Category Archives: Staples HS

Tadeo Messenger’s Message

Every year, the New York Times’ Ron Lieber asks high school seniors for their college application essays. He selects a few, showcasing what’s on teenagers’ minds about work, money, social class or related topics. 

“We adults don’t talk about money and our feelings about it often enough,” Lieber says, “so it only seems right to try to learn from the teenagers who have figured out how to do it well.”

Yesterday, he published 4. Among them: Staples High School’s Tadeo Messenger. Lieber describes Tadeo’s topic as “an unlikely conveyance in upscale Connecticut.”

Tadeo wrote:

My friends and peers don’t understand my relationship with Big Betsy. This is mainly due to the fact that Big Betsy is far older, louder, and larger than what is considered “normal” at my school. She is constantly surrounded by others who serve the same exact purpose, but are more elegant.

Big Betsy was always different. Every time I went out with her I could feel judgmental eyes wondering why a kid like me would even want anything to do with her. Despite this, I was always proud of her and what we accomplished together. She was made fun of relentlessly, but I always knew deep down that we had something special together.

Tadeo Messenger

It was like we had known each other for years when I first laid eyes on her. I was sure that we would stay together for a long time. Since the day I bought Big Betsy on Craigslist, I have loved her unconditionally. I still remember driving down the winding country road to the seller’s sprawling ranch and instantly falling for her. The way that she glistened in the sunlight beckoned me to her. I had no problem spending the money for her that I had accumulated over years of saving birthday gifts, doing undesirable odd jobs and babysitting unruly children. To me, she was worth more than my entire bank account.

Big Betsy has been loyal to me throughout the past couple of years. She even provided me with the opportunity to set up my own business, The Westport Workers. My friend and I realized that all the dump-run services in our town were grossly overcharging their customers, so we decided to provide an inexpensive alternative. We have worked countless jobs together, including transporting an antique bar counter 50 miles away for a Gilmore Girls fan club meeting and hauling a battered boat motor through knee-deep sludge to dispose of it at the dump.

Big Betsy and I are constantly relying on each other to get things done. In the blistering summer heat she would wait patiently for me while I pulled weeds for hours on end. With sweat trickling down my face, I would take shelter from the sun in her soft embrace. She and I made a respectable living through our business, and I would always make sure to buy her the things that she required to keep her going.

In case it isn’t obvious, Big Betsy is my beloved truck, a 1998 Ford F-150 with over 230,000 miles. The first months I had her, I spent all my time between early morning football and work fixing her up, and it was worth it.

Tadeo Messenger, with Big Betsy. (Photo/Ike Abakah for the New York Times)

Not only has she been a great truck, she also helped me to realize how little other people’s judgments of me matter. I used to be shy and avoided differentiating myself from my classmates because I was very concerned about what others would think about me. In a school almost entirely minority-free, I was always uncomfortable with my ethnicity, and even my name. I felt extremely self-conscious every time that I pulled into the high school parking lot filled with Mercedes, Jeep Wranglers, and BMWs.

However, as time went on, Big Betsy became a bit of a local celebrity and I became more confident, and not only while driving. I found myself less anxious when voicing my opinions, applying for leadership positions, and challenging myself to do better in all aspects of my life. Big Betsy made me realize how damaging it can be to my potential when I become unwilling to stand out or take the risks required to achieve my goals. If it wasn’t for her teaching me how to be confident in myself and that it is good to be pushed out of my comfort zone, I would not be nearly as happy as I am today.

(Tadeo Messenger is now a freshman at the University of Michigan. Click here to read all 4 college application essays from the Times. Hat tips: John Karrel, Jim Honeycutt, Stefanie Lemcke, Jo Ann Davidson, Mary Hoffman and Carl Volckmann.)

The Rachel Rose Of Texas

Earlier this summer, Savvy + Grace sponsored a great afternoon of sidewalk music.

Some of the entertainers were current Westporters. Getting to the Main Street gifts-and-more shop was easy.

Rachel Rose’s route to the Main Street gig was a bit more circuitous.

The Long Lots Elementary, Bedford Middle and Staples High School (Class of 2014) grad was fortunate that her grandmother, Sylvia Wachtel, lived in Westport too. A huge Turner Classic Movies fan, Sylvia shared her love of jazz films — and the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Etta James — with Rachel.

Rachel’s parents were also music fans. They played Bryan Adams and John Mayer CDs in the car. Her dad liked the Dead, Steve Miller and Dave Matthews.

