Student Feature Fridays

Ryan Taylor

This week’s Student Feature Friday is senior Ryan Taylor, who is passionate about Robotics, Music, and the Vermont Adaptive Ski program. Giving back to others and mentoring younger students is what unites all three passions. Ryan is an active participant in band, playing Alto Saxophone, an instrument that his older brother introduced him to when he was a student in Holliston. Ryan is taking on the role of Vice-President Student Conductor this year and sees it as an opportunity to display his talents while supporting others in the band. In addition to HHS, he plays in the Blackstone Valley Community Concert band and the Lions All State band.

When Ryan isn’t playing music he is heavily engaged in Robotics. As a Captain of the Robotics Team this year, he will be responsible for planning, scheduling and building a competition ready robot with his team. The build season is intense and once they receive the parts to build the frame/chassis,  the team spends nights and weekends over a 6-week period to pull it all together. The team must follow strict guidelines with restrictions on the timeline, size, weight and even locations where they are approved to purchase additional parts for their design. This 6-week race to the finish leads them to competition and the excitement of seeing all their hard work come to fruition. Although Ryan will be graduating this year and pursuing engineering in the future, he hopes to come back and mentor a Robotics team one day and I have no doubt that he will make a significant difference to future generations. 

Q: During our conversation you described music as your mental break and happiness. How has music helped you develop into the person you are today?  

A: Music has made me more confident in what I do because in band there is not a lot of room to hide, so you really have to accept your mistakes. It has also taught me that it is a lot easier to have fun than it is stress out over every mistake you make, so I try to laugh at my own mistakes, learn from it, and move on. It makes life a lot easier.

Q: Given the immense time commitment involved, what is the most rewarding aspect of participating on the robotics team?

A: There are a few things that keep me going throughout our build season. One of them is the moment when you put your robot on the field and finally get to see it work! There is no better feeling than seeing the mechanisms you have spent the last 2 months working on, on the field, scoring points for your team.  Seeing everyone’s faces turn from fear to pure joy after it all comes together is one of the things that gets me through the nights when it’s 9:30 and we’re still in the shop, trying to make it all work. The other thing that drives me throughout the season is seeing the underclassman go from knowing very little about robotics, to being able to confidently design, build, test, and rebuild a robot. It is similar to why I volunteer with Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, where I teach people with all sorts of abilities to ski. It is amazing to see someone go from complete terror of the thought of going down a mountain blind, or without the use of their legs or arms. But it is so rewarding to see their smiles when they come back into the lodge after a day of skiing. I get this same feeling when I get to see our team members learn throughout the build season and it all comes together when they get to competition. There is nothing more rewarding than that feeling.

Q: You have taken on a leadership role this year as a captain of the Robotics Team. What does the leadership role entail and what skills do you find essential in order to succeed in this role?

A: I am one of 3 captains for our team and this has been an amazingly difficult yet rewarding challenge for me. As a captain I plan, schedule, and run all of our meetings. From pre-season, through build season, all the way to competitions. I am responsible for the recruitment and outreach campaigns our team does, as well as some of our fundraisers. I have brought the team everywhere from the Miller parking lot for Trunk or Treat, to our school football games, and even out to the Boston Children’s Museum. I try to bring our team to every event that will take us to spread our passion for robotics. I also am responsible for making sure that our robot gets finished in time. We only have 6 weeks to design, build, and test our robot so we need to make every hour count. This means we, as captains, need to decide exactly how much time to spend on each portion of the robot, and we also need to make the final decision on what design we will take on. Our team prides itself on being as student-led as possible, and I think we have done well with that so far. I also need to figure out how all of our members and equipment will get to competitions and keep track of everything while we are there. The most important thing I do is prepare our underclassman to lead the team after my class is gone, this can be a challenge, but it is very rewarding.

Q: Given that you have found a passion for robotics and music, what advice do you have for other students who have yet to find their passion/interests?

A: Keep looking! Take every opportunity you can and at some point along the way you will find something you truly love and once you do, share it with anyone who will listen. Find your passion, share your passion!

Student Feature Fridays

Nico Doyle

Nico DoyleThis week’s Student Feature Friday is Nico Doyle, a fantastic senior who is involved in many facets of HHS. Not only is he an integral part of the morning Jam Band at HHS, but he is using his musical talent to bring joy to others. When we sat down to chat about his interests, I asked him why he was involved in music and part of the band. He responded, “ Watching other people do what they love is contagious.” This humble attitude to supporting others and respecting the unique talents that each individual contributes to the world is a direct reflection of the character that Nico exhibits on a daily basis. 

