In these polarized days, there is little that Westporters agree on.
From national issues like reproductive rights and our leaders, to local ones like the Cribari Bridge and affordable housing, battle lines have hardened.
But there is one thing all “06880” readers know: We love Tim Harman.
You’ve seen him — always smiling — bagging groceries at Stop & Shop.
Tim recently celebrated 30 years an an employee there. He started as part of Staples High School’s work/study program. For 3 decades, he’s been one of the supermarket’s most loyal employees.
Tim’s sister-in-law Karen writes proudly about other parts of Tim’s life:
In addition to Stop & Shop, Tim — who is now 51 — works at the wonderful Prospector Theater In Ridgefield. Its mission is to offer work opportunities to residents with special needs.
Tim Harman, working at the Prospector Theater …
Tim is also a longtime member of Our Vision. The organization’s mission is to enrich the lives for persons with disabilities by providing social, cultural and recreational activities which foster enduring friendships, and expand their potential through teamwork and training in Special Olympics.
But Tim’s greatest gifts are his infectious smile, and that he knows almost everyone in town — from everyday shoppers to teachers and coaches, and the town firefighters who come in almost daily.
In fact, he is an honorary firefighter, riding in the fire truck every Memorial Day parade.
… riding in the Memorial Day parade …
Every new customer is a new friend. The next time you meet him, he will remember your name. You can’t go anywhere without him knowing somebody. Some refer to him as the unofficial Ambassador of Westport.
Tim is a life-long Westporter. He attended Westport schools as a special education student, all the way, from Coleytown Elementary and Middle Schools, through Staples High. Tim was a member of the Wreckers swim team, and a manager for the baseball team.
His sports talent is evident at annual Connecticut Special Olympics competitions. He has run, swum, and even tried shot putting this year.
He’s pretty good. He has won close to 100 medals over the past 45 years ,including 3 last month. Tim doesn’t even count his ribbons.
… starring at Special Olympics …
Ask him about his favorite teams. He is a long-suffering fan of the Mets, Knicks and Giants. He can tell you the scores of each team’s games the next day.
Tim’s parents, Gail and Jim Harman, moved to Westport in 1963. Gail spent many years as a paraprofessional at Staples. Jim is well known as the proprietor of the garage next to The Porch @ Christe’s. Tim’s brother Jim lives locally, while his sister Liz calls New York City home. Both went through Westport schools, as did Tim’s niece Chase Harman Burke and nephew Andrew Harman.
Tim is a proud and loving uncle to 6 adults, and grand-uncle to 7 little ones.
… and with a great-nephew.
Congratulations, Tim, on your 30 years at Stop & Shop. And thank you for making Westport a better place, every day!
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When COVID hit and most kids went stir crazy, a few Bedford Middle School students went (socially distanced) fishing.
With YouTube videos, Google Earth and language arts teacher/avid fisherman Steve Rexford as guides, the 8th graders learned all they could about many kinds of fishing. Fly, saltwater, freshwater, night, ice fishing — they did it all.
At a private pond in Norwalk, they met Stamford firefighter Dave Bocchetta. Rather than kicking them out, he became their mentor.
In 2001, Mariangela was a Staples High School rock star.
The senior won the national Siemens Westinghouse Science & Technology Competition. And the Intel Science Talent Search (where she met President Bush). Each came with a $100,000 scholarship (!).
But she did not stop there. Mariangela was captain of the Staples math team, founder and captain of the engineering team, concertmaster of the Chamber and Symphonic Orchestras, and the recipient of honors in Italian and Spanish (both of which she is fluent in.) Of course, she was valedictorian.
Then, at the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair in San Jose, California, the Harvard-bound graduate was awarded the Glenn Seaborg Nobel Prize Visit Award — earning a trip to the Nobel ceremony in Stockholm.
So what is Mariangela up to these days?
