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Hundreds Attend Tri-Town Black Lives Matter Rally in Woodbridge

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Jun 152020
 

Organizer Micaela Cardozo

With all the unrest across the country and more and more disturbing examples of prejudice and brutality against black citizens coming to light every day, peaceful Black Lives Matter rallies have become a popular way for many to express their feelings.

Just a week ago, Amity grad Micaela Cardozo decided that it was time the Amity community join in the movement and begin to truly understand the plight of their black brothers and sisters. 

She spoke with the first selectman, Police Chief Frank Cappiello, Youth Services Coordinator, and others and arranged for the streets to be closed for everyone’s safety during the march. She reached out to Orange Democrats Jodi Dietch and Mary Welander who set up a table with poster board and markers so protesters could make signs.

Several Woodbridge police officers, including the chief, were present, but not “in your face.” Cappiello stood in the back and took a photo of the gathering with his cell phone at the beginning and said of Cardozo, “She did a good job.” He also was pleased that every single person wore a mask, helping keep the risk of spreading COVID-19 to a minimum.

Of all the local rallies, this is the first one we’ve seen that was fully orchestrated by young adults. 

Micaela recruited other Amity High alums, Ryan Rattley, Zoie Reed, and Tobe Nwangwu to speak at the gathering along with Woodbridge First Selectman Beth Heller. Only Rattley, who is in college in Pittsburgh, could not attend. He asked his mother, Carol Galloway, to read his thoughts for him. 

Micaela, a tall, pretty, blonde, introduced herself and stated, “You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I am bi-racial, and I’ve never experienced racial discrimination. But my friends have and black lives matter.”

She introduced First Selectman Beth Heller, who first thanked all of the speakers and everyone there who came together in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, demonstrating their commitment to social justice. 

“We will march because Black Lives Matter. We march for justice, for equal justice under the law, for economic justice, for environmental justice, and for equal opportunity,” Heller said. “We march because this is who we are.”

Heller added this important piece of information. Some of you may be aware that the Merriam-Webster dictionary will now include systemic racism in its latest definition of racism.  Kennedy Mitchum, a young Black woman from Missouri and recent graduate of Drake University wrote to the Merriam-Webster editors, to request that the dictionary provide a more detailed definition of racism, a definition that recognizes that racism extends beyond one-to-one interactions or expressions of prejudice to include systemic racism where larger systems and institutions in society in education, policing, health care, or the economy work over time to reinforce differential treatment according to race.  To her surprise, the editors agreed.  In its new definition, Merriam-Webster will attempt to indicate that racism isn’t limited to discrimination or prejudice from one person to another but racism is also about longstanding institutions, laws, and regulations that promote notions of supremacy and inferiority between the races. This is systemic racism.

“We watch in anguish in response to systemic racism, particularly the pattern of needless and senseless acts of violence that have taken the lives of our black brothers and sisters, and recently, the tragic murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.  But this time, I think we have reason to hope that things will change,” she said. “There is a new burst of energy, a protest movement across this country and beyond our shores, in cities and towns in all 50 states, a movement that crosses racial, ethnic, political and generational differences, a movement that binds us together by our common humanity, a movement poised to inspire new policies and new legislation. 

Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” 

“I think Dr. King believed that the arc doesn’t bend toward justice on its own,” Heller said. “That’s our responsibility, and that’s why we are here today.”

Next Nwangwu gave an impassioned speech, sharing the stories of several of the more recent black lives lost to police brutality, prejudice, and hatred, just because of the color of their skin.

Each heartwrenching account was shared with sadness, anger, and pain, as only a black person could tell it. You could hear a pin drop in the field of grass upon which the sea of white people sat along with their black neighbors, classmates, and friends.

Carol Galloway shared her son, Ryan’s statement just as he would have, with purpose, honesty, and sadness.

Ryan was a little black kid who went through the Amity school system, and the first time he heard a derogatory word about his race was on the bus coming home from Middle School. Woodbridge children were not the only ones to make him feel uncomfortable or out of place. He recalled riding his bicycle one day and being followed all the way to his home by a woman who didn’t let it end there. She sat outside his home for a while to make sure he wasn’t up to something criminal.

Ryan was on the Amity Lacrosse team and he was in four of five Amity Plays — even earning a nomination for a High School Musical Award for his performance in “In The Heights.”

He reflected on how everyone loves you then, congratulating you when you make a goal or give a great performance, but you can’t ride your bike through a Woodbridge neighborhood because you’re black.

