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Displaying items by tag: gifts
The final few days before Christmas can be frantic. Gifts must be bought, Holiday meals must be cooked, and then there’s the issue of trying to get packages shipped to loved ones who live elsewhere.
We at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market invite you to relax. Come to the market Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., grab a warm drink and a pastry or breakfast sandwich, and stroll through two floors of a wide variety of products all under one roof at the Lincoln Baths Building. You’ll find an array of unique locally made jewelry, artworks, specialty foods, and other gift items to suit anyone on your gift giving list.
A quick walk through the market offers the following:
Artisanal treats. On the second floor find cured meats, freshly made pastas, handcrafted jewelry, and journals. If there’s a dog in the family, consider a gift box from Mugzy’s Barkery, which features a sampler of their dog treats. Terra Sage Gourmet also offers healthy vegetarian dog food.
Also on the second floor are first-year agricultural vendors offering locally produced mushrooms, chicken, dried beans, kale, potatoes, and nutrient-dense microgreens.
A spirited sample. Walk to the end of the second floor and head downstairs. Stop and sample bourbon-infused eggnog, made with Battenkill Valley Creamery’s award-winning eggnog and Yankee Distillers’ bourbon. Then continue your walk among fresh food and friendly faces.
Sweets & Treats to ship. On the first floor you’ll find produce, meats, jams, chocolates, cheeses, peanut butter, and hummus. Many of these items are suitable for shipping, and Slate Valley Farm makes the job easy. They offer a gift box of honey, maple syrup and maple treats in a Priority Mail package that Slate Valley will send for you.
Other gift boxes. As you wrap up your walk, you’ll find cheese samplers, nut butters, and mushroom teas from Argyle Cheese Farmer, Saratoga Peanut Butter, and Mariaville Mushroom Men respectively. And, if you like creating your own gift packages, stop by Kokinda Farms and pick up a wicker basket from Laurie Kokinda. Choose a jar of Laurie’s jam and walk through the market to fill the basket with your favorites.
The Saratoga Farmers Market is held 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturdays at the Lincoln Baths Building in the Saratoga Spa State Park. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and on the FreshFoodNY app.
Saratoga Springs HS Freshman Hugh Dempsey Named To International Children’s Games in Innsbruck this January
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Fourteen-year old Hugh Dempsey has received a big honor – one might say, an honor of Olympic proportions! Hugh, a ninth grade student at Saratoga Springs High School (SSHS), will be part of a team from the Lake Placid/Adirondack region that will venture to Innsbruck, Austria next January, to participate in the 2016 Winter International Children’s Games (ICG).
This will be the first time the Lake Placid area will be sending a team to the games, which draws delegations from as far away as China, South Korea and Australia in addition to several other locales in Europe and North America. Innsbruck will host the seventh winter ICG, which has been held since 1994. Hugh will be a member of the Team Lake Placid’s Alpine Skiing team. This major multi-sport event is designed for children aged 13 to 15 years. Other sports in the games include freestyle and cross-country skiing, and speed skating.
Hugh, who will be joining the SSHS varsity alpine skiing team when it begins it season next month, has been a member of teams from the New York State Educational Foundation (NYSEF) for several years. Hugh was grateful to his Coach, John Norton and other NYSEF coaches who nominated him for the Lake Placid squad last May, and to Lake Placid’s Mayor, Craig Randall, for the vision to start a Lake Placid team.
He and his teammates’ expenses will be fully funded for the trip to Innsbruck, Austria. All travel-related expenses will be paid by the Henry Uihlein II and Mildred A. Uihlein Foundation; lodging and meals while in Innsbruck will be covered by the Innsbruck 2016 Organizing Committee; and the travel will be arranged by NYSEF.
When he learned that he had been selected, “It didn’t sink in for a couple of days,” Hugh said, “but in addition to being very glad, I felt lucky and honored. It’s really flattering to be chosen for the first Lake Placid team.” It will be Hugh’s first time visiting Austria, but at a relatively young age he is no stranger to travelling. He has already participated in tournaments with NYSEF teams, competing at Mont Tremblant, Quebec for CAN-AM events, and at Copper Mountain, Colorado, where he will be returning next December.
