WEST ORANGE, NJ – On Friday night, over 150 guests filled the student cafeteria at West Orange High School (WOHS) for the 2015 Black History Month Dinner, where 2012 Haitian Summer Olympic triple jumper and Harvard graduate, Samyr Laine, was the guest speaker. Monies raised from the event will go toward the Student Council Scholarship to be awarded to an actively-involved senior member of the Council.

Laine urged students to pursue their dreams and to take opportunities when they knocked. 

“You have to be passionate about your desires,” said Laine. 

Sign Up for E-News

Amidst black and gold balloons, in a room filled by friends, residents, students, faculty and friends, WOHS Principal Hayden Moore spoke about what black history means to him and its impact on society. Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. Since 1976, every US president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.

“Black history means I pay homage to the people who worked hard and allowed me to get where I am,” said Moore. “I am proud to be the Principal of West Orange High School.” 

Guests dined on a buffet dinner of salad, cornbread, chicken, baked macaroni and cheese, yams and an assortment of desserts provided by Sodexo, while the jazz band played in the middle of the room.

As guests danced by their chairs all night long, students performed solo dances and in dance groups, there were also poetry readings, duets, and an assortment of music selections. In addition, the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps performed.

It’s good to see the talents the students possess,” said Student Council Advisor Krista Romanyshyn.

The night ended as guests applauded and gave thanks to the WOHS students for honoring Black History Month. 

“I wasn't expecting my friends to come,” said Student Council Vice President David Montague, a senior. “I’m very happy and proud of the turnout—it exceeds what I expected.”

“It’s a very important night for West Orange,” said Romanyshyn.

“The event is a humbling experience,” said Student Council President Melissa Damestoir.

“It’s a great event, considering the cold weather,” said District Supervisor Steve Olshalshy. “The turnout is excellent. The most important thing is the support—it’s a wonderful event the school hosts.”

About Samyr Laine

Laine’s story is one of perseverance. According to Wikipedia, Laine dabbled in track events throughout his life, beginning in seventh grade as a sprinter and steeplechaser. He then went on to play on the high school tennis team and to also participate in the triple jump, which improved from 42 feet (12.80m) to 45 feet (13.70m) indoors and then to 46 feet (14m) outdoors—and helped him take 3rd place at the State Championships.

He was then recruited by many Ivy League schools and ultimately chose to attend Harvard University, where he was a roommate of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s and was the 14th member of Facebook.

While at Harvard, Laine’s jump improved to over 7 feet (2.15m). He took two second place finishes at the conference championships in his freshman year, and then placed first in indoors and outdoors for the next two years. In his junior year, he achieved All-American status at the NCAA Championships. At that meet, he not only set what was the Ivy League record at the time and still is the Harvard University triple jump record of 51 feet, 11 1/4 inches, and Harvard's outdoor triple jump record of 53 feet, 7 1/2 inches. Though he was sidelined his senior year with injuries, Laine was still voted team captain. Because he was redshirted, he was able to use his final season eligibility to participate in track at the University of Texas, where he finished his graduate program. He then graduated from the Georgetown University law Center in 2010.

In 2012, Laine took 11th place in the Triple Jump at 16.65m, in the Olympic Games in London.

Laine currently resides in Alexandria, Virginia, speaks fluent French and is working a book, "A Foot in Two Worlds" (Thinkworks Publishing). Laine is also working on his Jump for Haiti Foundation, which focuses on mentoring Haitian children and developing more Haitian athletes.