SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Academy of Lifelong Learning (A.L.L.) is a nonprofit, member-driven organization providing non-credit academic classes. A.L.L. is sponsored by SUNY Empire State College.
A.L.L. was founded in 1992 and will be celebrating their 25 years with a number of events and fundraisers they’re calling “Celebrating Silver.” SUNY Empire State College allows A.L.L. to utilize office and class spaces at no cost; these spaces also include equipment and the A.L.L. website. Memberships are $60 per fiscal year, which runs July through June. Eight week classes are $50 and four week classes are $25.
There are two terms available per year, fall term begins in September and spring term begins in March. “Within the curriculum, we have 34 offerings this fall,” Jeff Shinaman, executive director of A.L.L., said. Shinaman has been the executive director of A.L.L. for the last four years. He has sat in on many of the classes A.L.L. offers, on all ends of the education spectrum. They offer history classes, science, military, religion, politics, economics, writing, language, and a unique antique and collectibles class.
However, they’re most popular one for the fall is looking to be their Tour of Saratoga Museums class. This is a traveling class where the students travel to eight different museums over the course of the term. “A lot of new members are joining because of the museum tour class. It was very popular last spring and we decided to do it again this fall. We can take up to 20 students and we do still have some spots left. For some reason, this class seems to be a great recruiting tool for A.L.L. overall!” Shinaman explained.
The student population consists of mostly 65- to 95-year-old seniors. “Large populations of people are retiring in the Saratoga Springs area. They are still active so they are continuing their education in a non-credit, no homework environment. A.L.L. is a great way for them to stimulate their minds and still be socially and physically active,” Shinaman said.
There are roughly 430 members of A.L.L., 300 of which that are currently enrolled in classes. “What I find really wonderful is that is that these teachers are all volunteers. They put the time and effort into offering the classes for free,” Shinaman said.
Upcoming fundraisers for their Celebrating Silver event are Raising the Dough in Sept. at the Westside Sports Bar and Grill. On Sept. 19 from 5 to 8 p.m., each purchase will give 20 percent to A.L.L. On Sept. 23 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the SUNY Empire State College, they will be hosting an antique appraisal day, $10 per item, $25 for 3 items. Local experts appraise items. All proceeds go toward A.L.L. In Dec. A.L.L. will hold a gala at the Gideon Putnam for their anniversary banquet.
They schedule fundraisers periodically to keep costs down for their members. “We have a group of knitters knitting a hat for cancer patients at Saratoga Hospital. The group is knitting one cap per every member of the Academy, so 430 caps and they’re hoping to get all this done for our Dec. 1 banquet. We’ll be inviting someone from the hospital to come and accept all of the knitted hats for their patients there,” Shinaman said.
“As part of the 25th anniversary Celebrating Silver activities, we will have a brunch which will kick off our fall term Wednesday, Sept. 6 at 10 a.m. This will be a special orientation for the anniversary with raffles and other activities,” he added.
If interested in learning more about The Academy of Lifelong Learning, visit www.esc.edu/all.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – On Aug. 1, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) sent a letter to Ralph Rossi II, the executive deputy director and general counsel for Charter Schools Institute, in regards to the institute’s new charter school teacher-certification proposal.
The letter clearly stated that NYSUT is against the lowered qualifications for charter schools that the State University of New York (SUNY) is trying to implement. This proposal would allow SUNY-authorized charter schools to have their own teacher certification program as opposed to the “rigorous New York State standards,” Carl Korn, the chief press officer of NYSUT, said.
According to the SUNY Charter Schools Institute’s website, “Guided by the Board of Trustees’ rigorous standards, the Institute provides ongoing oversight of schools that centers on progress made by schools in improving student achievement, while also reviewing their organizational and fiscal performance; the Institute’s oversight serves as a catalyst for improvement, informs the public of each school’s performance, and protects the health and safety of students enrolled in each school.”