Hugh’s favorite subject in school is global history, which has him excited about the other athletes from all over the globe he will meet in Innsbruck, “I like learning about other cultures and people,” Hugh said. When asked about the challenges of balancing schoolwork while competing in tournaments that might cross several time zones, he said, “I actually did better academically – the NYSEF coaches are very helpful in making sure we keep up with our homework.”
When not skiing, Hugh keeps his condition and stamina strong as a member of the Freshman Soccer team at SSHS, where he mostly plays forward, as well as by mountain biking and running. He keeps his mind sharp by playing Monopoly with his sisters, Norah (12) and Cara (8), and probably both in top form, as well as dexterity, by playing the piano, which he has done since age 6. He credits his parents, Jenn and Steve, for instilling a love for both skiing and music in him at a young age.
In the interests of journalistic research, I requested he give me a go-round across the ivories, and I have to say I was pretty impressed. But not surprised – you come away with the impression that Hugh can pretty much do what he sets his mind to do. And putting journalistic objectivity aside, Hugh Dempsey is just a likable young man who makes it very easy to root for him.
He would like to continue his skiing career in the college ranks and beyond. So, are we going to see him on the Olympic medal stand some day?
“I’m going to take this as far as I can.” Hugh said.
Local Teen Opiate Use Still on the Rise
SARATOGA SPRINGS – It was a night that would permanently suspend a parent’s disbelief. The Parent University of Saratoga Springs City School District presented a program in conjunction with the Prevention Council on Tuesday evening that brought home in no uncertain terms that the heroin epidemic is just as real in Saratoga Springs as it is across the country. The program, "The Heroin Epidemic - What is the Impact on Saratoga Springs?” was held April 28 in the Saratoga Springs High School Library to about 75 parents, district staff and community members.
Speakers included Robin Lyle Director of Coalition Development at the Prevention Council and Maigan, a 26-year-old recovering opiate addict. With facts, figures, and honest revelations, the speakers brought home to parents the ease with which any child can access and become addicted to prescription drugs and heroin, including in Saratoga Springs.
"By hosting the Parent University workshop on heroin addiction, the School District brought attention to a growing problem in our community,” said Michael M. Piccirillo, Superintendent of the Saratoga Springs City School District. “Parents need to be informed about the connection between gateway drugs like alcohol and marijuana, which can lead to the use of opiates like heroin, so they can be vigilant in ensuring the health and welfare of their children.”
“Abuse of prescription pain killers has become more common in small cities like this one,” said Lyle, “so it's important that we get this information out there. We're seeing increasing numbers of overdose situations, and the NY Times recently reported that heroin overdose deaths now exceed traffic fatalities nationwide.”
Lyle spoke about the causes of the heroin epidemic, which she says primarily is the use and misuse of prescription drugs. “Young people aren't seeing it as risky now that it doesn’t need to be injected anymore.”
She advises that parents dispose of any unused, unwanted prescription drugs. “Opiate-based prescription drugs can get them started on heroin. Kids can get the same high from heroin for cheaper than from prescription drugs, which can run $150 per pill. A small bag of heroin is about ten bucks. Fifty percent of participants in drug treatment have court criminal charges related to heroin use, and all but one started with prescription drugs.”
The audience also heard from Maigan, a recovering addict. “Maigan was really terrific,” said Lyle. “She had a lot to share. It’s a harrowing story of something that could happen to any child. She was honest and courageous, and when she spoke of spending $1,000 a day to support her habit, the audience just gasped.”
"Sadly we have been experiencing approximately 4-6 heroin related overdose deaths per year for the past couple of years," said Saratoga Springs Police Chief Greg Veitch. "We have another 20 or so responses to overdose situations that require transport to the hospital."
