Category Archives: Teenagers

Westport Arts Center Offers A Bully Pulpit

Whether you’ve got a school-age kid or not, these days it’s tough to avoid hearing about bullying. Its causes, its effects, how to change it (or whether we’re overreacting) — bullying everywhere, from our schools and the media to the presidential campaign.

Soon, even the Westport Arts Center will tackle the topic.

WAC - More than WordsAn exhibition called “MORE Than Words” opens September 9. Utilizing artists, speakers, panels and films, it examines bullying within a broad cultural context. The exhibit focuses on courage, resilience and empowerment in the face of bullying, and considers how imbalances of social, physical and political power can marginalize others.

The WAC show includes artistic expressions of gender, racial, religious, geopolitical and age inequality, and includes cyber-bullying. The goal is to inspire dialogue and change.

Recognizing that the best responses to bullying are community-wide, the WAC has enlisted the help of important local organizations. They include the Westport Country Playhouse, Westport Library, SKATE/K2BK, Neighborhood Studios of Bridgeport, Anti-Defamation League and Norwalk’s LGBT Triangle Community Center.

Also involved: Athlete Ally and the National Charity League.

WAC exhibition - Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer’s piece in the “MORE Than Words” exhibition.

The exhibit was conceived by board member — and father of 2 young girls — Derek Goodman.

“We’ve all dealt with bullies,” he says. “At the same time, a number of well-known, influential artists have used their work to address it. We hope we’ve put together a platform to open dialogue, so that people in Westport feel comfortable discussing it.”

As the WAC partners with a variety of local organizations, he says, the town has an opportunity to take a leadership role in the battle against bullying.

“We’re not the experts,” he notes of the Westport Arts Center. “But we’re honored to put together a show for experts to help lead the conversation.”

(An opening reception is set for September 9, from 6-8 p.m. The exhibit runs through October 29. For more information on “MORE Than Words,” click here.)

Maizy Boosin’s Got Chops

“Chopped” is a popular cooking show, combining the ingredients of skill, speed and ingenuity.

Each week, 4 chefs turn a mystery basket into a 3-course meal. Along the way they’re “chopped” by a panel of expert judges, until 1 winner remains.

Oh yeah: The chefs have only seconds to plan, and 30 minutes to cook, with items they don’t know about beforehand.

This Tuesday (August 9, 8 p.m., Food Network), Westport’s own Maizy Boosin puts herself on the chopping block.

What’s especially impressive is that she’s only 13 years old.

Maizy Boosin waits to open her basket on "Chopped."

Maizy Boosin waits to open her basket on “Chopped.”

The rising 8th grader at New Canaan Country School appears on the junior version of Chopped. But it’s no less intense than the show with the big boys (and girls).

Her episode — taped last May — features chefs Maneel Chauhan and Andrew Gruel, plus actress Meghan Markle.

The show begins with a 3 1/2-pound peanut butter cup, and a too-hot griddle. The basket also includes pork and strong-flavored candy.

I can’t tell you how Maizy does. (Because I don’t know.) Tune in Tuesday to find out.

Maybe with a nice big bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

(Maizy’s Chopped Junior episode will also air on Wednesday, August 10 at 3 a.m.; Saturday, August 13 at 4 p.m., and Sunday, August 21 at 5 p.m. For more information, click here.)


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Westport Falling Short As ABC Hosts

For well over a decade, A Better Chance of Westport has enriched the lives of youngsters from underserved communities. They in turn have given much back to Staples High School, and our entire town.

It’s not easy for young teenagers to leave homes far away — and very different lives — for Glendarcy House on North Avenue. The resident directors there — where the 8 ABC scholars live during the week — provide vital support and encouragement.

The 2016 A Better Chance of Westport scholars.

The 2016 A Better Chance of Westport scholars.

But they need some breaks. And the teens need to get out, become part of Westport and forge individual identities.