The Institute also points out that they “recommend renewal of only those charter schools that have shown they can improve student performance and operate in a fiscally and organizationally sound manner.”
Korn remarked, “New York’s teachers are among the best educated, most highly prepared in the country. These proposed regulations are a travesty. They would lower the standards for teachers by allowing charter networks to bypass the rigorous certification process. We see it as the ‘anybody we want to certify’ approach for charter schools and that is very dangerous for students.”
That being said, New York state union teachers are also among the highest paid in the country, earning an average of $77,628 a year and become tenured after a multi-year evaluation process that requires a vote from the governing committee of the school.
The three main concerns that NYSUT has with the proposed charter teacher eligibilities are the lack of qualifications for these new charter teachers. The different certification process creates a two tier educational system in New York. The children in public schools are educated by teachers who have met the New York state union qualifications and with this new proposal, the children in charters would be educated by teachers who only meet the charter SUNY charter standards, creating a second tier of educators.
The SUNY Charter Network has proposed that teachers with fewer than 30 hours of classroom instruction and only a few weeks of field experience are well equipped to educate. NYSUT recognizes that New York has a rigorous process for becoming a certified teacher, but there are many flexible paths in which to do so.
“If charter networks are having difficulty attracting and retaining qualified teachers, they should look at paying those teachers more, treating them like professionals, and letting them teach. Not setting up their own certification process where anyone can become a teacher,” Korn said.
It is important to note that the charter school teachers certified under this new process via SUNY Charter School Institute would not be union members, paying union dues, or required to follow the same guidelines of union teachers.
Korn said that as of right now, no charter schools have reached out to them specifically to comment one way or the other.
Currently, NYSUT and SUNY are in a 45 day comment period which ends September 8. In this period, SUNY Trustees are able to comment on the matter and change anything about the proposal.
“We expect the SUNY Trustees to take this matter seriously and reject these draft regulations as harmful to students and harmful to the teacher,” Korn said, speaking for NYSUT as a whole.
TeachNY is a SUNY initiative that seeks to raise standards for teachers and to further professionalize teaching standards in New York State by raising the aspirational standards for teaching. For TeachNY, SUNY and NYSUT were on the same page.
Jolene DiBrango, NYSUT executive vice president, stated in her letter, “the pending draft regulations are completely counter to the spirit and letter of the resolution which was adopted in June.”
That resolution is TeachNY.
“On one hand, SUNY is calling for even more rigorous and even more professional standards for teachers and on the other hand, they want to lower the standards for charter networks and that doesn’t make any sense,” Korn said.
If the regulations for the new charter school certifications are approved and adopted without change, they would go into effect in September.
Attempts to contact Ralph Rossi and SUNY Charter School Institute were not successful.
[Photos provided by www.photoandgraphic.com.]
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Monday night was the kick off of the annual Fasig-Tipton Auction, taking place at the Finney Pavilion in Saratoga Springs, New York. Many key players stepped out on the first night, Monday August 8, to scope out the yearlings. Drinks were flowing and excitement was in the air as people walked around in their Sunday best to network and find their next winning racehorse. Lots of Saratoga Police Department officers canvassed the area to make sure the event went off without a hitch.
On Monday night, 75 horses sold at an average of $325,667 per horse. Monday night’s total was $24.43 million, with Eric Fein in conjunction with Stonestreet Farm being the top buyer at $1 million for a Denali Stud colt born to Curlin and River’s Prayer. Coming in second was Mike Repole, co-founder of vitaminwater and BodyArmor, partnered with Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, claiming a colt bred from Medaglia D’Oro and Rigoletta from Gainesway for $900,000. Repole purchased another yearling, this one sired by Curlin and Quippery, also from Gainesway, for $400,000. In total, Repole spent $1.3 million.
Of 112 horses up for sale, 17 were not sold, 16 were “out,” which is to say the consignor removed the horse from the sale, and 75 were sold. The lowest sale of the night went to Kings Equine for a colt produced by Shanghai Bobby and True Kiss for $50,000, this colt was consigned by Taylor Made Farm.
