This week’s Student Feature Friday is junior Matt Perera whose enthusiasm for life and general positivity is contagious. Matt is involved in so many activities, both at HHS and outside of school, yet he manages to achieve a healthy balance while still striving to improve in all aspects of his life. Since picking up the trumpet in 4th grade he has been an avid musician, making it into Districts each year since 8th grade. Last year he earned the top trumpet spot in the CDMMEA Central District Festival. In addition to his participation in Concert Band, Jazz Band, Claflin Hill Orchestra, T-Tones & Act II, he has petitioned to take on an independent study this year writing his own music for the trumpet. His goal is to write music that brings more energy and melody to the trumpet. In other words, he wants to write music that will “get stuck in people’s heads and they can sing or hum along to.”
Matt is always looking for ways to step outside of the box and pave the way for others. He is a captain of the frisbee team and Vice-President of the class of 2021. He works hard to make sure others feel included and sees that as a huge responsibility of a leader. Matt’s “why not” attitude allows him to try new activities, creatively approach problems, and progress towards becoming a well-rounded person.
Q: What is it about music, and playing the trumpet, that is so meaningful to you? In other words, why do you devote so much of your time to playing music? What drives you?
A: Honestly, playing the trumpet and music overall has given me opportunities to meet so many people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, and the better I’ve gotten at my instrument the more people I get to see. Whether it is the groups here at HHS, Claflin Hill, or All-State, I can make so many goofy memories with people who just enjoy playing their instruments and want to have a good time.
Q: During our conversation you spoke about the type of leader you strive to be and the importance of inclusion for everyone. How do you want others to view you as a leader and what strategies do you use to include others?
A: I want people to see me as the leader that just enjoys what he does and wants others to enjoy it as much as he does. I want to be someone who works hard to succeed, who encourages others to keep going with him, all while having an overall positive attitude. I really want to try and create the perfect balance of success and overall fun and good spirit.
Q: I would love to hear a little bit more about some of the ways you have pushed yourself to be as creative as possible in your classes and why you have taken that approach (i.e. video project, Stand By Me in garage band, writing your own music for the trumpet).
A: A lot of it comes from the idea that “If I have to do this, I better make it somewhat interesting, and how can I make it stand out?”. I could make a slide presentation, or I could write a partially goofy video script with my best friends. I finished our final project in How to Make Media Music a week early, so why not try and use my resources and recreate one of my favorite songs for fun. I started trying to write my own covers because I was too cheap to buy music online, and it allowed me to make the song how I wanted. I have to do the announcements in the morning so I better try and make it fun for myself and the listeners. I signed up for the sport and I’m here, so I should try and be the best player I can be. Overall, it’s more fun to make the most out of the situation than be bored doing it by the books.
Q: What advice do you have for students who have not yet found their passion/interests?
A: Just try as many things as possible! One of them has to work. Obviously it’s a lot easier said than done, but the payoff is always worth it. Of course I haven’t enjoyed every thing I’ve ever done, and I’m definitely not the most confident person, but I can always be happy knowing I gave it my all and I have a fun story to share in the future.
This week’s Student Feature Friday is senior Isabella Ceresia whose passion for the environment has led to many interesting and rewarding experiences. Isabella’s interest in animals started at an early age when she would receive books from her cousins and would spend long periods of time reading and learning about all kinds of animals. She also spent quite a bit of time at the aquarium when she was younger and in 9th grade, was invited to participate in ClimaTeens, a group of dedicated teens 14 to 18 years old who care about the oceans and want to contribute to a healthy future. Through her work in this program she was twice invited as a panelist to educate the public on the environment and the power of engaging youth.
Isabella’s passion and care for the environment extended to her own community of Holliston when she coordinated a large project with NHS students, New England Aquarium Live Blue Ambassadors and the Town of Holliston Conservation Commission to remove 9 different types of invasive species from the Holliston Rail Trail. Whether it’s protecting endangered Right Whales, participating in climate change strikes, fishing in the middle of the ocean to determine the catch and release mortality rate of groundfish with different fishing gear, or strengthening her skills as a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Yoshitsume Jutitsu and a 1st Degree Black Belt in Hakko Denshin Ryu Jujutsu, Isabella is an incredibly impressive student who cares deeply about her environment and wants to make the world a better place. I have no doubt that she will have a big impact on protecting the environment for future generations.
