Category Archives: Teenagers

Congratulations, Staples Graduates!

The Staples High School Class of 2017 is now history.

Over 450 members of the 130th graduating class received their diplomas amid the usual pomp and circumstance in the fieldhouse. 

It was a day of celebration, joy, pride — and relief, sentimentality and longing.

Graduates and their parents looked ahead — and back.

And of course, everyone took photos.

For weeks, seniors have filled a large poster with their post-high school plans. Today it was on display for all to see.

Fabian Becerra waited for the ceremony to begin…

… and so did salutatorian Christopher Scherban and valedictorian Emily Schussheim.

The processional into the fieldhouse isn’t a red carpet — but at graduation it can seem like one.

Some seniors decorated their caps with messages. St. Andrews is in Scotland.

Class speaker Megan Hines had a wonderful message. She described never taking AP or honors classes, but finding herself — thanks to caring friends, guidance counselors and teachers. “You are never alone” at Staples, she said.

Listening intently to the student speakers were (from right) superintendent of schools Colleen Palmer, principal James D’Amico, 12th grade assistant principal Pat Micinilio, assistant principal Rich Franzis, and and assistant principal (and proud father of graduate Jimmy) James Farnen.

Shelby Lake got special congratulations from big brother (and Staples Class of 2011 graduate) Court Lake.

Brooke Wrubel posed with her family in the courtyard.

A celebration isn’t complete without some good cigars.

A Better Chance scholars Manny Ogutu and Sam Larkin enjoyed a post-graduation party at Glendarcy House with their proud parents — and a host of well-wishers.

Emma Charleston: Ready To Rock Rockwood

When Emma Ruchefsky was at Staples — singing with Orphenians and performing onstage with Players — everyone predicted great things.

After graduating in 2015, Emma headed to Berklee College of Music. She’s a professional music major, with a concentration in performance and songwriting. That’s just about the best place for anyone looking to achieve — well, great things.

This Saturday (June 24, 8:30 p.m.), Emma Charleston — that’s her professional name (and her mother’s) — makes her New York debut at Rockwood Music Hall. She follows in the footsteps of Lady Gaga, Jessie J,and  Mumford & Sons.

Emma will perform 9 songs — 6 originals and 3 covers. Drummer Joe Zec is a fellow 2015 Staples grad — and a Berklee classmate.

She’s never seen a show at Rockwood. It’s 21 and over, and Emma is just 19. But she and her mother — noted singer Rondi Charleston — went down to the Lower East Side recently, to scout it out.

The age limit means most of Emma’s friends are too young to see her professional debut. But on Saturday, Rockwood will be packed with her parents, and plenty of family friends.

Yet that’s not all the Emma news. She’s released 4 singles, all original songs backed with Berklee musicians. They’re on Spotify, iTunes and SoundCloud — just search for Emma Charleston. An EP is coming Friday.

 

Then — if you’re 21 or over — you can watch her live in New York, on Saturday night.

(For tickets to Emma Charleston’s Rockwood Music Hall performance, click here.)

Weston Grads Get Their Beach

The Weston High School Class of 2017 is now history.

After last night’s graduation came an all-night mystery trip.

The last stop — just after 5 a.m. — was breakfast at Compo Beach.

As a couple of hundred happy — and exhausted — Trojans piled out of their buses, photographer Ted Horowitz was there too. He was capturing the sunrise.

He offered to take a group shot. So Ted climbed on a lifeguard stand …

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

… and snapped the group’s final “class photo”:

(Photo/Ted Horowitz)

Congratulations, graduates!

 

They Do Grow Up!

On July 1, 2003, a small group gathered underneath a pear tree, on a patch of grass separating a rutted parking lot from the sprawling, 1-story Staples High School campus.

Several speakers at the low-key ceremony praised the high school as “the jewel in the crown” of the Westport school system.

Then superintendent of schools Elliott Landon, principal John Brady, 1st selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell, Board of Education chair Sandra Urist and 10 other educators, politicians, citizen-volunteers and Turner Construction Company representatives turned over symbolic shovels of dirt.

Ground was broken for construction of an even more sprawling, 3-story school. Another major chapter in Staples’ fabled history had begun.

The Westport News ran a front-page photo of a young boy helping out:

As the caption noted, 4-year-old Jacob Leaf was the grandson of Dan Kail, chairman of the Staples School Building Sub-Committee.

The paper was wrong, however. Jacob is a member of the Class of 2017 — not 2018.

Tomorrow (Thursday, June 22, 2 p.m.), he and over 450 classmates graduate.

They’ll do so in the fieldhouse — one of the only parts of the building not touched by the $84 million renovation.

The project — completed in 2005 — transformed Staples forever. It is a 21st-century building, and this year’s graduating class have done their high school — and town — proud.

Sitting especially proudly in tomorrow’s crowd will be one of the Westporters most responsible for the modern Staples High School: Jacob’s grandfather, Dan Kail.

Congratulations to all the graduates; to all who made Staples possible, and all who continue to do so.