On Tuesday night the excitement was still overflowing at Finney Pavilion. Buyers had not lost their steam as the night rounded to $28.57 million total with 81 horses selling at an average of $352,716 per horse. 21 horses were not sold and 13 horses were out. Kerri Radcliffe, the racing manager for Phoenix Thoroughbreds, was the top buyer Tuesday night. Radcliffe purchased a filly sired by Orb and Flashy American for $1 million. The lowest sale of the night went to Kings Equine again and was $75,000 for a colt produced by Exchange Rate and Diamondesque, this colt was consigned by Taylor Made Farm.
The “Five to Watch” hips, according to the Paulick Report, were hips number 135, 150, 162, 205, and 207. Hips 135 and 207 were surprisingly not sold, and the remaining three hips were sold at very low prices. Hip 150 sold for $475,000, hip 162 sold for $400,000, and hip 205 only sold for $350,000.
Overall, the auction sales were up by 11% in average sales on Monday and Tuesday’s auction saw an average increase of 20% from last year. In total for both nights, $52,995,000 changed hands.
The auction is open to the public for free with many spectators coming just to people and horse watch. The auditorium is set up for the horses’ benefit, green carpeting to match a pasture and fence like ropes to simulate an arena. Televisions are also set up outside of the auction hall so people can watch the auction while remaining outside by the stables, a live stream also takes place on the Fasig-Tipton website. A huge photo of Secretariat is hung in the high rollers balcony, looming over the bidders to remind them that it takes money to make money.
[Photos by www.PhotoandGraphic.com]
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Camp Abilities, sponsored by the Saratoga Lions Club, is in its fourth camp year this summer. This camp, which lasts a week, is an active overnight educational sports camp for children that are visually impaired. Taking place on Skidmore College campus, campers are able to experience a week of just being a normal kid.
“This is one of the only weeks where kids can just be a kid. A lot of times, they’re the only kid that might have visual impairment in their school. This week is the one time where they don’t have to worry. If they bump into something or if they make a mistake, they’re not being looked at like ‘oh you did that because you have a visual impairment.’ They just did it because they’re being a kid. They feel comfortable here,” says Tiffany Mitrakos, director of Camp Abilities.
Camp Abilities has 26 campers, each with their own counselors, so they have a one on one experience. To put on the camp itself, it costs roughly $100,000 and is $3,500 per camper, though it is funded by donations and sponsors, no money is out of the camper’s pocket to attend. The requirement for campers to attend is that the only disability they have is a visual impairment, they must be independent and otherwise capable, and they have to be between ages 10 and 18. Camp Abilities first year had 18 campers and now they are capped at 26 due to cost and less chance of forming lifelong friendships if there are an overwhelming number of attendees. Saratoga Lions Club (SLC) took on this camp as a service project four years ago and is instrumental in the planning and execution of the entire week of camp. SLC organizes all of the nighttime activities that take the campers off campus. Camp Abilities Saratoga is unique among all of the other Camp Abilities because of their nighttime activities. Other camps are confined to their campuses but with the help of SLC and donations from local restaurants, campers eat dinner off campus and attend different activities.
From day one, the staff was adamant that the kids set goals and focus on reaching them. Campers participate in sports tailored for them, such as beep baseball and goal ball while also participating in sports and activities that all peers their age play. Beep baseball, for example, is baseball tailored to the visually impaired. This game lasts six innings and only has first and third bases, which are four foot high padded cylinders with speakers that give off a continuous buzzing sound when activated. When the ball is hit, the base operator activates one of the bases and the runner must identify the correct base and run to it before a defensive player fields the ball. Each team has a sighted pitcher and catcher. Kids are also shown how to play sports not tailored for them that they can adapt and show their physical education teacher at school how they can successfully play with the other kids.