A special part of the ABC program pairs each scholar with a host family. They share every Sunday (except during school breaks), and one full weekend a month.

It’s a win-win. The ABC youngsters enjoy the benefits of a family life away from their real families; they in turn give their host families (including kids) a new perspective on what’s important in life, a window into another culture — and tons of fun.

Last March, at ABC’s annual fundraiser, Deirdre Teed described how excited her children were when they learned their family had been selected to host Thomas Jones. “We won! We won!” they shouted.

Over 4 years, the relationship had its ups and downs. But it grew steadily deeper, Deirdre said — and will last for years.

With Thomas on the brink of graduation, Deirdre repeated — emphatically and tearfully — “We won!”

When ABC scholars speak at the annual fundraiser, they describe with love and awe their relationshp with host families. In 2014, Ruben Guardado spoke with confidence and poise.

When ABC scholars address the annual fundraiser, they describe with love and awe their relationshp with host families. In 2014, Ruben Guardado spoke with confidence and poise.

With so many benefits flowing in both directions, you’d think there would be a long list of Westport families eager to host.

You would be wrong.

Over the years, it’s become increasingly difficult for ABC volunteers to recruit new families. Surprisingly, it’s especially tough to find those with a student or 2 of their own at Staples — the best scenario for a “new kid” trying to fit in there.

In just a few weeks, 3 new scholars arrive. The program is still 1 family short.

That means ABC can’t provide a wonderful 13-year-old coming all the way from California with the support and continuity that are the hallmarks of a host-family relationship.

He’s an honors student who plays alto sax, runs cross country and is an altar server at his church.

He values “communication, cooperation and trust,” and hopes ABC can help him fulfill his potential.

The Westport family lucky to share their lives with him will, in turn, be supported by the ABC organization.

ABC logoEach host family has an alternate family that can step in when life is just too complicated. There’s also a network of volunteers and staff, ready to consult and counsel.

ABC officials are surprised at how tough it’s been to find host families. That’s not the Westport they know. And it’s not the Westport that scholars grow to know, during their wonderful — if not always smooth — years here.

Becoming a host family is not always as easy as 1-2-3. But learning more is as simple as ABC.

For information on becoming a host family, contact Nancy Yates (nyates@post.harvard.edu) or Michael Wolfe (wolfeml@optonline.net).


Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Where Tess’ Love Begins

How do you define forever?

That’s a question Suzanne Tanner faces every day.

Tess Tanner (Photo/Suzanne Tanner)

Tess Tanner (Photo/Suzanne Tanner)

She’s the mother of Tess Tanner, a 12-year-old Coleytown Middle School musician, actor, environmentalist and fun-loving girl who died 5 summers ago in a motor vehicle accident, while attending summer camp in Maine.

For Suzanne, “forever” means never letting go of her daughter’s poetry, passions and determination to make a difference.

It also means honoring Tess with a musical theater production that Suzanne herself has written.

“Where the Love Begins” is a musical memoir — “a mother’s love story,” she says — titled after Tess’ 1st poem, written when she was 5.

Suzanne performs a world premiere reading of the musical on Wednesday, August 17 — the 5th anniversary of her daughter’s death — at Saugatuck Congregational Church (7:30 p.m.).

The free event includes a special dance tribute by Staples High School junior Katherine Flug.

where the love beginsThere’s special poignancy to the show. Many of Tess’ classmates leave soon, entering college and pursuing passions of their own.

Suzanne — an award-winning musician while at Harvard — calls her multimedia composition “a musical monument” for her daughter, and “a thank-you gift to the universe for the profound privilege of parenthood.”

The show has received Broadway interest. It will workshop next year, fulfilling Suzanne’s mission to immortalize her daughter’s essence, and continue Tess’ emphasis on family, friendship and faith in forever love.

(For more information, click here or email PoeTessProductions@gmail.com)

“Footloose” Dances Onto Black Box Stage

Westport’s very talented Cynthia Gibb — herself a Staples High School grad — has been hard at work this summer, molding a teenage Continuing Education troupe into a foot-stomping cast.