According to Saratoga Springs Fire Chief Robert Williams, “Heroin is cheaper and more available. Teenagers tend to experiment and it’s very addictive. Once it gets ahold of you, it’s tough to get it off your back.” He said they answered 135 calls in 2014 for poison ingestion, which included alcohol and accidental or purposeful overdose. He said they administered Narcan 13 times over the last 12 months. “Narcan neutralizes the opiate receptors, reversing the effects within seconds.”
“We have definitely seen a significant rise in heroin,” said Veitch. “For perspective, from 2001-2006 when I worked in the narcotic unit as an investigator we never once were able to buy heroin on the street. From 2008-2013 when I supervised the drug unit we only purchased heroin on the street sporadically, maybe a few times per year. Today (2014-2015) we buy heroin on the street in about half of all narcotics purchases, which is about 20-30 times per year. We routinely arrest people in possession of small amounts and with needles (several times per month).”
“It's good that schools be very concerned about opiate addiction,” said William Bean, Program Manager at St. Peter's Addiction Recovery Center (SPARC) in Saratoga Springs at 125 High Rock Avenue. “They can help parents realize the issue is more the over-prescribed availability of opiates in households, which is a much more insidious problem than they might think. Adolescents will experiment with pills that are free. They find them and share them. We must let parents know that this medication needs to be closely guarded and locked up.”
Prescription drugs containing opiates that are often abused include: Vicodin (hydrocodone & acetaminophen), Percocet (oxycodone &acetaminophen), Oxycontin (oxycodone), Darvon (propoxyphene), Dulaudid (hydromorphone), morphine and codeine. Codeine can also be found in prescription cough medicine. For parents unsure if their medication includes opiates, Bean advises, “When in doubt, lock it up.”
A couple years ago, the state passed a law that mandated controlled substance prescriptions go into a shared database so people cannot go from doctor to doctor getting over-prescribed.
Dr. Manuel Astruc, M.D., Medical Director at Saratoga County Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment Center and practicing psychiatrist in Saratoga Springs for 18 years, added that the new law had some unintended consequences. “This new system mandates medical practitioners to check the patient’s database for already-prescribed controlled substances,” he said. “Now that supply has dried up. It’s resulted in more people turning to heroin. This is a real problem because they don’t know what they’re getting on the street. Potency and purity varies, increasing the risk of people dying from accidental overdose.”
Fortunately, recovery programs have improved greatly over the years and many are outstanding. “The adolescent program here is for those between 12 and 17 years old,” said Bean. “There are usually about 12-15 kids in a program on average. Groups meet twice a week, one with a family member present, such as a parent, and the other a teen topics group. We also have individual sessions. The average length of stay in the program is right around six months to eight months.”
Bean said that many of the program’s adolescents are referred either through a school, a family member, or through the legal system such as PINS, family court, criminal court, a probation officer, or a family physician or mental health provider such as Four Winds in Saratoga Springs.
“Recidivism is an issue, but anecdotally, I think that involving one or both parents has been very effective,” said Bean. “We know that treating an adolescent as an adult is not effective. We have wonderful staff here who do wonderful work with kids, and are able to hold their attention. We’ll see some kids come back into treatment and perhaps fall back into trouble, but there's no cure for addiction. That’s where parents come in, and it’s not easy. Adolescents are not really set up to talk with much intimacy with adults. Developmentally they are supposed to be developing relationships with their peers. When a parent asks an adolescent ‘where does it hurt’, it's counter-developmental. We introduce ways of communication to normalize that, educate parents and adolescents and help the process. Although they may look like it, the truth is that kids don’t stop listening.”
Dr. Astruc reminds parents, “An adolescent’s central nervous system hasn’t matured, which makes them more prone to risky behaviors. They are not adults, so we have to manage those expectations.”
Bean said that the issues that lead to someone wanting drugs start at a very early age. “The problems didn't happen yesterday,” he said. “We see a lot of parents come in and say ‘fix Johnny, there's nothing wrong with us’, but in truth it is a family disease. Nobody asks for addiction, but something in the family opens this up. Parents are going to ask, ‘how can we see this coming’, but you really can't.”
