Category Archives: Teenagers

ABC House Now Offers “A Better Connection”

In less than a decade and a half, A Better Chance of Westport has impacted the lives of dozens of young men. It’s helped provide excellent education, a chance at college, a boost up in life. (It’s also benefited many Westporters, who have learned plenty from the ABC scholars. But that’s another story.)

Though still in their 20s, ABC graduates are making their mark in business, finance and the arts.

And — as young as they are — they’ve already decided it’s time to give back.

A Better ChanceCharles Winslow leads the charge. Raised by his father in Brooklyn, he first heard of the national ABC program from his 8th grade guidance counselor. His initial reaction — “No way! I want to be cool in high school” — slowly gave way to the realization that it might open some doors.

He went through the process — SSATs, recommendation letters, interviews, a visit to Westport — and in 2005 arrived at Glendarcy House on North Avenue.

“I was a 13-year-old African American boy from Brooklym, in an affluent town of Caucasians,” Charles recalls.

“It was a culture shock. The academics at Staples were rigorous. I didn’t know what I got myself into. I called my dad every day.”

Charles Winslow, as an ABC scholar in 2008.

Charles Winslow, as an ABC scholar in 2008…

Like the other ABC scholars, he studied 3 to 4 hours a day. He did chores. Gradually — with help from older boys in the house, the house parents, and a cadre of ABC volunteers — he made his way.

Then he made his mark.

Charles became a 3-year volleyball starter, and senior captain (and won state and FCIAC championships every year he was on the team). He was co-vice-president of Junior Achievement, made money for the club, and traveled to Canada for a conference.

ABC graduate Savion Agard encouraged Charles to apply to Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. Charles was hesitant, but — with the help of Freudingman & Billings — he got in.

Charles continued to thrive at Cornell. He played club volleyball, tutored children, and spent a “life-changing” Semester at Sea, visiting the Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal, Vietnam, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco and Panama Canal.

He’s now an analyst in the real estate division of Goldman Sachs. During lunch breaks, he volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

But he wants to do even more.

and in 2013, beginning his career at Goldman Sachs.

…and in 2013, beginning his career at Goldman Sachs.

When he was at ABC House, Charles realizes, there were not yet any graduates making it in the working world. He had no professional role models from the program; no one to ask questions only a former ABC scholar would know how to answer.

Now there are.

Charles spoke with Steve Daniels — a Westporter, African American and corporate executive who’s been a great mentor to many ABC scholars. They devised an idea for an informal mentorship program, matching young ABC graduates with current scholars. ABC vice president Lori Sochol helped Charles refine the plan.

“There are so many things to talk about: grades, being away from home, assimilating, careers.” Charles says. “Every year we come back for the Dream Event [annual fundraiser], but we don’t really know the guys who are in the house now. This is a way to enhance that, so we can use the networks and relationships we’ve formed to help them.”

This month, the program — called A Better Connection (get it?) — begins. Charles has recruited a group of mentors. Each is assigned a mentee. They’ll talk for a minimum of 30 minutes every 2 weeks. Hopefully, deeper relationships will follow.

Charles envisions more, too: social events, a listserv to share ideas and information.

The 2014-15 ABC House scholars.

The 2014-15 ABC House scholars.

“As students of color, we got a great education in Westport,” Charles says. “But it’s important for those of us who are doing great things now, thanks to that, to help and network with younger students of color.”

This year’s Dream Event is Saturday, March 28 (7 p.m., Birchwood Country Club). Charles will be there, speaking about A Better Connection. He and other ABC grads will meet the current scholars — and their individual mentees.

One of Westport’s most valuable and meaningful programs is about to get even “better.”

(For more information on the Dream Event, click here.)

Hey, Girlfriend!

Girls enjoy getting together to share stories, food and fun. That’s true whether the girls are 15 or 90 years old.

Or — in Westport — whether they’re 15 and 90.

Carolyn Malkin is midway between those ages. As a volunteer meal-deliverer for the Senior Center, she realized a lot of women live alone. They’re interesting, chatty and filled with amazing histories — but they didn’t always have a chance for social interaction.

Carolyn had a great relationship with her own grandmother, who lived to 99. But — as the mother of 2 girls — she knew a lot of teenagers in  Westport don’t have grandmas nearby.

Rita Adams (left) with Melony Malkin. (Photo/Carolyn Malkin)

Rita Adams (left) with Melony Malkin. (Photo/Grace Kosner)

Working with the Senior Center’s Sue Pfister; Human Services’ Barbara Butler and Sue Lebrija; Staples High School administrators John Dodig and Rich Franzis, and “younger seniors” Mary Maynard and Mildred Bunche, Carolyn created the Girlfriends Club. Pairs of high school girls spend an hour or so a week with a “girlfriend”: an older Westporter.

