Student Feature Fridays

Roy Mitri

IMG_1897This week’s student feature Friday is Roy Mitri who is currently a student at Holliston High School receiving post-graduate services. Roy has been developing many skills throughout his time at HHS and has found a strong passion for cooking. He has earned his ServSafe Food Handler Certificate, Food Equipment and Safety Training Certificate (Feast) and Mass Food Allergen Certificate. Roy just recently accepted his first paying job at Bertucci’s, working in the kitchen washing dishes and is looking forward to developing his role as an integral member of the team. In addition to working at Bertucci’s, he works at the Residence at Valley Farm, an independent Living, assisted Living & reflections memory care facility, Framingham Union and TC Scoops.

Roy has worked hard to find ways to get to work without a license and has found the MWRTA, which he takes to and from the Residence, so he doesn’t have to rely on his family and friends. He enjoys working at the Residence because of the cooking he is able to do but more so because of the people he works with and the sense of accomplishment he feels from the work.

Q: What is your favorite thing about cooking or working in kitchens?

A: I really enjoy working in a kitchen.  I do lots of different things. Sometimes I work with food.  Sometimes I do the dishes. I like it all. It is hard to pick a favorite thing. I like making things.  I did a cooking class last spring and it was really fun. I learned a lot of new things about cooking and being safe in a kitchen.

Q: What skills did you have to practice in order to be able to take the MTWRA bus by yourself to the Residence?

A: I had to know when to get to the bus stop, what stop I was getting on at, and what stop I was getting off at.  I also need to know when to pull the cord to signal to the bus driver that I am getting off. We looked over the MWRTA schedule a lot to practice. I also practiced riding the MWRTA with teachers before, and pulling the cord,  but I like riding by myself. Another skill I had to learn was to use the alarm on my phone so that I knew when I needed to stop working and walk to the bus stop.

Q: You recently were able to get your first paying job at Bertucci’s. What was the job interview like? What did you do to prepare to meet with the manager and what type of responsibilities to your have in your new position?

A: I met with Nick.  He asked me questions and showed me around Bertucci’s.  I practiced going over interview questions with Mrs. King and Heidi from the Metrowest Center for Independent Living. We practiced questions about where I had volunteered earlier, what certificates I have for the kitchen, when I can work, and what experiences I have.  In my job I wash the dishes and the roll silverware.

Q: You clearly love working in kitchens. What advice do you have for other students who haven’t found something that they love to do yet?

A: I would tell them keep on trying new things until they find something they like.

 

Student Feature Fridays

Will Flanagan

image1This week’s Student Feature Friday is senior Will Flanagan. Five minutes into our conversation it was hard not to be impressed by his maturity, genuine desire to improve his community and his love of learning. Will is currently the senior class president, athletic captain, club president, Eagle Scout, swim instructor and all around great person. Yet with all of these accomplishments he remains humble and ready to serve his community. Through tennis, which he describes as being introduced to by his grandfather when he “started walking”,  and diving on the swim team he fulfills his need to be active and sees his constant improvement as incredibly rewarding. Will’s academic focus is met through his rigorous courses, participation in Model United Nations and his membership in NHS.

Although his academic and athletic accomplishments are impressive, it is his drive to help others through community service that sets him apart. Will just completed his Eagle Scout project which focused on renovating the garage of a group home for adults with Autism and turning it into a multipurpose room. Although he does not have a background in construction, with the help of his father and other members of the troop, he successfully turned a two-car garage that was not being utilized into a welcoming space where residents of the home could come together to socialize and play games with one another. The renovation was not easy and required patching and rebuilding walls, painting, electrical, flooring and design layout for the best use of the space. Will persevered and when asked about his experience he stated, “Hard work does pay off.”

Q: We spoke a lot about your Eagle Scout project and the significant commitment it took to complete. What was the most meaningful aspect of the project for you? What was your biggest takeaway?

A: The most worthwhile aspect of the project for me was knowing that I was making a difference in the current and future residents of the home. I was able to make a meaningful impact in the lives of the young men.