Zoie Reed told the crowd that she was going to be brutally honest so, if they didn’t like what she was saying they were free to leave.

She got her feelings of anger and frustration across to everyone when she said, “Don’t say you understand, because you don’t.”

And she is right. As much as I or the next white person can be infuriated by the actions of a racist cop shooting a black person, or kneeling on his neck until he dies in the street, we will NEVER know how it affects the black person standing next to us. How can we? We are not black. We can walk into a store, or ride our bike down a street without being followed because we’re not black.

We all have a lot to learn. We need to have a conversation and really listen, and make a change in the culture across this nation.

Cardozo was choked up after Zoie’s speech and took a moment before introducing the pastor from a local church to lead the 8 minutes 46 second moment of silence in memory of George Floyd — the exact amount of time he lay in the street with a knee pressed against his neck as he pleaded, “I can’t breathe,” and called for his “Mama.”

Able-bodied participants walked to the corner of Meetinghouse and Newton, while others lined their cars up behind a police cruiser for a long walk around town displaying signs and chanting, “No Justice, No Peace,” “Black Lives Matter,” “I Can’t Breathe.” etc.

I’d like to congratulate Micaela for organizing this peaceful, poignant event for the Bethany-Orange and Woodbridge communities. And Thank You to the young speakers for putting their hearts and souls into their presentations.

I hope that we all now have a better understanding, although we won’t ever fully understand, and begin to make a difference because it really does matter. This is where it starts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scholarships Awarded In Unusual Location Today

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Jun 132020
 

Orange Scholarship Fund Association presented their scholarships on Saturday, June 13 at a socially distanced ceremony on the Orange Town Green.
Scholarships were awarded to Mitchell Bronson, Gina Driscoll, and Mason Shepard. The Orange Lions also presented their scholarship at this time. Mitchell Bronson will attend UConn to study Computer Science, Gina Driscoll will attend Middlebury College and has not yet chosen a major.
There were each awarded $2000 scholarships. Mason Shepard will attend Lehigh University to study Molecular Biology. He received a $3,000 scholarship from the Ashlie Krakowski Memorial Fund of the Orange Scholarship Fund. Mason also received a $1000 scholarship from the Orange Lions.

Experience The Amity Graduation Right Now

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Jun 122020
 

On Wednesday, June 10, the Amity Class of 2020 was honored with a mix of the live and a virtual commencement ceremony.

The first portion of this video shows the usual congratulatory speech from the school principal and superintendent, then a variety of surprise guests, some Amity Alum: Connor Deane and Scott Feinberg for example as well as unexpected celebrities who wish the graduates well. The Class speakers, followed by Jill LaPlante presenting the Amity Award of Distinction to Yale-bound Danielle Lee. 

Then it’s time to see the graduates receive their diplomas in groups of four — this took place in shifts between 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. that day.

It’s worth a mention to give credit to the chorus teacher who contacted her students and asked them to sing their parts of the National Anthem individually from their homes, then quickly spliced the whole thing together. It came out beautifully.

There are still about 40 Amity seniors who haven’t gotten their diplomas. They chose to graduate on the Football Field in small groups on July 7. We will provide more information on that event when it becomes available.

Jun 112020
 

Amity Principal Anna Mahon

The COVID-19 pandemic destroyed many people’s livelihoods, hopes, and dreams, but it couldn’t stop the Amity High School administration from giving students a meaningful commencement ceremony.

It was hard for high schools to plan their ceremonies because the virus kept changing everything. First, the question was, “Will we be returning to school?”  then “Will we be able to get the entire class on the football field at once while keeping them at a safe distance?” and of course, “Will we be able to invite families and keep everyone at a safe distance?”

So many questions, so many rules and so little time. But somehow Amity did it. With many teachers all-in to make it a special day for the graduating seniors, the 2020 Commencement Ceremony on Wednesday, June 10, ran like clockwork.

On Tuesday, a virtual ceremony was taped and streamed live at http://video.amityregion5.org/show?video=d293e7a41123

The virtual portion of the ceremony includes the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Junior Class President Isabella Pfannenbecker, followed by addresses from Mrs. Anna Mahon, Principal of ARHS, Dr. Jennifer Byars, Superintendent of School for Amity Regional School District #5, Mr. John Belfonti, Chairperson of the Board of Education, Jayson Hutchinson, Senior Class President, Martin Gnidula, chosen to address the class for outstanding extra-curricular achievement, Sophia Wang, chosen to address the class for outstanding academic achievement and Mrs. Jill LaPlante, Director of Counseling Services, to present the Amity Award of Excellence.

