Huntington freshman Shelby Gillenwater
Huntington freshman Shelby Gillenwater 

Shelby Gillenwater Enjoys Good Relationships with Teachers

March 16, 2023

Shelby “Dash” Gillenwater coasted past the midway mark of his freshman year at Huntington High School. He’s fully engaged with teachers and classes, coaches and sports. The teenager has been studying in Huntington UFSD since kindergarten at Washington Primary School.

Mr. Gillenwater cites Woodhull Intermediate School teacher Keith Meyers as having had a “very strong impact” on him. “I only had him in person for half a year as a sixth grader because of COVID,” the teenager said. “Mr. Meyers made that very difficult year easier by making on-line learning engaging, but also, just by being a friend. He would read stories to us on Google Meets to help us stay connected as classmates. Once lockdown ended he played basketball with us. He and Ms. Priya Mondkar even came to all of our houses to give us gift bags because we were graduating from Woodhull. Mr. Meyers still plays basketball with me and my friends. Mr. Meyers has taught me to be a kind person and to try my best to make positive connections with the people around me.”

Mr. Gillenwater also hit it off with JV boys’ basketball coach Jake Torres. “Our team this year was new and just learning to play together,” the freshman said. “We did not win many games. Even so, Coach Torres was always positive and motivating. His message to us every game was just try to improve from the last. Growth to him was more important than winning this season and that made the losses a little easier for the team to handle. No matter how many points we were down he would be encouraging. He would send us out there with a deficit and say it doesn’t matter if we win the game, let’s just try to win this quarter.”

Mr. Gillenwater will keep many of the lessons learned under Coach Torres’ tutelage for the rest of his life. “He taught me how to compete and give 100 percent to the very end, no matter the situation,” the teenager said. “He also always gave us a quote at the end of each game. One of my favorites is this; ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.’ I try to keep this in mind in all my decisions.”

Well into his first year of high school, the freshman has found his stride. “I have very good relationships with all my teachers,” Mr. Gillenwater said. “For example, I come early to see Ms. [Debora] Balducci, Mrs. [Lori] Kenny and Ms. [Kara] Horn just to chat.

The freshman has played on the Blue Devil junior varsity football, basketball and baseball teams. A member of the Women’s Empowerment Club, Mr. Gillenwater also performs with the high school orchestra and hopes to play with the jazz band as a sophomore.

“As a freshman, I am still bewildered by the idea of college and I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up, but I probably will want to play college sports of some kind,” Mr. Gillenwater said. “I am also very interested in music. I play the bass, bass guitar, piano and drums. I love music; it is my biggest passion up there with athletics.”

Mr. Gillenwater considers himself to be a caring and motivating friend and a good listener, too. “I usually try to be the bigger person in settling altercations,” he said. “On the field and on the court I try to help my coaches keep the team motivated and on point by explaining the drills and strategies to the members of the team who have less experience.”

Mr. Gillenwater’s favorite classes include Global Studies with Mrs. Balducci and John Hlavaty and Living Environment with Mrs. Kenny.

“My experience at Huntington High School has been great,” Mr. Gillenwater. “It has been a really successful year. I love all my teachers and my classes. I have learned a lot and had a lot of fun in and out of school. But mostly my experience in sports at the high school has been amazing. I believe the Huntington sports program has the most team pride out of any school team on the island.”

Mr. Gillenwater has made several trips in the past 18 months. The treks encompassed both happy times and sad ones.

“About a year and a half ago, I traveled with my family to Los Angeles to attend my cousin’s wedding,” Mr. Gillenwater said. “It was amazing. I saw the Staples Center, which is where the Clippers and Lakers play. I saw statues of iconic LA legends. We stayed in a great apartment in downtown LA. It was the first time I ever flew in a plane. This past summer, I unfortunately made three trips for funerals. My great-grandparents, Papa Joe and Nana Lucy both passed away and then my grandfather, Grandpa Louis also passed away. It was sad, but I was glad to be able to travel to their services to show my love to them all.”

Sports play a big role in Mr. Gillenwater’s life. Although the JV football and basketball teams struggled to win games, “the heart of the players and the coaches kept the motivation alive,” he said. “Even though we lost most of our games the improvement on both teams from the first to the last game was exponential. And that growth will keep us showing up until the Blue Devils are champs by our senior year.”

The freshman has more than three years remaining in his high school career, but he’s still looking ahead at what lies beyond. “In 10 years, I want to be in a warm place; maybe the West Coast,” Mr. Gillenwater said.