The camp is made up of 41 staff members. They have a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week nursing staff, six sports specialists with degrees in adaptive physical education, 26 counselors, and several other people who band together to help this week of camp meet it’s full potential.
A special treat for the campers is a Judo class instructed by Olympian Jason Morris, of Jason Morris Judo Center. Morris donates his time and staff to the camp.
Tiffany Mitrakos, director, has been a part of Camp Abilities for nine years. Mitrakos originally became involved at the camp’s initial location at Brockport College, where she was involved for five years before coming to Saratoga’s camp for the last four years. Mitrakos’ assistant director is Jeff Yellen, who also started with the camp in Brockport for two years and this is his second year as assistant director for the Saratoga camp.
On the Saratoga Lions Club (SLC) side, John McDonald has been a member of SLC for 18 years and is a past president of the club. He has been instrumental in the planning of the camp since it’s inauguration.
“This camp gives kids an opportunity to participate in a summer sports camp just like their peers,” McDonald echoed Mitrakos, proving the point of the camp really is for visually impaired children to feel like normal kids, if only for a week.
Joanne Soles is the current president of Saratoga Lions Club and was also involved in opening the Camp Abilities in Saratoga Springs. She is at the camp every day to oversee and enjoy.
“We are really taking advantage of what Saratoga has to offer for our night time programs. Those programs are why we stand out,” Soles said.
Some nighttime activities include going to Saratoga National for golf and disc golf, which is the new activity added to this year’s camp. They also have stand-up paddle boarding, equestrian, ice skating in conjunction with the Saratoga Ice Stars program which is also an SLC service project, and bowling at Saratoga Strike Zone Bowling Center.
“We’re already thinking about what we’re going to do next year. Our gears are always rolling,” Mitrakos said excitedly.
On the last Wednesday of every month the planning committed have phone conferences throughout the entire year to plan for the upcoming camp.
“Every year we just get better and better!” Mitrakos said.
Saratoga Lions Club motto is, “A loss of sight, never a loss of vision.”
This camp proves that vision is key.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - John Hendrickson has just been announced as the new president for the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame by the Museum’s Executive Committee, according to museum spokesman Brien Bouyea.
Hendrickson has been involved in thoroughbred racing for many years and is currently the manager of Marylou Whitney Stables, LLC and also the president and chief operating officer of Whitney Industries.
Hendrickson said of the new position, “I’m honored to be named president of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and carry on in the great tradition of Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, who was one of the Museum’s founders and its first president.”
Hendrickson has managed Whitney Stables, LLC for a number of years and has been married to Marylou Whitney for 20 years, further proving that his love and knowledge of racing made him a prime candidate for this position.
[Readers are encouraged to post respectful comments regarding the article below.]
[ Photo provided by saratogaschools.org]
SARATOGA SPRINGS - “There is nothing like the first day of school,” Superintendent Michael Piccirillo exclaimed.
Between working in public education for the last 31 years and attending his own many first days of school, he has experienced a lot of that excitement first hand. Piccirillo attended Binghamton University and received his bachelor of arts degree in sociology, his master of arts in teaching from Binghamton with a certification in social studies for grades 7 through 12, where he went on to earn a doctorate in educational administration from Sage College. After teaching social studies for 10 years in two different school districts, North Warren and Lake George, his own high school alma mater, Piccirillo has been in the Superintendent’s office for the last 10 years, the first five as assistant superintendent and the last five as superintendent.
“It has been a really interesting and exciting 31 years.”
This year on January 1 Piccirillo put in his retirement resignation and the district will announce his replacement in the coming months with his final day being December 31.
“I’m not finished with being a public educator, I’m just looking to do something different and to have a little bit more time with my family,” he said.