Last year, Carolyn’s senior daughter Melony and a few friends formed the first relationships.

This year, Carolyn’s sophomore daughter Sydney recruited her own friends. A couple of dozen more teenagers signed up. It’s unclear who has more fun: they, or their 80- and 9o-something girlfriends.

“This is not about teenagers visiting women who are helpless and lonely,” Carolyn emphasizes. “It’s a 2-way relationship. These are very lively, very lovely women. The girls adore them, and the feeling is mutual.”

Jo Woog -- my mother -- with girlfriends Lauren Stack and Sophie Epstein. (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)

Jo Woog — my mother — with girlfriends Lauren Stack and Sophie Epstein. (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)

Carolyn goes to the 1st meeting, introducing everyone and helping the conversation along. Very quickly, though, she’s not needed.

“Their relationship develops better without me,” she says.

Joyce Clarke is the oldest girlfriend. At 103, she didn’t know what she’d talk about. She hadn’t been around young people for a while. Quickly, Carolyn says, she learned they’re interested in the same things she was, years ago.

Sculptor Lucia White shows Grace Kosner around her studio. (Photo/Carolyn Malkin)

Photographer Lucia White shows Grace Kosner around her studio. (Photo/Carolyn Malkin)

Joyce is just one of the older girlfriends with remarkable lives. The women were business owners, artists and photographers. Rita Adams was a dancer and circus performer. “These are fun, vibrant people,” Carolyn emphasizes. “The girls fall in love with them. Having young blood is great, and the women have so much to give.”

The weekly meetings are fun. So too are get-togethers with the entire club.

At a Valentine’s party earlier this month, the group gathered at the Senior Center. Nothing was planned, beyond food and decorations. Soon, everyone was talking, laughing — even dancing. One woman and her girlfriends made up a dance. Once Rita joined in, everyone else did too.

“It was great to see so many smiles,” Carolyn says. “For the next party, we’ll get a DJ!”

Rita Adams (left) dances with Leah Fuld, at the Valentine's party. (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)

Rita Adams (left) dances with Leah Fuld. (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)

Grace Wynne, Rita Adams, Sydney Malkin and Shirley Mellor enjoy the Valentine's party. (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)

Grace Wynne, Rita Adams, Sydney Malkin and Shirley Mellor enjoy the Valentine’s party. (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)

Girlfriends of all ages get together at the Senior Center. (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)

Girlfriends of all ages get together at the Senior Center. (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)

Neighbors Help Neighborhood Studios

For a long time, Neighborhood Studios needed a good documentary film, to show to prospective donors and sponsors.

The weekend and summer music and arts program serves 1600 Bridgeport youngsters each year. It’s very effective — but low-key, and chronically underfunded. There was no way to find the thousands of dollars a film production would charge.

Harold Levine

Harold Levine

A few months ago, Westporter Harold Levine — the organization’s 93-year-old chairman emeritus, still very active after a long career as a storied ad agency owner — approached a former colleague.

Tony Degregorio is a noted adman himself — and a Westporter. He agreed to be creative supervisor of the film.

Levine then asked Jim Honeycutt, director of Staples High School’s Media Lab, for help finding students to collaborate. Senior Arin Meyer volunteered to shoot the film. Levine calls her “extraordinarily talented.”

Junior Daniel Pauker joined as production assistant.

Levine’s next call was to longtime friend Doris Jacoby. For decades, her Jacoby Storm company has produced documentaries for major corporations and non-profit clients. She too eagerly signed on.

Neighborhood Studios logoThe result — a volunteer effort by talented Westporters, to help boys and girls in nearby Bridgeport — premieres on Sunday, March 15 (7 p.m.) at the Westport Country Playhouse. The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company will perform.

They’re not from Westport. But like Harold Levine, Tony Degregorio, Arin Meyer, Daniel Pauker and Doris Jacoby, they’re eager to help Neighborhood Schools — our Bridgeport neighbors just a few miles away.

(Tickets to the Neighborhood Studios gala are available here.)

Living Proof: CPR Saves Lives

The life-saving rescue happened last spring. The Red Cross honored the life-savers last week. But good news never gets old.

On May 31, Joey Bairaktaris and David Ellis were working the main gate at Compo Beach. Walking across the basketball court, Joey saw security guard Doc Kashka. They chatted briefly. (If you know Doc — a popular figure from his work at many local restaurants — it’s no surprise that he stopped to talk.)

Joey headed to the marina. A woman ran by, to the basketball court. He followed, and found Doc lying on the ground.

