Heather Black named valedictorian; Ava Pagano named salutatorian for DCS’ Class of 2024

a young woman with dark hair poses in a black top
Heather Black, valedictorian

Heather Black is the valedictorian for Duanesburg’s graduating class of 2024. She is the daughter of Mary Lindner and Steve Black. This fall, she plans to attend SUNY Fredonia, where she will major in applied mathematics with plans to go into actuary science and eventually become an actuary.

While at Duanesburg, Heather was a member of the volleyball team and served as captain. She was also in jazz band and book club, and was inducted as a member of National Honor Society. She received the President’s Volunteer Service Award twice.

Outside of school, she has worked part-time for the Capital Kids Care after school program for almost two years and volunteers with the Friends of the Schenectady County Library.

When asked about memorable teachers from her time at DCS, Heather said, “Mrs. Pless has really pushed me to improve as a student and has encouraged my creativity while still preparing me for rigorous exams and difficult courses. Her class is always so enjoyable and she truly cares about all of us which makes her class so lovely.” 

Heather said the thing that she will miss most about Duanesburg is the teachers. “I will miss my teachers here the most because I’ve built a good connection with most of them,” she said.

She was asked to give some parting advice for younger students:  “Turn in every single assignment and don’t take school so seriously. Don’t stress too much and do what you need to without making your workload impossible.”

a young woman wearing denim and black leans against a brick wall
Ava Pagano, salutatorian

Ava Pagano is the salutatorian for Duansburg’s graduating class of 2024. She is the daughter of Valerie Sobotka Pagano and Michael Pagano. After graduating from DCS, Ava plans to attend SUNY Oneonta, and will major in illustration and animation, with a minor in theater or media studies. 

Her dream career would be to work for Imagineering for The Walt Disney Company. “Honestly, I just want to be able to be a part of something cool. Whether I get to create or just be a part of a team that creates some sort of game, movie, show, whatever it may be, I think I would be fulfilled knowing that people love it, connect to it, or are inspired by it,” she said.

Ava was very involved with extracurricular activities during her time at DCS. She participated in Masterminds and was varsity captain for four years, played electric bass in both Jazz Band and Stage Band, and was a member of Art Club; Dungeons and Dragons Club; and the Gay, Straight Alliance Club. She was very active in Drama Club and played the part of Sour Kangaroo in “Seussical Jr.,” Kelsi in “High School Musical Jr.,” and Lionel in “Cinderella.”

Outside of school, Ava participates in Book Club, archery at Middleburgh Rod and Gun Club, and volunteers her time at the Regional Food Bank and the Schenectady County Public Library

She is the recipient of many awards, including the HOBY Student Leadership Conference and Graduate All-Star Award; College Board AP Scholar; Certificate of Merit through NYS Capital District Society of Women Engineers; RIT Art and Design Award; National Rural and Small Town Recognition Program Award Recipient, and was on the High Honor Roll every quarter since seventh grade.

When asked what she would miss most about Duanesburg, Ava said it will definitely be her friends. “I’m going to miss my friends 100%. We were a family and they were the people I found comfort and solace in every day. We did drama and D&D, and of course lunch everyday together for years. I’ll never forget those inside jokes, trips together, singing entire musicals in one of our bedrooms, and all the laughs and tears along the way,” she said.

Ava’s parting advice to younger students at DCS:  “High School is the time in your life where you get to figure out you, and what you want from life, so make sure you try out all the clubs or extracurriculars you can.”

Ava recounted Mrs. Dennison as a DCS teacher who left a lasting impression on her as a student during seventh and eighth grade social studies. “She inspired me to try new experiences and opportunities, despite my anxiety, teaching me that you never know what you’ll miss if you stay hidden in fear,” Ava said.