Rachel Rose

After graduation, Rachel — who sang with Staples’ Orphenians, and took private lessons with Cynthia Gibb — headed to the University of Texas. She calls Austin “the live music capital of the world,” and figured it was the perfect place to get a general degree (she majored in psychology) while also performing.

She joined an elite UT vocal group, Ensemble 109, and formed a band. Austin’s 6th Street bar-and-music scene was indeed hopping. She played everywhere, met plenty of people, and got an A&R job with a music streamer.

Rachel calls her musical style “Jewish soul., contemporary soul and R&B.” She identified with Amy Winehouse, whose “Back to Black” album was particularly influential.

Jazz remained important to Rachel. New York had a more robust jazz and sould scene than Austin, Rachel says, so in 2018 she reluctantly left Austin, and relocated to Brooklyn.

As soon as she arrived she began writing songs. “It was a leap of faith,” she says. “I tried to find my image, my music.”

What emerged was “a melding of Austin and Brooklyn.” This past February she quit her job with a music distribution company, and concentrated full time on her career.

She finished writing songs for her EP this spring. In mid-August she released her first single, “You.” It’s available on every major platform.

The second single followed. The full EP is available September 7.

Her Savvy + Grace gig represented a great “homecoming” for Rachel Rose. There could not have been a more appropriate venue, for this savvy, graceful — and quite talented — rising star.

(Click here for Rachel Rose’s website.) 

Dave Briggs TV: Live Interviews With Lively Westporters

Dave Briggs is a gifted interviewer.

After a career spent in sports and political broadcasting, he knows how to make a subject feel at ease. Conversation flows naturally; insights pour forth.

After 12 years in Westport — and more than 2 decades at Fox News, NBC Sports and CNN — Briggs’ contact list bulges with big names.

Many of them live here. So it’s natural that for his new gig — an Instagram Live series of interviews for Westport Magazine — Briggs would chat with our town’s megastars.

He’s already snagged “Today” co-host Craig Melvin, best-selling author Jane Green and former NFL analyst/current ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky.

But it’s a testament to Briggs’ chops as an interviewer — and his belief that his series include local names we all can relate to — that his session with Staples High School principal Stafford Thomas drew twice as many viewers as Melvin’s.

Staples High School principal Stafford Thomas, live.

If you missed that — or any of Briggs’ other interviews, like 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — no problem. They live forever on Westport Magazine’s Instagram page.

You can find them — and upcoming interviews which may include CNN’s Alisyn Camerota, ESPN’s Mike Greenberg, actress Anne Hathaway, former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, musicians Nile Rodgers and Michael Bolton, billionaire businessman/Milwaukee Bucks owner Mark Lasry, and songwriter Justin Paul, plus superintendent of schools Tom Scarice, downtown developer David Waldman and police chief Foti Koskinas — by following @DaveBriggsTV on Instagram.

The Denver native did not expect to be sitting here this year, drinking bourbon (or tequila, or another beverage of choice), chatting with his neighbors.

But this year is unlike any we’ve ever known before.

Briggs always wanted to be a sportscaster. A broadcast and journalism major at the University of Colorado, he ascended the typical “pay your dues” ladder: covering high school sports and rodeo in Rapid City, South Dakota; college sports in Tulsa, and then the right-place-at-the-right-time Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics for Boston’s NBC station.

From there it was on to “a terrific” 5 years co-hosting “Fox & Friends”‘ weekend show with Camerota; handling the Rio Olympics, Stanley Cup, NASCAR and NCAA basketball for NBC Sports, and — most recently — 3 years as anchor of CNN’s “Early Start.”

Dave Briggs

Early is right: The show airs from 4 to 6 a.m. Briggs woke up every morning at 1:30.

That did not leave him much time to know Westport, where he, his wife Brandi and kids moved in 2008. She is deeply involved in the town: RTM representative, Westport Young Women’s League, the schools.

Briggs wanted to feel more connected. His chance came, surprisingly, from the same source that, he says, “punched my career in the face”: COVID-19.

The coronavirus put an end to his NCAA hoops work for Turner Sports. He talked to ESPN Radio about openings, but after cuts in other areas they filled those spots internally. A sports podcast called “Home & Home” was also canceled.

“It’s been a tough year for me,” Briggs admits.

But the Westport Magazine/Instagram Live interviews have been a huge bright spot.

