ILION, N.Y. (WKTV) - The gymnasium of the former Ilion High School gym filled with applause from teachers and the new, Central Valley School District student body, as two students from the former Ilion district and two from the former Mohawk district cut the ribbon on the new, merged high school: Central Valley Academy.
Two years of fear and division melted away as the students filled the halls of their new, blended high school. While some parents over the past two years feared losing what they knew, the children seemed to effortlessly let go of their former academic identities and happily embrace their new one.
"I think we've already actually done a lot of bonding," says Central Valley senior Ian Wiernicki. "I know I have at least a dozen new Mohawk people that I've met over the summer through different activities and things and I think a lot of us are already into the new CVA way. There's not so much an Ilion or Mohawk way any more"
In addition, some recognize and appreciate the fact that they're making history.
"I love that I'm the first graduating class of Central Valley Academy," adds Wiernicki. "I think it's awesome. I mean, it would have been cool to be the last class of Ilion but I think it's even better to be the first class of this new district. I mean, who gets to say that they were first class of a district?"
Geography seems to be the primary concern for former Mohawk students trying to navigate the new high school: the former Ilion HS building.
"I was nervous because I've been here a couple times in the past week and I haven't been able to find my locker or anything because it's all new, but everyone will help me so it'll be fine," says senior Alicia Ceneviva.
"They melded. They melded this morning. They worked well together with the Star Spangled Banner, the ribbon cutting. They have already come together," says Central Valley Academy Principal Renee Rudd.
Rudd was taken aback by how well the former sports rivals worked together, creating the student body of their new school.
Watching this process has been rewarding beyond measure for the 35-year educator and school administrator.
"From the bottom of my heart, this is one of the most exciting experiences I've had in my career....it is, absolutely the pinnacle," says Rudd.
Students and faculty, both from the Mohawk and Ilion districts, met each other during an opening ceremony in the academy gym Thursday morning. Also, the new school mascot, Thor, God of Thunder, made a quick run through the gym, triumphantly waving a large mallet.
The new school team name is Central Valley Thunder.
At lunch, students got to know each other while a DJ played their favorite music outside on the track.
The principal announced a contest that's music to the students' ears: a $100 iTunes gift card to the one who composes the new school song, which will be performed at the district's first commencement in June.