So what can a parent do? “Be as genuinely interested in your teenagers’ lives without smothering them,” said Bean. “As they get older, let them stretch outside the home, but still be involved and hold them accountable, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Kids do turn themselves around with treatment, and treatment helps everyone in the family. Communication is the central core of all of this. Listening and asking questions that lets them know you’re listening.”
"Monitor the painkillers or other prescriptions given legitimately to your child," said Lyle. "Count them, or dispense just the amount your child needs for that day. That way you know where those pills are going." Following doctor's orders will help keep children from becoming addicted to their medications that contain controlled substances like opiates.
"Teens and young adults often do not understand the risks associated with drug use," said Veitch. "In particular, heroin addiction is exceptionally difficult to handle for both the user and their loved ones. Heroin is an issue in Saratoga Springs as it is everywhere and law enforcement is only one part of the solution. Families, friends and service agencies all have a part to play in reducing the adverse effects that heroin has on individuals, their loved ones and the community.
Parent University is a community collaboration that offers opportunities for parents and caregivers to continue their learning. All events are open to parents, caregivers and staff of all buildings and grade levels.
SSHS Students Learn From Firsthand Oral Histories
By Arthur Gonick
SARATOGA SPRINGS – As part of a nationwide effort to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ceasing of hostilities in Vietnam, the city of Saratoga Springs became one of the first to enroll as a commemorative partner in this effort. The roster of partners is now 100 in New York State and over 6,000 in the United States.
There will be many activities scheduled by the appointed committee in this city, which is taking its role quite seriously. But none will probably be more important and instructive than those that occurred for two days this week.
On Tuesday, Oct. 28 and Wednesday, Oct. 29 a panel of about a dozen veterans of the Vietnam war – drawn from all walks of life, all service company’s, some local, some regional and some who traveled a good distance – met with several classes of students at Saratoga Springs High School to share their experiences and pass on the history of that conflict.
“This was a great experience for the students,” said Teacher Ron Schorpp, whose War and Diplomacy class, a mix of 11th and 12th graders, were in attendance. Over the two-day program, nearly 200 students attended. “After the city became an official partner, I was very glad that Jim Hartman (a member of the local committee who was part of the panel. Jim served in USAF Intelligence and was in Vietnam in 1970) reached out to us.” He said.
“The students were attentive and asked some really interesting questions.” Schorpp said. Those questions ran the gamut: ranging from asking each what was the first thing they did when they finally came home, to the Veteran’s thoughts on how we should battle ISIS and the broader question of when and if to commit troops overseas.
With a diverse panel assembled, a variety of thoughts and experiences were to be expected. But what was striking about this presentation is how the student exhibited rapt attention – particularly noticeable because the presentation itself was fairly sparse – no multi-media and scarcely any props save some yellowing newspaper clippings. Just men sharing and students listening. And it was stunning in it’s simplicity.
Marine Dave Kissick came home to be a Principal at Lansingburgh High School. He focused on the “What if?” aspect of history, noting that service in Vietnam was “nothing like HBO” – referring to Band of Brothers which got many knowing nods from all in the assembly.
Lew Benton recalled being drafted into the Army at age 25, after having been married, and feeling grateful that he was able to serve as a medic – that thought tempered by the sobering reality that he treated about 1,000 combat wounds during his service.
25th Infantryman Don Little, now the head of the County’s VETHELP program: “I didn’t know how much military service would affect my life… once, I didn’t want anyone to even know I served. Now I’m proud.”
Roy McDonald served in the Army and later came home to a career in the state senate. “The best part of service in Vietnam: The people. All kinds were accepted – we were all family.”
The worst part: “Everything else. Romance about war is a movie – not reality… you could tell what people cared about by what they carried in their pockets – family photos, mementoes of home. I never forget every day that I have 60,000 reasons to be thankful,” referring to the number of people lost in the conflict.
Other veterans expressed concepts like “survivor’s guilt” and their experiences under friendly fire.
Jim Coyne was the military “lifer” of the group. 36 years service; rising from the rank of Private to Colonel. He used his time as a teaching moment, giving students baseline facts and figures that don’t appear in movies. For instance, Vietnam, a country of 19 million people, is only 10 percent Buddhist.