He’d always known that many very successful, fascinating people live here. When everyone was quarantined, disconnected and frustrated, he realized an interview series could be interesting — and doable.

Jane Green, live.

Instagram Live is the perfect platform. It’s easy to use (and users get instant notifications when an interview begins). Anyone can ask ask real-time questions. And the format could not be more casual.

Whether his guests are big names nationally or just locally, they all want to talk about their home town. Why did they move here? Why do they stay here? What’s their ideal day here?

Those are staple questions. Craig Melvin was as happy to answer those as he was talking about national issues. He also discussed what it’s like broadcasting the “Today” show from his Westport home.

“People learned he’s not just a talking head. He’s of the smartest, most knowledgeable and analytical people in the industry,” Briggs says. “Plus, he’s nice!”

Dave Briggs and Craig Melvin, live.

Briggs shared drinks and a meal with Bill Taibe, at his new Don Memo restaurant.

For Jane Green, there was tequila. Many of her devoted readers asked direct questions. Whether they lived here or not, they learned how Westport inspires her.

The interview with Staples principal Stafford Thomas offered 3 surprises for Briggs. There were many more viewers than for some bigger names. Briggs learned “there may not be a better educated principal anywhere.” And the interviewer discovered that Thomas has been to every Major League Baseball Stadium in the country.

Feedback to the Westport Magazine/Instagram Live interviews has been superb. In fact, it’s so positive that the series — originally planned just for the summer — will continue indefinitely.

And without a 1:30 a.m. wakeup call.

In A Pandemic, Staples Tuition Grants Marks A Record Year

For Staples Tuition Grants, it was the perfect storm.

In March — just when volunteers with the 77-year-old organization were finalizing awards for the 100-plus graduating seniors and alums currently in college who depend on donors to make education a reality — the coronavirus struck.

More students needed more aid. And fewer Westporters were able to give.

But the community rose to the challenge. A special drive brought in desperately needed funds.

So this spring, STG disbursed more money than ever: $375,000.

That means 107 Staples grads — at 72 colleges and universities across the country — can continue their educations.

COVID also knocked out STG’s annual June ceremony, always a joyful, inspiring event.

But Staples grad and STG booster Margot Bruce did the next best thing: She created a joyful, inspiring video.

It includes brief messages from 1st Selectman Jim Marpe (who notes the importance of a tuition grant in his Ohio hometown, helping him become the first in his family to go college); Staples principal Stafford Thomas; former recipient Scott Bennewitz, the son of a single mom and now a Princeton grad, plus many current and recent recipients.

The video is well worth the 6 minutes. And when it’s over — or even before — you can click here to help Staples Tuition Grants reach its 2021 goal.

Pic Of The Day #1220

You may remember Flight Simulator — Microsoft’s video game from 1982 through 2006.

If so, forget what you remember.

The brand-new iteration uses satellite imagery from around the world. It applies algorithms to detect where buildings should be, and creates 3-dimensional models of them. Users fly over their neighborhood. and can actually recognize buildings.

The other day, Nicholas Weiner strapped himself into the virtual cockpit. Here’s what he saw: Staples High School, the athletic fields to the east, and Bedford Middle School to the north.

Click on or hover over to enlarge. Enjoy the view!

(Photo/Nicholas Weiner)

Teen Writers Confront Stereotypes

There’s a reason it’s called a “challenge.”

Every year, TEAM Westport — our town’s multicultural commission — challenges high school students to think hard about an important topic. They’re then challenged to write about it.

The 2020 Teen Diversity Essay Contest prompt said:

In 1,000 words or fewer, describe your experiences witnessing, delivering, and/or being subjected to stereotypes focused on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity, and describe the impact that such experiences are likely to have upon recipients. Consider steps that organizations, schools, and/or individuals could take to counteract stereotypes—whether as initiator, recipient or witness.

As always, they responded. The winners include a Sikh American woman, a gay teen, and a blonde girl.

Their writing is honest, powerful, raw. And it is very, very important.

Sahiba Dhindsa — a Staples High School graduated headed to Cornell University — won the $1,000 first prize for her essay “Stereotypes, Stories, and the Worlds We Create.”

Second place — and $750 — went to recent Staples grad Zachary Terrillion for his story, “Stereotypes: Crippling Standards.” He’ll attend Oberlin College.

Third place, worth $500, went to rising Staples junior Tori Holoubek-Sebok. She wrote “Bombshell.”