She earned a Ph.D. from Stanford in 2010, then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science. She’s been on the physics faculty at Princeton University since then.
A theoretical particle physicist by training, her research focuses on the nature of dark matter. Mariangela’s interdisciplinary work incorporates ideas from astrophysics and data science. Currently, she’s focusing on how variations of the Cold Dark Matter paradigm affect galactic and sub-galactic scale observables.
The Simons Investigators program supports outstanding theoretical scientists in their most productive years, when they are establishing creative new research directions, providing leadership and mentoring junior scientists.
Simons Investigators are appointed for 5 years, renewable for another 5. Each Investigator receives research support of $100,000 per year. An additional $10,000 per year is provided to the Investigator’s department
Congratulations, Mariangela. You continue to make Staples, and Westport, proud.
But they’re mere children, compared to the Class of ’52. Let’s hear it for them!
Nine alums just enjoyed their 70th (!) reunion at Rive Bistro — not far from their old high school, on Riverside Avenue. (Today it’s Saugatuck Elementary).
Ed Backus — a 1948 graduate — joined them, making them feel very young.
The class has met every 5 years since graduation day: Friday the 13th, 1952. “Our Staples ties are strong!” says Jess Thompson Huberty.
They are indeed. Hail, Staples! Hail, Class of ’52!
Staples High School Class of 1952 at Rive Bistro: Seated (from left):Lu List Morris, Susan Stokes. Middle row: Roxanne Gette Martin, Barbara Hendricks Chamberlain, Jess Thompson Huberty, Sonja Messelt Ziluca, Don Switter, Ed Backus. Rear: Bill Gault. Sending regrets: Bev Breault, Lynn Lucke Lutkin, Steven Miller, Concetta Palazzo Fedak, Mary Ellen Kottgen McKenna.
The Westport Journal has a new executive editor. Thane Grauel succeeds Jarret Liotta in the top post at the year-old online news site July 1. Liotta will focus on photography and video projects.
Grauel has been a reporter at the Westport News, managing editor at the Westport Minuteman and editor of The Hour, among other publications.
“The news business is so different now,” he told “06880.” “At the Westport News we had 5 guys covering Town Hall, plus sports, business, entertainment and real estate. The chains have gobbled everything up. People are not being served like before.”
However, Grauel says, “Westport is one of the best-covered towns in Connecticut, online. People here are really engaged. They want to know what’s going on.”
Grauel is a 4th-generation Westporter, though after Kings Highway Elementary School his family moved to Milford. He graduated from the University of Connecticut, and is a Navy veteran.
Bilingual journalist and writer Camila Vallejo earns the first-ever Writer-in-Residence prize from Fairfield County Story Lab, the shared workspace in Saugatuck for creative types.
Vallejo covers housing and social justice issues for Connecticut Public Radio and WNPR, and is a member of Report for America. She has been a part-time producer for All Things Considered (read and hear some of her stories here).
The FC Story Lab’s Writer-in-Residence prize is for early-career writers. Vallejo’s residency will enable her to work for free at the Story Lab in Saugatuck. The Lab will install a new media suite, so she can record radio pieces there. While she reports statewide — including pieces on housing disparities in Fairfield County — she often files stories from a closet at home.
“Unfortunately, this isn’t unusual today,” says FC Story Lab co-founder Carol Dannhauser.
“Many media companies have trimmed their newsrooms and all but eliminated their bureaus. This means that young reporters, especially, can’t experience the alchemy that happens in a newsroom, where people bounce ideas off of each other and offer suggestions when stories hit a dead-end.”
During her 6-month residency, Vallejo will host 2 events for students and recent graduates interested in a career in journalism or media.
Last summer, dozens of Fleishers Craft Butchery employees at 4 locations walked off the job after CEO John Adams removed Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ Pride signs that workers had put in windows at the Westport store.
Though they had been there for months, a customer had only recently complained.