The teaching was interspersed with good humor, as Coyne noted that some of his biggest wish list items in the field were “toilet paper and ice,” but never unmindful of how lucky he was to come through Vietnam alive.
This event at Saratoga Springs High School was but one of several scheduled in our city, showing it’s commitment to do the important work of being a true commemorative partner – that this will be more than sewing a patch on a jacket or a hat.
Events like today are not as showy as a parade, but serve incredibly important purposes. Chief among them is to educate and, hopefully, learn from the inhumanity of war. Specifically in the case of all our Vietnam veterans, events such as these serve to bestow honor to them for their service to our country that, in most cases, they never received.
Their long overdue welcome home is finally just beginning now. Today was one example of a promise kept that everyone should be proud to see play out.
For more information, visit vietnamwar50th.com
By Colette Linton
SARATOGA SPRINGS—Interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies have a strong history in the county with STEM fairs, courses and competitions.
Now the best and brightest high school students have the opportunity through the New York State STEM Incentive Program to receive a full ride to college for those pursuing high-tech careers.
Students who are in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class, who are also planning to major in a STEM field at SUNY or CUNY, and later work in a related STEM job in New York state for five years following college graduation, qualify for the program.
“This scholarship is a great reward for those students who chose to work incredibly hard in one of our many high school or Early College STEM pathways,” Dr. Joseph Greco, K-12 Director of Math, Science and Technology Integration at Saratoga Springs City School District wrote in an email to Saratoga TODAY.
However, he added, that students’ interest in STEM studies are planted and encouraged long before they reach high school.
Regarding whether he thought the scholarship will propel students into STEM fields and careers, he said: “At Saratoga, we believe that interest in STEM happens long before students even enter into the high school. While these incentives are a great reward for students who have taken on the challenge of a high school or Early College STEM pathway, it is our curriculum and instruction at the Primary and Intermediate grade levels that will have the greatest impact on interest in STEM.”
Saratoga Springs City School District’s Project Lead The Way (PLTW) engineering program has been taught at the high school since 1999 and was expanded to the middle school in 2000. Greco was hired in 2012 by the Board of Education to oversee the Math, Science and Technology Integration for the entire school district.
In addition, Greco wrote, that the school has added math coaches at the K-5 level, started Lego Robotics programs at different schools, started the Educating Young Engineers Saturday Program, extended the STEM Academy to the summer (through BOCES), and has recently competed in the middle and high school’s first VEX Robotics competition.
“Our rich STEM programing at the high school will continue to grow in 2014-2015 with the continued expansion of our PLTW Computer Engineering course offerings. Thanks to forward thinking leadership by the Board of Education and Superintendent Michael Piccirillo, Saratoga students have access to some of the most rigorous STEM programing that is offered in U.S. public education,” Greco said.
For one student anticipating her first semester of college in the fall, her story of STEM studies has resulted in a compromise of interests and began with a discovery.
In eighth grade, senior at Saratoga
Fantauzzi, Johns To Square Off In Blue Streaks Reunion
By Brian Cremo
and Arthur Gonick
“This time I know it’s for real.”
- Donna Summer
SARATOGA SPRINGS – In a matchup worthy of Bob Arum or Don King at the top of their game, the Saratoga Springs High School 35th Class Reunion Committee has scored a major plum by securing the services of former Blue Streaks coaches Damian Fantauzzi and Rich Johns.
The two coaches, who once patrolled the basketball sidelines together, will square off against each other and lead squads composed of returning alumni from the 1979 and 1980 hoop squads.
“I had so much fun with Damian,” Johns said. “We were kids. I was just out of college maybe six years. The kids just loved him. They would do anything for him. Someone once said I was (Fantauzzi)’s sidekick and truly I’ve been his sidekick for all these years.”
“It’ll be good to see those guys,” Fantauzzi said. “It’s amazing how time flies.”