The awards were presented virtually Thursday night, at the Westport Library. Click here to see the ceremony (beginning at the 6:50 mark). Better yet, scroll down, and read them below.

1st place: Sahiba Dhindsa, “Stereotypes, Stories, and the Worlds We Create”

Stereotypes are reductions. In a culture of compression, stereotypes reduce long, rich stories into a few descriptive words. By the time we realize what stereotypes are and the damage they do, we have already started internalizing the very ideas from which we seek to break free.

From a young age, I faced many stereotypes. It was easiest for me to assume that others’ actions against me were based on stereotypes rooted in my skin color. I failed to see that it was so much more than my skin color. As a young Sikh American woman, religion and race based stereotypes have driven the microaggressions I have faced in my school and town.

In elementary school, I understood that the lack of knowledge on Sikhism led people to assume I was part of a strange tribal religion that forced me to not
cut my hair. I didn’t tell my peers I was Sikh for 11 years to avoid assumptions about my personal life.

In eighth grade, I had a classmate tell me that I should be his slave because my skin was brown. My gut response was to be defensive. I lashed out and told him that he needed to find a better set of jokes.

Sahiba Dhindsa

I was astounded that someone would say that to me. Through self-reflection years later, I still find it difficult to understand the origin of my classmate’s comment. Because I felt so hurt by these words, and I felt so small––that my whole identity lay in my skin color––I started subconsciously internalizing these
ideas. When I described myself, I was the brown Indian girl who was Sikh and that was it. When I saw others, I immediately differentiated them from myself before they had a chance to differentiate me.

I othered myself to protect myself. Every person who was not on my “side” was the “threat”. I started stereotyping my white peers out of my own frustration.

Angry and frustrated that I was required to defend myself, I started seeing them as ignorant, difficult, and uninterested in making social change.

Freshman year, I had a disagreement with a boy sitting a few seats away from me. I don’t remember what the disagreement was about, but I do remember what he said to me: “Trump’s gonna send you back to wherever you came from.”

It was his final statement––a way to shut me up and make me insecure about my skin color and my ethnicity. While I brushed it off in the moment, it pained me to hear such a hateful comment. I had worked so hard to create a place for myself in this community––to feel as  though I was no different than anyone else despite having a different skin color and religious background.

In that moment, I felt that the confidence I had built for all these years was crumbling. Being brown, being Indian, being Sikh didn’t make me any more immune to hate speech. The stereotype that because

I’m brown, I’m not American, and I don’t belong here, has dominated much of the narrative that others had written for me.

Two years ago, for my U.S History final, my group and I did a presentation on the history of Sikh discrimination in America. At the end of our presentation, my teacher asked me about the correct pronunciation of Sikh and the significance of turbans. To others it may have been a normal expression of curiosity, but to me it was more. It was an individual approaching me from a position of inquiry rather than a position of seeking to reduce me for the sake of simplification.

I now realize that this was a turning point in realizing that I did not have to define myself with a few words simply because some of my peers had done so to me. I could take those words and re-write my story and then share it back with others. I could remove those phrases and instead define myself through the rich story I know I have.

Through this, I learned the true power of storytelling. Storytelling is so much more than simply sharing anecdotes and life experiences. Storytelling is fighting against the desire to define someone or something in a few words. Instead, it is a way to allow one to look at people with a nuance that does justice to their spirit, who they are, what they represent, and what they aspire to be.

We live in a world where everything is compressed and simplified. We’ve shortened our words from long phone conversations to texts to comments on social media. We communicate less and less with each other and by virtue of that compression, compassion becomes harder to come by. I knew if I had
gone through this journey of confronting stereotypes and reimagining myself, my other peers must have gone through it as well.

Due to my desire to hear the stories of others and share my own, I created a club called Unity in Diversity with a friend. The club’s aim was to work on minimizing stereotypes through storytelling. Beyond advocacy, the club became a safe space for individuals from varying racial, religious, ethnic, and sexual orientation backgrounds to tell their stories.

I would like to summarize my experiences and ideas in a few ways. First, I hope my experiences serve as a reminder that racism and prejudice based in ignorance is not a thing of the past, even in a community as inclusive as our own.

Second, I want to express how the acknowledgement and support of an educator can make a monumental difference in the life of a student experiencing microaggressions on a regular basis.

Third, there are few things as therapeutic as being able to share your own experience and being heard by your peers and your teachers. We often underestimate the importance of telling your authentic story: a story that has been defined entirely by you. These are the collective stories that change
the world.


