Category Archives: Education

Quaranteen: Young Voices Heard, In Challenging Times

Tori Seiden’s COVID story begins: “It’s been 86 days since I’ve seen my boyfriend.”

She’s a gifted writer. Clearly, calmly, she describes their “long distance during social distancing” relationship. The couple — in their early 20s — go on “virtual dates.” They paint, cook, watch movies, work out, meditate, write journals, learn Spanish and design a dream Minecraft house together, though hundreds of miles apart.

Tori says the experience has taught them a lot about themselves, and each other. It’s brought them closer. They realize if they can get through this, they can surmount any obstacle.

“Of course I want to see my boyfriend,” Tori writes. “But we recognize it isn’t safe right now. So we do our best every day to make the best of things.”

It’s a mature, insightful perspective — and not the kind of story you read every day.

Most coronavirus coverage focuses on case numbers, testing, nursing homes, the economy, parenting, politics, and reopening states. They’re important parts of the pandemic picture, sure.

But what’s missing are young voices.

The Quaranteen Collection fills that void.

The crisply designed, well-written website aims to foster empathy and community — and empower — teens and young adults. Filled with stories of loss, hope, struggle, strength and growth, it’s an outlet for both self-reflection and connection with others.

Quaranteen is a safe, honest space, positive and uplifting despite the harrowing circumstances. Topics range from the impact of distance learning on special education (the writer’s brother is autistic) and the importance of self-care, to the emotions of going back to college — after weeks in isolation — to pack up a dorm room, and leave for good.

One student wrote about the transition back from college dorm life to her childhood home.

“Writing is a powerful tool that offers solace for both reader and writer,” the Quaranateen founders tell teens and 20-somethings. “In these uncertain times, your voice can make a difference in someone’s day and be a source of meaning for yourself. Share your story today; be the hope of tomorrow.”

Besides looking for young Westport writers (click here), the site has a local connection. This spring, a freshman took a writing course that showed him the cathartic power of communication. His professor grew up in Westport.

As his college closed in mid-March, the student and his friends talked about ways they could help other young adults during the coming months. They realized that the reflective process of writing could be invaluable. The idea of a submission-based site was born.

Quaranteen’s founders know that their peers experience a welter of emotions in the best of times. A pandemic makes things exponentially worse.

In the best of times too, young voices are often unheard or dismissed. As the world grapples with a deadly virus, young adults themselves may feel that their problems do not, or should not, matter.

But those experiences and problems are still real. Now — thanks to Quaranteen — anyone facing them can write about them.

And be heard.

A screenshot of the Quaranteen home page.

Tomorrow’s Virtual Memorial Day Parade: The Back Story

Yesterday, the town announced a special virtual Memorial Day celebration for tomorrow (Monday, May 25).

At 9 a.m., a 17-minute video will be broadcast on Cablevision channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. It will be posted later on the town’s Facebook page.

But hey: Want a sneak peak? It’s already on the Town of Westport’s YouTube channel!

It sounds like our middle and high school bands were captured live. But the story is far more complex — and difficult — than that. 

One screenshot from Westport’s virtual Memorial Day parade …

Bedford Middle School band teacher Lou Kitchner takes us behind the scenes:

Due to the COVID-19 school closure, Westport students have been unable to participate in traditional school experiences that were a significant part of their daily activities — like music classes.

To address this problem, and also honor Westport’s fallen heroes and veterans, grade 6-12 band directors James Forgey, Gregg Winters and Phil Giampietro and I designed a way for students to share their musical talents via a digital performance.

Clockwise from upper left: Gregg Winters, Lou Kitchner, Phil Giampietro, James Forgey.

We created and posted a play-along audio track, with an embedded metronome click, on their class websites. Students practiced their individual parts by playing along with the audio accompaniment.

After a week or two of practice, 165 students recorded their individual performances, just as professional studio musicians do. They used whatever technology they had available: a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

All 165 submissions were then imported into multi-track music software by the teachers. Next the band directors aligned and edited them in time with the song’s tempo, and mixed them down into a single ensemble performance track.

