By Nora Lowe and Sydney Levy
Thirty-three years ago, a vote was brought before the Byram Hills Board of Education to decide whether to approve a proposal for a science research program in the school. It was questionable whether the program would be feasible to implement as the expenses required were high and similar programs weren’t as widespread at the time. Two board members voted against the program, and two board members voted in favor of it. This left the deciding vote to Mr. Vincent Greco. That day, decades ago, he took a leap of faith and voted to approve the Dr. Robert Pavlica Authentic Science Research Program (ASR).
The legacy of Mr. Greco, who sadly passed away this February, is everlasting; he not only began the program, but he also impacted each and every student in it. While many ASR students have never met Mr. Greco, nearly everyone in the program knows his name and the crucial impact he made. ASR is a community, and Mr. Greco is seen as the “grandfather” of it. Alumnus Alan Chang, now a student at the University of Pennsylvania, says that “Mr. Greco believed in the vision of ASR, and decades later, we have come so far. Having ASR was not only something that I will treasure forever, but has certainly impacted hundreds of students as well.” In fact, more than 500 students have graduated from the program to date. The program teaches students how to write, present, and handle a heavy workload. However, most importantly, it teaches students how to think, problem solve, and make a tangible difference.
The first student in the ASR program, Abe Shahim, is now a doctor working at Lenox Hill Hospital. ASR puts students on the STEM path, enabling them to help invent new technology, cure diseases, and expand the scope of scientific knowledge. Many students struggle to find their identity in high school. However, ASR provides the opportunity for students to explore their interests and learn more about themselves and the world around them. Mr. Greco paved the way for hundreds of students to have this self-discovery. After the first ASR student graduated, the program expanded immensely. Since 1998, there has been at least one Regeneron (formally Intel) Top Scholar each year, a highly prestigious accomplishment. The program has guided 123 students towards becoming Regeneron semifinalists, twenty-one of which have become finalists. Students share their work in competitions and some even publish papers. They are given opportunities that are usually unattainable for high school students.
As Mr. Kenneth Kaplan, a previous ASR teacher, explains, “Mr. Greco was always instrumental in keeping in touch with the program that he helped get off the ground.” Following the announcement of a Regeneron Scholar, Mr. Greco would always go into the classroom and congratulate the student and teachers. He was so greatly invested that the school had an ID badge custom-made for him although he wasn’t a teacher. Mr. Kaplan remembers, “He always used to walk in with a name tag around his neck, introducing himself to people, and stopping in the office.” Mrs. Stephanie Greenwald, the current program director, concurs, remembering, “Every year, whenever ASR students were acknowledged for their accomplishments through awards and commendations, Mr. Greco would soon appear in our room to congratulate our students and marvel as they shared their topics.” She continues, saying, “his constant support of our program was inspirational to us and his warmth and love will be missed.”
Mr. Greco has impacted other aspects of the high school as well. Each year, a graduating senior receives an award named after Mr. Greco for showing great resiliency and adding value to the community. Mr. Walsh, the Byram Hills High School principal, says that “It has been one of the highlights of each year to present this award in his name.” He continues, recalling that “Mr. Greco never failed to attend the ceremony and he went out of his way to get to know the recipient of the award. It was incredibly rewarding to see the impact that he had on the award winners.” Ms. Jen Laden, the Social Studies Chairperson, elaborates that “The award recognizes a student who has overcome significant challenges. Each student who has won the award represents the best of what we are at Byram Hills by focusing on the potential of all of our students and our belief in the ability of all students to grow and succeed.”
Always a believer in the potential of the next generation, Mr. Greco was willing to take a leap of faith by casting his deciding vote. He opted to vote in favor of the program because he was compelled by the vision of what it could become. Mr. Walsh recalls his positive attitude, calling Mr. Greco one of the most “ethical and optimistic people I have had the pleasure of knowing.” He continues, saying, “He took tremendous pride in the school and understood that great communities should be measured by the way that they educate their children.” Mrs. Santini, the science research program’s administrative assistant, adds, “Our program is better and stronger in part from Mr. Greco’s belief in the magic of science and our students. I have no doubt that he had a tremendous effect on all who got to know him as well as the Byram Hills Central School District as a whole.” Where others saw only obstacles and budget-cuts, Mr. Greco envisioned a program endowing students with invaluable lessons and limitless opportunity.
Mrs. Megan Salomone, a current teacher in the research program, captures his values perfectly, reflecting that “he understood one of the most fundamental principles of education: Never underestimate the potential of young people to accomplish great things.” For this, the program extends our deep gratitude for the life, legacy, and faith with which Mr. Greco entrusted us thirty-three years ago.