After the walkout, most employees quit. The shops remained closed until March, when one in Brooklyn reopened. Now it — the final store in what was once hailed as “the mecca of the good-meat movement,” with “rock star butchers” — has closed too.
New York magazine says that after the Westport incident — and the effects of COVID on, particularly, the Upper East Side location — “Fleishers never again found its footing.” Though owner Rob Rosania apologized and offered employees raises to return, the company was cooked.
With the final closing, you can put a fork in Fleishers. (Click here for the full New York magazine story. Hat tip: Tom Prince)
The Fleishers signs. (Photo courtesy of Chloe Sorvino, for Forbes)
In 1964, coach Jinny Parker’s 440 relay team– Joy Wassell, Mary Gail Horelick, Susan Tefft and Donna Jackson — set a national record: 53.7 seconds.
They were all Staples High School students. But they were a club team, not a varsity sport. Back then, the only official track team was for boys.
Girls had just 3 interscholastic options: field hockey in fall, basketball in winter (6-vs.-6; 3 players on each side of the court, to minimize running and sweating), softball in the spring.
Staples’ 1954-55 girls basketball team.
That’s ancient history, it seems. Today, Staples fields more girls teams than boys. Many — including soccer and field hockey — are perennial state title contenders. They draw large crowds, including proud fathers and young girls who aspire to one day be Wreckers themselves.
Staples’ girls soccer team is the defending state champion. (Photo/JC Martin)
But the growth of girls sports is relatively new. It was kick-started exactly 50 years ago — on June 23, 1972 — when President Nixon signed into law Title IX.*
The federal civil rights statute — really, just 37 words tucked inside much broader education legislation — prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other education program that receives funding from the federal government.
(Interestingly, the words “sports,” “athletics” and “physical education” appear nowhere in the text.)
In 1970-71, coach Marianne Harrison’s girls basketball team played its first official FCIAC season. The rules had changed the previous year to be similar to the boys game — but they still wore bloomers.
Girls sports have evolved enormously over 5 decades. Staples now offers 19 interscholastic sports for girls, 18 for boys. Sailing is co-ed.
(Wrestling is listed as a boys sport, and competitive and sideline cheerleading for girls. Both genders are eligible to try out for those teams, though the number is small.)
There are nearly 2,000 students at Staples, in grades 9 through 12. More than half — 1,018 — played at least one interscholastic sport this year, at the varsity, junior varsity or reserve level.
There are more male athletes (573) than female (445). But that’s a lot more than the few dozen girls who competed when Title IX was enacted.
Staples’ Marisa Shorrock and a Greenwich High player fight for a loose ball in 2020. Coach Paco Fabian’s team had just won their state quarterfinal game, and were favorites to win the state title, when COVID ended the season.
So, “06880” wants to know: How has Title IX impacted your sports life?
Women: What opportunities has it offered you — or what did you miss?
Girls: Are there any differences between your sports experiences today, and those of your brothers and male friends?
Men: Are your daughters’ athletic careers any different from your sisters’, female friends — or mothers’?
Tell us your stories! Click “Comments” below.
And then raise a stein to Title IX.
You’ve come a long way, baby.
*The Watergate break-in took place on June 17, 1972 — just 6 days earlier. Less than a week separated one of the highs of President Nixon’s administration, and one of its lows.
Staples had very few girls sports before Title IX. But in the 1930s, they did have a girls rifle team. (The boys had one too.) This 1936 yearbook photo, with coach Walter Stevenson, called them “Annie Oakleys.”
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The Staples High School Class of 2022 is now part of history.
But tonight they live on — on the big screen.
The Remarkable Theatre screens a 60-minute film — created by the theater’s Staples interns — highlighting the graduating class.
There are interviews with nearly 2 dozen seniors, plus footage contributed by other students. It was produced over the past 2 weeks, so it is definitely timely.