The titanic tip-off, which is free and open to the general public, will occur on Friday, June 13 at 4:30 p.m. Members of the respective squads will be checking in at about 3 p.m.
In lieu of an admission fee, donations will be gratefully accepted for both Coach Johns’ “Act with Respect Always” and Coach Fantauzzi’s “Toga Field of Dreams” programs.
“This is the kick-off to an entire weekend of events for the classes of 1979 and 1980,” said Laura Clark Cavallo, who, along with Patti Clark is part of the reunion’s organizing committee. “Everybody is welcome to this game—no matter when you went to Saratoga Springs High School, or even if you never went there!” She also noted that the post-game after party at Gaffney’s is open to the (21 and older) public as well.
Joy King, who helped put the reunion game together, put it this way:
“We want to pack the house,” she said. “And get that old-time spirit going.”
When it comes time for tip-off, Fantauzzi will take the 1979 team while Johns will be at the helm for 1980.
According to Ms. King, also committing to the event at press time is official in-game announcer Anthony “Tony” Izzo and former coach Michael McGraw has been designated as honorary officiating coach. Game referees are slated to be Anthony “Tony’ Fischetti, Jay Downing and Steven “Nipsie” Youngblood. Nick Alex will operate the scoreboard.
As far as players, the first class of ’79 alumni hoopster to commit to this event was Robert “Buddy” Clarke. Shortly thereafter, his ’79 backcourt mate Nate Lewis let it be known that he was in.
Fantauzzi, who was the head coach in 1979, recalled the defining moment for that season—a sectional upset over No. 1 seeded Albany High.
After Clarke, the Blue Streaks leading scorer, fouled out with three minutes left, Saratoga Springs found themselves down one without the ball and about 10 seconds remaining in the game.
But sophomores Brian Smith and Gus Degregory forced a turnover out of a trap and immediately called a timeout.
Fantauzzi then set up a play for the late Mike Beach.
“I told the kids no matter what happens everybody has to rebound because there’s no tomorrow,” Fantauzzi said.
Beach got the ball and took a jumper, which missed off the rim. That’s when Lewis, a 5-foot-8-inch point guard, followed the miss with a putback off the glass as time expired for the game-winner.
In 1980, the Blue Streaks made the transfer from the Foothills Council to the Suburban Council and were coached by Howard “Mooch” McGee, after Fantauzzi became the basketball coach at Skidmore.
Known for being a team that could run the floor and press, the Streaks tied for a share of the regular season title in that first year.
“They’re a pretty neat group of kids,” Johns said. “When someone asked me about coaching the 1980 reunion team I said, ‘You kidding me? Of course I will.’ We’ll definitely have a good time with those guys if they can still run.”
Other names from that time period include Jimmy Parker and Rick Whitney, who went on to play basketball at Alfred and Potsdam.
The June 13 matchup is sure to bring about some old laughs and memories—that goes for the coaches who will be coaching against one another for the first time.
“I always say that I gave Damian all his ideas on the bench,” Johns said. “And he’ll say, ‘Yeah, I never listened to one of them.’”
By Egan Mills
For Saratoga TODAY
BUGEMBE, UGANDA— (Editors Note): Egan Mills is a freshman at Saratoga Springs High School. In mid-February she, her mother Meg Kelly and thirty other volunteers went on a voyage to the Town of Bugembe in Uganda to work with the Aids Orphan Education Trust. She will be there until the end of this month.
Egan and the other volunteers worked on various projects including fixing up the school buildings, providing medical care and working hands-on with the children on some basic educational skills. One of Egan’s projects was teaching the children a few songs and some dancing. We asked her to share her journal. This segment covers her first four days after arriving on the African continent.
- Arthur Gonick
Monday: 2/10/14 Day 1
Today was the first full day in the compound (that is what it is called) where we will be staying for the next 17 days. This complex is located in Bugembe, Uganda. Last night, our bus pulled in and all of the children who live outside the compound were joyously shouting and waving.