The individual mixes — 6th, 7th and 8th grades, and the combined Staples High School bands — were then combined into one complete grade 6-12 performance. I am so proud of these kids! It sounds like they were all together, in one room.

To complement the audio, we asked students to submit photos of themselves holding or performing their instrument — in school or town- related attire if possible (school closure prevented them from accessing uniforms or school-specific parade t-shirts).

… and another.

Staples media teacher Geno Heiter then spent hours merging all the photos with the final ensemble mix to create the final product: a virtual Memorial Day parade!

Westport has won 7 straight “Best Community for Music Education” awards, from a national foundation. After this effort, they should just name it after us and retire it forever. 

No Memorial Day Parade? No Problem! Town Sets Virtual Celebration.

On Monday we won’t see military veterans, police officers, firefighters, EMTs, politicians, Little Leaguers, Suzuki violinists, or the Y’s Men’s fantastic float.

We’ll miss crowds along the parade route, a grand marshal waving to crowds, stirring speeches and mournful “Taps” across from Town Hall.

COVID has knocked out Westport’s Memorial Day traditions.

That’s okay. We’ll have a virtual Memorial Day parade and ceremony on Monday anyway.

At 9 a.m., a 17-minute video will be broadcast on Cablevision channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. It will also be available on the town website (westportct.gov), and posted on the Town of Westport Facebook page.

The video will loop all day on TV after its 9 a.m. debut. It will be available on Facebook forever too, it seems.

..A classic scene from Westport’s Memorial Day parade. (Photo/Dayle Brownstein)

1st Selectman Jim Marpe thanks the Bedford Middle School band and town band teachers, Police Department Honor Guard, and artists and crew for making the production possible.

He adds:

As Memorial Day weekend arrives during this difficult time, it is as important as ever to take a few moments to remember those servicemen and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.

Obviously, the current conditions in the world dictate how we memorialize and honor those veterans. In the upcoming days, I encourage everyone to reflect and give thanks to the men and women who served and continue to serve in the military. We cannot celebrate together, but we can collectively in spirit celebrate their heroism in our own individual ways.

Two years ago, grand marshal Larry Aasen spoke about the horrors of war.He’ll join many Westporters on Monday, honoring the holiday virtually. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

COVID Roundup: Retail Reopening; World Bee Day; College Admissions; More


Tomorrow is a red-letter retail day. Natalie Toraty — owner of Noya Fine Jewelry on Riverside Avenue — writes:

“Tomorrow morning, many small privately-owned businesses will reopen their doors. We all do it with great relief, and heavy heart since the unknown is greater than the known. Some of us won’t survive this crisis. The next few weeks will determine if we can keep going.

“Most of the stores reopening throughout Westport are privately owned local businesses. Hopefully that will bring people out, and might fill the gap we all have of interactions, conversations, shopping and going out.

“Now more than ever, supporting small local businesses is crucial — for the town, for the businesses, and for everyone’s real estate investment.

“We can all shop international brands all over. But what our local boutiques offer is different: a different experience, unique service and personal taste. We cater to the local shopper, our customers. We all have a niche.

“We all have guidelines, and we must comply. Our shoppers need to follow guidelines as well (wearing masks, social distancing, etc.). Many of us have stricter rules than were asked for. Please support us!


Among the many Westport businesses reopening tomorrow (Wednesday, May 20): Savannah Bee.

Bee-lieve it or not, that’s also World Bee Day!

The popular Bedford Square shop will open Monday through Saturday (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), and Sunday (12 to 6 p.m).

Curbside pickup is available for those who want it. Just call 203-557-6878 or email julie@savannahbee.com

Through Bee Day, Savannah Bee will provide:

  • Honeybee information packets and “Adopt-a-Bee” through their “Bee Cause” charity (over 600 free, educational observation beehives throughout the US and Canada).
  • Info on Westport’s Pollinator Pathway information, and emblems.
  • Free honey straws, temporary tattoos, and fun activity packets for youngsters to learn everything they can do to save bees.
  • Families can learn about healthy and safe ways to treat lawns and gardens without pesticides.