Q: So many of the activities you are involved in require strong leadership skills. Why do you gravitate towards rolls that require you take on this responsibility? How did you first begin to develop those leadership skills and what do you view as the role of a strong leader?

A: For me, I have always wanted to make sure I left a mark in whatever group I participated in. I have always believed there is always room for improvement, and I want to make what I am part of better than it was before. I first began developing my leadership skills in boy scouts when I became the youngest Senior Patrol Leader to lead the troop. I have carried the skills I have learned in scouting and continue to develop them as a captain for my two sports teams, president of the class, president of two clubs, and a teen leader on the mission trip I went on this summer to Texas. I am always looking for opportunities to learn and grow as a leader and as a person. A good leader to me has to be able to put themselves out there. Not only should they be good role models, but someone not afraid of failure and taking risks.

Q: What interests you about pursuing International Relations or Global Studies in college?

A: My travel experiences and the French Immersion has given me a thirst for knowledge on global news, issues, and cultures. Having been through the French Immersion program at Holliston, this has broadened my view of the world and has made me interested in francophone regions such as West Africa. Traveling to Peru for three weeks with the school two summers ago was one of the best experiences of my life. I was able to study the global issue of climate change while getting to immerse myself in a completely new culture, and I hope to take advantage of similar opportunities in college. I want to pursue an interdisciplinary degree in college with a global focus such as international business, international relations, or global studies. I have always been fascinated by the world, and I want to learn about the cultures of places so different from home. With the world becoming a smaller place through technology and travel, I think it is very important to be well educated about the world around us and the many issues at hand.

Q: You have clearly found many activities that you are passion about. What advice do you have for students who haven’t found their passion yet?

A: I think the best advice I could give is to get involved with an assortment of activities that look interesting and see which ones stick. Taking risks and trying something completely out of your comfort zone may be nerve-wracking, but can have amazing outcomes. If someone had told me 5 years ago I would end up class president, I would have thought they were crazy. I took a risk and put myself out there, and I could not be more happy with where I have ended up.

 

Student Feature Fridays

Jack Garvey

imageOur first Student Feature Friday this year is sophomore Jack Garvey and I could not think of a better student to start of the year. Multiple people recommended Jack for this segment and after spending a few minutes chatting with him, the reasons for the recommendation are clear. Jack is mature, thoughtful and kind and is already a role model for his peers. He spoke of two main passions: sports and working with Best Buddies. Jack is insatiable when it comes to sports. When asked why he loves sports so much he spoke about having vivid memories of attending his 1st Patriots game against the Bills over Winter Vacation and his 1st Red Sox game with his father in 3rd grade. However, his favorite sport to watch is college football! Jack is interested in all things sports is currently looking forward to continuing track & field during the winter and spring seasons.

Jack is also passionate about working with Best Buddies which “…builds one-to-one friendships between people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), through school and community friendship programs that provide socialization opportunities to help erase the invisible line that often separates students or adults with and without IDD.” (www.Bestbuddies.org) After joining last year he “was hooked” and looks forward to attending the meetings, eating lunch with his Buddies, and participating in the events (basketball clinic, board games and a potential field day in the Spring). Jack is already making a big impact in Best Buddies. One of his teachers stated that, “Jack’s Buddies are always excited to see him, whether it be in the hallways at school or working at Outpost.” Another teacher described Jack as going “above and beyond to include students in everything.” After spending any time with Jack it is clear that his compassion for others will make a significant difference in the community.

Q: You mentioned your favorite thing to do is play sports, listen to sports radio, talk about sports …. anything involved with sports.  What is it about sports that fascinates you so much?

A: Sports are a great outlet, they bring me a lot of inspiration and I like the camaraderie that sports provide. Sports are a source of motivation and hope for me. In a world that seems like there are so many things that divide us, sports bring us together and I don’t think anyone can argue with that.  For example, after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, the Boston Strong movement began. I also like when I get to watch a game in person, and I get to forget about school and all of my responsibilities because I am so focused on the game.