The ceremony found at http://video.amityregion5.org/show?video=d8807aa23a6f was available for everyone to see and It was seamless. 

We encourage the entire community to take the time to watch the ceremony and begin the commencement exercises of 2020 to honor this outstanding senior class.

The students and their families first arrived at the staging area at the Church-Our Lady of Assumption parking lot on Center Road at a designated time for their waves with car placards displayed on the passenger-side dashboard.

Cars were assembled upon entering the front parking lot of the church and exited out the back parking lot exit (to Rice Road) at the appointed time. Mrs. Jill LaPlante, Director of Counseling Services, as well as Amity Regional High School security and Woodbridge Police Dept. were on-hand at the church parking lot to help organize and send each wave.

After exiting the church parking lot, the caravan of students/families proceeded to the back gate of the high school campus. At the entry point, each car was given a program and one faculty message booklet per graduate. Cars will process through campus to the first station at the tennis court where teachers were waiting to cheer on the graduates.

The cars stopped at the top of the hill and Associate Principal Miguel Pickering took the names of the graduates then Groups of 4 graduates (up to 8 cars) were “released” from the first station and proceeded down the hill to the stop sign at the corner outside of the district offices.

Seth Davis, senior class advisor, Director of Athletics Ernie Goodwin, athletic trainer Kim Pearce, and Athletic Department Administrative Assistant Lori Bonney were stationed here, and if a student received an award or lettered in a sport, he or she would receive it here.

Davis took the graduates’ names and radioed ahead which place he or she would take in the lineup. Cars were held at station 2 to allow for the front of the building to clear. Then they would drive around to the bus loop in front of the school. 

There were 4 designated locations for diploma distribution. At the designated location, each graduate exited exit his/her car while wearing a mask and waited for Mrs. Mahon to announce his/her name.

After hearing his/her name, the graduate walked to the carpet, removed the mask, and posed for an official picture holding a diploma jacket. After the picture, the graduate returned the diploma jacket to a bin and the graduate picked up his/her diploma folder with the official documentation inside.

Graduates then listened for Supt. Byars’ turn of the tassel announcement and, after turning their tassels, returned to their vehicles and exited campus through the Newton Road front entrance.

Although unconventional, parents should appreciate the fact that for the first time ever they were allowed to be close enough to their children to actually see their faces when they graduated. Usually, they are seated in the stands packed like sardines hundreds of feet away.

Congratulations to all of the Amity Graduates, I’m so happy that you were able to have some kind of ceremony, to see your teachers again, and to share it intimately with your parents.

Great Job Amity Administration and teachers. I’ll see you next year.

The 2020 graduation ceremony concludes on July 7 with the final group of students receiving their diplomas(about 40 students chose this option). Orange Live will post more information on this event when it becomes available.

 

 

 

Vallie Announced As Award Of Excellence Recipient

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Jun 102020
 

The Award of Excellence this year is presented to Paula Vallie.  Paula has worked in Amity Regional High School’s College and Career Center for the last seven years.  Before coming to Amity Regional High School she worked for 9 years at Amity Middle School in Orange and at Turkey Hill School in Orange prior to that.

In the words of her colleagues, Paula Vallie is a bright star within the Amity Regional High School Counseling Department.  As the Career Center Coordinator Paula’s ability to find jobs, community service projects, and mentors for our students has been truly a gift to our community.  Paula has built a strong community outreach, often researching SSLP sites or stopping in to visit on her way home from work or on the weekends.

When Amity went to virtual learning Paula came up with the idea of creating a document with links to virtual college tours for the 50 colleges that Amity students most frequently apply to, which could be shared with students and parents.  Paula always puts students first and will never hesitate to go above and beyond, no matter the time of day or day of the week, if one of our students needs help with something.   

Paula greets everyone who enters the office with a smile, along with her innate kindness and respect.  She is a student-focused educator, patiently working to answer students’ questions and assisting them in creating solutions.  Whenever there is a task that needs extra hands Paula is always the first to volunteer. 

She has a team approach to work, and her presence is felt.  She is unusually kind to all.  Described as a true friend, a steadfast employee, and a loyal colleague, her work ethic and energy are rare; and the students and community of Amity are blessed to have her.

Amity District 5 Teacher Of The Year

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Jun 102020
 

This year’s Teacher of the Year has been with Amity schools since 2006. Described by her colleagues as “lighthearted and approachable, she will always make the time for you and never makes you feel like you are
unintelligent with respect to technology,” the Amity Teacher of the Year from Amity Middle School in Orange is Kristen Yaekel.

