South Middle School Students Meet with Influential Citizens

By Kerry Butrick, Newburgh Enlarged City School District

Recently, students in the seventh grade Community & Government House at South Middle School met with influential citizens from the area who spoke to students about their experiences growing up in and around Newburgh. In addition, participants discussed why school is important and how to strive for a better life while achieving your goals.

Guest speakers included Jerome Pickett, a Secret Service Agent who has worked on President George Bush and Barak Obama detail, James Taylor of Taylor Recycling/Biomass, and Newburgh native Deanna Prisco, a New York City Police Department
Probation Officer.

Of the visit, teacher Jonelle Formato-Santo explained that the visit was well received by the appreciative students and the discussion inspired many students to change their way of thinking. “I am very thankful for the guest speakers. Living in Newburgh, a lot of kids would think that they wouldn’t become successful. But the three guests, Jerome Pickett, Deanna Prisco, and James Taylor are very successful and hearing them speak made myself and a lot of other students realize that it doesn’t matter where you live or where you’re from, but what you do with yourself and your life,” explained one student.

Pickett has been a Special Agent with the United States Secret Service for 12 years. In his time with the U.S. Secret Service, SA Pickett was assigned to the Presidential Protective Division (PPD) where he conducted protective advances under both the Obama and the Bush Administration. While a member of the PPD, SA Pickett was selected as a Protective Driver, where he drove the primary limousine for the U.S. President and visiting Heads of State/Government, to include the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. In addition to various professional accolades and experiences over the last several years, SA Pickett, a 9/11 survivor, was awarded a Medal of Valor by the United States Secret Service for his heroic actions following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Taylor, a graduate of Valley Central High School in Montgomery, is the founder of Taylor Biomass Energy as part of his family businesses’ commitment to waste reduction, recycling and reuse. He built the first of these businesses, Taylor Tree, Inc., into one of the New York Hudson Valley’s largest land clearing and tree service companies after buying the firm from his father, who founded it in 1956. Taylor led the firm’s transformation from a tree service business into Taylor Recycling, a leading recycler of construction and demolition debris. Taylor Recycling Facility LLC reputation grew even more as contractor for debris sorting/separating and recovery efforts after the World Trade Center disaster on September 11, 2001.

Prisco, born and raised in New Windsor, is a product of Newburgh schools, including South Junior High and Newburgh Free Academy. She attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice and has a Bachelors degree in Forensic Psychology and a Masters in Public Administration. In 2005, Prisco began a career as a United States Probation Officer where, upon their release from custody, she supervises offenders convicted of federal crimes. In addition she is a certified defensive tactics instructor, CPR instructor, and is in charge of an office wide health/wellness program.