Q: Your passion for protecting the environment and your love of animals and wildlife are clearly fueling your endeavours. Where did your interest in wildlife originate?
A: While growing up, I’ve been surrounded by so many experiences that have reinforced my love for aquatic life, which makes it difficult to choose only one. My mother’s passion for the environment and her career in the science field became a shared passion at a young age. I recall trips to the New England Aquarium, whose animals and exhibits always fascinated me. Together we watched National Geographic and Animal Planet nonstop, whose channels demonstrated the significance of the ecosystems and its inhabitants and inspired a sense of passion for the ocean and marine life. She opened me up to to a world that hooked me and it’s almost although this passion for our ecosystem is part of my DNA. Simple experiences like these have encouraged me to learn more about this subject and push me to get involved in more programs that would support my love for the ocean and our environment. Over the years, I have been afforded the opportunity to participate in programs at the New England Aquarium, such as, Climateens, Live Blue Ambassadors, and ACCOL, which continue to stimulate my passion for marine life. They teach me important facts about the effects of climate change, possible solutions to improve and conserve our environment, and ways to communicate this knowledge to the public.
Q: Can you describe why your experience with ACOLL has been so powerful for you and how it has shaped your future interests?
A: I was always interested in field research but I didn’t have much experience, except when I went to Peru in freshman year, so this was the real first-hand experience to work alongside scientists who were collecting data in an actual study. It kind of solidified that this is what I would like to do as a career. I was able to find what these scientists did on a regular basis. For example, for the big fishing trip, I had to wake up at 3:30 AM to get to New Hampshire by 5:00 AM to get on the boat. We then set off and waited for 2 hours to actually get to the proper fishing place. I loved being on the boat and collecting all the data. I also found it incredibly interesting to analyze the data and find ways on how to present it (which was something I didn’t really expect).
Q: When asked about improvements at HHS you stated that there should be more taught to students about becoming politically active. Why do you think this is so important for students and how have you become politically active outside of HHS?
A: I’ve always been a little intimidated by politics and never thought that my voice would make an impact on our government so I tended to listen instead and gain insight based on other people’s opinions. I think that if our school presented facts and some opinions on different current figures, people would be able to form their own ideas, instead of piggy-backing off of another. I think it’s especially important to the seniors, who will be voting in 2020. I’m personally still trying to find how to become politically active but I’ve been able to participate in the Boston Climate Strike in September. I think the best way is to find something you are really passionate about and find events that relate to that. I also think you can be more politically aware by asking the people around you about their opinions and just having a conversation about it.
Q: What advice do you have for students who are still searching for their passion or interest in life?
A: I’d probably say not to be too worried about finding one big passion or interest right now. it’s something that you find naturally as long as you’re open to new experiences. By stepping out of your box, you can potentially find an interest that you’d never known about.
The title, “Why it’s Imperative We All Learn to Become ‘Emotion Scientists’” caught my attention this weekend and has such strong connections to the work we do every day and the work of the Vision of a Graduate. “When we consult with corporations, they tell us they’re searching for employees who persevere with a task, who take personal responsibility for their work, who can get along with others and function as members of a team. Not technical abilities or specialized knowledge— they’re looking ﬁrst for emotional attributes. A colleague from the RAND Corporation told me that technology advances so rapidly today that companies don’t hire workers for their current skills— ﬁrms are looking for people who are ﬂexible, who can present new ideas, inspire cooperation in groups, manage and lead teams, and so on. We may acquire some of those skills by osmosis—by watching and emulating others who possess them. But for the most part they must be taught. And they are best learned in communities. Emotion skills are both personal and mutual. They can be used privately, but their best application is throughout a community, so that a network emerges to reinforce its own inﬂuence. I have seen this happen— these skills are being deployed in thousands of schools all over the world, with dramatic results.”