2nd Place: Zachary Terrillion, “Stereotypes: Crippling Standards”

Stereotypes are a fixture of human society. Groups always look towards other groups and create pictures of their surfaces before exploring their depths. They are snapshots that have molded entire perceptions. These snapshots in their narrow borders have been hard to escape.

They are often a burden, sometimes a blessing, but for me, they are an ideal to reach. I have always forced myself to fit these societal Polaroids. For better or worse, I have been defined by these delusional struggles.

To begin, what comes to mind when you think of a gay man? Flamboyant? Outgoing? Sassy? It is these depictions that make up most of the representation, whether it be in dated ’90s sitcoms or even recent gay produced works, such as Ru Paul’s Drag Race or Queer Eye, both of which I still adore.

I am not saying these contemporary, effeminate representations are insensitive or even inaccurate, but they are a single story that has come to dominant the gazes of the heterosexual mainstream. They encompass a vision of a “traditional” gay man. How he walks, talks, and acts. To be considered genuinely gay, I must be fabulous and extroverted, just like the ones on TV.

Before I held myself to standards of queerness however, I dealt with standards of
masculinity. I was never one for sports, which can be difficult as a little boy wanting to fit in with all the other little boys. When my parents thrust me into the world of peewee soccer, I rejected the ball and ran about the field, pretending to be a Jedi. My parents, to their credit, realized manly sports were not my forte, and my overactive imagination was put to practical use within the realm of theater, an environment in which many gay people thrive. It was here where
my queer and creative facets came to fruition, as a supportive space was provided for these elements to emerge without fear of derision by society.

Stereotypes and expectations were not a player in the fluidity of improv or amateur playwriting. Still, because of being exposed to such loving communities from such a young age, I never felt the need to speak up for myself. Thus,
my introversion grew, and my burgeoning queerness became withheld, as no reason was provided for it to arise and be defended.

It was a presence in my life but not readily embraced or expressed. It was a strange median between self-hatred and love. Self-tolerance is how I would
describe it.

I expected my queerness to finally manifest in all its rainbow-colored flamboyance in high school. But, like the soccer fields of yore, I was the odd one out. The gay culture present was the same confident, expressive vision glimpsed on TV. Gays who preferred reading in corners or sitting on their phones at the edges of dance floors proved a rare find.

I was not just clashing with standards of masculinity as most gay men do, but also gayness itself. I somehow fit into neither societal trope. I loved to “spill the tea,” I adopted the feminine gestures shows and films so love to emulate, but I also enjoyed videogames and superheroes, familiar tropes of generalized masculinity. I could not connect with others from either spectrum of sexuality, as I seemed to inhabit elements of both, but resided in neither.

Zachary Terrillion

Because of these stereotypical divides, my introversion would soon devolve into social anxiety and immense insecurity, dreading rehearsals and classes that were once highlights of my week. I figured the only way to achieve social success was to emphasize my queerness above all else. To play right into the tropes
society had established for me, even if it did not connect to my personality.

My anxiety peaked the summer before my sophomore year when I attended a sleepaway program for the first time. Here, my plan to play up the gay would take effect. I escalated my flamboyant mannerisms, exaggerated my tone of voice, and emphasized that I was, in fact, very gay.

My earnest attempts backfired spectacularly. My anxiety only worsened by the end of the program, with not a single friend gained and even more insecurity to top. I wondered whether I was genuinely gay or just some poser. Was I worthy of being in the company of Johnathan Van Ness or was I just some guy who liked other guys.

Through all these struggles however, one aspect of my identity that society could not pin down remained constant. That being the creativity that bloomed on the soccer field, theater, and, currently, my writing.

Through writing, I had a voice true to myself, finding a diverse community of people through which I could thrive and depend on. A community discovered not by playing up parts of myself to adhere to the rules of stereotypes, but instead through the expression of my multifaceted truth.

All my interests and traits, both masculine and feminine, could be put into highly dynamic works of prose and poetry. These were pieces that explored the nuances of queerness that the media could not.

Overall, I have never taken stereotypes as villainizing in the conventional sense. I have not suffered through discrimination or oppression instigated by their hand. Instead, they worked to force me into a box, a servant following the will of a director in a performance society mandates.

However, through honing my traits, those too complex and niche to be generalized, these stereotypes no longer must apply. One can discover their truth through distinction in the face of generalization.