“Footloose” — the dancing/rock musical — will be performed tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday (July 28-29), at 7 p.m. in Staples’ Black Box theater.

Tickets are available at the door.

The "Footloose" cast.

The “Footloose” cast.

 

Joshua Bell Plays Westport — Again

Joshua Bell is the most famous violinist of our time. Wherever he plays — around the world — he attracts adoring, sold-out audiences.

Despite his grueling recording and performing schedule, Bell often finds time for Westport.

Joshua Bell

Joshua Bell

In 2012 Bell helped launch Beechwood Arts and Innovation, the Westport non-profit known for its creative, eclectic Arts Immersion Salons. Music, art, film, performance, food and technology — all come together in a stunning 1806 home owned by Frederic Chiu and Jeanine Esposito.

Bell — a longtime friend of Chiu, Beechwood’s co-founder and himself an internationally acclaimed pianist — kicked off the 1st year by donating an unforgettable concert of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.”

He was joined by Chiu, actor James Naughton of Weston, and 13-year-old theater student Rachel Rival. Afterwards, chef Raul Restrepo of the former River Café served an equally memorable dinner.

Several years earlier, Bell appeared with Chiu — with whom he has played for 35 years — at the sold-out Malloy lecture for the Westport Library. A few days later they performed at the Westport Country Playhouse with Audra McDonald, Glenn Close and Tony Bennett, honoring Westporter Joanne Woodward.

Jeanine Esposito, Frederic Chiu, Paul Newman and Joshua Bell, at an earlier appearance in Westport.

Jeanine Esposito, Frederic Chiu, Paul Newman and Joshua Bell, at an earlier appearance in Westport.

Next month, Bell returns to town. On Thursday, August 25 (8 p.m., United Methodist Church) — in the midst of his own vacation — he’ll give a “high 5” to Beechwood Arts & Innovation, for their 5th-year fundraiser. Chiu once again joins him on piano.

The event includes a VIP Meet-and-Greet, a conversation where they reminisce about their early days as aspiring musicians (with WQXR’s Elliot Forrest), and a celebration party at Beechwood Arts, across the street from the church.

Beechwood logoThough every seat at a fundraiser is important, Beechwood is reserving 40 seats for patrons to sponsor young music students from underserved communities. Local music non-profits Spread Music Now, Turnaround Arts, Intake, Neighborhood Studios and KEYS are helping fill those seats.

Students will sit close to the stage, and talk to Bell and Chiu during intermission. Their parents can share in the event — and all will leave with a CD.

“In our youth, both Joshua and I were deeply inspired seeing master musicians play live,” Chiu says. “Those experiences left impressions that lasted a lifetime.

“This inspires both of us to work with students. And it’s why at Beechwood we regularly include students alongside masters of their craft, in all of our events across music, art, film and performance.”

Bell and Chiu have been friends since meeting at music competitions in their native Indiana. They’ve toured together for nearly 40 years, in the U.S., Europe and South America.

Their friendship will be on display August 25. So will their world-class talents, their deep love of the arts, and their wonderful generosity to all.

(Tickets must be reserved in advance. For tickets or more information, click here or call 203-226-9462.)

On one visit to Westport, Joshua Bell played "Four Seasons." On tour with Frederic Chiu in Ecuador, Chiu stood on the winter side of the equator, and Bell on the summer side.

On one visit to Westport, Joshua Bell played “Four Seasons.” On tour with Frederic Chiu in Ecuador, Chiu stood on the winter side of the equator, and Bell on the summer side.

Cuba Trip Opens Eyes — And Ears

Every year, Saugatuck Congregational Church sponsors a youth mission trip.

Last year they went to Portland, Maine.

This year they headed to Cuba.

The 24 teenagers and 15 adults did not do as much “work” as usual. This was more “cultural immersion,” says youth group coordinator Dana Johnson.