Q: Can you describe your work with Best Buddies and why you are so passionate about joining this Chapter?

A: Joining Best Buddies is a great way to meet new people and the atmosphere is always happy because everyone is always welcoming at Best Buddies. The goal is to make everyone feel included. There are a lot of good friendships that form and it is nice to be a part of something that is doing a lot of good. It is also an organization that I believe in.

Q: Although you are still planning out what your independent study will look like, why are you interested in this type of learning environment?  Why are you interested in creating this different type of class for yourself?

A: The opportunity to take my passion for sports and make it my own little class is really cool. I am grateful to Mr. Calais for suggesting this to me and I am looking forward to working alongside Mr. Bailey, who is my advisor for this adventure of an independent study. Mr. Bailey and I have a sports talk radio show on WHHB 99.9FM and I have learned a lot from him. I am grateful for the opportunities that everyone around me has provided. I would also like to thank Mr Hickey, who goes out of his way to talk sports with me.

Q: What advice do you have for other students who haven’t yet found a club or activity they are passionate about?

A: There really is something for everyone and If you have not found a club or activity that you are passionate about then you could create your own. You could go to a few meetings and give them a try to see if the club is something you are interested in. I was a little nervous the first time I went to Best Buddies but now I look forward to it every month.  You never know if you will like something until you try it.

 

Student Feature Fridays

Nandini Mandaloju

image1This week’s Student Feature Friday is sophomore, Nandini Mandaloju who has devoted her time, energy and passion to helping others and exploring her culture through dance and music. Since she was 6 years old, Nandini has practiced one of the classical styles of Indian dance called Kuchipudi. By her 4th or 5th year, she was developing her talent and love for dance. She describes being on stage as “acting as different characters, allowing her to express her emotions in new ways.” In addition, Nandini is an avid singer of classical Indian music. “Singing and dancing allow me to stay closer to my heritage by singing in multiple Indian languages. It’s a culture blast and lets me feel closer to my ethnicity.”

Nandini is also passionate about helping others. Last summer she volunteered at a senior center where she served food to elders. The experience was life changing for her and she describes “an inner happiness you get from working with them.” She felt that she was able to bring a little happiness into their lives through service to others and it has inspired her to pursue a career as a doctor. Although she derived inspiration from this experience, she is truly an inspiration to others by her compassion and selfless devotion to the community. She plans to explore her love of art and science by studying medicine and continuing with multiple forms of art as a hobby.

Q: During our conversation you discussed your passion for art and science. How do you see yourself incorporating both into your life for the foreseeable future?

A: Art and science are often considered as polar opposites, but I always believed that I can incorporate both together in my life. Since childhood, I have developed a passion for art. Similarly, science had been a big area of interest which I wanted to pursue when I get older. Finding a way to blend my two favorite passions, I decided to create a science integrated art camp for elementary and middle schoolers. This way, I could satisfy both areas of interest and help elementary and middle schoolers develop a love for art and science as well. Running this camp inspired me to make art my leisure pastime in which I would be able to raise money towards philanthropic purposes. I see myself making science my career and art my hobby.

Q: You were chosen to participate in the Metrowest Youth In Philanthropy and had to work with other students to identify two non-profit organizations to donate money to through fundraising and money from the organization. Can you explain what this process was like and why you wanted to be involved?

A: After an interview with Youth in Philanthropy over the summer, I was chosen to participate in a 15-week long program which lasted throughout the first semester of the school year. Youth in Philanthropy (YIP) is an experiential leadership development program designed to empower and educate local youth to become our community’s next generation of philanthropists–those who give their time, talent and treasure for the common good. The project in YIP is to award two nonprofit organizations $5,000 each. The Metrowest Foundation will provide $9,000 while as a group we have to raise $1,000. After reviewing about 7 grants, we selected and visited four potential grantees, and cut it down to two organizations. We ended up raising $1,050 to go towards Waypoint Adventure and Horizons (Dedham). As a group, we made a major board presentation to convince the Metrowest Foundation to approve our decisions. Once the decisions were approved, we went ahead and awarded two nonprofits.