Ian Chasnow — another town employee — was already giving Doc chest compressions. Joey — who had recently completed EMT training — helped. David called 911, and also assisted with CPR. When emergency responders arrived with an AED, they took over.

Doc spent 6 nights in intensive care. Today, he’s alive and well.

Joey Bairaktaris (left) and David Ellis (center) with Doc Kashka, at the recent Red Cross awards ceremony. Joey holds a certificate from Governor Malloy. (Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris, via Instagram)

Joey Bairaktaris (left) and David Ellis (center) with Doc Kashka, at the recent Red Cross awards ceremony. Joey holds a certificate from Governor Malloy. (Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris, via Instagram)

Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe cited the group’s “extraordinary composure,” along with their swift, professional actions. He said that their “high level of excellence” made Westport “forever grateful.”

The Red Cross added their own thanks. At the 16th annual county-wide Community Heroes Breakfast, Ian, David and Joey were honored as “Life Saving Heroes.”

In the right place at the right time, they were just what the “Doc”-tor ordered.

Staples Soccer Players Offer Shoveling Help

The snow is light and fluffy. There’s less of it than everyone expected. But it’s still a lot to contend with — particularly if you’re elderly or disabled.

Members of the Staples High School boys soccer team have volunteered to help. With school canceled, they’re available to shovel out folks who can’t do it themselves (or have no able-bodied kids of their own).

Because many of them can’t drive — or their parents don’t want them to — the offer is limited to neighborhoods where players live. So there are no promises that a match can be made.

But if you’d like a soccer player to help, email dwoog@optonline.net. I’ll do the best I can to send a strong teenager.

NOTE: Any other Westport youngsters (or older!) willing to volunteer are welcome to join in this community effort too. Just email dwoog@optonline.net, and tell me where you live. I’ll add you to the list of volunteer shovelers!

After Hurricane Sandy, Staples soccer players helped clean up sand from front yards on Soundview Drive.

After Hurricane Sandy, Staples soccer players helped clean up sand from front yards on Soundview Drive.

A Blooming Miracle

For months, Westport teenagers have been looking forward to tonight’s Counties: the junior girls-ask-guys formal dance.

It was postponed yesterday, when the weather forecast for today was grim.

But word came after all the flowers had been ordered, and corsages and boutonnieres paid for.

Flower Basket logoWestport mom Jennifer Jackson called the Flower Basket. To her amazement, owner Charles Case said he’d honor all flower orders for the postponed date: Saturday, February 7.

He wouldn’t charge anyone for the “do-over” — even though he’d already spent money on inventory, and had all the flowers ready to be picked up this morning.

Jennifer doesn’t want him to have to make that sacrifice. But she was impressed and touched by his gesture.

Her son will be thrilled too. She’s using the dance as a learning experience, to teach him to buy and pay for flowers himself.

Thanks, Jennifer, for passing along this “good neighbor story.” Thanks too to the Flower Basket, for going waaay above and beyond for Westport’s youth.

 

Alan Jolley’s Ultimate Adventure

In his 49 years as a Staples math teacher, Alan Jolley has earned tremendous respect and admiration. Future engineers and mathphobes alike look forward to his “Jolley calls” — phone messages to parents saying their kids have done well.

At last, he’s been inducted into a Hall of Fame.

For Frisbee.

Ultimate Frisbee is Jolley’s 2nd love. He founded Staples’ team — the 2nd in the nation — and coached it to national renown. Now he, and 1974 graduates Ed Davis, Ron Kaufman and Dan Buckley, have been recognized for their contributions, as members of the Ultimate Frisbee Hall of Fame. They’re honored as “Johnny Appleseeds,” for helping grow the sport following its founding at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey.

Dan Buckley, Alan Jolley and Ed Davis, at a Staples Ultimate Frisbee reunion several years ago.

Dan Buckley, Alan Jolley and Ed Davis, at a Staples Ultimate Frisbee reunion in 2009.

Columbia High was Jolley’s alma mater, in 1960. Six years later, he arrived at Staples. In 1970 his sister sent him rules for a new sport being played at Columbia.

Some of Jolley’s students — and other teenagers he knew from his work with Boy Scouts and a church youth group — loved tossing Frisbees. He told them about this new “Ultimate Frisbee.”

The group played on an unkempt field behind the old 9 Building, at the east end of Staples. (Field hockey players chased them away, with sticks.) With no other teams in the area, they scrimmaged themselves.

Back then, he was Jon Steinberg. Today this same guy is State Representative Jonathan Steinberg.

Back then, he was Jon Steinberg. Today this same guy is State Representative Jonathan Steinberg.

They created a “uniform” of blue jeans and a light blue turtleneck, with a Staples monogram on the front and “FriSbee” on the back (get it?). Many guys — and girls — wore red bandannas.