This week’s Student Feature Friday is junior Riley Robinson whose positivity and joy for life is evident the moment your start speaking with her. Her participation in Best Buddies, Beautiful Minds Campaign, Culture Club and the Wellness Council are all connected by her compassion, kind heart and genuine desire to help others. She recently traveled to Kenya with her family to help build soccer fields and bring medical supplies to those in need. Her trip to Kenya brought together her love of travel, having visited several countries throughout the world, with her strong desire to make the world a better place.
Riley is passionate about Wellness, nutrition and the mind-body connection. She is an active participant in the Wellness Council and is working hard to share her knowledge with others. Knowing how difficult it is to make consistent and sustained changes towards healthy living, she has found great support and comfort in her crossfit community. Future plans for her include becoming a dietitian and helping others change their lives for the better through wellness and kindness.
Q: How have you been able to expand on your interests in nutrition through the Wellness Council and your participation in crossfit?
A: August 21, 2016 marked the start of my health transformation. After countless years of being bullied for my appearance, stressing over the number I read on the scale, and getting nervous every time I walked into a room filled with people: scared of what they really thought about me, I was finally ready to make a change for myself and no one else. I was more than ready to embark on a journey, that without knowing would change my life forever. My mind was filled with emotions. I was nervous of the unknown but thrilled for what was to come. I knew that with the right motivation I could overcome any challenge. I began with approving of myself just the way I was. Then, I found my why and determined my goals. I joined a health program, attended Crossfit Firewall on a regular basis, created healthy recipes in the kitchen, began meditating, seeked out a supportive community, and finally began to expect progress and not perfection. By putting in the work, I knew that I was setting myself up for making long lasting change. Now here I am, three years later, still riding this crazy rollercoaster. For this journey: I am forever grateful. I have been taught things I’d never thought could change my habits and thinking. I have learned the importance of mindfulness, adequate amounts of sleep, and the education one should learn about their own body. In the process, I have discovered my passion for nutrition and dietetics. I have never felt so good in my own skin: confidence is finally within me. I am dedicated to learn as much as possible about the importance of wellness and self-love. My hope is to turn my passion for health and wellness, as well as my desire to help others feel confident and beautiful, into my focus for college and hopefully my future career. Not only have I altered my life, mindset, and health completely; but I have been able to spread my knowledge among the walls of my high school by being apart of the wellness council.
As a student representative of the wellness council, I am steadfast in our mission, working to communicate effectively, and exhibit boundless energy and passion towards our cause. I strive to support wellness in my school community by promoting nutrition, physical activity, and social-emotional health. I recently have been working on posting up easy and nutritious recipes around the school, as well as implementing a mindfulness and movement activity during our directed study block to enable students to take a breath and relax before the rest of their classes. The wellness council has not only broadened my love for nutrition but has opened me up to new experiences and a supportive community in Holliston.
Similarly, Crossfit Firewall has not only made me feel more confident and fit but has even enhanced my passion for my future career even more. It has also given me a truly supportive and determined community. I feel strong, I feel empowered, and I feel like I can take on anything. The people that I have met through Firewall are all incredible and supportive, the community is just one of the many things that keeps me coming back day after day. These groups have ultimately changed my life for the good and I could not be more blessed.
Q: Tell me more about Lovelane, how you became involved in the organization and why it has been so rewarding for you.
A: Lovelane is a therapeutic horseback riding program that has a dramatic impact on the physical and cognitive development of children with special needs. My mom introduced me to this wonderful organization back in June and overtime, I have come to know so many wonderful and genuine people that put smiles on my face every time I see them. Saying that Lovelane has been a gratifying experience is such an understatement. Volunteering there has been an absolute dream – not only because I love horses and the students we help strive beyond their disabilities, but because it is the perfect opportunity for me to give back to those that deserve it. The students at Lovelane truly give me purpose. The joy and happiness on their faces as they ride and learn, resonates with me. One can’t quickly forget the overwhelming feelings of excitement and accomplishment they feel when students who have trouble walking into a ring, sit up, ride a horse and take control. The pride and emotion is immense. This experience has taught me that helping others can be just as rewarding for the individuals performing the services as those receiving it. Its mind blowing how gratifying creating positive change can be.