Staples Interns Rock The Real World

Once upon a time, Staples High School 12th graders marked the month before graduation with boredom, pranks and trouble-making.

Now they build homes and websites. They help bakers make cakes, and bankers make money. They work in corporate offices, on sustainable farms, in recording studios and dance studios.

They use the math, writing, analytical, computer and common sense skills they’ve honed during a dozen years of school. For perhaps the first time in their lives they solve real-world problems with bosses, colleagues and clients.

They learn how to communicate — and how to commute.

On Friday, over 400 Staples seniors completed their 5-week internships. They work hard, at real work. They learn a lot, met new people, and (for the most part) had fun. Many call the program one of the most valuable experiences in their entire school careers.

On Thursday, they graduate.

Thanks to their teachers, administrators, coaches, club advisors and counselors — and their Staples Senior Internship — they’re as ready for the real world as they can be.

Colin McKechnie and Hallie Lavin capped their internship at the Weiser Kitchen by preparing and hosting a delicious party.

Claudia Lagnese does environmental work at Harbor Watch.

Alice Sardinian with a young patient at Village Pediatrics.

During their internship at Oliving Experience — a builder of energy-efficient luxury homes — Josh Berman and Teddy Lawrence worked on spreadsheets and handled social media. They also did lots of manual labor.

Faiza Qureshi gets into position at Kaia Yoga.

Becky Hoving and Jillian Stefani get into the mood for the Long Lots School field day.

Grace Wynne at Whittingham Cancer Center.

 

Fun At The Fair

Westport’s annual rite of almost-summer — the Yankee Doodle Fair — kicked off last night at the Westport Woman’s Club.

The first night always attracts a horde of tweens and young teens. Alert “06880” reader Andrea Pouliot was there, with kids and a camera.

Sean Collins, in a timeless scene.

Eliot Klein enjoys the ride.

Aiden Rourke is a rising 7th grader at Fairfield Country Day School. He looks forward to playing football at Staples one day.

Andrea Pouliot and her daughter Callie.

Missed The Pops Concert? It’s All Here!

It’s hard to top last Friday’s Westport schools pops concert at Levitt Pavilion.

But Jim Honeycutt’s video comes close.

The former Staples High School media teacher led a camera crew that captured all the music, passion and joy from the instantly-sold-out event.

You don’t need to fix a picnic and spread out a blanket to enjoy this great video.

But it sure wouldn’t hurt.

Artemis Society Reacts To “Feminism Wall”

The Artemis Society — which calls itself “a feminist organization that aims to empower women, and encourage and teach gender equity to Westport’s future generations” — took note of yesterday’s “06880” post about reactions to a project undertaken by Staples High School’s Women in History class.

In response to the students’ open letter to the school community, Artemis posted its own open letter to the class:

We are the Artemis Society. We are your mothers, your sisters, your parents’ friends. We are the women you see every day. We will not go back.

We will not stay silent while any person attempts to silence the voices, or impede the rights of trans or cisgendered women, or their allies. We believe in intersectional gender, religious, sexual, and racial equality. We aim to bring awareness to our children, and to educate them through peaceful activism and protest. For your future. For these reasons, we are compelled to state the following in response to the sexist, degrading and misogynistic response to the “Feminism Wall” in the Staples cafeteria.

The Artemis Society posted its own message to Staples’ Women in History class, outside the cafeteria.

To the “Women in History” students and those students who made and contributed to the Feminism Wall: You are courageous. Social progress is often the natural consequence of struggle and discomfort. Don’t be afraid, and don’t back down.

Gender inequality is real. Congress is comprised of 83 congresswomen out of 435 representatives, and 21 women out of 100 senators. Women earn 23 cents less for every dollar earned by a man who has the same job. Women who work in the household earn $175,000 per year in imputed income, which is neither recognized nor valued by the majority of society.

This is insufficient. Shout it from the rooftops. You have the power to change this, and you have already begun to do so. Your “Feminism Wall” will eventually help dismantle the institutional walls of sexism in Westport, and wherever your voice takes you.

It has already started a townwide conversation. Be proud. Speak up for more marginalized groups who do not share some of your privilege.

And despite the common misperception that it must have been girls who made this wall, Artemis acknowledges there are strong male feminist allies who may have contributed as well. Your wall was defamed with vile comments, defaced, and sexualized. You have them on the run. Go get ’em!

Westport is filled with dynamic, intelligent and educated women. Don’t buy into the sitcom stereotype, because underneath our white jeans and our yoga clothes, we wear armor! We are your sisters, and we stand beside you.

The “Feminism Wall,” Phase 3.

To the students who defaced the Feminism Wall: You proved sexism exists at Staples.

There is still time to learn and change. Don’t be afraid. Be better. Ask yourself why this wall made you so uncomfortable. Was it fear? Was it social pressure? Do you truly believe the things you wrote?

To the boy who wrote the girls in his engineering class are not his equals: You are correct. They are your superiors. But you can be equals if you conquer your bias and insecurity.