We must encourage our marginalized youth to explore the nuanced parts of themselves in order to evade standards and achieve authenticity. Only then, will the maligned snapshots of yore fade away, so more layered, accommodating portraits may come to the forefront.


3rd place, Tori Holoubek-Sebok, “Bombshell”

Blue eyed, blond haired, athletic, female. With just those words you already have a picture in your mind of who I am, or who you think I am. The “dumb blonde” persona is an excruciatingly common stereotype, but one that is often overlooked. Everyone knows of it, yet no one considers it to be a legitimate offense.

Compared to others, it appears to be trivial; merely a lighthearted joke. However the consistent repetition and application of this stereotype, on both personal and general levels, has transformed the label into something with much more substance and impact than many can see.

In an era of political correctness and common decency, it is important to acknowledge that this stereotype in no way is any comparison to those applied with strong racial, religious, or truly hateful undertones. I understand that I am privileged in numerous ways and want to make clear that I would never compare my experiences to the endless number of minorities who face racism and discrimination daily, any member of the LGBT+ community who experience violence or negativity for being who they are, or any other individual who has to live through the hardships of prejudice and hate.

Though all examples, including my own, are instances of assumption and judgement based on physicality, the stereotype that I am labeled with is at a
lower degree than the others, and that should be made clear.

Despite this, being classified as the common dumb blonde is a hurtful label that I have faced my entire life. People repeatedly making assumptions about who I am from the way I look impedes my mindset and the way I view myself.

However, it is not only the direct labeling I experience that makes an impact. The media presence of this stereotype is outstanding and has its own consequences.

Actresses like Marilyn Monroe have been characterized as naive and
materialistic, acting as merely symbols of attraction when they have significantly more substance. Monroe was classified as a “blonde bombshell” and was virtually only cast for parts which represented that. The color of her hair was enough to form her identity and her true self was hidden by the layering of the same character over and over. People began to perceive her as
the characters she played because of the constant repetition of the same persona.

No matter how far her personality strayed from that of a dumb blonde, it did not matter. People saw this stereotype, and transformed it into who Marilyn was.

The overwhelming presence of stereotypes in the media also has effects on its consumers; people can second guess themselves and be overly critical when they are constantly surrounded by these personas.

No matter the stereotype, seeing its representation can prompt insecurities and doubts within oneself. I have often been unsure of my intellect because of these reasons. I see the negativity inflicted on women as soon as I open Instagram; anonymous accounts criticizing models or people of influence, saying that their words should not be taken seriously because they are blonde and therefore incompetent.

Tori Holoubek-Sebok

Often times in my classes I can be confident in an answer, but hesitate sharing it aloud, too afraid of what my classmates or teacher will think of it. The dumb blonde stereotype has created paranoia in my brain, leaving me to wonder if I do embody the characteristics of this persona.

Whether it be in school, at home, or by myself, I am never free from the labels I am assigned. From the people all around me to even myself, my integrity and
intelligence are consistently in question.

In most cases, a family is made up of the people that know you the most, the people who will always support you. Never did I think that those same people would make such a bold assumption of my character. I have always been athletic and have played a variety of sports, but exercise has never been an interest of mine nor something I had thought about until one Christmas day when my grandparents gave my siblings identical coding kits and gave me
exercise equipment instead.

I had never given my grandparents any reason to think that I would want a core exercise ball and a set of weights over the coding sets my siblings received, and yet, that is what I got.

Blondes have been commonly classified as vain and shallow, notorious for only caring about the way they look. My blonde hair represented a stereotype, so I was assumed to be this stereotype and appearance was taken as my main priority.

Meanwhile, I would have much preferred experimenting with coding just like my siblings. This particular occasion prompted a spiral of increasing self awareness in the way that I look and the way others perceive me.

I have since found myself constantly needing to prove my integrity to those around me. In my experience, the application of the dumb blonde stereotype is rarely intentional. Though there are instances of real hostility communicated through stereotypes, I believe that labeling in this manner is most often a subconscious ordeal.

Because of this, reasoning is not the necessary method to eliminate the beliefs in stereotypes Raising awareness of the presence of the stereotypes is. Spreading consciousness is the best way to begin the decrease unfair judgments, because ensuring that people know that these stereotypes exist will prompt them to be conscious of the way they may regard others.

