This 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.
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.
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.
This 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.
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.
This 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.
This 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.