For the upcoming school year, Saratoga will see many new projects that will help students succeed. When Piccirillo first began as superintendent, their Legacy Plan was the 2018 Vision, which is now almost to a close. They are now working on their new Legacy Plan and developing their next 5 – 10 year vision. The Great Outdoors Project was just presented to the town board. It is a $15.6 million project that will address the long overdue needs across the districts in properties they own, such as the East and West Side Recreation buildings and the back of Gavin Park that is owned by Dorothy Nolan Elementary School. They will be fixing and building more playgrounds and athletic fields.
Watson for Education is an IBM created augmented intelligence system that Saratoga will be the first district in New York State to utilize. They will be a “Lighthouse District” for other districts around the state to come and learn from. This program creates personalized education plans for every individual student. It helps to make sure that students are successful not only academically, but socially and emotionally.
“Watson is an exciting and robust system that will ultimately help us to personalize education for all of our students and that has been one of our goals for our current 2018 legacy vision, but having the right tools to make it happen has been the difficult part of it. We believe Watson is going to be the tool we’ve been looking for,” he explained.
Expect a broader digital learning experience this year. CloudBooks, which is a Dell created tablet, will be available for all sixth graders to use and take with them as they move throughout the system. Each year, another grade level will be added, they hope to accelerate additions if more funding becomes available. They are using the Smart Schools Bond Act (SSBA) funds to purchase the new equipment.
The SSBA is “an initiative that would finance educational technology and infrastructure, providing students access to the latest technology and connectivity needed to succeed and compete in the global economy,” according to the website.
Since Piccirillo became Superintendent, graduation retention rate is at an all-time high. The goal for the last 10 years has been 95% and they have reached 94%.
“There is still room for improvement in terms of vision, obviously the target rate is 100%,” he clarified.
Piccirillo believes the retention rate has elevated due to more effort being put into support systems. They have partnered with Franklin Community Center and the LIFT Program to add more social workers to the staff, a mental health clinic, a substance abuse counselor at the middle and high school level. Graduation rates for subgroups have also improved. For special education and economic disadvantage rates have skyrocketed, almost doubling in both areas. Ten years ago, economically disadvantaged students were at a 35% graduation rate and special education was at 40%. Now, they are up to 80% and 75% respectively.
“As life gets more complex, students have greater needs and we need to be able to support them so they can focus on their academics and be successful academically. So yes there’s room for improvement but I also think we’ve made quite a bit of improvement over the last five years,” he noted.
There has been talk recently about the overcrowding in the elementary schools due to new housing developments being built. The district has six kindergarten through fifth grade schools, and of the most concern is with Dorothy Nolan Elementary School behind Gavin Park.
Speaking on the subject, Piccirillo said, “Dorothy Nolan School alone has room for 1200 kids and presently is only up to 800. To my knowledge, there is no concern for overcrowding at the moment. If that concern does become valid, we have the room to grow.”
Dorothy Nolan Elementary owns the land behind Gavin Park and they can expand the building if necessary. If worse comes to worse, they can also re-district and place children in the South Glens Falls schools.
“In the past when this issue arose, we have moved Dorothy Nolan students to Caroline Street School as opposed to having them change districts,” Town Supervisor Art Johnson said.
“If overcrowding does become an issue, Superintendent Piccirillo will certainly address it,” Johnson remarked.
When I asked Piccirillo what his favorite part of the school day was he said, “Students! Whenever I have a chance to be with students, to talk with them, to visit classrooms and participate in activities with them, that’s the best part of the day because that’s why I got into public education as a teacher. It’s always the hardest part of being an administrator is that the further up the ladder you climb in administration, the further away you get from the students.”
It goes to show that Superintendent Piccirillo has made great strides during his five years in the position and that the new Superintendent will have some big shoes to fill.