Kristen started her work at Amity as an English teacher and now serves as the school’s library media specialist. Kristen’s colleagues note that she is always available to support faculty and staff. She is amazing at technology, and whether the issue is small or major she responds quickly. They know that can always rely on Kristen. Whether it is to spark some enthusiasm with the students, support school activities, organize a field trip, or clean up at the end of a day, Kristen is always first to help.

As a teacher, Kristen is enthusiastic and always willing to try new things. She was one of the first teachers to Skype with the outside world, so her students get a firsthand account of how life is in other places, and she continues to help other teachers connect their students to the world around us.

As a teacher Kristen is amazing, and students enjoy her instruction. As the building’s library media specialist
she has brought a new ambiance, joy, and rich learning experience to the library area. She was nominated by
her peers not only because of her expertise in technology and instruction, but also for her patience, persistence,
and kind helpful spirit.

She has been a tremendous support with distance learning, not only to the staff but also to the students. As noted by a teacher at Amity Middle School in Orange, “When our learning and global community was in chaos her calm comforting spirit, her understanding of my goals, and her expertise was how I got through to the other side.” Kristen is going to be an exemplary representative as Amity’s 2020 Teacher of the Year.

Amity Seniors WILL Get Their Graduation Ceremony

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Jun 092020
 

Sadly, we won’t see this moment in 2020, but the seniors will get their graduation ceremony.

The year 2020 is one of uncertainty and disappointment, especially for anyone with a loved one in the hospital or nursing home, business owners, Athletes of all ages, and High School Seniors.

Across the state, high school administrators have been struggling for months to find a way of honoring their graduates in a meaningful way so this once in a lifetime event will leave them with happy lasting memories.

Here’s what Amity Principal Anna Mahon, Amity Superintendent  Dr. Jennifer Byars and the rest of the administrators have planned:

Dear Amity Regional High School Community,

Tomorrow, Wednesday, June 10, is our official date of graduation for the 2019-2020 school year. Due to the circumstances, the commencement exercises will begin this evening with a virtual ceremony, continue tomorrow with the majority of the senior class receiving their diplomas, continue to a radio recap of graduation on WPLR, 99.1 FM starting at 5:00 p.m. and conclude on July 7 with the final group of students receiving their diplomas.

The virtual portion of the ceremony will include the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Junior Class President Isabella Pfannenbecker, addresses from Mrs. Anna Mahon, Principal of ARHS, Dr. Jennifer Byars, Superintendent of School for Amity Regional School District #5, Mr. John Belfonti, Chairperson of the Board of Education, Jayson Hutchinson, Senior Class President, Martin Gnidula, chosen to address the class for outstanding extra-curricular achievement, Sophia Wang, chosen to address the class for outstanding academic achievement and Mrs. Jill LaPlante, Director of Counseling Services, to present the Amity Award of Excellence.

The ceremony can be found below and the livestream for tomorrow’s event also will be available. We encourage the entire community to take the time to watch the ceremony and begin the commencement exercises of 2020 to honor this outstanding senior class.

Goodwin Hosts the 64th Amity Block A Awards

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Jun 082020
 

It is with great pride and a sense of sadness that I present to you this year’s winners of the 64th Annual Amity Block A Awards.

This is Amity’s big night to honor its most amazing athletes, a night that some of the boys and girls have looked forward to for four years. But due to the COVID-19 restrictions the ceremony, for which I have been the photographer for the past 8 years or so, was canceled.

But a pandemic wouldn’t stop Amity Athletic Director Ernie Goodwin from honoring the athletes and involving all of their coaches for the Virtual 64th annual Block A Awards (without the dinner)

It wasn’t as long as usual, and the athletes weren’t able to accept their awards in front of their peers and parents, but hopefully hearing what their coaches had to say about them and why they were chosen as the team MVP, a specialized scholarship recipient, scholar-athlete or the coveted player of the year, gave each one some comfort, especially the seniors for which this has been a really trying year.