Gates open at 8 p.m. tonight, for tailgating. The film begins at 8:45. Tickets are $20 per person or $50 per car, whichever is cheaper — with no limit on the number of passengers. Click here to purchase, and for more details.
Eamon Brannigan is one of the stars of the Class of 2022 Senior Night film.
If you’re a good gardener, you grow your own food.
If you’re a very good (and lucky!) gardener, you’ve got way more than you need.
But there’s only so much lettuce, peas and zucchini you can give to your friends.
So chew on this: Wakeman Town Farm has partnered with Westport Grow-a-Row and Food Rescue US-Fairfield County on a new produce donation drop off site.
Bring your abundance to WTF’s farm stand any Saturday, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.; coolers are set up there. Your fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs will help people struggling with food insecurity, throughout Fairfield County.
Questions? Email Haley@foodrescue.us. Follow @grow.a.row_westport on Instagram for updates.
There are 3 age categories: 5-9 years old, 10-14 and 15-18. Any photo taken at one of the Thursday Farmers’ Markets is eligible. Judging is by a panel of local artists, and the public.
The contest runs from a week from this tomorrow (June 23) through July 31. Winners — who earn a $100 cash, WFM swag and a gift card for a MoCA Westport class — will be celebrated at Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center, with catering by Sugar & Olives.
Ann Burmeister — Farmers’ Market board member and Who Grows Your Food photographer — will help youngsters as they take shots at the Market tomorrow. A WFM team member will be on hand throughout the contest to answer questions.
Click here to submit photos, and for more information.
“Starstem” by Calista Finkelstein was a previous “Young Shoots” winner in the 8-10 category.
Yesterday’s obituary of longtime Westport volunteer Tom Hofstetter included incorrect information about a memorial service at Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club. The family will hold a private burial only; there is no service.
On June 30, nearly everyone in Westport will watch the July 4th fireworks. (I know, I know …)
But if pyrotechnics aren’t your thing, you’ve got an artistic option.
The opening reception for MoCA’s new exhibition — “Women Pulling at the Threads of Social Discourse” — is set for that night (6 to 8 p.m.; free).
The show explores how “female artists, utilizing textiles as their medium, subvert the social expectation of crafting by lambasting this soft medium with political and social awareness.”
It focuses on flags, as a symbol of solidarity for women of the suffrage movement, and an emblem of protest. Flags in “Women Pulling at the Threads of Social Discourse” were assembled using mixed media and the fiber arts to ignite positive social change.
So — with those flags — there is a connection to Independence Day after all.
The exhibition runs through September 4. Click here for more information.
The MoCA exhibition logo is based on the original colors of the suffragist movement.
Amy Simon Fine Art (123 Main Street), hosts an opening reception this Saturday (June 25, 3 to 5 p.m.) for the new “Visual Alchemy” show. Artists include Barry Katz, David Skillicorn and Louise P. Sloane.
Untitled #11– encaustic over plaster. (Barry Katz)
It’s not true that Benjamin Franklin wanted a wild turkey — not an eagle — to be America’s national symbol.
The actual story: In a letter to his daughter, he criticized the original eagle design for the Great Seal, saying it looked like a turkey.
Well, after a long period away, wild turkeys have returned to Westport. The other day, Carol Cederbaum saw 3 of them roosting on her back deck. She got this shot a female, before they spotted her behind the window.
Is it a handsome “Westport … Naturally” subject, or not? You be the judge.
And finally … in the past week we’ve given shout-outs to Staples grads, and Brian Wilson. Here’s one more — together — as the Class of 2022 gets ready for their “Senior Night” at the Remarkable Theater (story above):
(“06880” relies entirely on reader support. If you like these Roundups, please donate here.)
As the school year ends, Westport’s 8th graders begin the transition to Staples High.
Administrators, teachers and parents have started to prepare them. But the info the adults provide — on courses, curriculums and clubs — is not necessarily what rising freshmen want to hear.
