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Superintendent’s Spotlight: Ryan Westervelt, Park Avenue Elementary

on March 6, 2019
a first-grade boy standing on the school steps

Ryan Westervelt is in the Superintendent’s Spotlight

Ryan Westervelt has a dream, and it is to one day ride a horse through the streets of Paris.

And at six, the Park Avenue first grader is on his way to making that dream a reality. He’s already an accomplished equestrian, having first climbed up on a horse when he was hardly more than a toddler, and he works hard every day to become better.

“When I was three years old I first started going on pony rides at fairs. That’s when I told my mom, ‘Ok, I want to live in a barn’,” he says.

He doesn’t quite live in a barn, but he spends a great deal of time in one. On weekends and several times each week after school that’s where you’ll find him, taking lessons and riding Pumpkin, his very favorite pony.

“I’ve been riding Pumpkin for two years now. She can be a little stubborn, but her ears listen to everything,” says Ryan. “I’m not that competitive but Pumpkin is. We’ve won lots of ribbons.”

Ryan would like people to know that even though people are really smart, we should always remember that there are many things we can learn from the animals, large and small, in our lives.

“Pumpkin teaches me all the time,” says Ryan. “She knows everything about horses.”

Sandy Wood, Ryan’s principal at Park Avenue Elementary, says she has watched Ryan’s self-assurance blossom along with his riding accomplishments. “Ryan is always prepared and enthusiastic for reading class,” she says, and he just finished reading his 100th book of the school year, officially completing the Park Avenue 100 Book Challenge.  “He works hard to succeed, and is very kind and respectful to other students as well as teachers.” Also an avid equestrian, Ms. Wood understands the joy and confidence the sport inspires.

It’s a sport that also demands dedication, commitment, and a bit of bravery. Pumpkin, Ryan says, isn’t the biggest horse in the barn, but she’s a lot larger than Ryan. And although she is “the best pony anybody would ever want to ride,” she can be a little lazy. She likes to cut her corners, says Ryan, and it’s his job to keep her on the proper course.

“We have to work together, but I’m the one that’s really in charge,” he says. “We both have to concentrate and I talk to her. Her ears listen to everything. I just say, ‘Come on, Pumpkin, Let’s show everybody what we can do’.”

Each week, Warwick Valley Central School District Superintendent Dr. David Leach shines the “The Superintendent’s Spotlight” on one of Warwick Valley’s amazing students. “Superintendent’s Spotlight” features students who reach goals, face challenges, and are role models to their peers.

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