They visited an orphanage, churches and families whose children have disabilities. They did plant coffee, pick and peel “thousands” of mangoes, and moved bags of sand at a construction site.

Peeling mangoes...

Peeling mangoes…

...and moving bags of sand.

…and moving bags of sand.

They also went to Varadero Beach, a favorite spot for Canadian and European tourists.

But mostly, they forged what they hope are lasting friendships.

The Saugatuck Church group rode around in an old school bus, emblazoned with “Pastors for Peace.”

The bus...

The bus…

...and a peek inside.

…and a peek inside.

Wherever they went, Cubans waved. “They’re so happy to see Americans,” Johnson says. “We felt like rock stars.”

One woman excitedly handed her baby to the female travelers. She could tell everyone that Americans held her child.

At a seminary in Matanzas, a pastor asked them to pray for him, and his country. “He was excited that the blockade has been lifted,” Johnson explains. “But he’s worried about the future. Capitalism can be precarious. He’s concerned that income inequality will widen.”

The teens and adults spent only a couple of hours in Havana. Mostly they were in Matanzas, and outlying villages. Though Matanzas is a big city, Johnson says it felt like something from “a different era.” Horses and buggies roamed the streets; farmers sold eggs and bread from bicycles.

A dusty road.

A dusty road.

Before the trip, Johnson says, the teenagers thought their task was to help people.

They realized quickly, though, the power of simply meeting other people, and hearing their stories.

“Our kids came away feeling that they’d been helped,” Johnson notes.

“When we debriefed each night, they talked about not judging people until you listened to them.”

Listening, and learning.

Listening, and learning.

The Cubans do not need help, she adds. “They just need their stories to be heard and validated. The kids got that. I think they came home more willing to hear other people’s stories.”

Sharing food, and stories.

Sharing food, and stories.

Rev. Alison Patton (2nd from right), with old and new friends.

Rev. Alison Patton (2nd from right), with old and new friends.

Saugatuck Congregational Church mission members kick up their heels in Cuba. (All photos/Mark Mathias)

Saugatuck Congregational Church mission members kick up their heels in Cuba. (All photos/Mark Mathias, Marion Yingling and Miggs Burroughs)

 

 

 

 

Dangerous Driving: What Would You Do?

Alert — and terrified — “06880” reader Ellen Patafio writes:

My kids and I just witnessed an extremely scary sight. We were turning left from North Compo Road onto Main Street, across from Clinton Avenue.  A very young girl in a navy blue Range Rover behind us came flying down Compo. She made the left turn onto Main, tires screeching and almost tipping over. She was on 2 wheels. She landed hard on 4 wheels, and rocked back and forth.

It was frightening to watch. I kept my eye on her in the rear view mirror, hoping that incident woke her up to the importance of driving carefully.

We were both stopped at the light in front of Crossroads Hardware. When the light turned green, I moved ahead and turned to the right. This young woman was distracted by her phone. She did not move. When she realized she was holding up traffic, she again floored the gas and took the turn at a high rate of speed.

Car with 2 wheels

Do not try this at home. Or in Westport.

I am sending this to “06880,” thinking if I was this girl’s parents I would want to know that she was in need of some additional education on how to properly drive. As a parent, I would want to take this opportunity to have a conversation of the perils of careless driving and the effects they have on everyone — not just the driver. This situation could easily have had a very different outcome.

I did take down the plate number in case I ever run into her again. I would gently suggest taking more care when driving. I would have done that at the time, but the flow of traffic prohibited the opportunity.

That’s quite a story. “06880” readers: What do you think? How would you have handled the situation? As a parent, what would you do if a stranger told you this story about your child? Should the police be involved? We want to hear from you. Click “Comments” below — and please use your full, real name.

July Comes In With A Bang!

Westport celebrated the arrival of July — and Independence Day — with perfect weather, and one of the largest fireworks crowds ever, last night.