[Photos by www.photoandgraphic.com]
WILTON - Mark Marino, a Massachusetts native, decided to move to the Saratoga Springs area a number of years ago after he and his wife realized the school systems were better here and there would be more job opportunities. Marino attended Norwich Military University with a degree in physical education and moved on to be an Officer in the Army. From 1981 until 1984 he was stationed in Watervliet, where he got a taste of the area. For 14 months Marino worked at the Capital District YMCA until his position was eliminated. From there, he decided to pursue being a physical education teacher like he had planned. For 10 years he was a substitute teacher in Waterford and also owned his own landscaping business for a number of years. These jobs combined with his military background made him the perfect candidate for the director of Gavin Park position. On July 6, the Wilton Town Board voted to approve Marino’s appointment as director of Gavin Park.
“I always wanted to be a physical education teacher and athletic director, this job is the best of both worlds,” he said.
A key element in his hiring was his career background, especially his landscaping business. He knew what the grounds should always look like and what it would mean to maintain them. He was experienced in managing people, he taught and worked with kids for many years, he is an officiate for three different sports, and he was also an athlete. He was a prime candidate.
In regards to Art Johnson, Town Supervisor, Marino exclaimed,“I am very grateful Art is my boss. He was essential in bringing me on board and I really appreciate them giving me the opportunity to do this.”
Gavin Park offers a wide variety of different programs. Tracy Kubis is the assistant recreational director, she is essential to the summer camp and summer programs. Ross McNeal helps Kubis to coordinate and execute the programs.
The main thing Marino is looking to add personally is a hiking activity, geared toward ages 14 – 18.
“I would love to see that age range get off social media and have more face to face time. I think a hiking program could provide that,” he observed.
Marino said there is not much to add to the park right now because Stephen Porto left it in such a good place after his 10 year tenure. Porto added new fields but also created the concept of Splash Park. Splash Park is a water park for kids 12 and under but most frequented by kids six and under. Sprinklers and other fun contraptions run on a 15 minute sensor, shooting out water for kids to splash around in.
“We try to provide a lot of variety for people so it doesn’t become stale or feel stagnant,” he remarked.
Campers get their fill of variety. They visit all beaches in the area, The Great Escape, Valley Cats games, and other fun activities happening daily.
Only five weeks into the job, Marino said his main goal right now is to “make sure that all the fields, courts, and nettings, along with anything else related to what people are using, are safe and well maintained.”
On a daily basis, Marino arrives at 8:50 a.m. and meets with Kim Brock, who runs the financial side, to discuss payroll and other related things. Then he takes out the golf cart and rides around to every field to make sure everything is proper and clear. He then has meetings with people and in between it all, leaves his office door open.
“I believe in an open door policy. My door is always open for anyone to come in and discuss any concerns or issues,” he expressed.
His day then wraps up at five o’clock and he heads home, excited for the next day to begin.
“In all the jobs I’ve had in my life, I really feel well-received here. I believe in the team effort and being transparent and having open communication and an open door. Everyone here does their job very well and that’s a credit to the overall organization, the town board, the parks and recreation commission, and Gavin Park as a whole. It’s just a very well run organization and it has been for years. My goal is to maintain that level in the years to come. This is a job where I really look forward to coming to work,” Marino said sincerely.
Marino is especially grateful to Maintenance Supervisor John King and his staff for all their hard work physically maintaining the grounds in a timely and organized fashion. He could not speak highly enough about his staff as a whole, from the camp counselors to the maintenance staff to the financial department.
“I want to give a lot of credit to the staff. You can’t run an organization well without having a good staff and again players like Tracy, John, and Michelle, they all do such a great job,” he said.
For more information on all that Gavin Park offers to the town of Wilton, visit www.townofwilton.com and navigate to the parks and recreation department.
[Photos provided by West Mountain]
Glens Falls - West Mountain has opened up it’s winter trails for biking this season. The Mountain Bike Park opened the second weekend in July of this year. Adding an express chair lift, West Mountain is able to bring guests and their bikes to the top of the mountain to ride down. After receiving a grant from the town of Queensbury, they were able to purchase bike rental equipment and marketing materials for the bike park.
“With our own staff, we designed a series of cross country and downhill bike trails. We also have a pump track. Currently we have about 22 trails and we are adding more trails weekly,” Sara Montgomery, general manager of West Mountain said.