They have more mundane, but crucially important, concerns: Where will I sit in the cafeteria? What happens if my locker is too far from my classes? Will I ever see my friends?
Link Crew knows all the answers. Not long ago, the 80 juniors and seniors were freshmen themselves.
A small number of the 80 Link Crew members.
Link Crew is a student mentorship program. The goal is to make the move from middle to high school — one of the most momentous of a teenager’s life — as easy as possible.
“We want the school to feel smaller,” says Jamie Pacuk, one of 3 passionate advisors. “Not everyone has an older sibling.”
English teacher Pacuk, physical education instructor Jeff Doornweerd and special education teacher Lauren Manosh are 3 very different people, inhabiting 3 very different Staples worlds.
That mirrors the Link Crew model. The advisors seek a diverse group of mentors. Together, they encompass nearly all of the many opportunities Staples offers.
The selection process is rigorous — including a video. “Someone might write well, but can they communicate clearly and easily, and speak from the heart?” Doornweerd asks. “If they’re not comfortable making their own video, how comfortable would they be relating in small groups to other people?”
Once selected, the 40 new juniors join 40 returning seniors in special training. (Every junior wants to return the next year, Manosh says proudly.)
This spring, mentors went to the middle schools to introduce the program. They also led tours, on a recent 8th grader visit.
Leading a recent tour for 8th graders. The Link Crew shirts say “We’ll be there for you.”
In August they contact their small group of rising freshmen — and the students’ parents. They explain who they are, what they’ll be doing, and give them their phone numbers. “Text us any time!” they say.
Before opening day, Link Crews meet for orientation tours. Relationships take root, as freshmen realize they can ask the questions adults cannot — or would not think to — answer.
On the first day of school, Link Crew members wear special t-shirts. They check in with “their” 9th graders frequently, during those sometimes-overwhelming initial days.
The program continues throughout the year. Once a month, mentors do activities during the “Connections” period.
The background to Link Crew is as interesting as the program itself. Funded initially by a 2019-20 Staples and middle school PTA grants, the advisors began visiting schools that already used Link Crew (it’s part of a national program). Advisors’ training was set for April.
COVID closed school. But Pacuk, Doornweerd and Manosh persevered, setting up a virtual model for the 2020-21 school year. “We built the airplane as we flew it,” Doornweerd notes.
In 2020, Emily Epstein and Owen Dolan introduced Link Crew to freshmen via video.
For freshmen beginning their Staples careers at a time of such uncertainty and flux, the program proved crucial. Even online, they felt they had gotten to know upperclassmen. Barriers between classes had been eased.
Pacuk, Doornweerd and Manosh love their 80 Link Crew mentors. “They’re very engaged,” Pacuk says. “They have a real enthusiasm for wanting to make Staples a better place, any way they can.”
The advisors hope to expand the program, adding activities like socials and exam study groups.
Meanwhile, despite starting a major new program in the midst of a pandemic, they tout its success.
“We’re a social species. This gives people their own ‘tribe,'” Manosh says.
“This is a big school,” Pacuk adds. “It’s important to feel part of something — to know you have a network of support.”
A little gesture — a text from a mentor, noting about a student’s absence from Connections — can go a long, long way. “It says, ‘Someone cares,'” Manosh says.
Residents in the Red Coat Road/West Branch neighborhood, straddling the Westport/Weston border, were thrilled earlier this month when the Cavalry Road bridge reopened.
For a year during the project, they’d faced long detours, constant traffic pattern changes, even property damage. They seldom complained.
But now they’re mad.
Suddenly, a large chain link fence has been installed on both sides of the new bridge. Residents call it an eyesore — and not part of the original plan. They wonder how safety measures more appropriate for a state road became part of their bucolic landscape.
Guardrail and fencing on the Cavalry Road bridge.
Resident Gery Grove — who says it is a Weston project — wrote to officials of both towns:
“This is a low speed bridge (now with extensive guardrails in place) with probably a limited to nonexistent history of injury or death. This is a pastoral residential neighborhood that people move to for quiet charms.