Change can seem like an ambitious request, but all we need is a few people. These people can initiate the process and share it amongst the people in their lives and from there it can take off; going from towns, to states, to countries, the recognition of stereotypes will spread like wildfire.

If globally, and as a community, we can expand our wealth of knowledge and share insights with our peers, everyone will gain a greater understanding of their impact on those who surround them.

Roundup: Staples High School, Book Sales, Eversource, Landmark Preschool, More


“06880” seldom reports “survey” results. Best Nail Salon in Fairfield County, Greatest Towns for Beach Strolling — those stories land in my inbox every day. Clickbait, all of them.

But I’ll make an exception for this one. It comes from a legit source — and it involves one of our town jewels.

USA Today just published a list of the best public high school in every state. Criteria included student and parent survey responses, teacher absenteeism, standardized test scores, and other measures of academic performance.

The Connecticut representative — complete with a handsome photo — is Staples.

Congratulations to all. At a time of so much educational uncertainty, it’s great to get even a glimmer of good news.

Staples High School. (Photo/Jennifer Kobetitsch)


The Westport Library Book Sale lost its spring and summer dates. But they sold “book bundles” online — and that encouraged them to open an online book store.
that it has opened an online book store.

They’re opening with a curated selection of “Surprise Book Bundles”: used books and CDs in various categories, for adults and children. More categories and items will be added soon. Click here to “enter” the store.

Purchases are available for pickup, by appointment, within 7 to 10 days after purchase, at the library’s upper parking lot.

The Westport Library Book Sale is operated by Westport Book Sale Ventures, a
nonprofit enterprise that supports the library, while providing employment for adults with disabilities.


During Tropical Storm Isaias, Frank Accardi got tired of seeing this message:

“OUTAGE UPDATE: Eversource crews are working hard to safely restore power as quickly as possible. While we always provide the best information possible, sometimes we may need additional time to provide our estimated times of restoration.”

He suggests this replacement, for customers to send after receiving their next bill:

“PAYMENT UPDATE: Westport families are working hard to safely restore solvency as quickly as possible. While we always provide the best information possible, sometimes we may need additional time to provide our estimated time of financial recompense to Eversource.”


Landmark Preschool in Westport reports that 23 new students have enrolled since June. While the school on Burr Road provides in-classroom learning, it also provides “parallel remote learning” from home, via classroom cameras and monitors.

Students will stay in small cohorts; hand washing will be increased, and ventilation improved; there will be additional cleaning crews and disinfecting foggers; faculty and staff will be given special training, and every teacher will be provided a special COVID sanitation kit, and clear face masks so youngsters will not miss visual cues.


And finally … folk/Latin/rockabilly singer Trini Lopez died this week, from complications of COVID-19. He was 83.


 

School Days: Scarice Recommends Hybrid Model

With less than a month to go before the school year begins, the look of that year is becoming clear.

Last night, in a Zoom meeting with the Board of Education, superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice recommended a hybrid model. It’s different at each level, but consistent in one way: All students — at least, all who do not choose full-time remote learning — would spend half their time in school, half at home.

Staples High School would have 2 cohorts, based alphabetically on last name (A-K, L-Z).

One cohort would be in school Monday and Tuesday; the other, Thursday and Friday. There would be 4 classes a day; each class is 80 minutes long. When students are not in school, they’d be online.

On Wednesday, all students would learn remotely. The highly touted Connections group meetings would be held that day too.

The final 30 minutes of each day are set aside for teachers to support and connect with remote learners.

Staples high School

The middle school model divides students into cohorts too — both alphabetical, and based on their “home school” (Bedford or Coleytown). One group would in school Monday and Thursday, online Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. The other group is in school Tuesday and Friday, online Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

All middle school students would be online Wednesday, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. On that day, teachers will have professional responsibility time from 12:30 to 3:15.

Bedford Middle School (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

The elementary school model was developed thanks to “herculean, unparalleled work” by professionals at all 5 schools, Scarice said.

The elementary model — which emphasizes literacy and math for live instruction — splits youngsters into morning and afternoon groups. There would be live “online specials” when students are home; phys. ed., art, music and Spanish are taught once a week. Small group instrumental lessons and ensembles would be taught virtually. Students would eat at home.

Stepping Stones Preschool would be “business as close to usual” as possible. The class size is 9 to less than 14, meeting state guidelines.

Long Lots Elementary School

Scarice pulled no punches in his introductory remarks. “This is not a 100% data-driven decision. Nor should it be,” he said.