West Mountain is also offering cross-country and downhill riding lessons along with guided tours of the mountain.
“When we set our mind to something, we’re able to accomplish a lot in a very small amount of time. We’re very lucky that we have the people on staff that we do who are able to do these types of projects,” Montgomery said.
Sara Montgomery and her husband, came up with the bike trail idea and oversee the concept as a whole. The Montgomery’s oversee everything from the waivers, to the equipment ordering, to the account management. West Mountain also offers head to toe protective gear for riders. Bike rentals include a fleet of 15 Scott Bikes, downhill and cross-country are available. To participate, all day passes are for children 12 and under are only $15, teens 13 – 19 are $20, and adults 20+ are $30, a senior citizen discount is available for riders 65+ for $15. Mountain Bike Park season passes are also available for committed riders, adults can buy a pass for $180, teens for $150, and youth for $99. The bike trails are open Thursday and Friday from 11:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. and weekends from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. All riders must sign a waiver, children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult, and children teens 13 - 18 must have an adult sign an additional waiver to ride unaccompanied. Tickets and rentals can be purchased on site. Bike and protective gear rentals are a separate price ranging from $20.00 - $40.00 depending on the package.
“It will probably take a couple seasons to hit its full swing, but we are seeing a lot of people. I spend a lot of time asking people for their feedback and where they’re traveling from. We had one guy from Arizona stop in, we’ve had people from Albany area, Malta, Clifton Park. I think the word is spreading it’s just going to take some time. We’ll probably do more marketing for the park next year,” Montgomery remarked.
The bike park will open in late June / early July each season and will be open until the number of riders starts to dwindle.
Montgomery added, “We are open for scenic lift rides as well. So people can take the lift to the top and then we have a hiking trail mapped out with beautiful views. They then take the lift back down after the hike.”
Currently, the bike trail has a small but efficient team of four lift attendants, three people in the rental shop, and a manager on duty.
“The mountain bike trails are just the first part of a larger plan that we have for off season business. We did want to offer the scenic lift tours because it is nice for people who do not have an interest in biking, so they also have something to do,” she observed.
At the top, there is also a bounce house available for the younger kids and a grilling area for adults and families to make a day of the trails.
Montgomery continued, “We tried to make it all inclusive so that everything is right there for the riders. This is all part of a bigger plan for West Mountain.”
[Photos by Jake Murray and Eric Huss.]
SARATOGA SPRINGS – American Ninja Warrior is a very popular show entering its’ sixth season on NBC about a group of talented athletic competitors who tackle a series of obstacle courses and other insane physical challenges. The show goes from region to region showcasing different athletes in their fight to the finish. Regional winners then move on to the finals in Las Vegas. That winner will take home one million dollars.
Local Saratoga resident Eric Huss has decided to take his prohibition era garage and turn it into a ninja gym. Saratoga Ninja Garage (SNG) is a free open gym for kids to come and do similar physical obstacle courses reminiscent of the show. Huss created all obstacles himself with materials found on Craigslist and other similar sites, with help from his father. He created a Facebook page and did a soft opening with his friends to test the waters and gauge the level of interest. He wanted kids to have a place to hang out and have open gyms for anyone to enjoy. At the soft opening alone, 35 kids showed up from as far as Albany. Over the last six months, he has held open gyms on Mondays that proved to be very popular.
“I was out in Colorado a couple weeks ago and my kids and I got together with Jake Murray from the show and I asked him if he would be interested in coming out and doing some clinics.”
Huss does not profit from these events and paid out of the camp registration fee fund to fly the athletes in to do the programs at the gym. Registration is $50 per kid which includes a two hour clinic. Only 12 to 14 kids participate per two hours, providing them a lot of quality time with the athletes. Parents will be signing an insurance waiver at the start of the clinic. Saratoga Ninja Warrior Kids Camp will be taking place on August 21 through August 25 with three camps per day, rotating every two hours. Each participant walks away with a custom SNG item and will have the option to purchase gear from each Celebrity Ninja. Groups will be split up by age and ability. Kids do have the option to participate in several camps, but are required to pay the registration fee each time. Parents are invited to watch, though viewing space is very limited.