“Behind our backs at the dawn of a holiday weekend, it has been made to look like a downtown Manhattan parking lot with no warning. And likely no historical public record of this addition. No other small bridges that I am aware of (that don’t go over the Merritt or I95) have this extensive fencing.”
Westport 1st selectwoman replied quickly, promising to meet with residents there on Monday morning.
Weston town administrator Jnoathan Luiz said that he asked the engineering company that designed the bridge and provided construction oversight to respond.
For the second year in a row — after a hiatus of nearly 40 years — Staples High School held its graduation ceremony outdoors.
“06880” provided photos of the 135th commencement. But those were only from ground level.
Staples sophomore Charlie Scott adds a new perspective, thanks to his drone:
(Drone photo/Charlie Scott)
The stage is at the north end (bottom of photo). Board of Education and other dignitaries are at the lower left. The 450-plus graduates are massed on Coach Paul Lane Field. The 2,000 spectators fill the bleachers on the right.
Artists Collective of Westport member Lee Walther curated a new exhibit, “Sculptural Dimensions,” at the Fairfield Public Library. It features Collective artists Sooo-z Mastropietro and Louise Cadoux, plus international artist Alan Neider.
The show runs through August 6. Click here for more infromation.
Marie Coppotelli — one of Westport’s first girls “soccer moms” — died peacefully on June 9. She was 92 years old. .
Stuart McCarthy — a founder of Westport’s girls soccer program, and former Staples High School coach — says:
When we started the first girls travel team in 1977, Marie took charge. She did all the great organization and coordination that comes with the job (but she had no 3-ring binder left behind by the last manager). I will always remember how she was such a sweet lady — until someone fouled one of ‘her girls.’ Marie was fiercely protective, and they were all ‘her girls.’ We were all lucky to have Marie on our team.
Marie was preceded in death by her husband Donald Coppotelli and brother Anthony Cuda. She is survived by her sister Patricia Nole, sister-in-law Lynn Cuda; children Michele (Pat) Solis, Lisa Coppotelli, Alan (Nancey) Coppotelli, Renee (Mark) Dixon, and Claudine (Lee) Martin; grandchildren Emma and Reed Tso, Oliver and Madeline Dixon, Devon Mayhew, Dylan and Eileen
Martin, Ghislain and Mary Melaine, Jeff and Jessica Doerner, and great-grandchildren Molly and Benjamin Doerner and Georges Melaine.
Services will be held privately at a future date. In lieu of flowers,
everyone who knew Marie knows she loves to feed people. Donations may be made online to Connecticut Foodshare, Memories and condolences may be sent to the family: ACoppotelliNY@aol.com,
The Coppotellis, at Marie and Don’s 50th wedding celebration. From left: Renee, Claudine, Donald, Marie, Michele, Lisa, Alan.
This was Staples High School’s first with 3 valedictorians. Natalie Bandura, Zach Bishop and Julian Weng all had the same GPA — down to one-hundredths of a point.
This was the second straight outdoors — but the first since the football field was named in honor of former coach Paul Lane.
In many ways though, graduation is timeless. Staples’ 135th commencement exercises included all the traditions: “Pomp and Circumstance,” evocative choral music (“The Road Home”), the awarding of diplomas and (of course) the turning of the tassel.
The Class of 2022 is part of history. They join 134 others, in a chain of high achievement and great honor. They move on to the next stages of their lives: college, jobs, making their marks on the world.
But in the words of principal Stafford Thomas: “This will always be your home.”
Posing for photos, before the ceremony.
Standing out in a crowd.
Assistant principals James Farnen and Penny Proskinitopoulos march in.
Soon-to-be graduates (from left): Jack Murphy, Matthew Genser, Jack Foster.
Proudly showing off the next stage in life.
A scoreboard salute to the Class of 2022.
