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SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Regional YMCA concluded the first phase of its outdoor development program by bringing adventure to our very own backyard.
Tucked into the woods on the south end of the Saratoga Regional YMCA (SRYMCA) on West Avenue is the brand new Adventure Course, which had its grand opening on June 22. The 4,340-square-foot course consists of a multiple rock-climbing walls, rope bridges, and tire bridges suspended at varying levels above the ground. Affixed to the top of the main rock wall tower structure is a zip-line, which brave participants can use to ride down to the bottom. When press and other attendees arrived for the grand opening of the course, SRYMCA Board President Alysa Arnold addressed the crowd from the top of the course before riding the zip-line down.
“Today, I am so excited that we are at the point where we have an amazing team that is well-trained, and this summer, kids and adults in our area are going to be able to experience this wonderful adventure course,” Arnold said from the top of the structure. “We have 300-plus campers this summer, and they are gonna have a lot of fun and learn a lot of life skills right on this course.”
Arnold went on to emphasize that the course was far more than just a way for kids and families to have healthy fun, but that it will also give them the opportunity to safely challenge themselves by going outside their comfort zones. Then, using herself as an example of this due to her fear of heights, she ended her speech and rode the zip-line down to a round of applause.
“This is one of those resources that helps us make sure that Saratoga is the healthiest county in all of New York State,” Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus said, introducing the course to the gathered crowd. “As well as, hopefully, the world, someday.”
The Adventure Course is just one part of the first phase of SRYMCA outdoor development initiative. Other aspects of the first phase have included an enclosed pavilion for rainy days and a traverse wall on the north side of the West Avenue location. Planning for the course began approximately three years ago, with construction taking about a year to complete, beginning with the procurement of building permits. The actual time that it took to physically construct the course was around three months. The costs for constructing the course were covered through community fundraising, according to Chief Operations Officer Kelly Armer.
“The best way children learn is through play,” Armer said. “And this is a great structure to add [for that].”
The next phase of development for SRYMCA will begin soon, with plans to build a new pool and another gym, as according to Armer, they are quickly outgrowing their current space. There is currently no set timeline for this second phase.
All photos by Thomas Kika.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – One local scholar is on his way to a bright future in the field of medicine.
Matias Kivi, a sophomore at Saratoga Springs High, has been chosen to attend the Congress of Future Medical Leaders in Lowell, Mass., from June 25-27 as a delegate from New York State. According to Kivi, only a handful of young people are selected to attend from each state. While there are a number of other delegates from N.Y., Kivi is the only one from the Saratoga County area. Dr. Robert Darling, the Medical Director of the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists, nominated Kivi for the Congress, based on his “academic achievements, leadership potential and determination to serve humanity in the field of medicine,” according to a press release from the Academy.
The aim of the congress is to motivate and direct honors-level high school students across the country that are interested in pursuing a career in medicine. Kivi’s ultimate goal is to become a cardiac surgeon, which he said is inspired by his grandmother’s recent bought with heart problems, as well as a general respect for the bravery of surgeons.
“I’m pretty excited,” Kivi said. “It’ll be a long drive down there, but I’m excited to see what’s really going to be there and all the people I’m going to meet. I’m interested to see who else is going to be there who is about my age and what they do as well.”
At the Congress, Kivi will meet with other young aspiring medical practitioners from across the country and have the opportunity to learn from industry leaders. There will be talks given by Nobel Laureates and winners of the National Medal of Science. Deans from Ivy League and other top institutions will be on hand to advise the young delegates on what to expect from medical schools. Patients said to be “living medical miracles” will be present to share their stories. There will also be opportunities for the delegates to learn about the latest advances in the fields of medicine and medical technology.
Some of the major medical leaders attending the congress include Dr. Pardis Sabeti, who used real-time DNA sequencing during the most recent outbreak of Ebola to prove that the disease spreads through humans and not animals, and Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, the first surgeon to perform a full face transplant in the United States. The delegates will also hear from Carmen Tarleton, the fifth recipient of a full face transplant in the U.S. Kivi and his fellow delegates will also have the opportunity to watch a live surgery streamed to the congress from a nearby hospital.
Kivi learned that he had been nominated for the congress by Darling last summer. As becoming a delegate for the congress was not something he sought out, it came as a pleasant surprise. Kivi noted his high mark on the Biology S.A.T., which he took last year, and his consistently high marks in high-level A.P. courses as factors beyond his interest in pursuing a medical career that might have caught Darling’s eye. Kivi is also a part of Saratoga Hospital’s “Students Sharing Opportunities and Responsibilities” (SSOAR) volunteer summer program for high school students.