Jake Murray and Jaime Rahn signed on immediately. After creating the event page on his gyms’ Facebook, Huss was overwhelmed with the response. The event was made public last Thursday at midnight and by Friday morning all clinics were filled with an additional wait list of 30 kids. With the wait list and interest growing, Huss reached out to the guys and asked them if they would mind adding more classes.
“I had people begging me to add more spots, telling me this was their kids dream! I had to do more.”
He decided to add two more classes per day and another full day. By the time he expanded, the wait list was up to 145 more people. These extra clinics were filled within the hour. Now, 315 kids are registered. Huss asked Jake Murray to reach out to other American Ninja Warrior competitors to see if they may want to participate. Brian Arnold agreed to join the team, he will be doing two days of camp with Murray.
People are driving from as far as New York City and Boston, Massachusetts so that their children can enjoy something that many have said “is their dream.”
Unfortunately, all spots have been filled. Open gyms do take place every Monday from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. For more information and to stay informed, please visit www.facebook.com/SaratogaNinjaGarage.
[Photos by www.photoandgraphic.com.]
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Collin Bolles, a rising senior at Saratoga High School, was the first place winner of the Saratoga GO! competition. This was a Smart City technology competition that “challenged individuals, small businesses, and software companies to create community innovations that would improve the quality of life for residents, businesses and institutions, or visitors in any city.”
This competition was three months long and provided participants with several workshops to attend. These workshops provided them with helpful information and valuable resources to guide them in the development of their application. Winner Collin Bolles first got involved in April when his AP computer science teacher, Mr. Shanks, encouraged him to look into it.
“The competition was very interesting and a little stressful. Due to the nature of the competition, I did not know what or how many people I would be up against. I started the app in April almost immediately after hearing about it. However, I had to take a break from it, as I and five other members of the Bluestreaks Robotics 8828B team competed at the World Championship. I took time from May to June to get some work done at the app before finals.”
Bolles’ winning application is to assist visitors and residents in finding parking in Saratoga.
“The way the app works is parking lots appear as Google map icons. The purple icons mean that the lot is not being monitored, orange means it is being monitored. If you click on the icon, you can see the number of spots available.”
This is a web based application and will be free as to allow many people to utilize the data. The city will pay to use the application as it will help to drive people to different shops downtown and different restaurants, all due to parking availability. Before the app can become useful though, the city has to install the sensing units into the parking lots.
As a high school student with a job, Bolles stays busy, so public consumption of his app is not in the works just yet. Before public release, he would like to work on adding key features and perfecting the existing app before presenting it to the city. Next year he will be taking a course called Independent Study of Computer Science, this class will be the specific chunk of time he sets aside to work on his application. Once he feels it is perfected, he would like to present it to the city of Saratoga.
“As a high school student going into senior year with a job and looking at colleges, setting aside dedicated time to develop the app is difficult.”
Bolles was awarded $500, development boards, and a Google Home.
“The $500 will either go into my college fund or be used to buy additional sensors and hardware for my app. I may create a Google Home application to allow users to ask Google the best place to park in Saratoga. I certainly would like to continue developing apps and software throughout college and into my professional career.”
Bolles wishes to thank Mr. Shanks for providing the knowledge to him about this competition and a solid education. David Burton, a volunteer with his robotics team that gave him his first structured look in software development by teaching him professional software tools and practices. Paul Davis, his robotics mentor who provided an incredible platform for him to develop his engineering and problem solving skills.
“As well as my parents, of course, who have given me the independence and support to allow me to develop my software abilities.”
If you would like to check out Collin’s app, visit www.ParkingInSaratoga.com.