High school…whether you loved it or hated it, you’ll never forget it. With graduation around the corner, we wanted to know what some of our neighbors thought about their high school experience. So we headed to the Orchard Square shopping center in Cross River and North County shopping center Goldens Bridge to find out. We walked away feeling very glad we didn’t have a fascist principal and hoping our younger readers heed some of this great advice.

(Editor’s note: The last response deals with substance abuse. We think stories like these are incredibly important, especially for our teenage readers. But we wanted to give you the heads up in case you’re reading this aloud to young children or are sensitive to that topic.)

Michael Brown, Goldens Bridge 

Katonah Connect: What would you change about your high school experience? 

MB: My principal – I would have a different principal. 

KC: What was so bad about your principal?

MB: He was militaristic, arrogant, a fascist – and I mean literally a fascist. 

KC: Did you ever get in trouble with him? 

MB: He insisted you sing the National Anthem after the Pledge of Allegiance. He would go around and spy on every classroom and if he caught you not singing– oof. He dragged me into his office and threatened that, if he caught me again, I wouldn’t graduate.

Tanya Vasilak, Goldens Bridge  

Katonah Connect: What would you change about your high school experience? 

TV: Nothing, I had a great experience. My high school years were fun and happy, and I have fond memories and good friends. I was happy then, and I’m happy now. 

KC: Did you have a favorite subject in school?

TV: I loved to study plants – how plants grow, and how cells divide to grow different plants. I found it really fun. 

KC: What is your career now?

TV: I’m a doctor, but right now I’m at home with my family and my kids. Maybe later I will go back to my job.

Mark Vaillancourt, Katonah

Katonah Connect: What would you change about your high school experience?  

MV: I’d go to a better school. My public school wasn’t a great education. 

KC: What could your school have done differently?

MV: I feel a young person at that time deserves quality education and teachers who are committed to teaching. I run Kennedy Catholic here; I give them all college prep, solid math, science, languages, APs.

KC: Did you have a favorite subject in school?

MV: I loved math and science, and it inspired me to become an engineer.

Chris Weiller, Katonah

Katonah Connect: What would you change about your high school experience? 

CW: I wouldn’t really change a lot, I had a great high school experience. Well, I guess I could have tried to build a better relationship with some of my teachers. I didn’t take advantage of the mentorship that I could have gotten. 

KC: Besides that, what did you like about your high school experience? 

CW: I always felt like everything was great about the diversity of the student body, and it was a really amazing place to go to school.

Clarence Thomas Carson, Hillcrest

Katonah Connect: What would you change about your high school experience?

CTC: I would not have started drinking at such an early age. When I was 17, I almost overdosed from alcohol poisoning. I was taken out of school on a stretcher, and I dropped out of sports my senior year. I ended up losing a lot of my friends. 

KC: How did that affect you outside of school? 

CTC: That led to 25 years of drug and alcohol addiction – drinking was the gateway to all the other drugs that I did. I also ended up homeless. 

KC: Wow! That’s an incredible story. How are you doing now?

CTC: I’m doing really well. I’ve been sober for 24 years, and I have a steady job.

Photography by Miranda Schloat

Cover Photograph by Hunter Brooks

+ posts

Kaitlyn Hardy is studying journalism and film at Emerson College. In addition to being a writer, Kaitlyn is also an avid reader, tea drinker, and movie watcher.