Kivi has already visited and number of colleges, including Georgetown and Utah University, and will be visiting Northwestern sometime over the summer.
“I’m really proud of him doing this,” Di Kivi, Matias’s mother, said. “Because he’s worked very hard, he’s very good student, and he keeps a good balance in his life, and he deserves this. It’s well-earned.”
Photo by Thomas Kika.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Saratoga Springs Little League celebrated a season of competition on June 17 with the first-ever Adirondack Cup. Held at West Side Rec, the day-long event kicked off at 9 a.m., pitting the top-seeded teams from both the major and minor divisions of the league against their counterparts from Glens Falls Little League (GFLL). A total of 18 match-ups played out, culminating with the No. 1 seeded major and minor teams from each league facing off, which led to victories for Saratoga Springs Little League in each case.
Majors champions PBA bested their GFLL opponents, Warren Tire, with a strong 16-1. PBA was dominant from the outset, scoring six runs on Warren Tire in the first inning. Minors champions Julie and Co. bested GFLL’s Hudson River Community Credit Union, rallying back against their opponents’ early 3-point lead. Prior to the event, each team had claimed the Saratoga Little League titles in championship bouts on Thursday (Julie and Co. vs. HT Lyons) and Friday (PBA vs. Byrne Orthodontics).
Beyond the numerous match-ups, Saratoga Springs Little League went above and beyond to make the gathering feel like a proper celebration for all the young athletes in attendance. Special announcers were brought in for the games, and music was played between innings. A bounce house was also set up for the enjoyment of the children in attendance.
“This was a celebration of both leagues in their entirety,” league vice president David S. Karpinski said. “We always love to conclude our seasons with a sort of playoff type event.”
Moving on from this season, 36 out of the around 300 players from the normal leagues have been chosen to compete on the All-Stars team. Practice for this higher-level team began on June 20, and the first game will take place June 26 against Mechanicville/Stillwater.
All photos by www.photoandgraphic.com.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – On the morning of June 9, in the St. Clements Roman Catholic Church in Saratoga Springs, Saratoga Central Catholic High School held its graduation ceremony for the class of 2017, awarding diplomas to its 31 graduating seniors. This year’s valedictorian was Emma VanDeCar, while salutatorian was Paul Ruger. According to Mary Guarnieri, the school’s director of advancement, their graduating class for 2017 has already been offered over $6,425,000 in academic scholarships.
All photos by www.photoandgraphic.com.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A local film production company is bringing to life the fairy tales of old right in our very own backyard.
The newly established Trident Fantasy Films is currently in the midst of its first production, a children’s fantasy television series to be called “The Adventures of Snow White and Rose Red,” inspired by the Grimm’s Fairy Tales canon and more. The company was co-founded by Nicole Coady and husband-and-wife team Andrew Balog and Katie Spass. All three co-founders are serving as executive producers on the show, among other duties. They are aiming to release the show on Amazon Prime in early 2018.
The show will consist of seven episodes, which will range from 10-15 minutes each. Coady wrote the pilot episode, and co-wrote two other episodes. Balog is also set to direct one of the episodes. Each episode will consist of sisters Snow White and Rose Red going on adventures with other popular “fairy tale friends,” including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Lewis Caroll’s Alice. The show’s producers hope that it will teach its young audience a variety of wholesome life lessons, as well as inspire them to seek out and read the classic fairy tales from which its characters are derived.
“We really tried to go back to the original Grimm’s text and pull from there, and say, if Snow White and Rose Red were to really run into [for example] Little Red Riding Hood, what would happen?” Coady said about the show’s creative ambitions.
Coady, who is acting as showrunner and creator for the series, compared the feel they hope to achieve with the series to Disney’s 2015 live-action “Cinderella” with Lily James, while producer Spass said that the show’s intended demographic includes children ages 4-9. While the series is aiming young, Coady said that they hope the enduring popularity of the characters would make it popular with older kids as well.
The series’ titular fairy tale heroines will be played by real life sisters, Demetra and Callista Zorbas, 14 and 17, respectively, of Colonie. Callista, portraying Rose Red, has been performing since age 3, and has been involved in a number of plays and short films. Demetra, portraying Snow White, has also been performing for a while, but until now she has mostly been an extra in things alongside her older sister. This series marks the biggest undertaking for the two of them.
“It’s been really fun,” Callista Zorbas said. “This is like our dream come true.”