That said, here are the 2019-2020 Block A Award-Winning Athletes:

Most Valuable Players

Boys Basketball – Joe DiGello

Girls Basketball –  Jillian Martin

Cheerleading – Isabel Cavanagh

Boys Cross Country – John Dill

Girls Cross Country – Ariana Garay

Dance Team –  Sydney Reiner

Field Hockey – Tess Csejka

Football – Joe DiGello

Boys Ice Hockey – Justin Miller

Girls Ice Hockey – Tess Csejka

Boys Indoor Track – Ariel Gordon

Girls Indoor Track – Audrey Marin

Boys Ski Racing – James Fortin

Girls Ski Racing – Natalie Prinz

Boys Soccer – Ali Bobi

Girls Soccer –  Jenna Ciola

Boys Swimming – Tyler Roy

Girls Swimming – Katie O’Connor

Girls Volleyball – Zoey DiZenzo

Wrestling – Simon Flaherty

 

Unified Sports

Unified Sportsmanship Award – Andrew Serrano

 

Coach’s Association Awards

Coach of the Year Award – Todd Patterson (Wrestling — Amity’s best year)

Assistant Coach of the Year Award – Mike Brady (Boys Basketball)

Coaches Association Outstanding Service Award – Beth Young (Booster Club)

 

Special Awards and Scholarships

Steven J Zeider Award (swimming) – Casey Donovan

James Dunleavy Award (hockey) – Caleb Marcin

Thomas G Laugeni Award – Tyler Roy

Thomas G Laugeni Award – Alexandra Plaza

Mark E Greco Award – (hockey) Sai Neelam

Jeremy Saxe Award – Zach Young

Athletic Director’s Award – Ethan Kaempffer

Albert J. Seymour Award – Will Rotko

Albert J. Seymour Award – Dana Della-Giustina

 

Scholar-Athletes

Scholar-Athlete – Zach Young

Scholar-Athlete – Ella Marin

 

Paul Mengold Award

Paul Mengold Award – Haley Cable

 

Versatility

Versatility Award – Simon Flaherty

Versatility Award – Ana Carney

Sportsmanship

Sportsmanship Award – Nico Semonella

Sportsmanship Award – Payton Papa

 

And Finally Top Honors Go To

The 2020 Athletes of The Year

Athlete of the Year – Joe DiGello

Athlete of the Year – Tess Csejka

 

See the entire Block A Award Presentation below:

https://youtu.be/yaRbTFVk8oA

Orange Foundation Announces Scholarship Awards

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Jun 082020
 

Last week the Orange Foundation made its selections for 2020 scholarships.

Since it’s inception, the Orange Foundation has now granted $494,686 in scholarships. The following students are this year’s recipients.

Elizabeth Cohen, who is graduating from Amity Senior High School, received a total of $2,000 from the following funds: the William Knight Fund, the Susan Lewin Fund, and the Downey Fund.

Sophia Cuozzo, currently at the University of Mississippi, and who previously graduated from Amity Senior High School, received a total of $1,400 from the following funds: the Downey Fund, the Vaughn Family Fund, the Elizabeth C. and John W. Povilaitis Fund, and the Vincent Timmins Fund.

Veronica Pisano, currently at the University of New Hampshire, and who previously graduated from Amity Senior High School, received a total of $2,000 from the following funds: the Charles L. Flynn Fund, and the Povilaitis Fund.

Mason Shepard, who is graduating from Amity Senior High School, received a total of $1,500 from the following funds: the Thomas Birmingham Jr.  Fund, the Harry Haynes Fund, and the Vaughn Fund.

Spencer Shepard, who is currently attending Lehigh University, and who previously graduated from Amity High School, received a total of $1,500 from the Charles L. Flynn Fund.

Jun 012020
 

Following is a message from Orange Native, Amity Grad, Connor Deane:

Each year, Broadway Method Academy has the privilege of hosting the Stephen Sondheim Awards at the Shubert Theatre of New Haven. The award program recognizes excellence in high school musical theater across Connecticut and Rhode Island. It’s one of our most treasured events of the year.
Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, the gala will not happen in person this year. Likewise, so many talented young students did not get a chance to perform their high school musical. Instead, BMA is proud to present a virtual celebration with the participating schools presented by the Shubert Theatre of New Haven, the Jamie Hulley Arts Foundation, and the Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation.
Monday, June 1, 2020
7 p.m. 
With special appearances from Christy Altomare (Anastasia, Carrie, Mamma Mia!), Carolee Carmello (Hello Dolly!, The Addams Family, Parade), Samantha Pauly (BMA’s Evita, Six on Broadway) and more, the evening will feature a virtual opening number performed by students of all the participating schools, as well as a Best Actor and Best Actress medley!
Help us show support for these students by tuning in!
(Views can tune in on our Facebook & Youtube channels, or on our website!)