Niagara Falls City School District

Learning For All...Whatever It Takes

District Announcements

  • Spt. Mark Laurrie


    From Niagara Falls City School District Superintendent Mark Laurrie


    The co-founder of Orange Theory Fitness, an Academy Award-winning costume designer, Broadway stars, a college president, a spiritual advisor to President Biden, an Emmy Award-winning director of photography - that's quite a crew. There are many others to add to this list. What makes them so special to the Niagara Falls City School District (NFCSD) is that every single one is a graduate of Niagara Falls High School, LaSalle Senior High School (open 1935 – 2000), or Trott Vocational High School (open 1932 - 1988). Since 2016, the District has recognized all of them as Distinguished Alumni for accomplishing extraordinary things once their time at the District was over.

     At its Board of Education meeting on Thursday, November 16, 2023, at 6:00 p.m., the District will induct the 2023 NFCSD Distinguished Alumni class: Gerald DeMunda, Class of 1966, Niagara Falls High School; James Vaccarella, Class of 1943, Trott Vocational High School; and Viola M. Vaughn, Ed.D., Class of 1965, Niagara Falls High School. 

    Gerald DeMunda sacrificed for his country less than two years after graduating from Niagara Falls High School. He joined the Marine Corp. in July 1966, only weeks after graduating in June 1966. Lance Cpl. Gerald DeMunda was deployed to Vietnam at the height of the conflict. According to his friends and family at the time, duty and service to his country were essential to him, so in January 1967, he proudly went 10,000 miles away to Southeast Asia to fight for freedom for people outside his country. DeMunda served as a machine gunner. 

    Corporal DeMunda was injured in March 1967 and was sent to Japan for knee anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction. He stayed in Japan until September 1967, when he returned to Vietnam. Two months later, on November 26, 1967, DeMunda was killed in action by a gunshot wound to the chest. The Niagara Falls High School hero was only 20 years old. His deployment to Vietnam was to end in December 1967, one month after his death. 

    Posthumously, Corporal DeMunda was awarded the Purple Heart and several military medals for bravery and successful combat missions.  

    The District is honored and humbled to name Lance Cpl. Gerald DeMunda, a Niagara Falls High School Distinguished Alumni.  

     James Vaccarella, a member of the Greatest Generation, was born in July 1924. He played three sports during his time at Niagara Falls High School (NFHS), though he was unable to go to college or join the workforce upon leaving high school. A call from his country prevented that, and less than a year after graduating, Vaccarella was drafted for military service in World War II. He spent two years in the army and 19 months on the front lines as a combat medic in the 305th Division, serving under Gen. George Patton.  

    During the War, Vaccarella liberated a concentration camp in Austria. Vaccarella took on that gut-wrenching duty where he saw many of the atrocities inflicted upon the camp prisoners and bravely led the survivors to freedom. 

    Combat medic Vaccarella fought in one of the most famous battles in world history, the Battle of the Bulge, in 1944. During the battle, James retrieved many soldiers who had significant injuries, saving their lives. Vaccarella earned a Purple Heart after being injured in the process of pulling a wounded soldier out of harm's way.  

    For his bravery and skill while serving in the armed forces, especially during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII, our Niagara Falls High School graduate James Vaccarella deserves a Distinguished Alumni honor.  

    Viola M. Vaughn has dedicated her life to learning. Years after graduating from Niagara Falls High School, Vaughn furthered her education in the Ivy League by earning her Doctor of Education Degree from Columbia University's prestigious Teacher's College. Vaughn is no stranger to Distinguished Alumni awards; Columbia's Teacher's College also awarded her their Distinguished Alumni Award. 

     Vaughn spent several years traveling back and forth to Africa with her husband and five grandchildren before settling there permanently. When she learned that the school pass rate was low for girls and young women in the part of rural Senegal where she lived, she felt compelled to act. The low pass rate for girls was traced back to girls and young women being kept home to work and learn how to be good wives and mothers. Once they begin missing classes by being held at home to work, the girls start failing exams, and many failed out of school entirely or dropped out. 

    Seeing this breach in the education of young women, Vaughn worked tirelessly to create WHEPSA – Women's Health Education and Prevention Strategies Alliance. Adding the phrase 10,000 Girls to the title represents the goal the young women in the program set for the number of their peers they want to reach. 

    10,000 Girls combines education and employment for girls. The education program gives girls a place and time to study and provides books and school supplies. All of the tutors in this program are teachers who volunteer their time. 10,000 Girls has a student pass rate of 92 percent.  

    The employment and training arm of 10,000 Girls is for girls who have failed at school or never attended. They each learn a trade of sewing or baking. The students run a pastry shop and a sewing workshop. Their products are exported and sold, and the earnings are split between the girls and the education program. Today, besides the pastry shop and a catering business, "10,000 Girls" runs a sewing workshop, and the girls export their handmade dolls and household linens overseas. 

    Viola's efforts were recognized when she was named a CNN Hero in 2008.  

    On behalf of the NFCSD, I congratulate the 2023 Niagara Falls City School District Distinguished Alumni class. Their unselfish work and sacrifices to improve the lives of others represent the greatness of what Niagara Falls graduates can and do accomplish once they turn from student to graduate. Please visit the District's website,, for a complete list of the District's Distinguished Alumni.