Noting “we are a community and nation enveloped in fear and uncertainty,” he acknowledged that any decision would impact “students, families, teachers, staff members and the entire community. We will not be able to answer every question. This is something we’ve never done before.

“There will be a perception of winners and losers,” he acknowledged. “We must remember: Our purpose is to serve students.”

Although there is a national debate over the role and conduct of education and educators, the superintendent said, “This is a moment for our profession to shine. I am fully confident we will do this very, very well.”

The Board also heard a proposal to move the first day for students back a week, from September 1 to September 8. Those extra days are needed for staff training.

The Board of Education will vote on the hybrid models, and the calendar change, at their next meeting, on Monday.

Superintendent of schools Tom Scarice, during last night’s Zoom meeting.

Shark!

The coronavirus upended many Staples High School students’ summer plans.

But not Tyler Mace’s.

The rising junior spent 3 weeks studying in the University of Miami’s renowned shark program. This week he’s off to Montauk to work with Dr. Craig O’Connell — the man who taught Mike Tyson how to put a tiger shark to sleep, on “Shark Week” — and other top researchers.

Starting last summer as Dr. O’Connell’s first-ever research fellow, Tyler is part of a 5-year study of juvenile great white sharks in New York. He’s tagging them, taking tissue samples, and releasing them to track their development.

Tyler Mace, with a blue shark off Montauk.

But you don’t just have to read about Tyler’s work. This Thursday (August 13, 9 p.m.), you can see him on the Discovery Channel’s “Sharkadelic Summer” episode — hosted by Snoop Dogg.

Tyler has gone to Guadalupe Island in Mexico to dive with the largest great white sharks. “We were really lucky on one of our dives to see Lucy – a female that’s 18 feet long and about 4,000 pounds,” he says.

Tyler Mace, conducting research near Guadalupe Island.

“She’s the size of a bus, but when you’re in the water her and other great whites, their presence is just regal. They don’t care that you are there. They don’t want to eat you. They want to co-exist. It’s the humans that are usually the ones creating problems.”

Using extra time at home during COVID, Tyler created a nonprofit. The Shark Side will raise money to support shark conservation and research efforts.

“We need to save the sharks and our oceans,” Tyler says. “A healthy shark population is essential to a healthy oceanic ecosystem.”

Tyler Mace, in his shark-filled room.

Staples Grads CARE

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, many social media users observed “Blackout Tuesday” by changing their cover photos to black squares.

Max Herman was one. The 2019 Staples High School graduate was amazed at how many friends and people he followed did the same.

Max Herman

But he felt compelled to do more. The Vanderbilt University student — a double major in computer science, and the communication of science and technology, with minors in business and vocal performance — wondered what he could do.

An actor and singer at Staples, he realized fellow Players and musicians could help.

Max enlisted the help of Natasha Johnson, a 2020 Staples grad headed to Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania to concentrate in marketing or finance, and Anna Maria Fernandez, another recently graduated Player who will double major in theater and dance at Muhlenberg College.

They created  CARE. Its mission is to “educate, raise awareness, and expunge the inherent, deeply rooted issues surrounding racial inequity in voting and education in our community,” with a focus on “the next generation of young people.”

Natasha Johnson

The organizers created an online library that illustrates decades of injustices, unveil hidden biases, and challenge people to “ask themselves uncomfortable questions regarding their own relationship with race.”

Resources include books, articles, videos, podcasts, petitions and links.

“We decided to tackle racial inequity with a local lens,” Max, Natasha and Anna Maria say. “We feel it is critical to first acknowledge the issues that exist in our own community before undertaking the arduous task of stitching up our divided nation.”

So they’ve teamed up with 3 nearby organizations that target racial disparities in voting and education: Bridgeport-based Connect-Us and Faith Acts, and Project Morry.

They’re the beneficiaries of a virtual concert this Sunday (August 9, 7:30 p.m.)

Anna Maria Fernandez

Professional musicians and Fairfield County teens will perform selections by black artists, based on the theme of “change.”

The talent so far incluldes Kid Sistr, Niki Harris, Jacob Heimer, Riley Wells, Camille Foisie, Mia Kobylinski, Anna Maria Fernandez, Jake Greenwald, Avery Smith and Max Herman.

There will be brief remarks by leaders of CARE’s 3 partner organizations too.

Donors of any amount (click here) will be sent a link. The goal is $20,000.

What a great way to show they — and we — care.