Tri-valedictorian Zach Bishop did not give a traditional speech. Instead he played a farewell song on his viola.
Presenting diplomas (from left): superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice, Board of Education chair Lee Goldstein, and principal Stafford Thomas.
Every graduate was photographed, with his or her diploma.
Newly minted grad.
(All photos/Dan Woog)
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“A Taste of Westport” returned yesterday, after a 2-year COVID absence.
A record crowd — starved for great food for an even better cause — showed up at the Inn at Longshore. It was the perfect venue for the festive, almost-summer event.
A small portion of the large “Taste of Westport” crowd at the Inn at Longshore.
The traditional fundraiser for CLASP — the local non-profit celebrating its 40th year serving adults with autism and developmental disabilities — featured plenty of tasting stations, live music from the Bar Car Band`, a silent auction and a raffle.
Restaurants and vendors participating included Artisan, BE Chocolat, Black Bear Wines & Spirits, Boathouse, Cylinder, Evarito’s,Freixenet Mionetto, Little Dumpling House, Gabriele’s, La Plage, Little Pub, Lindsay’s Handmade, Mrs. London’s, Newsylum, Nordic Fish, Post Oak, Rive Bistro, Rizzuto’s, Romanacci, Tablao, Tarantino, The Spread and Walrus Alley.
It’s not an easy time to own a restaurant. Last night, all of them went above and beyond the call.
Artisan offered (among other items) a very tasty goat dish. Inn at Longshore principal Michael Ryan is at right. (Photos/Dan Woog)
It was “You Be You Day” yesterday, at Westport’s elementary schools.
The night before, Kings Highway families helped “chalk the walk.”
Kings Highway 1st grader Siena Adams helps chalk the walk. Her mother, Cori Caputo Adams; is a Kings Highway and Staples High School (Class of 1994) alumnus.
Dozens of youngsters and parents wrote kind, motivating chalk messages on the walkway in front of the school. The goal was to encourage every student to be proud of who he or she is — and to feel proud too of being part of a community that accepts and celebrates them exactly as they are.
In the morning, KHS staff and students were greeted with colorful, positive sayings. It was a great start to “You Be You Day,” says PTA board member Meghan Bell.
Meanwhile, Greens Farms Elementary School celebrated in several ways.
Teachers read books with positive messages to their classes. Youngsters wore “You Be You” shirts. The sidewalk was chalked
The Westport Kiwanis Club provides annual scholarships to graduating seniors who show exemplary community involvement and academic achievement.
This year’s recipients are Lena Lemcke, Elena Lim, Jaden Mueller and Ella Williams.
Funds come from Kiwanis’ annual Minuteman Triathlon. This year’s’ event is September 11, at Compo Beach. Click here for information and registration.
Kiwanis officials and scholarship recipients, at the recent awards ceremony (from left): Todd Ehrlich, Dave Fuggit, Jaden Mueller, Judy Stripp, Lena Lemcke, Rob Gould, Elena Lim, Elaine Daignault. Not pictured: Ella Williams.
Osprey admirer/expert Carolyn Doan visited the Fresh Market nest this week. She was happily surprised to find “2 heads being shaded by mom. They must have been hot, as their mouths were open in the sun directly on the nest.
“They seemed to be having a serious chat with her. She listened patiently. She made a quick trip away from the nest. When she returned, they were thrilled.”
Today is graduation, for the Staples High School Class of 2022.
It’s a day of pomp and circumstance. The ceremony takes place outdoors, at Paul Lane Field — a welcome change from too many years in the stifling, cavernous, hard-to-hear fieldhouse.
Three valedictorians — they earned the same GPA, down to hundredths of a point — will share the stage. Two will address them; one will play the violin. That’s as it should be: It’s the students’ day.
But this is my blog. So I’ll take today to deliver my own graduation address. If I had the mic, I’d say:
You did it.