Nico is the type of person who is curious about life, seeks solutions for problems to improve the environment for all and isn’t afraid to step out of his comfort zone. He is a founding member of the Rowdy Repair Shop, a student-led (with the assistance of Mr. Calais) group who honed their skills in construction technology and are now fixing broken or rundown furniture for teachers throughout the building. After presenting this group to the entire Faculty, he is hard at work fielding requests. Nico stated that, “There is no reward better than doing something for someone else and seeing that smile.” Although helping others provides a sense of reward, it is his love of rock climbing, hiking and guitar that keeps him motivated and happy on a daily basis. His future goals include finding a career that can combine these three passions while continuing to help others and I have no doubt that he will have a big impact on his community. 

Q: You are currently enrolled in Service Learning: A Call to Action. Tell me a little about the project you are creating for this class and why it is meaningful for you to be part of this undertaking.

A: I am very excited to be working on my “Retirement Rock” project in Service Learning. The goal of this project is to organize events at local senior centers and retirement homes to ease social isolation in senior citizens. Our first event will be having the NINA band perform for these centers, with time before and after the performance to interact with the seniors and give them relationships to enjoy. Overall, we just want to bring some joy to people who sometimes struggle to find it. 

Q: Between your future Eagle Scout Project, the Rowdy Repair Shop and the Jam Band you have taken on a number of leadership activities. Why does it appeal to you to be in a leadership role and what have you learned about yourself in the process?

A: If I have learned one thing from all these projects it is that I am a go-getter. I don’t like to wait around to see if someone will step up to fix the problem. I see a problem and I fix it myself. One thing the band has taught me is the importance of teamwork and dedication. One person can’t play a whole song by themselves, and all the best ones have a few pieces that come from everybody. While some may think the guitarist or the singer may be most important, others would argue they would be nothing without the supporting groove of the bass and drums. Teamwork is a crucial piece. In working towards my Eagle Rank in the Scouts, I have learned the importance of communication and confidence. Communication is key and comes in many different forms. I have learned to write emails, and make concise phone calls. I also have to be well-mannered and well spoken face to face in traditional conversation. When I have to lead other scouts, I have to communicate in a clear and concise manner to get my instructions across. On top of all this learning I have done, I know I will learn more. Every time I go back into these leadership roles I run into a new problem I have never seen before. It’s a great learning tool that I am very grateful to have. 

Q: During our conversation you discussed proactively pursuing a part-time job in a music shop. Why do you think you were so successful with this endeavor and what skills did you rely on?

A: I relied heavily on my communication skills, as I had to be clear and concise. I also called upon my confidence as I was making contact with someone I had never met before, and asking them to do something for me. It was slightly stressful, but worth the risk in the end! 

Q: Clearly you are involved in a number of activities that you are passionate about. What advice do you have for other students who have not yet found their passion/interests?

A: Don’t be afraid to try new things! There is no way of knowing when the stranger standing next to you might be your best friend or your greatest ally. Go out. Meet new people. Do things you never thought you could do. If you want it, you can have it. All you have to do is go get it. 

 

Student Feature Fridays

Tristan Beck Torres

Firewall-Frenzy-0466-2This week’s Student Feature Friday is junior Tristan Beck Torres who has a love for Crossfit and music. When Crossfit Firewall opened in Holliston, Tristan was the only teen there for the first few months but he persevered and has found a love of the techniques and the community. He loves seeing everyone in their own domain and appreciates being able to see his physical and mental strength as he progresses. He is hoping to partner with Mr. D’Avanzo for an internship next year to further develop his own skills, as he likes the idea of being a Crossfit coach. He describes Functional Fitness and Nutrition as an important class for him because it taught him how to adopt a lifestyle that really resonated with him.

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Photo Credit Henry Studios

Equally enjoyable for him is music, and in particular, music production. He began playing the clarinet in fourth grade and has since added piano and tenor saxophone to his repertoire. Participating in Districts in 7th and 8th grade alongside other talented musicians further solidified his interest in music. He is excited about his upcoming independent study with Mr. Bilodeau, where he will concentrate on music production and distribution. He loves recording music and sees it as a way to express himself, describing his style as “video game” music. Tristan shows a maturity and self-confidence that will serve him well in his future endeavors.

