Kai Haskins at graduation.

Ithaca, N.Y. — Periodically, over the next few weeks, The Ithaca Voice will be highlighting some of the many talented class of 2014 graduates from high schools across Ithaca and Tompkins County.

We start today with the New Roots Charter School, where Kai Haskins, Amanda Vorassi and Jessica Meyer have certainly made their presences felt.

The three graduated with their peers at the State Theatre on June 27.

(Know a talented recent graduate The Ithaca Voice should celebrate? Email me at jstein@ithacavoice.com.)

To Haskins, Vorassi and Meyer: Congrats on your accomplishments — and know that whatever comes next, Ithaca will be cheering you on.

Without further ado…


 Kai Haskins: Activist, environmentalist, dramatist

Kai Haskins, from Freeville, graduated with honors from New Roots Charter School on June 27. Accepted to the University of Michigan and the University of Massachusetts, Haskins will be going to Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., ranked first for entrepreneurialism by The U.S. News & World Report.

Kai Haskins at graduation.

Haskins, who received awards for 100 percent of his college costs, will pursue a bachelor’s degree in science in business and entrepreneurship with a concentration in environmental sustainability.

Haskins joined New Roots as a freshman in the school’s second year and served as the student representative to the Board of Trustees for two years. School officials say he was instrumental in helping form the school’s culture, taking leadership roles in the New Roots theatre program, the honors program and student orientation team. He was recognized with the Tompkins County Distinguished Youth Award in 2013, nominated by Dr. Sandra Steingraber for his efforts as a local environmental activist.

In his junior year, Haskins co-founded the Take Ten Theatre Company, a collaboration among students from New Roots, Lehman Alternative Community School, Ithaca High School, and the homeschooling community. He directed three productions for Take Ten. In addition to starring in New Roots theatrical productions, Haskins performed in productions for Running to Places, Shakespeare in the Basement, R2P2, Theatre in Cognita, and Wolfs Mouth Theatre during the course of his high school career.

Prior to New Roots, Haskins was home schooled, attending the Northern Lights Learning Center. When in high school, Haskins volunteered his time teaching theater classes at Northern Lights. This summer, Haskins will be teaching Next Generation Summer Camp with the Hanger Theatre.


Amanda Vorassi: A legal eagle with a mind for art

After graduating from New Roots, Amanda Vorassi will study pre-law, criminal justice and psychology at Sage College in Albany, where she has been accepted into the Law and Society program.

Amanda Vorassi

Vorassi was granted $11,000/year in scholarships, including the Deans Honor Award of $5,000. She told New Roots staff that she chose Sage College because, like New Roots, it is a small school with an open campus offering hands-on learning opportunities.

Vorassi says her career interests were shaped by experiences at New Roots, including two internships. Her first was with Stiller Guzman at Abovoagoga, where she helped teach art classes to younger children. Her second, an exploration of the judicial system, was with the Honorable Judge Scott Miller at the Ithaca City Court.

Vorassi’s interest in psychology and body language was inspired by cases she observed in court and her experience of the positive impacts of art.

“I want to work in prisons as a psychologist incorporating art into my work with inmates so that they can gain a deeper understanding of who they are, why they did what they did, and what they will do once they get out,” Vorassi said in an interview with New Roots staff.

In-depth art studies at New Roots during Intensives Week were also an inspiration, according to Vorassi. Twice a year, students take a break from the routine schedule to study one subject in depth for a week. Vorassi’s favorite intensive course was painting with New Roots art teacher, Todd Ayoung. In her junior year, she completed a painting that hangs in the school’s lobby.

Vorassi, originally from Ovid, N.Y., transferred to New Roots Charter School as a sophomore.


Jessica Meyer: Caring for horses, and her education

Jessica Meyer, of Dryden, will be studying Environmental Sciences at TC3, where she hopes to join the women’s volleyball team.

Meyer plans to transfer to a four-year college to pursue a career in wildlife rehabilitation upon completing her two-year degree. “I want to work with nature and animals as a wildlife conservationist,” Meyer told New Roots staff.

Jessica Meyer

In her first year at New Roots, Meyer was one of two students representing the school at the Green Schools Conference in Colorado. Later that year, New Roots was awarded the 2011-2012 NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Top Green High School Award.

An equestrian, Meyer began riding when she was seven and has been caring for horses ever since. While at New Roots she completed two internships, one at the George Junior Horse Program and the other at Healing Rain Horse Farm.