I wanted to be involved in YIP because I was always in love with humanity. I always wanted to give back to my community and see how local nonprofits work. Also, I saw this as a great opportunity to develop more leadership skills, see the needs of my community, and learn to work in a professional environment by participating in the grant evaluating process. YIP was an eye-opening experience because I got to see many communities work together to make a difference. This program has inspired me to give the proceeds of the science-art camp towards a local animal shelter and possibly open a nonprofit organization when I get older. The biggest takeaway from YIP is that philanthropy comes from the heart.

Q: What leadership skills have you developed through your participation in so many different activities and what have you learned about yourself?

A: My participation in so many different activities definitely helped me improve my leadership skills. Working at Kumon with children of ages 3 to 9 expanded my knowledge on how to take initiative in order to help students achieve their highest potential while making their learning environment fun. This gave me a sense of enjoyment and connection with them. I took responsibility in making the students finish their work on time. With improved communication skills, I motivated students to do well by having them set a goal every week I see them. Spending positive time with them helped me gain more confidence.

Also, dance and music gave me a rising sense of achievement and taught me humility and grace. I learned that hard work pays off with great perseverance. Lastly, volunteering at the senior citizen center made me realize that most seniors have life experiences and a wealth of knowledge much different than other younger generations. Furthermore, I noticed that smiles are universal – a smile can make one’s day. Altogether, all the activities I participated in made me a better person.

Q: Through dance, music, and volunteerism you have clearly developed a strong sense of who you are, what you are passionate about and where you see yourself in the future. What advice do you have for students who have yet to find their passion or direction?

A: It is okay if you haven’t found your passion yet because it is never too late to start. Try to stay open-minded and savor a different experience every day because you never know when something strikes a chord within you. Also, stay true to yourself and choose activities which lead to your happiness. Finally, focus on yourself and let go of any inhibitions you have.

 

Student Feature Fridays

Jayden Seto

IMG_0007This week’s Student Feature Friday is senior Jayden Seto. It is very apparent from talking to Jayden that he has a clearly articulated plan for the future, a plan that he has worked hard to create. As soon as a conversation with Jayden begins, it is hard to miss the maturity and self-awareness he exudes. Jayden is a self-described conversationalist and has found a path that will leverage his strengths and love of interacting with people, combined with a passion for politics. Next year he plans to attend Norwich University, participate in the ROTC program and major in political science. After graduation he looks forward to law school and feels that his time spent working with Mr. Marsden during his senior internship this year has solidified his decision to practice law.

In addition to his senior internship, Jayden dedicated a portion of the school year to designing and creating a website geared towards helping students understand the political arena and educate themselves on the different political parties in the United States. The project encountered its challenges along the way but Jayden persevered and felt it was a huge learning opportunity for himself. He has a bright future for himself in law and politics and looks forward to continuing to develop his leadership skills so that he can help others along the way.

Q: Earlier in the year you completed a senior project, creating a website to inform students of different political views of each party. Can you provide a little background on the website, what you were hoping to accomplish and why this project resonated with you?

A: When I elected to do a senior project, I knew that I must do something exciting that would also help better Holliston High school. One way I was able to personally connect with a wide range of people, is through American politics. I had the opportunity to take the lead in making something that I am passionate about. My ultimate goal was giving the students of Holliston High School a way to formulate their own political opinions during such a turbulent time in American politics. Although that was my goal, unfortunately, I am not able to push this project further or keep it to date, because I am graduating and cannot find students that are willing to continue this project.

Q: During our conversation I was struck by how clearly you were able to articulate your vision for the future. How did your internship with Mr. Marsden affect your desire to study law?

A: Working at my Internship with Mr. Jay Marsden was one of the best learning experiences I have had in my high school career. Articulating the future is one of the most important things anyone can have; it allows you to choose your own future, and do what you want to do. This internship helped me to look toward the future and see what I want to do for the majority of my life.

Q: How did you develop such strong self-advocacy and leadership skills during your high school career?