They encouraged Weston High to form a team, and played them on April 5, 1973. Staples won 24-9, in the 1st interscholastic Frisbee game in Connecticut. It was also the 1st known coed interscholastic sports event.

On April 14, Staples hosted Columbia High, in the 1st known interstate coed match. Staples beat the sport’s inventors, 18-8. (To be fair, the guests were missing several players.)

But Staples — in fun — declared themselves “National Champions.” The National Observer sent a reporter from Washington to write about the team. His article appeared on May 12, 1973.

Ron Kaufman today.

Ron Kaufman today.

After graduation, the 3 players inducted recently with Jolley continued to evangelize for the sport.

Kaufman has been particularly active. He founded the Ultimate team at Brown University, then sold “flying disc” equipment by mail, through a California store and online.

Kaufman organized a national series of Frisbee festivals (with Wham-O sponsorship), and created World Peace Tours to China and the Soviet Union featuring Frisbee demonstrations, festivals and tournaments.

He asked, “How can you drop a bomb on somebody you’ve played Frisbee with in Red Square?”

By that time, though, Staples’ Ultimate Frisbee team was just a memory. Jolley disbanded it in the late 1970s, after issues with school administrators over issues like insurance.

What a buzzkill.

1973 frisbee team

Staples’ 1973 Ultimate Frisbee team. Alan Jolley is at far left.

 

Broadway Stars Benefit Orphenians

Adam Kaplan has not forgotten his roots.

Adam Kaplan

Adam Kaplan

The 2008 Staples High School graduate scored some prime roles — Martin Delancey and a newsboy, plus understudy for lead Jack Kelly — in the popular Broadway show “Newsies.” But he has returned to Westport often, enjoying Staples Players productions and  visiting Greens Farms Elementary School music classes.

Now Kaplan is donating his talents to a fundraiser for the Orphenians, the elite high school singing group that helped boost his career. The a cappella musicians have been invited to San Francisco — the only East Coast group to participate in the famed Chanticleer National Youth Choral Festival, this March.

Kaplan has put together an all-star Broadway cast, for a benefit performance. Set to appear with him in the Staples auditorium on Monday, January 26: “Newsies” Tommy Bracco and Molly Jobe; Matt Shingledecker (“Wicked,” “West Side Story,” “Spring Awakening”); Steffanie Leigh (the final Mary of “Mary Poppins”); Robin de Jesús (current star of “Wicked”; 2-time Tony nominee for “In the Heights” and “La Cage aux Folles”); Barrett Wilbert Weed (“Heathers the Musical,” “Lysistrat Jones”) and Kara Lindsay (“Wicked,” “Newsies”).

Proceeds will help all Orphenians be able to make the trip. Click here to order tickets ($40 for adults, $20 for students and seniors). If you can’t attend but would like to contribute, click here.

The 2014-15 Orphenians

The 2014-15 Orphenians

Food For Thought: Who Sits Where In The School Cafeteria

Martin Luther King said that 11 a.m. Sunday was the most segregated hour of the American week. He was referring to the segregation of white and black churches, of course.

But 11 a.m. weekdays may be the most segregated hour in American schools. That’s lunchtime — and day after day, week after week, the same friends sit at the same tables.

In Westport, the separation is not racial or religious. But it is segregation by friend groups.

In nearly every cafeteria, the same groups sit together every day.

In nearly every cafeteria, the same groups sit together every day.

That self-segregation is the basis for this year’s TEAM Westport “Diversity Essay Contest.”

Open to all high school students attending any Westport high school, and Westporters who attend high school elsewhere — and carrying prizes of $1,000, $750 and $500 — the contest asks entrants to describe barriers that prevent students from reaching out to others different from themselves. They should then “identify specific steps you and other students in your high school” can take to help students break down those barriers — “especially in the cafeteria.” Entrants are also asked to discuss the “risks and benefits” of making that effort.

TEAM-Westport-logo2The contest follows last year’s very successful inaugural event. Students were asked to reflect on demographic changes in the US — describing the benefits and challenges of the changes for Westport generally, and him or her personally.

Applications for the contest are available here. The deadline is February 27. “06880” will highlight the winners.

(TEAM Westport is the town’s official committee on multiculturalism. The Westport Library co-sponsors the contest.)

A Christmas Gift At Saugatuck Church

Yesterday marked the 1st day back at Saugatuck Congregational Church, following a devastating fire more than 3 years ago.

The bells sounded wonderful. The feeling was warm and loving. And the 1st service — a Christmas pageant — couldn’t have started better: A beautiful harp piece, played by Staples junior Nicole Mathias.

Merry Christmasand welcome home!