Production on the series began on June 12, and is set to wrap on July 1. When press were invited to visit the set on June 14, the cast and crew were shooting scenes in the gardens behind the Surrey Williamson Inn, across from the entrance to Skidmore College. Spass described the isolated location as a “hidden treasure” in the area, with stonework perfect for a fantasy project. The episode being filmed involved the characters meeting Rapunzel, portrayed by Madeline Balta, 16, of Greenville. Balta has previously worked with Coady on an adaption of the Brothers Grimm’s “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” Coady described the moral of this particular episode as learning to share. Other planned shooting locations for the series include Galway and Moreau State Park.
Coady currently resides in Ballston Spa, having moved to the area from Los Angeles after spending time close to Hollywood building her career in film. She is originally from New York City. Balog and Spass have both lived in the area for most of their lives, with Balog hailing from Vermont originally, and Spass having moved here at age 5. Prior to the creation of Trident Fantasy Films, Balog founded Logs Leisure Entertainment, a company focused on providing digital releases for various film projects on platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Google Play, and more. Balog also produced a pilot last year for Amazon called “Solitude,” which he also directed. The rest of the series is scheduled to begin production in Aug. It will, like “The Adventures of Snow White and Rose Red,” be filmed locally.
All photos by Thomas Kika.
Dozens of Saratoga County residents spoke out at Ballston Spa’s Board of Education meeting Wednesday against a controversial online lesson plan that has been linked to the Ballston Spa school district.
The lesson plan, titled “Dying to be a Martyr,” allegedly takes what opponents feel is a sympathetic view towards radical suicide bombers.
“These biased global history lessons are not educational. Our local schools, public schools, are intentionally indoctrinating our youth,” said Renee Murtens of Ballston Spa. “Being sympathetic to any terrorist group, any religion...does not constitute education, nor does it belong in our high schools.”
Word of the plan reached Saratoga County when an article on conservative news site theBlaze.com revealed a Ballston Spa history teacher to be its author. However, school officials say the plan has never been taught.
“It’s about fourteen years old,” Ballston Spa Superintendent Joe Dragone said. “It has never been taught. And we stand by that.”
The plan was created over ten years ago for PBS’s LearningMedia program, which provides over 100,000 free educational resources for teachers and students, and it is still available on the website. It had been relatively unknown until it was dredged up in April.
The lesson plan uses multimedia pieces to “examine the roots of the conflict in the Middle East,” including interviews with individuals linked to suicide bombings.
Many of the meeting’s speakers commented on the apparent lack balance in the history curriculum. Kate Thimineur of Ballston Spa first grew concerned when she flipped through her daughter’s ninth-grade history textbook two years ago.
“I looked into her history book and I noticed that there were 15 pages on Islam and five pages on Christianity and Judaism,” she said. “I asked if that was going to be corrected within the classroom. Long story short, it wasn’t.”
Thimineur requested to observe a class’s lesson on the creation of the state of Israel, but she said she was referred to a different class.
“As I understand it, Mrs. Thimineur has been in the classroom a number of times,” Board of Education President Kevin Schaefer said. “We try not to let parents into the classroom this late in the year when the kids are prepping for regents and end of the year finals.”
Thimineur has expressed her concerns to the board multiple times, she said. The board responded in a letter, writing that though she could discuss other issues, further public comment on the topic would be limited to avoid “rehashing the same issue.”
Other speakers shifted focus to Christianity. Schenectady resident Earl Wallace is a pastor at Liberty Christian Fellowship Church and a former teacher at Saratoga Springs high school. Though the lesson is not taught, Wallace suggested a solution for the speakers’ complaints.
“I teach a course called the Biblical Basis of the Bill of Rights,” Wallace said. “I have programs designed to teach children that which we have suppressed in our society. Our society has become more brutal, more hateful.”
The board plans to respond formally to the torrent of comments. Though they often respond only to specific questions, the board feels reciprocal action is appropriate to resolve some of the confusion around this particular issue.
“The reality is it’s never been taught,” Dragone said. “There’s nothing of that nature going on.”
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SCHUYLERVILLE – One local student will soon be off to D.C. for the opportunity of her high school career.
Freya Birkas-Dent, a junior at Schuylerville High School, will begin a three-week position in the competitive and prestigious United States Senate Page program on June 11, which will run until June 30. Birkas-Dent will be sponsored by N.Y. Senator Chuck Schumer, and was one of only 30 students from across the country selected for the program.