I have no idea how, but you did it.
I went to Staples too, back in the last century. I know that if I faced what you faced, I could not have done what you did. And my friends and classmates — many of whom still look back very fondly on our days here — could not have done it either.
We could not have coped with COVID the way you did.
One day, you were in school, living normal teenage lives. The next day you were home, isolated by a virus that ricocheted around the world.
School became a screen. Sports, drama, music, your social lives — all screeched to a halt. You were isolated at home, with parents who were terrified and teachers who struggled to find the “unmute” button.
What did you do?
You delivered meals (at a safe distance) to elderly neighbors. You sewed masks, created informational websites, and painted inspirational slogans on rocks. Every day, patiently, you reminded your teachers where the “unmute” button was.
You returned to school in the fall as juniors, but things were far from normal. You followed hybrid schedules and one-way arrows. In the cafeteria, Plexiglas shielded you from your friends. Your sports seasons were a shell of what you’d expected. Your Candlelight Concert was online.
Senior year has been better. You’re back in the classroom, on the fields and on stage. Plexiglas is gone; masks are optional.
But you have been forever changed by COVID. You have learned that the world is a dangerous place; that close human contact can be deadly; that the science you’ve learned since elementary school means nothing to some people.
The Depression left its mark on everyone who grew up then. Long after, living comfortable lives, adults ate everything on their plates; they still worried about their next meal. They switched off lights when they left rooms, to “save the electricity.”
I don’t know what the residual effects of the coronavirus will be on you. Yet it’s marked your lives in a way unimaginable when you entered Staples as freshmen.
But cast COVID aside. I know that when I was a teenager, I could not have dealt with all the pressures you face, with as much grace as you do.
It was hard enough being a teenager before Instagram offered instant, idealized versions of everyone else’s life; before a barrage of notifications demanded constant attention, responses and concern; before every photo was scrutinized, every text examined for clues to where one stands on the social ladder.
At all hours of the day. And night.
I know I could not have dealt with the academic pressures of a school like Staples. It was high-achieving then; now it’s exponentially tougher. We knew our grades four times a year: at the end of each quarter. Our parents knew only if we showed them our report cards.
As for college, it was a part of our thinking — but only a part. It did not consume our lives (and our parents’ lives) from middle school on. We visited a few (maybe); we applied; we got accepted; we went. And we did not worry about being in debt for the rest of our lives.
For many of you, this year’s college process was brutal. It’s tough to get into any school these days; it’s tougher still when there is so much focus on “the right” one.
I hate it when commencement speakers give advice, but WTF — I’ll do it anyway. Trust me: Wherever you go, you will do fine. Your Staples education has given you a huge advantage; so has growing up in this town (despite its many faults). You are smart, creative, persistent. You are well-prepared. You will rock whatever school you attend.
So stop worrying about college decals on the car, or what you think others think. Take courses that interest you, make interesting friends, then rock the next steps in your life.
You are a wonderful class, filled with talented, accomplished, energetic, caring and compassionate young men and women. You have given of yourselves in so many ways.
You have been Best Buddies and SLOBs (that’s a good thing). You have coached youth sports teams, taught religious school, and shown elementary and middle school kids that they should be proud of whoever they are.
And you’ve done it all — well, most of the time — quietly, with generosity and smiles.
I have spent much of this speech telling you that back in the day, I could not have done what you did, in your time at Staples.
This school served me well. I am proud of many things I have done.
I am not proud, however, of the world my generation is leaving to you. It’s a mess. We’ve broken many things: our climate. Our political system. Our faith in each other.
When I was at Staples, my friends and I were sure we would change the world.
We did. Just not in the way we planned.
So, Class of 2022: Congratulations on an astonishing 4 years. You have made your school, and our community, very proud. Thank you for navigating a very difficult time, in your own very special way. It’s not something I — and very few of your parents or grandparents — could have done.
The universe is yours. Go rock it.
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