Five questions for 'Ms. McKenney'

By Beth A. Birmingham | May 12, 2014
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Deb McKenney, administrative assistant at Oceanside High School East, even answers the phone with a smile.

Those who have passed through the Rockland school system or have children who have done so have had the pleasure of catching a glimpse of this woman's contagious smile.

Deb McKenney, administrative assistant at Oceanside High School East, has had the daunting task of coordinating Project Graduation since 1993. For 26 years, she has overseen fundraising events and the all-night graduation party that has proven to keep youth safe.

Not only has she kept our children in line at school, she also has been known to volunteer at community events, recently debuting as auctioneer at a fundraiser for a family who lost their home and belongings to fire.

Described by many as a kind, caring, generous being, McKenney has projected nothing but positivity and a sense of "life is good" even throughout her own struggles with life's challenges — including a battle with breast cancer six years ago.

A show of her true character, McKenney along with staff, students and friends held a fundraiser when she decided to shave her head to prepare for chemotherapy. Funds raised were donated to the Bob Gagnon Cancer Center and were not used for her own personal treatment.

McKenney took a few minutes recently to answer these five questions:

Do you keep in touch with any of the students you have watched graduate?

"Yes, many of them. Anywhere I go I know somebody."

What is the biggest change you have witnessed at the school?

"The addition of the security system, but then I realize we are no different than any other school district."

If you could have one wish granted, what would it be?

"For my children and grandchildren to live happily ever after."

How do you feel Project Graduation has changed the community?

"It allows us parents to relax on graduation night, knowing the kids are safe."

What one thought comes to your mind about your years here at the school?

"All the love and respect I get from the students ... for the most part," she giggles.

If you have a candidate for "Five Questions," contact Beth A. Birmingham at

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