This was the first moment that I realized the exceptional quality of life that I have in Saratoga Springs. Everyone in Bugembe is welcoming even though they are living in extreme poverty. They smile when you smile, they wave when you wave, and they welcome you with open arms like a close relative. In Saratoga Springs you don’t have to sit on the street and sell products to feed and support your family, we have options. We are able to turn the shower on have CLEAN, hot water at our disposal, there is no thought of having contaminated water coming out of the faucet. What a different world!
We went to several private schools that we in close proximity to us today. Hundreds of children were singing and rejoicing for what they have, which is very minimal. They are all so grateful that we are there to help them. One of the most precious moments I saw today were three small children playing with three baby goats. We watched them from the bus as we drove to the dormitories we were scheduled to paint. The painting project took approximately 4 hours because it was a large dorm, housing 150 boys. Once the paint dries, they will line the walls with bunk beds.
My schedule for tomorrow is working in the mobile clinic, which means I will be traveling around to different towns and assisting people with various medical needs.
Tuesday: 2/11/14 - Day 2
My adventure in the mobile clinic today was in a more remote and extremely rural part of Africa. It was only about 15 minutes from our compound. We worked all day doing various medical tasks. I documented medical information in the patient records while the patients were being tested for HIV. Over 180 people were tested and only about 10 tested positive for HIV. Everyone was grateful that we were there to provide him or her with some medical attention.
Our group brought over some green tennis balls for the children to play with. I enjoyed my time today playing with all the children. The ground in and around the play area is dirt and dried mud, so by the time we were done with our games, the tennis balls were orange and brown. Through the entire time of playing, we were taking pictures and they all greatly enjoyed seeing themselves on the digital camera screen.
Tomorrow’s agenda consists of teaching the children at the elementary school a song from a performance I was in. I am looking forward to it.
Wednesday: 2/12/14 - Day 3
Today was a busy day. We went to Rehoboth Primary School and I taught a class of 40 children a song and dance all by myself. The children are all so talented here and very eager to learn. They have natural rhythm and beautiful voices. I worked with the third grade class and there was a mix of ages. They all enjoyed the song. When I taught the song and dance work, I read a book to them from Dr. Seuss titled “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think.”
I enjoyed interacting with the children during the song and dance work and afterwards playing with them in the yard. We played a variety of different games. They seem to enjoy singing and moving games. The children really enjoy anything so just running around is fun for them. Tomorrow I am going back to the class to add in musical instruments such as shakers and clappers for the kids to use during the song. I’m so excited!
Thursday: 2/13/14 - Day 4
Today was so much fun! We went back to the primary school. I went to the classroom where I taught the children yesterday. They all stood up and clapped and laughed. They were so excited. I added musical instruments to the song today and handed out shakers and clappers to all the children. They loved making music and they all loved doing the song again.
At the end of the class we asked the teacher how many children there were in the class today and she said 63 children. That is 23 more than yesterday! I am going back tomorrow to do the song again with them. We will be practicing for the show will be doing. They are going to have to show the older children the song and dance they learned. In the afternoon we worked on a shoe project – handing out shoes to children who did not have any or those who need new ones. We handed out hundreds of shoes to smiling children who were very happy and thankful.
Picture: Saratoga Sponsor-A-Scholar 2013 Graduation, provided by SSAS from their website at saratogasponsorascholar.org.
By Colette Linton
SARATOGA SPRINGS - In 2007, Jim LaVigne was describing a plan for an initiative that would prepare ten Saratoga High School sophomores, who were financially in need of assistance, each year by supplying additional support and direction to help them meet their goals and enter college. By the end of that meeting, LaVigne was one of the founding board members as well as volunteer executive director of Saratoga Sponsor-A-Scholar with 36 pledges of $10, 000 over five years to get the program running.
Seven years later, 54 students have been accepted into the SSAS program and 26 students have started a college career, an opportunity many nearly dismissed as an impossibility prior to the program.
Unlike scholarships and grants, SSAS begins during a student’s sophomore year in high school and works to reinforce a base of academic achievement during the next three years by providing resources to its participants through the help of volunteer mentors, academic tutors, the program's board members and two of Saratoga High School’s guidance counselors.
