Student Feature Fridays

Riley Robinson

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.

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.

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.