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SARATOGA SPRINGS – A crowd of cheering friends and families filled the bleachers in the Saratoga Springs High School’s blue gym as 14 young athletes embraced their futures.
In a special ceremony held on April 12, the Saratoga Springs City School District honored 14 senior athletes as they signed their letters of intent to play inter-collegiate athletics at the universities of their choice in the fall. Athletic director Peter Sheehan addressed the attended crowd – which included other student athletes allowed to attend before their various practices and meets by their coaches – before the actual signings, thanking them for their attendance and congratulating the athletes on their achievements.
“We are so very proud of each and every one of you, and of the time and effort you’ve put in to make this day possible,” Sheehan said.
The athletes honored at the ceremony were, in the order they were seated at the table from left to right: Sarah Winters, who will play field hockey at Skidmore College; Francesca Mangino, who will play lacrosse at SUNY Brockport; Cameron Parry, who will play lacrosse at Quinnipiac University; Emily Fischer, who will play lacrosse at Clarkson University; Tucker Pierce, who will play lacrosse at Westminster College; Elizabeth Maguire, who will play soccer at Le Moyne College; Gabe Olsen, who will play soccer at Mount Ida College; Daniel Varsames, who will play soccer at Utica College; Michael Moran, who will also play soccer at Utica College; Autumn Boxley, who will swim at George Mason University; Victoria Breslin, who will swim at Le Moyne College; Morgan Hoffman-Smith, who will swim at Ithaca College; Nick Cavotta, who will run track and field at Winthrop University; and Mary “Mimi” Liebers, who will run track & field at the College of the Holy Cross. Griffin Taylor, who will play lacrosse at SUNY Oneonta, was not present at the ceremony due to attending a meet at his soon-to-be school, but he was mentioned by Sheehan and was present on the list of athletes at the ceremony.
“I just loved the campus as soon as I stepped on campus,” Parry said about her choice of Quinnipiac. “I knew that that was the place for me. The coaching staff was just really welcoming, and all the girls on the team were super welcoming, and I just really got a good feel for the team and for the… kind of program that I’d be going to.”
“I’m very excited,” Liebers said about attending Holy Cross in the fall. “I’ve always known I wanted to do college sports, and track has been my main sport for five years now. So getting to continue track in college is a dream come true… I wanted a D-1 program, but I particularly liked the Patriot League. And I just loved the school, and I knew I needed to see myself at the school without track, so it all just fell into place.”
“I was looking at schools in the south, and I found Winthrop, it has my major in business and a minor in sports marketing, which is just awesome for me,” Cavotta said about his choice of Winthrop. “It’s a beautiful school. It’s down south, lot of warm weather. Not a huge school, which I like, so I can get some more individual time with my professors. It just has everything I could look for in a college.”
“Super proud,” Cavotta’s mother said about her son’s achievement. “I like the school. Like he said, it’s a nice small school, homey, they focus on academics and education, and parent involvement.”
Notably, two of the athletes at the ceremony, Varsames and Moran, will be playing the same sport, soccer, at Utica. This is fitting, as they have been close friends for years.
“That’ll help a lot,” Varsames said about attending school with someone he is so familiar with. “We both know how each other plays. It’ll help team chemistry, obviously. We’re best friends, so it’ll be fun… [We’ve been playing together since we were] probably like around 10, 12 maybe.”
“I think we have an outstanding group of coaches, we have very supportive parents who allow our student athletes to have opportunities, both in-school and out-of-school, that kinda give them a chance to compete at the collegiate level,” Sheehan said about the SSCSD athletics program. “I think that’s important to have that year-round commitment and to have those year-round opportunities.”
All photos by Thomas Kika.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Code Blue Saratoga Emergency Shelter’s annual “Blue Needs You” 8K run and expo took off through the streets of Saratoga Springs last weekend, and the results were all that the organization had hoped for.
Each year since beginning the 8K run event, Code Blue, a local emergency shelter for the homeless, sets a budget-level for the year going forward with the hope that the funds raised at the event will match or exceed it. This year, the proposed budget was $40,000, which the Blue Needs You event raised almost exactly, according to executive director Michael Finocchi.
“We were right on target,” Finocchi said.
This budget was up slightly from previous years’ races. Despite raising a larger amount, this year’s run saw fewer runners, 470, compared to last year, though still significantly higher than the first year. Finocchi and other at Code Blue say that this lower attendance may be due to other runs that were being held at the same time. This had not been the case in previous years.
This year’s run started out from High Rock Park in downtown Saratoga Springs. From there, runners took Lake Avenue for a ways, crossing up and down a number of side streets before ending up on East Avenue. From East, the runners went all the way to Excelsior Avenue where they took a right, following the street all the way through a loop it makes near the Residence Inn near the Northway. Coming back down Excelsior, they turned onto Excelsior Spring Avenue briefly, and then turned once more onto the Spring Run Trail. Following this trail all the way back down to East, they once again returned to High Rock where the run concluded.