“We want to stay open in Westport,” says store manager Julie Cook. “We truly appreciate all the support you continue to provide us over the past 3 years. Westport needs Savannah Bee and we need you.”

She signs it, “All my bee-est.”


No one knows what college will look like going forward. But a group of experts has some ideas.

They’ll share them next Tuesday (May 26, 7 to 8:30 p.m.).

Steinbrecher & Partners — the Main Street educational consultants — present a live webinar. Topics include the college admissions process going forward, the relevance and future of testing, and college expectations for the Class of 2021 and beyond.

Panelists include admissions deans and directors at Boston University, Union College and Rhodes College, and the founder and CEO of Carnegie Prep. Moderator Richard Avitabile of Steinbrecher, who for over a decade oversaw admissions for 7 New York University schools.

For free registration, click here.


One more sign the world is slowly returning to normal: Stop & Shop’s shelves, early this morning:

(Photo/Molly Alger)


But here’s another “sign of the times” photo. We’ve all seen plenty of “Westport Strong” and “We’re all in this together!” signs. This one off South Compo was a tad less optimistic:

(Photo/Tracy Porosoff)


And finally … “Don’t breathe too deep/Don’t think all day.” That — as any “Rent” fan knows — it what it’s like when you’re “Living in America/At the end of the millennium.”

Or the middle of a pandemic.

Lehigh Holds Graduation On Greenbrier Road

Early yesterday afternoon, Eliza Donovan graduated from Lehigh University.

It was not the ceremony she envisioned. The 2016 Staples High School alum left campus in mid-March. She and her classmates finished their college careers at home, clouded by COVID and a changed world.

Commencement took place virtually. There was a cappella music, a slideshow, and a symbolic conferring of degrees.

Almost as soon as it was over, Eliza really graduated.

She’s lucky to have a fun-loving, creative family, with 5 siblings and ton of nearby cousins. She’s lucky they all love Lehigh (her father Dan and uncles Dave and Doug went there too). She’s lucky they wanted to celebrate in style.

Festive touches everywhere.

So at 3 p.m., Eliza’s extended family assembled in their back yard. There was a program on every seat.

“Pomp and Circumstance” played. Eliza marched in. Her brother Johnny welcomed everyone, and delivered a commencement speech. He wished her well as she went off into the world — though he reminded her to wear a face mask, and stay within her safe social bubble.

Johnny Donovan delivers a commencement address. His 2017 Staples High graduation gown, mortarboard and sash came in handy.

Eliza’s father gave a speech too, then presented the diplomas — er, diploma. (It was his old one, with her name taped over his.)

What a treat! Eliza Donovan receives her diploma from her father.

She was cited as valedictorian. Hey, she had the highest GPA of any graduate at that ceremony.

Eliza’s mother Nicole gave the benediction.

Toasting the graduate, with a variety of beverages.

It was the way a graduation should be: short and sweet. And very personal.

There were no honorary degrees conferred on wealthy contributions. No one had to yell “Sit down – I can’t see!” No one passed out, sitting for hours in a hot stadium.

Those first few wonderful moments after Eliza receives her degree.

And when it was over, Eliza — a championship diver — started a new tradition. She dove into the pool.

Then — as the “graduation program” noted — the proud graduate’s family invited everyone to a celebratory reception.

Her whole family was there.

Eliza Donovan and her proud mom, Nicole.

And Westport’s Teacher Of The Year Are …

Traditionally, the Westport Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year is announced with a flourish, at the all-staff opening convocation.

He or she is cited — along with runner-up colleagues — for a wonderful combination of dedication, innovation, passion, compassion, pride and professionalism.

This year, the district is announcing the honor early. It goes to — literally — the entire staff.

Director of human resources and general administration John Bayers says:

As we think about starting the process again for selecting Westport’s 2021 Teacher of the Year, the selection committee and I feel this is not the time to shine a special light on one educator in the district. Instead, we feel that every teacher in the Westport Public Schools deserves acknowledgement for their profound efforts during the school closure period.