Q: During our conversation you spoke about the “community aspect” of Crossfit. Can you explain a little about the community and why this is important to you?

A: The community is very open and very kind. People come from different backgrounds and everyone is understanding and supportive in different ways such as cheering the last person who’s working out to helping out a person outside of the gym. This is important to me because this community is a community I am proud of being in, that in CrossFit, in general, it doesn’t matter who you are you have your strengths and your weaknesses and people have theirs so you help each other and bring each other up.

Q: How do you balance your love of music with your love of CrossFit and how do you plan to incorporate both into your life after high school or college?

A: With CrossFit, I have a strict schedule of when I go to the gym, also when I do home workouts as well. For music I do that in my free time. I have a station in my house with my equipment and lights for mood. I hope for my future I’m able to incorporate both into my life because they are very dear and close to me and for my future I’m lucky to have the possibility of doing one as a profession and the other as a side hustle or for fun.

Q: “Everything in moderation including moderation”, a quote attributed to Mr. D’Avanzo, is something you spoke about being stuck in your head. What does this quote mean to you and why do you think it resonated so much?

A: This quote was told to our class multiple times and makes you think about what stuff we do exceedingly. Like how much cake you eat or how much you spend on something. We as human beings have the capacity to have self-control and the mentality to control how much we obtain. Mr. D’Avanzo told us this mainly in our nutrition units in Functional Fitness and Nutrition. And it’s stuck to me when I do have foods I occasionally have that I can’t with my lifestyle.

Q: What advice do you have for students who haven’t found their passion/interest yet?

A: It’ll probably be in small progressions. Rome wasn’t built in a day. But when you do find it you’ll have so much fun with it.

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Student Feature Fridays

Ashani Kurukulasuriya

img_2155 (1)This week’s Student Feature Friday is Junior Ashani Kurukulasuriya whose maturity and compassion for others is truly remarkable. When it became clear to Ashani that the school did not yet have a club to meet her needs, she partnered with a recent graduate from Harvard University to establish a chapter of Vision:Global Health at HHS. “VISION stands for Vision Impairment Screening and Intervention for Optical Needs…provide glasses to people in lower and middle income countries, promote vision screening and awareness, and support a clinic in Ghana” (http://thehub.college.harvard.edu/org/harvardcollegevision160927/home).

In addition to creating the club at HHS, Ashani and other members will be presenting at the Harvard Global Health and Leadership Conference this April. She is excited to attend the conference to learn more about food insecurity and human trafficking and how it affects local communities. Although the club is just beginning, they are already working with nearby food pantries to see what needs exist and researching speakers who can bring awareness to concerns about human trafficking.

Ashani just attended her first meeting of a seventeen week program with Youth in Philanthropy (YIP), which “…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” (https://yipmetrowest.org). This program will further develop her passion for community service and provide opportunities for her to learn more about obtaining grants and funding for causes that she feels strongly about. When asked about her future, she has many interests spanning from nutrition to global health to public policy. There is no doubt that the leadership skills she is cultivating and the path she is creating for herself will have an impact on the local and global communities for years to come.

Q: Your work to establish a Vision:Global Health Chapter at Holliston High School is very impressive. Why does this mission resonate with you?

A: The driving force behind my interests was to provide a welcoming platform for myself, as well as others students, to convey our thoughts and ideas on how to pioneer solutions to real world problems. Through our weekly meetings, the club has the potential to shape students into innovative, globally aware, and goal-oriented members of society. When I initially reached out to Mr. Paul Lewis, a recent graduate who started the VISION Program during his freshman year at Harvard University, he had mentioned that the main mission of this club was to foster a sense of community and service for those who are underprivileged. As soon as I became more acquainted with the chapter and its overarching theme of bridging the gap between the inequalities in global healthcare delivery, I knew it was something that I needed to bring to Holliston. The mission resonates with me because I want to further my interests in global and public health throughout my entire life and pursue a career in the field. I also think that by presenting at the 2019 Harvard Global Health and Leadership Conference with my chapter, I will be able to advance my passion for the subject and learn more about what we can do to be civically minded leaders and better citizens of the world.

Q: What do you think is the most important message about Global Health that others need to know?

A: A common misconception is that healthcare is about receiving medicines and being able to go to the doctor’s office; while that is true, many people do not realize that healthcare also encompasses having steady access to food, mental health services, parks and recreation, and many more facilities that provide individuals with a sense of security and well-being.