When we tell young feminists to fight, it is not to fight against you; they must fight for themselves. You must fight to learn for yourselves.

To the students who sexualized the wall by simulating body fluid with moisturizer: Women and girls are not objects for the benefit of your gaze or pleasure. We vow to remind our daughters they will not be subjugated or intimidated by such acts. Feminism is not a dirty word.

Some of the earlier Post-Its on the Feminism Wall.

Some of you wrote that feminism is “retarded” and “gay” and “autistic” and “cancer.” There is nothing bad about being delayed, gay, autistic, and seriously  — cancer?

These are your peers. These are your equals. Respect them! If feminism is a waste of paper, you would not have wasted the paper to say so.

Our young women of Westport will “go back to the kitchen,” for a lovely meal you prepared to congratulate them on earning that promotion, winning that election, and shattering that glass ceiling.

Finally: If you are a parent or guardian, talk to your children about the importance of social equality. The Westport schools should absolutely teach gender equality and gender studies at every age level, in age-appropriate ways. The Westport schools vow to teach emotional and social awareness; kindness with sincerity; principled thoughts and actions, and a love of learning.

Let’s do this!

Saugatuck Girls Win Groundbreaking Gold

We see them on the river — at dawn, after dusk and in all kinds of weather. The women, men, girls and boys of the Saugatuck Rowing Club are some of Westport’s most accomplished — and unheralded — athletes.

Last weekend, SRC rowers competed at the youth national championships in Sarasota, Florida. One boat earned a groundbreaking gold. Here’s proud mom Debbie McGinley’s report:

Parents and athletes landed at JFK near midnight Sunday after an adrenaline-filled finish to the USRowing Youth Nationals. Earlier in the hot day — as spectators cheered and coaches biked madly along the course — the Saugatuck Rowing Club women’s youth 8+ crew surged ahead of the field to win a club history 3rd straight national title.

The SRC women pulled even with the crew from Marin, California at 500 meters, took the lead at 1000 meters and powered ahead to finish in front by 3 seconds.

Saugatuck Rowing Club’s championship boat, in action.

Sunday’s win capped a 3-year undefeated run, during which it 3-peated youth rowing’s triple crown: the Head of the Charles Regatta, San Diego Crew Classic and Youth National Championships.

A June rowing event in Florida brings weather-related challenges. Thunderstorms caused practice times and races to be postponed, sending the SRC rowers scrambling to a local gym for an impromptu spinning workout.

Sunday’s finals were condensed so crews could pack up their boats, load their trailers and clear the course before more thunderstorms arrived.

SRC’s experienced rowers had seen it all before. The group includes 2 USRowing women’s junior national team members; one who medaled at the World Junior Rowing Championships in August, and USRowing Fan’s Choice Junior Athlete of the Year.

The 6 seniors on the winning boat include 3 from Staples High School. This fall they head to great colleges: Grace McGinley (Stanford), Imogen Ratcliffe (Cal-Berkeley) and Willemijn ten Cate (Princeton).

Two other Staples students joined them: junior Kelsey McGinley and sophomore Noelle Amlicke.

SRC’s women’s youth 8+ crew celebrates its 3rd staight national championship. Staples students include Noelle Amlicke, (2nd from left); Grace McGinley (3rd from left); Willemijn ten Cate (right of coxswain); Imogen Ratcliffe (3rd from right) and Kelsey McGinley (2nd from right).

In addition to the winners, SRC — under junior head coaches Sharon Kriz and Gordon Getsinger — had 4 other Top 10 finishers.

All were inspired by texts from younger rowers back home.

On Monday morning — after just 4 hours of sleep — the rowers headed back to school to prepare for finals, or to their senior internships. Today — after a marathon drive by their coaches pulling trailers back from Florida — the rowers return to the club.

They’ll unload and rig their boats, then hit the water again.

After all, there are many more races to win.

The SRC women’s 8+ winning race begins below at 2:31:30.

 

 

 

Justin Paul: Yesterday, And 2002

Last night was another big milestone for Justin Paul.

The 2003 Staples High School graduate and his writing partner Benj Pasek won a Tony Award for Best Original Score (“Dear Evan Hansen”). They shared another later in the evening, as the show was named Best Musical.

Before the ceremony, NY1 caught up with the white-hot duo on the red carpet. During the brief interview, Paul named David Roth (Staples High School), Ben Frimmer (Coleytown Middle School) and Kevin Connors (Music Theatre of Connecticut) as important influences while growing up.

Here’s the video:

Meanwhile, retired media teacher Jim Honeycutt unearthed this video of Paul as a senior, when he performed in Roth’s Staples Players production of “Merrily We Roll Along.”

Here’s his solo of “Growing Up.”

He certainly has!

Benj Pasek (left) and Justin Paul (3rd from left) celebrate at the Tonys last night with Paul’s wife Asher and Coleytown Middle School director Ben Frimmer.

(Hat tip: Hedi Ann Lieberman)