For the 2020-2021 school year, the district will award all teachers the distinction of “Westport’s 2021 Teachers of the Year.” This award will recognize the accomplishments of our certified staff in supporting our students, families and colleagues during the COVID-19 crisis. It is a celebration of the innovative approaches and resilience of character demonstrated by every teacher, library media specialist, counselor, psychologist, speech pathologist and social worker.

In addition to the tremendous work of our certified teachers during the COVID-19 crisis, we also wish to recognize the tireless efforts of our non-certified staff. The custodians, secretaries, maintainers, nurses, health assistants, technology staff, paraprofessionals, building substitutes, athletic trainers, coaches, co-curricular activity/club advisors, occupational therapists, physical therapists, support supervisors, security guards, school lunch staff and interns are at the heart of what makes our distance learning and community outreach programs successful. To that end, we would like to honor each of these colleagues as recipients  of “Westport’s 2021 Heart Award – Supporting a Stronger Community.”

The district is collecting stories about the creative, supportive ways in which staff members have responded during the pandemic. They’ll be shared at the opening convocation, in place of the speech typically given by the Teacher of the Year.

It’s a great idea. But it might take this year’s honorees a while to see this story about them.

Right now, they’re too busy working.

COVID Roundup: Farmer’s Market; Rive Bistro; Drew Angus; C-130 Flyover; More


Connecticut restaurants are allowed to reopen a week from today — Wednesday, May 20 — with outdoor dining only.

Rive Bistro is raring to go.

Owner Eric Sierra already had a covered patio, off Riverside Avenue on the bank of the Saugatuck River. Now he’s extended it, making sure tables are 6 feet apart. They’ll serve a full lunch and dinner menu.

During the pandemic, Rive Bistro has been open weekends for curbside pickup only. Starting today, they’ll offer curbside dinners every day, from 4 to 8 p.m. When outdoor dining begins next week, curbside takeout will continue to be available too.


Yesterday at 10 a.m., town officials began handing out face masks at Bedford Middle School.

It was a great idea. It took Eve Potts an hour to get from Long Lots to Bedford — but she reports that the distribution was well organized. And, she says, “we now have a nice supply of masks.” Here was part of the line, spilling out to North Avenue, when distribution began.

(Photo/Eve Potts)


Two weeks ago on “06880,” Drew Angus shared his life as a gig worker in a pandemic. The 2007 Staples High School graduate is a musician. Accessing  funds through the CARES Act and PPP was a different tune than for salary and wage workers.

Today he brings us up to date on his efforts. Drew says: “My stimulus check finally came through. So did my SBA loan advance of $1,000, which is technically a grant. No word yet on the loan itself. They are processing applications as quickly as possible. The system is starting to work — slowly.

“On Friday the Department of Labor finally put the PUA application for gig worker unemployment up on their site.”

Meanwhile, Drew continues to work on his music. Here’s his latest project. It’s definitely worth checking out — and forwarding far and wide.


I’m not sure why officials have decided that a good way to honor medical workers is to spend tons of money of military flyovers — rather than, say, PPE — but another one takes place tomorrow (Thursday, May 14).

The Connecticut Air National Guard’s 103rd Airlift Wing will fly C-130s over a Connecticut hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Norwalk Hospital is on the flight path, at approximately 11:37 a.m.

Also on the list: Greenwich Hospital (11:34), Silver Hill (11:39), Bridgeport Hospital (11:43) and Yale New Haven (11:48).


Every year, MoCA Westport sponsors a student art exhibit. It’s always a remarkable show — and wonderful reminder that our arts future is alive and well.

The museum is closed indefinitely. But this year’s show is online — andn as inspiring as ever. Over 60 students from throughout the region submitted paintings, photographs, collages and ceramics. Many address these uncertain times.

Among the artists represented: Staples High School’s Alexandra Lam, Anne Machata and Caroline Rourke, and Greens Farms Academy’s Ryan Boyle and Lulu Wu.

Click here for the full gallery.