A critical and under-appreciated aspect to global health is its interdependence on proper nutrition. It is important for others to become aware of the struggles some people face in order to receive the basic necessities that many of us enjoy on a daily basis. As we become more aware, I think we become more empathetic and more inclined to find ways to curb global health issues. For example, the members of my club have discovered that adequate nutrition is still a critical unmet need that impacts both physical and mental health in our local communities, therefore, they are working hard to find ample solutions to help lessen the inconsistencies.

Q: What leadership skills do you hope to strengthen or gain through your work with Vision, Youth and Philanthropy and as a class officer?

A: I am very grateful to have been given the opportunities to work on various aspects of my leadership abilities. I feel as though I have truly strengthened my networking and communication skills through my role as a class officer and as president of the Global Health Society. Discipline is a skill that I am actively trying to work on. I think being disciplined is a key factor in the overall success of not just a good leader, but a good person. I hope to learn more about my own, as well as other types of leadership styles, as I participate with the Needham Youth in Philanthropy program over the course of the next seventeen weeks.

Q: You speak about feeling lucky that you found something you love at a young age. What advice do you have for others who haven’t yet found their passion?

A: I think everyone is destined to find their passion at one point or another, I was just lucky enough to have my life experiences spark certain interests in me at the time that they did. Finding one’s passion should not be left to serendipity. For those who are still exploring their passions, working with a personal mentor could be invaluable. I would strongly advocate that gaining guidance, insight, and even inspiration from a mentor is a strategy to help better define one’s passions.

 

Student Feature Fridays

Samantha Paquette

43454This week’s Student Feature Friday is senior Samantha Paquette whose limitless academic potential is matched by her unbounded compassion for others. Her recent staring role in Footloose highlighted her beautiful singing voice and her strong acting talent. Samantha began participating in theatre at Prana summer camp when she was 4 or 5 and and has found a noticable difference to her happiness when she is on stage. When speaking about singing, a large smile comes across her face and she says, “chorus lifts me up.” From the moment she started performing she was able to bring the characters to life through song in a way that allowed her to connect the words with the underlying message and share her talent with the world. Whether it is performing for large audiences or at small parties for young children, she is at home in the world of music.

Combining her love of theatre with her love of working with young children, she has worked with a friend to create her own business called Starlight Kids Parties. What is impressive about her business model is that not only does she create princess themed entertainment to the amazement of young children, but she also incorporates charity into work by donating 10% of the proceeds to a charity chosen by the family who has hired her.

As Samantha thinks about her future she is looking to continue her love of working with young children by majoring in communication and psychology. She “wants to use psychology to make a difference, especially with kids.” Her goal is to “help foster the child’s light, not smother it.” It is clear that Samantha will make a large difference in the lives of so many children.

Q: It is so clear that you love theatre and, in particular, singing. What is it about being on stage that you love so much? How have singing and acting helped develop you as a person?

A: The stage has always been one of my happy places, for several reasons. First, performing is a culmination of so much hard work towards something you are proud to be a part. To get to share that with a supportive audience is so special. Second, singing, acting, becoming immersed in a character’s world is something I love and am fascinated by – I have been since I was little. When I was in elementary school, I was extremely shy, and performing allowed me to borrow the confidence of the character I was playing. Over time, I began to source confidence not from characters, but from myself. Getting that confidence from the roles I’ve played and the supportive casts I’ve been a part of, however, provided a foundation for my own confidence to grow from.

Q: During our conversation, I was impressed with your desire to give back to the community, especially by helping younger children. How did you develop the concept for the Braveheart club and what do you hope to accomplish through this process?

A: The idea for Braveheart came through connecting with younger kids. Whenever kids I know are upset about something, they normally only think about what is wrong in their immediate circumstances – there is very little understanding or perspective about what there is to be grateful for. I also wanted to help kids understand that they can make a difference at any age. Through working with high schoolers, I hope that they’ll understand both these things and really take them to heart. I hope they’ll see the difficult situations around them, understand all they have to be grateful for, and be empowered to help the people who have less than they do.

Q: When you think about your high school career, is there anything the school could have provided more of to support your interests or to help develop your passion?

A: I know a lot of teachers are beginning to implement ‘mixed’ classes, where two subjects are combined into one curriculum. I love that idea, and I think it would be even more supportive of students’ interests or passions if students were able to have some voice in what classes were created. If students were able to suggest topics for classes, there would be classes available to better meet their interests.