Q: Through your participation in the new Service Learning course you have chosen to create the do-good club. How do you envision this club promoting inclusion and positivity?
A: Ever since I can remember, I have had an absolute love for spreading kindness and making a difference in my community. There is something so special and heartwarming about helping others. And it is so simple: giving a used soccer ball to a child that has been playing with rolled up socks; helping an eldery gentleman pick up his newspaper from the end of his driveway; providing a thanksgiving meal to a family with none. It’s the simplicity of a kind act that gives me a greater sense of purpose. Volunteering my time, money, and energy to help others doesn’t just make the world better, it also makes me happier. This past summer, I volunteered at the local senior center where I was able to listen to life stories, participate in numerous activities, and grow closer to the elders in my community. My love for helping others has even taken me across the globe to Africa where I was able to educate as well as bring both medical and sport supplies to those in need. These valuable and life changing experiences are helping me become a better person. Not only has volunteering reduced my stress but has continued to provide me with an opportunity to give back. Being kind to others is the most powerful tool to success. And perhaps the most important benefit of service is the chance of that person paying it forward. Your one act of kindness could have a major ripple effect.
With the creation of the Do-Good Club, I am able to prove to others how powerful the act of human kindness and compassion truly is. The club’s mission is to not only spread positivity but also awareness of inclusion and the importance of being an active community member inside and outside the walls of Holliston High School. Every month, participants raise awareness, fundraise, and engage in volunteer work based on a certain community need. Our next meeting gives us the opportunity to create smiles across many young faces. We are putting together goodie bags that will be donated to the students of the Lovelane organization to simply brighten their day.
Q: You clearly have several passions and have been able to pursue them simultaneously. What advice do you have for other students who haven’t found their passion/interests yet?
A: Knowing your passion in life gives you something to build a strong foundation from. Passion helps you live your life with integrity and purpose. That passion helps you discover your “why” and helps determine your goals. Explore new things, listen to what others appreciate about you, and find and build community. Once you have identified your passion, spend some time working to develop it. Set specific goals and find accountability. Whatever your passion is, follow it. In life you are meant to do what brings you joy, and your gifts and talents are meant to be your contribution to the world. Stop hiding them away. Now is the time, bring them out! I do and it brings me happiness everyday.
As we all continue in our quest to move the Vision of a Graduate forward with faculty projects throughout the year, the following article caught my attention on Interdisciplinary projects. It is a quick read discussing both creative projects and creative scheduling. “This year we are taking on the challenge to push the envelope again. At our core, projects are the driver of our work, so we decided to walk the talk and ask the driving question, “What does it look like when our students solve projects that matter that integrate all subject areas?” Our 9th grade team is now integrating seven subjects into one project.” Scheduling an Interdisciplinary Project
As I was looking through a few articles over the weekend, I came across “Concrete Ways to Help Students Self-Regulate and Prioritize Work.” Although the two short videos highlight elementary and middle school students, the work still pertains to high school students. Many of the discussions from Friday focused on teaching life skills that will outlive students’ four years at HHS. How are we explicitly teaching these skills? How are these skills being worked into lesson plans across all subjects? One quote from the article/video jumped out at me: “Mark Twain said if you wake up every morning and eat a frog, everything else will taste great,” said eighth grade teacher Catherine Paul. “So, I taught them to take their frog from the list, which is the thing they want to do the least, and get it out of the way, because everything else will seem easy.” How are we helping students navigate and prioritize their days in ways that are meaningful and manageable?
As we continue to promote learner agency, student’s empowerment and ownership over their learning, I am reminded of the importance of asking questions in order to help students find the meaning in what they are doing.