“Quarantined All Year Round” (Emma Costa Norwalk High School), part of the MOCA High School Student Art Exhibition.


Several Staples High School sports teams have provided meals to front line personnel. The latest is the boys hockey squad.

Parents and players partnered with Staples culinary instructor Alison Milwe Grace — who also owns AMG Catering — to have 50 meals delivered to Norwalk Hospital workers.

Each player sent a personal note; the team added a bigger one, thanking the healthcare workers for all they’re doing.

PS: Several players eat gluten-free diets, so they made sure half the meals they donated were gluten-free too.

PPS: Following up on a previous “06880” story: In 11 days, Staples’ girls track team raised over $7,000 (and ran over 190 miles) for the Stamford Hospital. The boys swim team provided sandwiches for Norwalk Hospital too. And girls golf has been involved with Homes With Hope.


Buried deep in Westport’s RTM Rules of Procedure is this: the “first right-hand seat of the left-hand section as you face the Moderator” should be left empty. It’s a memorial to Maclear Jacoby, one of the original members, and to all deceased RTM members.

Now comes word that Maclear Jacob Jr. died last month, after contracting the coronavirus. He was 93, and had quite a life. After growing up in Westport he spent 65 years at Landon — the elite, all-boys prep school in Bethesda, Maryland.

He served in the Navy in World War II, graduated from Trinity College, joined the Air Force and fought for a year in Korea, and became a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve. But, the Washington Post says:

In 1955 Jacoby turned his attention to educating children…. 

During his 65-year career — the longest in Landon’s history — Jacoby served many roles. In addition to math teacher, he was head of Landon’s middle school. As varsity tennis coach, he led the squad to 42 Interstate Athletic Conference titles and produced more than 20 individual championships and team titles. 

Even after he retired, Jacoby stayed close to campus, attending nearly every tennis match and keeping stats at football and basketball games.

(Hat tip: Charlie and Sandie Cole)


And finally … yesterday marked 2 months from the day Westport schools closed. Suddenly, things got real.

We had no idea how we would adapt. Could we last a couple of weeks at home? A month without a haircut or styling? How about 2 months of no sports or concerts?

Well, we’ve done it. There may be light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps that’s just the light of a big freight train coming at us.

Either way, we know we’ve been able to do things we hadn’t thought possible. It hasn’t been easy. But now we can all say — like Michael in “A Chorus Line” — “I can do that!”

Westport Public Art Collection: Now Just A Click Away

By the fall of 1932, 25% of Connecticut’s workforce was unemployed.

As Governor Wilbur Cross accompanied presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt to a campaign address in Bridgeport, both men knew that jobs creation was a key means to provide economic relief and hope.

Many New Deal projects — including the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration — depended on state and local government cooperation.

Between 1934 and 1937, 1st Selectman King W. Mansfield and the Westport Art Committee secured funding for 16 artists to produce works for 8 public buildings here.

“Westport Organized 1835-1935),” Howard Heath (1879-1969), oil on masonite, hangs at Town Hall.Created in 1936 — one year after Westport’s centennial — the mural is a decorative map showing the principal roads, brooks and historical points of interest circa 1835. The artist’s inscription reads, “Dedicated to the sturdy traders, farmers and builders who settled and developed the Town of Westport. May the pioneer spirit of courage, independence and resourcefulness be ever alive and vigorous.”

Westport’s WPA collections form a historically significant portion of the Westport Public Art Collections. But with schools and town buildings closed due to COVID-19, the great WestPAC works are also unavailable.

No problem! WestPAC is bringing the public art collections to the community virtually — and to art lovers everywhere, far beyond 06880.

Two new exhibits were just launched. The first highlights the WPA works. (Click here to view.)

“Battle of Compo Hill,” Eugene Hannan (1875-1945), plaster bas-relief, on view at Saugatuck Elementary School. The sculptor was commissioned to produce 2 low-relief panels to commemorate the patriots who stood against the British invasion of April 25-28, 1777, for what was then Staples High School on Riverside Avenue. This scene depicts Brigadier General Benedict Arnold as he leads the patriots to intercept the British at the foot of Compo Hill.