Q: What advice do you have for students who have yet to find their passion or find an activity that they love?

A: Give yourself permission to not know what you want to do for the rest of your life. I used to think I was going to major in Musical Theater because it was such a huge passion. I was sticking to that plan so tightly that I wasn’t able to see anything else. I didn’t want to go without a plan for the future. Once I did let go, however, I realized Musical Theater wasn’t what I would be happy doing as a career. Now, I plan to major in psychology and communications, but I have absolutely no clue where they will lead – and I’m fine with that. I’ve found that you discover your passions when you stop putting pressure on yourself to find them.

 

Student Feature Fridays

Lauren Salley

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This week’s Student Feature Friday is senior Lauren Salley who is a force to be reckoned with both on and off the athletic field. Lauren is a very strong athlete, participating on Indoor Track, Lacrosse and Cross-Country where she is a co-captain. She has been nominated as a Tri-Valley All Star during her sophomore, junior and senior years of high school. Lauren recently attended the MIAA Sportsmanship Summit where she represented HHS to learn more about leadership, the importance of teamwork, and how to be a role model to others.

Lauren already excels in these areas and is a shining example of what it means to care for others. As Co-President of NHS she takes the pillars of Character, Scholarship, Leadership and Service to heart and is always looking for ways to improve the lives of her classmates and those of her community. Whether it is running a youth lacrosse clinic for middle school students, participating in the Metrowest Youth in Philanthropy program, helping to organize the HHS Non-Profit Fair, or creating a prom dress event to reduce the cost for other girls, she is always looking for ways to give back. When asked about which of her past and current experiences have affected her outlook on life, one of the experiences she discussed was her current work at the Residence at Valley Farm where she works as a waitress. Working with elders has given her “a new appreciation and different outlook on the experiences of others.” Lauren wants to make the world a better place through helping others and there is no doubt that she is already on her way.

Q: During our conversation you spoke about your love of all sports and your participation in cross-country, indoor track and lacrosse. Can you expand a little on your feelings about the individual and team aspects of the sports and why that matters so much to you?

A: Cross country and track are both sports that put such an emphasis on the individual, and what each person’s fastest time is, but what most people don’t see is how both of those sports are really team sports too. You can’t win a race by yourself, it is impossible because the top 5 runners count toward your team’s overall score, so it is so important that not only the fastest runner has a great race but for the next four girls that follow her, as well as the rest of the team. Training with the girls on the team makes getting through the toughest workouts much more enjoyable! As runners, being talented is great but in my experience, its having the support from your teammates that is so important to your success! And of course lacrosse is one of the most team oriented sports out there in my opinion. As a midfielder, I play on the offensive and defensive aspects of the game and communication among everyone is so critical to the team’s success! Working together is the only way to win and it makes the journey to winning so much better when you are among teammates and not alone.

Q: You have taken on a leadership role in many of the activities you are engaged in at HHS and in the community. What is it about being in a leadership role that you find meaningful? Why do you gravitate towards these roles?

A: I am a person who likes helping others, and when I’m involved in something I’m all in and give it all I have. So for me being a leader is something I gravitate to. I always want to make a lasting impression on everything I do. Being a leader allows me to voice my opinions and enact change when I see fit. As a leader on the sports field (and course and track), as well as in the building through clubs, I have learned the importance of hearing others and different ways I can be a role model for others to look up to.

Q: What was the motivation for you behind creating the Prom Dress Event on January 12th? What do you hope to accomplish with the event?

A: The motivation behind creating the Prom Dress Event was, one, to help girls in Holliston attending prom have the opportunity to save money because it can be quite expensive. In addition, hopefully this event will help eliminate some of the stress in texting several different girls around town to ask to try on their dress and borrow it. This event allows for all the dresses to be in one spot for girls to come to, look at the dresses and hopefully find their dress. My hopes for this event is to have as many girls as possible to walk out with a dress that fits them that doesn’t cost a fortune!

Q: Where does your passion for helping others come from and what advice would you have for others if they have yet to find their passion?

A: My passion to help others was ignited on my first mission trip to Mississippi. After that trip volunteering and service had a whole new meaning to me. I feel blessed to have the family, friends, education, and home I do and I feel a responsibility to help others and give back in any ways I can. My advice to others who have yet to find their passion is to keep an open mind and try lots of new things. Each day brings new opportunities and to find your passion it is crucial to capitalize on those opportunities and to not be closed off to new things.

 

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.