Lakeland High School and
Walter Panas High School
Lakeland Central School District graduates can be found in a wide variety of occupations throughout multiple geographic areas. On this page, we will be highlighting some of those graduates while providing a glimpse into their lives after graduating from Walter Panas or Lakeland high school.
Visit our Alumni in Action Digital Magazine, it highlights more Alumni and their stories. If you are a Lakeland High School or Walter Panas graduate, please share your story with us.
Walter Panas High School
Walking through the door of the Red Door Baking Co., you are instantly transported to a small Mediterranean town ordering a café and a mouth mouthwatering Italian sweet. The owners, Debbie and Gene Mancuso greet you as if you are a local. “Ciao,” they say, taking away all your pressures of the day.
“I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love meeting each one of my customers and want them to enjoy the food and come back to revisit us.” Debbie says, and it truly shows. Having grown up in the Lakeland District, Debbie and her husband, Gene love to share their passion for cooking, delicious food, and their heritage with the community.
This tradition and love for the culinary arts began at a young age for Debbie. Charlie and Nancy Portes, her beloved parents, owned a local restaurant, Charlie’s Fish Market in Mohegan Lake from 1965 to 1980. Debbie honed her skills here, after school, helping her dad prepare recipes and greeting patrons with a friendly face – something she would perfect at Red Door Baking Co. Soon, Gene joined her at Charlie’s, and they become a “Dynamic Duo” that her dad would rely on over the years. Now the “Duo” is building a thriving local bakery.
Family is very important to Debbie and Gene. Red Door Baking Co. is a family business. Gene and Debbie have known each other since they were teenagers so it is no wonder as Debbie is baking Gene is pulling ingredients for her before she needs them and is always one step ahead of her. Their youngest son, Matthew Walter Panas Class of 2008, has fond memories of “Coming home from school and from the bus stop up the street smelling what is mom was baking; it always felt like we lived in a bakery. Our front door was always red; that’s where we got the idea of naming the bakeshop. It’s nostalgic and personal.” These days, Matt, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, works besides Debbie on holidays and special events and collaborate on recipes as the tradition of family and cooking continues. Their oldest son, Michael Walter Panas Class of 2006, works for the NFL Network and has given business advice to his mom over the years.
Stop by Red Door Baking Co. on Friday evening on you’ll find Debbie and Gene and many local faces as they unwind from the busy week and the delectable treats and heartwarming atmosphere. Kara Sorrentino, Walter Panas High School Class of 1993, discovered this hidden gem on her Facebook feed. Kara said, “I couldn’t think of a better way to spend time with my mom, Ellen Garguilo and two daughters, Kaelen Sieja, Walter Panas Class High School of 2023 and Hannah Sieja, Lakeland Copper Beech Seventh Grader.
Debbie and Gene’s hard work and perseverance drove them to make Red Door Baking Co. a reality, but it was their passion and love for family, tradition, and community that has made it such an overwhelming delight.
Alina Pedraza Class of 2009
Lakeland High School
Lakeland High School alumni Alina Pedraza, Class of 2009, has always embraced the idea of being the healthiest, most driven version of yourself; something she valued as a member of the Lakeland Varsity Competition Cheerleading Team and carries with her today as the proud owner of Fused Fitness in Jefferson Valley.
During high school, English teacher Sue Lozinski helped Alina understand the importance of a strong educational foundation. When personal tragedy hit, Ms. Lozinski was there for her. “Her empathy and compassion helped me get through a tough time,” Alina noted, helping her stay focused on school and graduation.
Upon graduating from Albany University with a degree in Business Marketing and Management, Alina got a traditional desk job in Accounts Payable. Her passion her passion for health and fitness had never subsided and Alina quickly realized the 9 to 5 environment was not for her. She had bigger dreams of helping others achieve their fitness goals.
When opening her first gym, Cycle 6 in 2016, Alina leveraged much of the great social and academic experience she had being a Lakeland student. From her cheer coaches she learned to be a team player and loved the feeling of school spirit. This sense of community and lifeforce was something she wanted in her gym, motivating and celebrating others. She even based her initial business model on one she created for a yoga studio in Kathy Salzano’s, a now-retired Lakeland High School English teacher, Entrepreneurship class.
Having grown her business, now Fuse Fitness, Alina has grown with it, making changes to her business model to better adapt to her client’s needs, something taught to back in that Entrepreneurship class. Offering new a variety of engaging, yet challenging, high-energy group fitness classes, as well as more traditional classes, Alina feels like she can give her clients the best of both worlds and is always learning new ways to grow and improve.
At the end of the day, for Alina “it’s all about the community” like the one she had at Lakeland.