girls basketball coach has watched Bolivar come into her own since he first called her up to varsity as a ninth-grader, establishing herself as a dominant athlete, as well as someone who gives her time and her talents to things beyond sports. Throughout high school Bolivar has balanced basketball with her community, racking up victories and volunteer hours.
“She's the perfect example of what our motto is, our mantra for our program - good basketball players and good people,” Soupios said. “She's always willing to help other kids on the floor, was a role model with her work ethic and the way she carried herself.”
Bolivar led the Indians to their first Long Island championship this season and surpassed the 1,000-point mark, capping off a high-school career that has been full of historic moments for both her and her team.
“It was surreal,” Bolivar said. “In the beginning of the year I didn’t expect any of this to happen. I really appreciate everything that comes my way.”
Bolivar added that she prides herself on her competitive streak, a determination to find success in everything she does, both for herself and those around her. It’s a mindset she’s also taken off the court.
Bolivar volunteered as a homework buddy at the library this year, helping younger students in a variety of subjects, spent every Saturday morning serving food at her church’s soup kitchen and has worked with Girls Empowered Now, an organization that focuses on growing confidence in young girls.
“I’m basically a mentor for the younger kids now,” Bolivar said. “It’s meant a lot. These kids are going through things that, sometimes, other people won’t understand, so it’s good for them to talk to someone who can help.”
Bolivar also challenged herself in the classroom, taking AP literature and advanced chemistry with a 3.5 GPA. She’ll head to NYIT next season, playing basketball and studying psychology with the hopes of working in sports.
It’s another step for Bolivar, but she said she’s ready, looking to keep winning games and giving back, anxious to leave a legacy in another community.
“The other day I was walking in the hallway and one of my old teachers told me that I’d left an impact, not just with basketball,” Bolivar said. “He said we need other people like that and that meant a lot. It’s not always basketball, you can leave positivity through other things too. I think I’ve done that.”
- Laura Amato
JACKSON BRIGHT, COPIAGUE
Jackson Bright doesn’t slow down – ever.
The Copiague senior placed first in the Suffolk Division II pentathlon this season, and finished sixth in the same event at the state meet, but his jam-packed track and field schedule is far from his only commitment. Bright is a force in his community, seizing every opportunity to give back because, as he said, every opportunity is a chance to better himself and those around him.
“I feel like my life is not like most people,” Bright said. “I’m always busy, but I love that. I find that being more active allows for more experience and that isn’t a bad thing.”
Bright has racked up the experiences throughout his high-school career. He was part of Copiague’s student government and participated in the One Mind Club, a peer-mentoring program. Bright also helped organize the Key Club’s fundraiser, Pennies for Patients, which collected spare change for children fighting terminal illnesses.
Last summer Bright spent two weeks volunteering at the Kids Need More Day Camp, an experience he called “amazing.” The camp offers children who are battling illness, or have an ill family member, the chance to focus on, simply, being a kid.
“All the kids there, they have such different lives,” Bright said. “They appreciate every thing that’s done for them and it was beautiful interacting with them.”
Bright has also worked close to home, joining the junior firefighters when he was in seventh grade and spending time with the volunteer corps in his community.
“These people have such a heart of gold,” Bright said. “It’s a different type of person, not making money, but getting joy out of giving back.”
Bright has embraced every challenge he’s faced and, this year, that included academics. He boasted a 99.95 GPA, took four AP classes and has been part of the National Honor Society since 10th grade.
He’s committed to Binghamton, with a focus on psychiatry and pre-med and plans to compete in the multiple track and field events.
“He’s a fierce, fierce competitor,” Copiague track coach George Schroeder said. “It’s something I don’t see with too many kids. He can flip the switch and he’s really got a mature streak in him.”
Bright has no plans of cutting back in college. He considers himself a pro at planning now and this is, simply, the next opportunity.
“My grandfather told me that idleness is the devil’s workshop,” Bright said. “When I heard that, it stuck with me. I want to be involved in everything.”
- Laura Amato
KASEY CHOMA, EASTPORT-SOUTH MANOR
Kasey Choma has brought the same commitment that made her one of the top high school girls lacrosse players in the nation to making her community a better place.
The Eastport-South Manor midfielder earned Newsday Player of the Year honors in leading the Sharks to the state championship and was named the nation’s number one player in the class of 2019 by Inside Lacrosse magazine. She is also a two-time first-team All-Long Island player in both lacrosse and field hockey, but her impact extends off the field as well.
Choma has participated in Long Island Cares, a program that provides food for underprivileged children, collected and donated clothing to St. John’s Church and participated in blood drives and Thanksgiving food drives.
“Her work ethic is unmatched,” lacrosse coach Becky Thorn said. “She’s a coach’s dream and all-around great person, on the field and off the field.”
She also has been involved in the school’s Different Abilities Awareness Night, the Gains For Brains Lacrosse Fundraiser, and the “Adopt-a-Family” program for the last five Christmas seasons.
Additionally, Choma said she prioritized helping younger players, both on her team and in her community.
“I wanted to make them feel comfortable,” she said of underclassmen on the Sharks. “It can be hard with how intense everything is today, but I want to slow things down and build their confidence.”
As for even those at the elementary level, she gives her time to various youth lacrosse programs in the community.
“You get to build their game and show them the future, because everyone was that little at some point,” she said. “It’s so rewarding to shape them as players and show them that they can be special.”