"It's a local cause," LaVigne said. "It's all Saratoga Springs kids. They come back, and they add to the fabric of the community. It is not a gift to these kids. We expect them to fulfill the terms of their contract, attend the homework sessions, use tutors go on school trips be responsible, do volunteer work and just be good citizens."
If students are accepted into the program, they sign a contract to meet specific requirements during the term of the program. They are to meet with their mentor once a month, maintain their grades above 80 or attend tutoring, have a productive summer, behave in a manner consistent with the standards of SSAS, and attend mandatory weekly study skills programs. In return, SSAS dedicates $10,000 to "each scholar's enrichment" - $4,000 during their last three years of high school for supplies, study skill seminars, tutoring, PSAT and SAT training and entrance fees, seminars on the college application and scholarship process, college visits and attendance to cultural events; and $1,500 is dedicated to each scholar for each year they successfully complete in college.
The nonprofit reaches out to the population of students each year that are financially in need and qualify for federally assisted/free school lunch program. Currently, 1, 200 students in the Saratoga Springs school district are eligible for federal lunch assistance, and those that are in high school may loose sight and motivation to continue academics after graduation without outside support.
Within those 1,200 kids, there are those that are really bright, LaVigne said. "They have incentive, they have personality and everything that is needed to succeed, but they don’t have the same opportunities."
The opportunities LaVigne referred to range from discussions with parents about he possibility of attending college to extracurricular activities that could be added to a college vitae, trips to college campuses to gather a sense of the atmosphere, and paying for the fees associated with applying to college and aptitude exams.
A part of SSAS' goal is to make up for the opportunities students might otherwise miss due to a lack of finances and or resources.
"What we promise those kids (SSAS participants) is that for the last three years of high school we give them the opportunities, and we give them the tools that the other kids have and we teach them about how to get into college," LaVigne said. "They just need that precipitating factor and Sponsor-A-Scholar is that. We tell them, we show them, we convince them that they are able to do this and that they can go. They can get out with a reasonable amount of debt and that they can have a much better life."
High school junior and SSAS participant Davawn Hartz, whose interests are in acting and creative writing, said that without the SSAS program "I would definitely see myself as lost".
"I'd still have the drive, but I'd be lost," he said. "It shows you where to direct your hard work."
The program is a continuous element in the lives of SSAS students as well as coordination between the nonprofit and the school. This relationship is aided by high school counselors, Brandy Crary and Matt Nelson, who help ensure that students are maintaining their grades, that the students stay focused and they help chart the route to college.
Mentors in the program are additional supports serving as adult role models that help students identify college resources. They are also paired together to try and be a compliment to the students' skills and interests in addition to encouraging students to meet challenges and grow.
"They don't take away the obstacles," Hartz said. "They get you through them."
Mentors, like the board members, are volunteers that do many tasks that are unlimited in scope in order to strengthen the students' relationship with the community and broaden their prospects for higher education. One such relationship is between senior Becky Tibbatts and her mentor, Nedra Stimpfle. The two were paired together two and a half years ago, and they both remarked on the changes that have taken place regarding Tibbatts' outlook on college as an affordable, obtainable opportunity.
"It's hard to imaging my life without Sponsor-A-Scholar," Tibbatts said. "It has changed my life so much. I wouldn't say that I was naive, but I wouldn't put together what it took to get into college: how much tests cost. It is a lot less stressful."
"She was very shy," Stimpfle said "What the program does is create more possibility in different areas for that (personal development) to happen. She is more confident."
"Yes, definitely," Tibbatts said in response to Stimpfle's observation. "Back then, I was so scared."
The chance to have a relationship with another adult is important for the students because it is a common part of many experiences that take place in the community as well as in terms of guiding students to and trough opportunities, Stimpfle said. "And for many of these students, it's not in their picture at all."
SSAS is currently looking for mentors for next year as well as individuals interested in being future board members. The program will also host its annual event "Bowling For Scholars" in May. For more information, visit saratogasponsorascholar.org.