Her responsibilities during these three weeks will include administrative tasks, such as filing paperwork and delivering documents and mail between offices. The program will also involve time in the Senate Chamber, during which pages will be responsible for arranging papers at each seat and holding doors, according to Birkas-Dent. She will also be attending page school, to “l earn about parliamentary procedure and the legislative process,” according to the Schuylerville schools website.
Birkas-Dent first became aware of the Senate page position while reading a book written by former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, in which he references pages as the people who perform various administrative tasks for the Senate. This interested her, and she began researching the position by visiting the websites of some of her Senators.
She first got in touch with the offices of N.Y. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, inquiring about page positions for the spring or fall, as she initially wanted to apply for one that would happen during the school year. Finding that neither Senator had available positions for those sessions, she applied to a number of Senators from different states, including Susan Collins of Maine and Claire McCaskill of Mo. This too failed to yield fruitful results, as she said that Senators prefer to sponsor pages from their own constituencies. Finally, Senator Schumer came through with a page position for the summer, which she accepted.
“I’m really interested in going into international relations or into government,” Birkas-Dent said about what inspired her to pursue a position like this. “We learn about this kind of stuff in the classroom, but you really don’t have a tangible experience with it. It’s kind of shrouded in secrecy what actually goes on there, so I don’t feel like I have a good understanding of exactly how it runs on a day-to-day basis.”
Birkas-Dent believes this position will give her the sort of understanding of the legislative process necessary for her to decide if it is a career path that she would like to follow. Some of the careers she has considered for herself include elected official, diplomat, or possibly working with a non-profit doing international relations work. Whatever career she ends up pursuing, she knows that she would like to go into the Peace Corps after college.
“I think the U.N. [United Nations] would be really interesting to be in,” Birkas-Dent said. “But I think it’s hard to get into as an American. So I’ve kind of branched out.”
Back at home, Birkas-Dent is involved with a number of groups and programs focused on environmental preservation. She is the president of the high school’s Environmental Club, and works with the Hudson River Community Advisory Group, which works on various things including dredging and floodplain sampling. She is also the captain of her school’s Climate Leadership Team, and with that group recently attended the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit. While environmental issues are important to her, she said that were she to get involved with politics in the future, they would likely be a side issue for her and not a core part of her hypothetical platform, given the divisive conversation surrounding such issues.
“I’m very excited,” Birkas-Dent said about beginning her new position. “I’m excited to meet people from all over the country. It’s a little bit nerve-wracking cause we don’t know yet what we’ll be doing exactly, but I think it’ll be a good experience and I’m really looking forward to it.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Blue Streak history was made at the recent Section II boys tennis tournament.
Entering the competition on May 24 as the No. 1 seeded doubles team, senior David Romano and eighth-grader Nick Grosso went all the way, finally besting the team of Govind Chari and Shamanth Murundi of Bethlehem to become the Section II doubles champions. Capping off an exceptional 18-0 season for the Saratoga Tennis program, Romano and Grosso helped bring home the program’s first ever doubles title. This comes off of the program taking its first-ever sectional team title in 2016. From this win, they will move on to compete in the State-level competition at Flushing Meadows, the same site as the US Open.
Both Romano and Grosso have been in the Saratoga Tennis program since their seventh grade years. This was their first year working together as a doubles team. As a senior and an eighth grader, they are working with an age-disparity that they say is very much not common in varsity tennis.
“I’ve never seen it, in my six years,” Romano said about the age gap. “It works out, cause we both know and respect each other’s games a lot, and he’s one of the hardest workers that I’ve known, and I think together we make a great team.”
“Seeing David out on the court when I was little, you know, it just kept me moving,” Grosso said. “Kept me going, kept me trying every day to be a player like him some day. I think that’s what kept me going, and that’s where I’m at right now.”
Coach Tim O’Brien singled-out the team’s ability to communicate on the court as one of the reasons that they have been so successful. Romano attributes this to their knowledge of each other’s styles, including their strengths and weaknesses on the court, allowing them to cover for each other fairly quickly.
“There have been plenty of times when I shouted for help and he was right there,” Romano said.
Romano will be attending Brown University in the fall after graduating. While there is a very strong tennis team at Brown, Romano was hesitant to say that he would be up to the task of making the team. He does, however, intend to offer his services to help the team in whatever way he is able. Grosso, meanwhile, will be moving up from middle school to high school in the fall, and is not feeling too much pressure about it. Given his experience with high schoolers during his two seasons on the tennis team, he feels confident in his ability to make the transition smoothly. If anything, he expects the change to do wonders for his game.