A: Although I have a learning disability, I was able to compensate in areas that I wasn’t as strong in. I also learned how to self-advocate for my needs in order to gain access to all of what our educational system offers. Leadership, leadership is a whole different ball game. Leadership skills are something that some people are born with, and others need to learn over time. I don’t see myself as a leader, but I have an undeniable thirst for learning and trying new things – if that entails taking charge and being a leader, then that is what I will do.

Q: What advice would you have for other students who are still trying to identify their passion/area of interest?

A: The best advice I can give other people, is to go out and meet new people. If you know what you want to do, go out and meet different types of people within the field/with the same interests. You never know, one/some of these people might end up helping you in your endeavors/open up doors, teaching/showing you things you did not know, or being your colleague/boss.

 

Student Feature Fridays

Andrew Balestieri

Screen Shot 2018-04-04 at 11.04.12 PMThis week’s Student Feature Friday is senior Andrew Balestieri. Andrew began to discover his love of comedy when he had to dress as the profession he wanted to be at the 6th grade career day. He attended school that day as a comedian and realized he could make people happy through laughter. He further developed his skills of comedy, acting and performance when he became involved in the after school theatre program. His interest in performing was solidified when he had a leading role in Legally Blond and “sang his heart out”, only to receive a roaring response from the audience. When Andrew was asked about his passion, he stated that “if he had been asked two months ago he would have said comedy, but now he believes his passion to be making people happy with performance in general.”

In addition to Andrew’s love of theatre and comedy, Andrew has a strong sense of compassion for others and wants to help make a difference in the world. Most recently, he and a small group of students organized “The Unstoppable: Benefit for A.L.S. Research, dedicated to Mr. Wechsler.” The event was the culmination of a video project that started in his Communication class and grew into a Benefit event. Although Andrew had never worked with Mr. Wechsler, he knew of Mr. Wechsler’s years of dedication to HHS and his positive spirit. Andrew and his friends premiered their video during the event and gave an award to the student who emulated positivity (voted on my students at HHS). The event was a success and further illustrates the kind of character, compassion and person that Andrew wants to embody.

Q: Why do you consider performing for others to be your passion?

A: For me, performing for others is just the ultimate combination of adrenaline and making people happy. Being able to be heard is what I think everyone wants. Everyone wants a voice, and I’m no different, but beyond that when I’m able to get a reaction from the audience, I know that I’ve made their day better. Making people happy is my passion and I feel that there is no better way to do that than performance.

Q: Standing up on stage and performing a comedy routine is not an easy endeavor. What has the process of honing your craft taught you about yourself?

A: It is not easy at all. But what I have found is that I am in a constant state of performing, writing, gathering ideas. I could just be sitting in a class talking to anyone and I realize that in this conversation I am trying to make them enjoy themselves. I don’t want anyone who interacts with me to have anything other than a positive experience, and it is the same way on stage. The entire time I am on stage I am trying to convince the audience to listen to what I have to say, and to like me and such. But to a certain degree it’s also about not caring what people think, as the entire profession of comedy is that you and everything you say is meant to be judged and interpreted. So I would say that in honing my craft I have taught myself how to accept myself as a personality and how to present myself in a way that I see fit. But even more so I feel like I’ve learned a lot about how my inner mind works and how it thinks. I feel very in-tune with my mind which is something I am grateful for.

Q: What advice do you have for students who have not yet found their passion?

A: Stop at nothing to find it. And don’t knock anything until you’ve given it your fair shake. When I first tried stand up in Boston, I tried a crappy five minute set in front of a room full of slightly buzzed comedians who all wanted the same thing I did. That kind of rejection can make you believe comedy is not for you, but I stuck with it and now it is something that I love. And I also don’t think passions are limited to job titles. Maybe it’s jogging (god knows why) but maybe it is. Or maybe it’s giving 110% in your relationship. No matter what, you should always take chances to find your passion. (Completely cheesy sentence incoming) Chances are some of the best things we get, that’s why you have to take as many as you can get. So all in all I’d say if you don’t know what you are passionate about, explore, its okay to not know, just keep going until you find what it is that makes everything worth it. You know what they say: It’s not about the destination it’s about the journey…and a little bit the destination.

