Three talented Huntington High School seniors were recently honored at the annual garden party of Friends of OHEKA. Each of the teenagers received the Otto Kahn Award, which carries with it a $3,000 stipend.
Charlie Ehrman, Alyssa Fox and Alexandra Smith were among just eight seniors in the entire town honored this year. Mr. Ehrman is an award-winning young filmmaker while Ms. Fox is one of Long Island’s top high school photographers. Ms. Smith is a standout ballerina.
Featuring a Great Gatsby theme, the garden party drew a crowd of more than 200. The Huntington High School contingent fit right in as if it were the Roaring Twenties.
The garden party included appetizers, dinner and dessert. The former Gold Coast estate of Otto Hermann Kahn, OHEKA Castle has been owned and operated by Gary Melius for the past 33 years. When he purchased the mansion, its outbuildings and the acreage surrounding it, the structures and gardens had fallen into a state of serious disrepair. He has worked ever since to return them to their previous splendor. At one time, OHEKA was the second largest private residence in the United States.
The Otto Kahn Awards are presented to a select group of seniors who show exceptional potential and intend to pursue education and training in the fine and performing arts. A financier, Mr. Kahn was also a patron of the arts, well-known for his support of struggling artists in the early 1900s.
Huntington senior Charlie Ehrman
with Friends of OHEKA officials.
Mr. Ehrman is headed to the University of California at Northridge to study film and television production. His work has already gained a national following and the teenager has won many awards in a variety of festivals and contests. His film, Love & Equality was screened at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival and several others were accepted into well-known festivals.
The senior has worked closely with art teacher Heather Swan, who leads Huntington video arts program. Mr. Ehrman interned with the gifted educator this year while continuing to work on a long list of films, including one that reached the national finals of the 10 Day Film Challenge.
Mentored by Tony Spiridakis of the Manhattan Film Institute, Mr. Ehrman has worked hard at his craft. “I had the opportunity to meet Robert Moresco, an Oscar Award winning writer for Crash, who inspired me by his quote, ‘Take the first step; all the forces of the universe will come to your aid.’ This has become my philosophy, leading me to seek new opportunities in film production. As I strive to expand my knowledge of filmmaking, I am passionate about the impact I can make in my professional career.”
Huntington senior Alyssa Fox with Friends of OHEKA officials.
Alyssa Fox plans to attend Nassau Community College in the fall and study photography. She’s worked closely with Huntington High School photography teacher Pamela Piffard-Williams and completed coursework at both the high school and in the Western Suffolk BOCES professional photography program. She’s also won numerous awards for her work.
“With endless motivation and support from my family and friends, I have found much success with my art,” Ms. Fox said. “I have already surpassed my own expectations and it has made me all that much more confident that this is a perfect fit for me.”
“You will not find anyone who tries harder with photography than Alyssa,” Mrs. Piffard-Williams said. “I’m proud of her and the determination she has displayed.”
Alexandra Smith will attend the University of Oklahoma in the fall. She is a highly skilled ballerina who has starred in a lost list of productions and won many awards and even scholarships.
Huntington's Alexandra Smith with Friends of OHEKA officials.
Ms. Smith has completed extensive training with the Oklahoma City Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. She has worked for many years with Karen Lynch, the Lynch School of Ballet’s artistic director.
“In my 20 years of professional teaching, I have rarely come upon a talent like Alexandra Smith,” Ms. Lynch said. “I feel strongly she will be successful in ballet.”
Friends of OHEKA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection, preservation and public awareness of OHEKA Castle.