Choma has done all this while maintaining 99.5 weighted GPA, while taking six AP classes and 12 honors courses. She has been a member of the National Honor Society since her sophomore year and was accepted into the Mendoza School of Business at Notre Dame, where she will also play lacrosse next year.
KAIA HARRISON, BALDWIN
Kaia Harrison has been a constant presence on both the Baldwin girls basketball team and her community.
Harrison helped the Bruins win six consecutive county titles, four Long Island championships, two state titles and a Federation championship. She was also a first-team All-Long Island player this season and is committed to Wake Forest.
In the community, Harrison has volunteered through her church and Baldwin’s PAL program. She has also volunteered as a part of district events, including Unity Day, the Fitness Jamboree and Basketball Shootout, which are geared toward getting elementary school kids involved in sports.
“She’s a once-in-a-lifetime kid, between the resume that she compiled and the type of young lady that she is,” coach Tom Catapano said. “She’s had a tremendous career, winning county championships and Long Island championships and state championships, but what really separates her is the kind of person she is.”
Harrison has proven to be a well-rounded student-athlete, as she is a high honor roll student, a violin player in Baldwin’s orchestra and a member of the Athletes Helping Athletes program.
She said that her role in the latter program is especially important to her, as it involves going to the district’s elementary schools and providing guidance for younger students.
“You want to try to push them and motivate them,” Harrison said. “We would teach them about perseverance and talk to them about making good choices.”
Harrison added that it was important for her to give back and mentor both youth players and younger players on her team because she remembers what it was like being a young player herself.
“I love doing it because I was a seventh-grader on varsity, and the seniors welcomed me to the team with open arms,” she said, adding that it helped inspire her to do the same thing. “I wanted to make them feel welcome and that this is where they’re supposed to be and also motivate them to be as good as they can be.”
Said Catapano: “She’s just a person who’s constantly giving back and she’s someone that everyone in the community really looks up to.”
- Sal Cacciatore
CHIBUGO OBICHERE, VALLEY STREAM SOUTH
Chibugo Obichere doesn’t see herself as a leader. And, for that, she’s in the minority. On top of being the best hurdler in the state – she won the 100-meter hurdles outdoor state championship this month – the Valley Stream South senior is tremendously active in her church and school.
“A lot of people say they see me as a leader, but I think I just try and set an example for the younger generation,” said Obichere, who will attend Penn State. “I care a lot about little kids – I want to be a pediatrician – and I think there should always be a good role model in every child’s life because then they have something to look up to. I think I just try and create a good example for my little sister and my little brother, and I just go from there.”
As a devout member of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Ozone Park, Obichere is a weekly participant in the youth group – talking to other teens about everyday situations that they may face and how religion plays a part in it.
Obichere said that the group will assist in teaching Sunday school classes to younger kids, organizing canned food drives for people in need, and visiting homes for neglected women. The church, which has always been very big part of Obichere’s life, gives her a sense of purpose.
“It brings a sense of community into a lot of the things that I do,” Obichere said. “They see the newspapers that I’m in and I’ll come to church and they’ll have it in their hands. They’re always congratulating me on everything. It’s just a sense of community and people there to support you at all times.”
Obichere – on top of bringing Valley Stream South tons of success and respect on the track – is an active member of the student government, serving as vice president of the senior class. Obichere said she’s been involved in student government since the eighth grade and loves the sense of togetherness that it brings to the student body.
“It taught me, especially this year, about leadership and how to organize so many people at once,” Obichere said. “Senior year was a really important year for all of us and we had to make sure that all the fundraising and meetings with the principal all went smoothly so that, in the end, we all got what we wanted. It was a successful year, where we had enough money to do things like prom and senior breakfast and everything that senior year comes with.”
- Jordan Lauterbach
KENNETH WEI, MOUNT SINAI
On the track, it’s all about Kenneth Wei. And why shouldn’t it be? Wei was the best all-around athlete in the state this year, winning three Federation state championships between indoor and outdoor track. But off the track Wei is all about others. As president of his senior class at Mount Sinai High School, Wei spearheaded fundraisers for charitable causes that ranged from helping needy families around the holidays to working with the Asiyah Women’s Center, an emergency shelter for Muslim women in Manhattan. And, for three years Wei also served as a teaching assistant for an AP Chinese and Culture course run at Stony Brook University through the independent Center for Chinese Learning.
“I see track as more of an individual thing for me and my team, but I want to give back to the community and let it be known that I’m not just this guy that runs track,” Wei said.
Wei continued: “. . . We do concessions at school plays and musicals. We sell cards during the holidays to try and raise money for families. We do something called ‘Adopt-a-Family’ in the winter, where we raise money with those holiday cards and try to gather a wish list for families in need locally and we buy whatever they request from us.”
Wei will attend MIT in the fall, looking to major in bioengineering. He developed a love for the subject after interning in the biology department at Brookhaven National Laboratories in Upton the last two summers. Wei will return to the labs this summer to finish his research, which focuses on plant DNA.
“We’re trying to play with the plant genetics to try and get it to produce more oil, Wei said. “That oil is used in stuff like bio fuels and industrial oils.”
While at Mt. Sinai, Wei completed 11 AP courses and was salutatorian of his class.
Wei also is an All-County flute player in the band and is an accomplished pianist who has played at Carnegie Hall as part of a concert for the American Protégé music talent competition.
- Jordan Lauterbach