The pop art collection is also now online. (Click here to view.)

Not a lot of good things have come out of the pandemic. The chance to view the astonishing Westport Public Art Collections — perhaps unparalleled by any suburban town anywhere — from the comfort of your self-isolating home is one of them.

For more information on WestPAC — and to search the entire collection — click here.

“Eskimo Children at Play,” Colcord Heurlin (1895-1986), oil on masonite, on view at Saugatuck Elementary School. Throughout the early 20th century, technological advancements in transportation and communication brought the world closer together. Here, the artist brings the ways of life of children in Alaska to Westport.

COVID Roundup: “Artists In Residences”; Alice In Wonderland; Class Of 2020 Signs; More


Among the many features of the transformed Westport Library, there was this: continuing exhibitions of local artists, in the Sheffer Gallery and other prominent spots.

The library is closed. But thanks to exhibits director Carole Erger-Fass, artist/ designer/jack-of-all-trades Miggs Burroughs, and modern technology, they’re getting even more exposure now than they would have had hanging on the walls.

“Artists in Residences” is the library’s cleverly named, wonderfully executed project. Miggs and Carole conducted 30-minute Zoom visits with Artists Collective of Westport members.

Part interview, part studio tour and part demonstrations of their techniques, each episode is as different as the artists themselves.

So far, 6 of these rare, intimate looks at artists in their “native habitats” have been completed. They feature Nina Bentley, Susan Fehlinger, Emily Laux, Joan Miller, Nancy Moore and MaryEllen Hendricks.

Click below for Nina’s; click here for all, via the YouTube channel.


Staples High School’s Class of 2020 will make history in at least 2 ways.

They’re the first to have senior year disrupted by a coronavirus pandemic. And they’re the first to have free lawn signs distributed to every graduate.

Signs are being picked up this week by all 437 seniors. You may already have seen some around town.

Plans are underway for many more activities for this year’s hard-luck, but resilient and wonderful, class. Hindsight is always “20/20” — but with a bit of foresight, this year’s Class of graduation will be both memorable and great.


Speaking of Staples: The “Seussical” show did not go on this spring. But another great one is on tap — er, on radio — this Thursday.

At 6 p.m. (May 14), Players director David Roth’s Theatre 3 class will broadcast their annual radio play. It’s “Alice in Wonderland.” And if it’s anything like past productions, it will earn a first-place national Drury High School Radio Award. (Staples has won every year since their inception in 2011.)

Entire families will enjoy this production. It uses the same 1952 script that was broadcast nationally, coinciding with Walt Disney’s release of his animated feature. And it features several stars from last fall’s “Mamma Mia!” mainstage.

The class has rehearsed 3 times a week since the school shut down. On Thursday you can hear them live: 90.3 FM, or streamed here.


Speaking of education: Westport Continuing Education has launched Online Learning classes and workshops for adults, teens and kids. Virtual “after school” programs include sports, babysitting, arts, film, horticulture, theater and more. Those for adults include business, cooking, gardening and personal finance. Click here for details.


They were all there at last night’s “Rise Up New York!” telethon: Tina Fey. Andrew Cuomo. Barbara Streisand. Ben Platt. Bette Midler. Jennifer Lopez. Bill de Blasio. Chris Rock. Danny Meyer. Eli Manning. Idina Menzel. Jake

Gyllenhaal. Jimmy Fallon. Lin-Manuel Miranda. Robert De Niro. Salt-N-Pepa. Spike Lee. Julianne Moore. Trevor Noah. Bon Jovi. Billy Joel. Mariah Carey.  Sting.

And Gold’s.

Momofuku’s David Chang said, “It’s impossible to overstate the importance of New York’s restaurant industry. It’s also impossible to overstate the crisis it’s currently facing.”

And then — first, among a number of dining spots — Westport’s popular deli appeared on screens, all around the nation. Chip Stephens captured the moment on camera:


And finally … listen to Peter Gabriel!