It was a wonderful, friendly, community vibe. There was food and fun, glow sticks and sparklers, and wall-to-wall people.

Westport may have been the 1st community in America to celebrate July 4th this year. But the date doesn’t matter. The great feelings — about our town and our country — do.

Thanks, Westport PAL, Melissa & Doug, our police and fire and EMTs and Parks & Rec crew, and everyone else who made last night special!

Click on or hover over photos to enlarge. All images below by Dan Woog, unless otherwise noted.

It's not Independence Day unless you wear red, white and blue.

It’s not Independence Day unless you wear red, white and blue…

...whatever your age...

…whatever your age…

 

...and deck your house in an American flag.

…and deck your house in an American flag.

Celebrating the 2nd Amendment.

Celebrating the 2nd Amendment. (Don’t worry! They’re toys!)

One man found solitude around 5 p.m. The large crowds had not yet arrived.

One man found solitude around 5 p.m. The large crowds had not yet arrived.

On Compo Beach Road, youngsters sold lemonade and cookies to raise funds to fight Alzheimer's.

On Compo Beach Road, youngsters raised money to fight Alzheimer’s.

Police officers did their job -- and mingled with the crowds. Ned Batlin knows everyone.

Police officers did their job — and mingled with the crowds. Ned Batlin knows everyone.

This scene was repeated hundreds of times, up and down the beach.

This scene was repeated hundreds of times, all along the beach.

Boats were out in force, all afternoon and evening.

Boats were out in force, all afternoon and evening.

Up and down Soundview, the boardwalk and beyond, teenagers strutted their stuff.

Up and down Soundview, the boardwalk and beyond, teenagers strutted their stuff.

New York City's Cobras put on a great dance and drum performance. They appeared in the movie "Birdman."

New York City’s Cobras put on a great dance and drum performance. They appeared in the movie “Birdman.”

A classic shot. We sometimes forget that the cannons represent Westport's part in our war for independence.

A classic shot. We sometimes forget that the cannons represent Westport’s role in our war for independence.

As night fell, bunting was illuminated on Soundview Drive.

As night fell, bunting was illuminated on Soundview Drive.

The main attraction.

The main attraction.

The fireworks, as seen from a Soundview Drive front porch. (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

The fireworks, as seen from a Soundview Drive front porch. (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

 

Project Return Joins Homes With Hope Family

For 33 years, Project Return has helped teenage girls and young women in crisis rebuild their lives.

For 33 years too, Homes With Hope has provided emergency shelter, permanent supportive housing, food and services to homeless men, women and children.

Starting today, 2 of Westport’s most important organizations merge.

Just 2 months ago, Project Return — the converted 8-bed farmhouse on North Compo Road that since 1983 has housed hundreds of females from Westport and surrounding towns — learned that on June 30, it would lose all state money.

The Department of Children and Families — which provided 80% of the group’s funding —  has been hit hard by budget cuts. In addition, DCF has shifted its policy, from group homes to foster care.

Project Return, on North Compo Road.

Project Return, on North Compo Road.

At the same time, Project Return was moving its focus to a slightly older group: 18-25-year-old women. It’s an under-served population that is projected to rise, says Kim Lake, board member and chair of the organization’s Strategic Action Committee.

“Partnering with Homes With Hope is by far our best option,” Lake says. “They’re excellent at what they do — and they’re part of our community.”

Homes With Hope president and CEO Jeff Wieser is thrilled with the new collaboration.

“Project Return will be a separate, fully functioning program under our umbrella,” he says.

“They’ll continue their wonderful work: nurturing, coaching, helping young women get back to their families or begin independent lives.”

Homes With HopeWieser adds, “Project Return is very tied in to our mission, of supporting those without homes, or at risking of losing theirs, achieve more self-sufficient lives.

“But we did not have the facilities to focus on that population, right here in our own community.”

1983 was a watershed: The year 2 fantastic organizations were founded.

2016 will go down in both groups’ histories — now shared — too.