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SARATOGA COUNTY — Cindy Hollowood was recently named Co-Executive Director of Saratoga Sponsor-A-Scholar (SSAS), current Executive Director Jim LaVigne announced. Hollowood will serve alongside LaVigne for one year before becoming the new Executive Director. LaVigne will continue with the organization as a board member concentrating on program development and fundraising.

“This is a bittersweet decision for me, but I believe it’s time.  The past 13 years have been wonderful, and I have loved every aspect of this job, but I needed to put a succession plan in place.  For the past three years, the board has discussed finding a suitable replacement, and we’ve spent countless hours reviewing the key requirements of the position and potential candidates,”
LaVigne explained.

Hollowood said the she has been impressed with the work of SASS since they first began.

“Anything we can do as a community to help deserving students overcome the barriers that prevent them from getting a college education, we should do. The program has done a remarkable job. There are participants of the SASS program succeeding in high school, college and in life because of the effort and commitment of the program’s board, mentors and volunteers.  These young people will change the world, and they have the program to thank for that. I am humbled and very happy that Jim and the SASS board think I can continue to grow what they have so successfully nurtured for these 13 years,” she said. 

Hollowood just finished a 38-year career as Managing Partner of the Saratoga Holiday Inn. While at the Holiday Inn, Hollowood served in a variety of leadership roles in the community and the hospitality industry. Her community involvement includes serving on the Saratoga Springs Zoning Board, the Special Assessment District, the boards of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, Saratoga Economic Development Corporation, Hudson Valley Community College Foundation and the Saratoga Race Course Community Advisory Committee. She was a founding member and three-time chair of the board of the Saratoga Convention Bureau and Chaired the New York State Hospitality and Tourism Association, the Saratoga America Red Cross and the Saratoga Next Step Downtown Redevelopment Committee. 

Saratoga Sponsor-A-Scholar’s ninth class graduated from Saratoga Springs High School in 2019.  All 84 graduates have been accepted into college.  For more information go to the Saratoga Sponsor A Scholar website: www.saratogasponsorascholar.org   

Published in Education

SARATOGA SPRINGS – A group of local students recently took a break from esoteric calculus and SAT prep to learn some more practical real world skills.

The Saratoga-Sponsor-A-Scholar program decided to do something a little different for its yearly feedback session, during which they find out what their senior students like and dislike about the program for the sake of future improvements.  Responding to a complaint that has been common from students over the years that they did not learn enough about handling certain social situations, Mary Gavin and Kristie Roohan organized an “etiquette dinner” that would help their students learn to be more comfortable in such situations, in addition to giving them an opportunity to give their feedback on the program. 

Held at Sperry’s Restaurant in downtown Saratoga Springs, part of the goal of the dinner was to teach the students about restaurant etiquette, including using menus, how to order, which utensils to use, among a variety of other things.  Beyond all of that, the broader goal of the night was help the students learn to feel comfortable in social situations that might take place in environments similar to Sperry’s, whether they be meetings, interviews, parties, or any other similar sort of occasion. 

“It was so much better than we could’ve expected,” Mary Gavin said of the dinner.  “They loved it.” 

Students were encouraged to ask any questions they had about anything during the night, and they asked plenty, as many of them had never had experience with restaurants like Sperry’s before.  According to Gavin, questions ranged from wanting to know about certain menu items that they had never heard of, to asking if it was okay to ask to take their leftovers home.  To their credit, Gavin said that the wait staff at Sperry’s were courteous and grateful throughout the night, helping students with anything and everything they needed or wanted to know about.

The dinner also gave the program organizers their annual opportunity to solicit feedback about the program from the outgoing senior students.  According to Gavin, students expressed their satisfaction with the program as a whole, in particular with the mentors that they have been working with, while also expressing dissatisfaction with their mentors’ tendency to be gone certain days on official business, leaving them without guidance.  Gavin said that they will be taking that latter criticism into account moving forward.

Saratoga-Sponsor-A-Scholar is a ten-year-old not-for-profit program that works with “financially-disadvantaged” students in the Saratoga Springs school system by assigning them mentors who help them to finish high school and prepare for college.  Many of the students in the program end up being the first in their families to enter college, according to Gavin.

Ultimately, Gavin said that one thing stood out to her the most as a sign that the night had been a success.

“I think the highlight was we didn’t see a single cell phone the entire night,” Gavin said.

What do you think of SSAS's etiquette dinner idea?  Should more school program's teach practical social skills?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

All photos in this story are by PhotoAndGraphic.com.

Published in Education