COVID Can’t Stop Staples Senior Interns

When then-Staples High School principal John Dodig proposed a springtime Senior Internship program more than a decade ago, many people were wary.

Teachers did not want to “lose” students. Students did not want to “work” in the middle of senior slump. And what businesses, everyone wondered, would want to hire slumping seniors during beautiful May weather?

All those worries were unfounded. As the Senior Internship grew, teachers realized the benefits in having slumping students out of their classes. Students were energized by having real jobs and real responsibilities before heading to college. All kinds of businesses — retail stores, ad agencies, financial service firms, restaurants, tech companies, theaters, engineering companies, non-profits, media firms, medical offices, farms, schools, you name it — saw the value in interns.

From modest beginnings, Staples’ program exploded. Now, nearly every senior eligible — those without attendance or grade issues — participates. It’s one of the most popular, highly anticipated parts of the entire high school experience.

From a wealth management firm …

So what happens when a pandemic shuts school — along with nearly every business that already committed to having an intern?

Fortunately, not much. Despite all the uncertainty of the past few weeks, Staples’ program is on track to begin later this month.

Internship coordinators Michelle Howard and Denise Pearl had spent months preparing for this spring. Beginning in September they’d contacted the more than 400 sites in their database.

They’d met individually with 450-plus seniors, describing options and opportunities. (About 100 seniors design their own internships each year.)

… to Wakeman Town Farm …

In mid-March, everyone was looking ahead. Internships would begin as soon as AP tests ended. Students would spend 5 hours a day for 4 weeks at their sites. They’d write weekly self-reflections, and check in regularly with faculty mentors. The “real world” was about to begin.

Then the real “real world” intruded. COVID-19 upended everything.

For a couple of weeks, Howard and Pearl wondered how to salvage the program. As they fielded questions from students and sites, they realized many people wanted it to continue, in whatever ways were feasible.

The directors spoke with Staples senior class assistant principal Meghan Ward. Soon, the idea of “remote internships” took place.

… to a catering company …

Though some sites were closed, and others not conducive to working with interns, many were. Attorneys, shop owners, graphic designers, hedge fund managers — they said, “we’ll make it work.” Through teleconferences, creative ideas and other experiences, they vowed to give their interns valuable life experiences.

For example, a preschool said their intern could create an online “graduation ceremony” for their tots. The Senior Center said they’d like their intern to devise a “virtual tour” of the artwork on its walls. A realtor wants help with social media.

Even New York’s Museum of Natural History promised to keep its intern on.

“They’re all really going above and beyond,” Howard says admiringly.

… to a builder of energy-efficient luxury homes …

Of course, not every site is able to accommodate its interns. So Pearl and Howard came up with 2 other concepts.

One is a “Do It Yourself Experience.”

“Get creative,” they say. “Design and develop a project from beginning to end.” For example, seniors could:

  • Create a business that could help the world recover from COVID-19
  • Write a book (poetry, short stories, children’s) about this crisis
  • Paint, draw, take photos, or produce a video about it
  • Build or construct something
  • Read extensively, and share what they learned
  • Research, or talk to experts on a subject like traditional school vs. distance learning; the emotional toll of isolation, or the effects of the coronavirus on an industry, or on social media.

The other option is an interview series, with at least 3 people. Students can then make a video, blog or podcast on subjects like careers, multi-generational voices, education, or any topic of their choice.

“It’s not the Senior Internship in its usual form,” Pearl admits. “But these are not usual times.”

The Class of 2020 has lost a lot: prom. Graduation. Even senioritis.

But they won’t lost their internships.

… and Harbor Watch, the Staples Internship Program is a highlight of senior year.

“I’m really proud of this program — and these kids,” Howard says.

“It’s a great experience being around 400-plus teenagers. It’s terrific working with the sites. We’ve made some great relationships.

“And those that can’t host interns remotely, they all say they want to be part of it next year.”

NOTE: Any business or individual interested in sponsoring an intern should email shsinternship@westportps.org as soon as possible.

This is not a 2020 photo. For many years, Staples interns have worked at hospitals, medical clinics and doctors’ offices.