Elsewhere at the Section II championships, singles players Seungmin Kim and Max Lee made it to the quarterfinals.
“The key to it I think has just been having a foundation of great kids and leaders, on the court and off the court,” O’Brien said about what has made this season’s team so dominant. “It begins with them.”
Photos by Photoandgraphic.com.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The upcoming Golf Classic and Par-Tee fundraiser event on June 5 is more than just a good deed for a good cause for some of those involved with it. For them, it is also a deeply personal endeavor.
Gathered in the back of a local coffee shop for their usual meeting, several women involved in organizing the upcoming golf fundraiser talked about how the event’s mission to help find a cure for Type-1 diabetes has touched their lives, whether it be that they have lived with the disease themselves, have children with it, or both. Funds raised from the event will go to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund, which helps to fund research into the treatment of Type-1 diabetes.
Type-1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune disorder that hinders the production of insulin in the body. Its causes are unknown, although a family history of the disease is known to increase one’s risk of developing it. It is important to note its differences from Type-2 diabetes, a metabolic disorder caused by poor diet and lack of exercise. Due to the fact that Type-2 accounts for around 90-percent of diabetes cases, public perception can often be that it is the only form of the disease, which is a source of great frustration for those who develop Type-1 through no fault of their dietary or lifestyle choices.
For Joyce Ure, Denise Nicastro, and Karen Larkin, the attachment is through their children, who all live with the disease. When Ure’s son began exhibiting symptoms consistent with Type-1 when he was eight, she thought it could not be true due the lack of history with the disease, but after he was taken to Albany Medical and found to have a blood sugar of 680, the diagnosis was clear. For Ure, the hope for the event is that it will also help spread awareness for the symptoms of the disease. Nicastro’s daughter was diagnosed early in life and is now a student in college. With her daughter so far away most times of the year, it leaves her with a lot of anxiety.
Larkin’s son was diagnosed when he was six, and has lived with the disease for the last four years. Over those years, she has noticed definite improvements in the technology for treating and monitoring diabetic symptoms, a sentiment supported by everyone at the table. A few of them mentioned apps on their phones and watches that allow them to monitor their children’s blood sugar levels at all times anywhere. These technologies were not around only a few years ago, they said, and developments like these show the benefits of raising money for organizations like the JDRF.
For Ellen Brodie, Type-1 is just about her entire life, as both she and her two children are living with the disease.
“My personal attachment is my life, and its my kids’ lives,” Brodie said. “That’s about as personal as it gets.”
The Golf Classic and Par-Tee will be held at Saratoga National Golf Club on June 5, starting at 11:30 a.m. For the first time this year, the Golf Classic and Par-Tee events will be combined into one event, as opposed to years prior when they were separate affairs. The organizers estimated that the two separate events in the past have raised over $200,000 a year for the JDRF. More information about the event can be found online at www.jdrf.org/neny/events/hoffman-car-wash-hoffman-jiffy-lube-golf-classic-and-par-tee/#event-details.
BALLSTON SPA – The second annual Scotties Stampede was another success for the Ballston Spa Central School District. Held on May 20, the 5K race and fundraiser brought in over 200 participants. While an exact figure is not yet available, race director Madeleine Petraglia estimates that several thousand dollars were raised at the event.
Proceeds from the race will go to support the Ballston Spa Partnership for Innovation in Education Fund, a part of the larger Community Foundation for a Greater Capital Region. Some of the programs that the fund supports include Sponsor-A-Scholar, the robotics club, “Performing & Fine Arts” programs, STEM enrichment initiatives, and the Clean Technologies & Sustainable Industries Early College High School. Many of these programs are key reasons why Ballston Spa Central School District has recently been highlighted as featuring one of the best high schools in the nation, being ranked 1,374 out of 22,000 schools by the US News & World Report’s Best High Schools list.
This year’s top three male finishers were Joey Vesic, 16, of Malta – who finished first overall across the entire race – Tyson Evensen, 35, of Saratoga Springs, and Vincent Mascardi III, 15, of Malta. The top three female finishers were Gabby Schreffer, 23, of Betnal, Dana Wiwczar, 41, of Malta, and Katherine Quinn, 20, of Niskayuna. Full race results can be found online at www.albanyrunningexchange.org.
Additionally at the event, the Ballston Spa Teachers Association distributed over 1,200 free books to attendees through their Book Bonanza program. This brings the total number of books the group has distributed over the course of 2017 to over 9,500.
The third annual Scotties Stampede is tentatively scheduled for May 19, 2018.
All photos by www.photoandgraphic.com.