Q: During our conversation you talked about creativity being essential. What role does creativity play in your life and why do you think it is so important for a school to foster creativity?

A: Creativity is, in a nutshell, what makes the world turn. Why do we get up in the morning? To go and learn about the world and what we can do to change it. Life isn’t worth living if you can’t make it your own. The way I see it, we live in this planet and our entire species has built a world and culture and now all of humanity has led right to us, and now we get to contribute. How can we do that if we’re inputting numbers on a spreadsheet. I quote the great Robin Williams “No matter what anybody tells you, words and Ideas can change the world. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business engineering, these are noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life, but poetry, beauty, romance, love these are what we stay alive for.” It could not be more true. We will go on to get jobs and chase money but in the end, art and human connection, that’s what keeps us all sane.  “That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” Fostering creativity is about helping kids determine what their verse will be, and I think that is pretty vital.

Student Feature Fridays

Madeline Cerulli

Maddie CerulliThis week’s Student Feature Friday is junior Madeline (Maddie) Cerulli. Maddie is an active participant in Best Buddies, “The world’s largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). BESTBUDDIES® builds one-to-one friendships between people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), through school and community friendship programs that provide socialization opportunities to help erase the invisible line that often separates students or adults with and without IDD. Friendship programs include Best Buddies Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges, Citizens, and e-Buddies.” (www.Bestbuddies.org)

Maddie is currently the Best Buddies chapter president and takes the responsibility very seriously. She helps to match Buddies, looking for common interests that will develop into strong, dedicated 1:1 friendships. She also organizes events for the group including a basketball clinic with the Holliston Boys Basketball team, bowling events, and trips to the aquarium. This month the group is planning several events surrounding the “spread the word to end the word” international movement, focused on ending the use of the “r” word, instead choosing “respect” and acting respectful without judgment. Maddie is truly a caring a remarkable person who is leading by example.

Q: Why is Best Buddies such an important organization for you to be part of?

A: Best Buddies is such an important group to be a part of, as it advocates for the inclusion of our amazing peers in the special education program who we may not have the opportunity to meet otherwise and form really strong relationships with. For me personally, I got involved because of my younger sister. As she is a part of the special education community, I have witnessed some of the challenges she has faced in feeling included in her school and community, and so I wanted to make sure that she and all my friends in the program have the best high school experience possible.

Q: It was clear during our conversation that you have found your passion working with Best Buddies and that you love talking about the group. What advice would you have for others who are still trying to find their passion?

A: I’m lucky enough to have found something that means so much to me, and I think for other people to find their passion, it’s important to have different experiences and be open minded. You never know when something can strike you as something that truly connects to who you are, and make you want to continue with it for the rest of your life.

Q: During our conversation you mentioned educating people about “people first language.” Can you explain what this is and why you feel it is critical for people to be aware of the language they use?

A: “People first language” is using vocabulary that puts the person first, ahead of the disability, or in general, just ahead of any label that might take away from who someone is beyond being part of a specific group. An example I love is if you’re introducing a friend of yours who broke their arm, you wouldn’t say “this is my broken arm friend”, because their broken arm is not more important than who they are as a person. It’s critical to realize that even this small change in language matters. It shows that you are seeing someone as more than that one characteristic, and in this case, as a person, not just their disability. This doesn’t mean that a disability isn’t a valid, respectable, part of who they are, but more that a disability does not solely define them.

Q: Not only are you a leader for Best Buddies but you also participated in the Rotary Youth Leadership conference last year. What was this experience like and what did it teach you about your own leadership style?

A: The Rotary Youth Leadership conference was an incredible experience that allowed me to meet other student leaders from around the state and learn skills that expanded our confidence in leading. I learned so much about using a platform to speak on behalf of a group, and also that leadership doesn’t just come in one form. I learned that my leadership can go past being a vocal presence, but I can also lead through quiet example.