Code Blue is a shelter that provides emergency housing for the homeless during severe winter weather conditions, such as when the temperature drops below freezing or when more than 10-inches of snowfall is predicted. Code Blue also works to transition its residents to more stable living situations, including apartments or rehab services.
“It was very reassuring when you’re down there and you see how many people care about those we help,” Finocchi said.
All photos by Photoandgraphic.com.
Who: Matt McCabe.
Where: Saratoga Guitar, 480 Broadway.
Q. When did you first come to Saratoga Springs.
April of ’94, and I opened the store in June.
Q. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the city in that time?
A. In the last 23 years there have been quite a few changes in the landscape with the high-rises, the condominiums and more storefronts. It’s a city on the move. It’s growing. I don’t think it’s as rampant as some might think. It’s a small city, so the changes are more amplified but the image is there because of the success of downtown.
Q. What are you doing today?
A. Re-stringing guitars, trying to pay bills.
Q. Do you still play guitar and sing on stage?
A. I still do with whoever will have me. I play at the Olde Bryan Inn during racing season with some guitar compadres, and throughout the year I do a host of other concerts, benefits and gigs as they arise.
Q. What brush have you had with fame?
A. Being the business this is and with the bands touring through the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and attend a lot of concerts, go backstage and meet many of the artists. You get the occasional celebrity coming to town on their own R&R who stumble in. I remember Sam Shepard the actor coming in. He was very nice.
Q. What did you want to be when you were a kid?
A. A veterinarian. That was all I ever thought of being. That and a baseball player. Everything else happened by accident.
Q. You were city Commissioner of Finance for Four Years. Do you miss it?
A. I love being able to serve the public, but the vacuum gets filled immediately. When you’re in, you’re in. When you’re out, you’re out. And life fills up, so I have that time to miss it. I certainly look back on it fondly. It was a challenge, but it I did my best and I thoroughly enjoyed working for the people of Saratoga Springs.
Workshop Set for Affordable Housing Ordinance
A City Council workshop on the much-debated SPA Housing Ordinance will take place at 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 4 at City Hall, Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen announced this week. The ordinance, if approved, would have a citywide effect on future development.
A New Home for Retired Police Horse Jupiter
The council authorized an agreement - at no cost to the city - to allow the transfer of retired police horse Jupiter to police officer Aaron Moore, who will care for “my fellow officer and partner as he transitions into retirement after serving our community.” Jupiter, who is 24, will be transferred to Ballston Lake, “where he will be well taken care of by my wife and myself,” Moore wrote, in a letter read to the council by Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen.
Council Gives Thumbs-Up to Pitney Meadows Community Farm PUD
The council unanimously accepted a SEQRA Determination and approved the proposed Pitney Meadows Community Farm PUD - reporting that the project will not have a significant adverse impact on the environment. The PUD, or Planned Unit Development, was sought for the development of a 35,000+ square foot agricultural center at the Pitney Meadows Farm, on West Avenue. The center will sit on a small non-farming portion of the land.
Projects slated to begin later this year include the development of the community gardens, the children’s greenhouse, gardens, and some trails and the renovation and repurposing of 11 historic buildings currently on the farm.
Last November, the council approved the $1.165 million city purchase of the development rights of the 166-acre Pitney Farm, to ensure the farm land remains a farm in perpetuity.
City Approves Purchase of Lands Adjacent to Loughberry Lake
The City Council unanimously approved the city’s purchase of two parcels of land, amounting to just over two acres, adjacent to Loughberry Lake. The parcels are just north of state Route 50 and will be purchased from Krista and Jason Tommell for $135,000 in Open Space Bond Funds. As well, $5,000 was approved for expenses associated with the purchase.
Should Loughberry Lake no longer be used as a reservoir in the future, the parcel could potentially serve as a pocket park with access to the waterfront for active or passive recreation.
Learn How to Grieve Your Assessment
A Grievance Class will be held 5:30 p.m. on May 9 at City Hall, Accounts Commissioner John Franck announced this week.
Grievance Day in Saratoga Springs is Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Grievance board members will be hearing grievances from 9 a.m. – noon; 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. Residents can choose morning, afternoon or evening sessions and must submit completed application and documentation to the Assessment Office in order to be scheduled for a time. Applications will be available after May 1.
The Planning Board will hold a workshop at 5 p.m. on Monday, April 24 and a full meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 27 at City Hall.
The Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 27 at City Hall.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The twins are 13 now, the effort to fulfill their special needs a continuing work-in-progress.
“I have to say my boys have some difficult challenges, but they’re hard workers and every day they make progress, every day they learn,” explains the boys’ mother, Kristin Howarth. “It’s not a sprint, but a marathon. You just keep pushing and keep teaching and keep helping them make those milestones.”
A little over a decade ago, Howarth and her husband relocated to upstate New York. The twins were about 18 months old when The Howarths noticed the boys seemed delayed in meeting some of their developmental milestones.
“We started a music program with the boys when they were just over a year. We looked around at the group and saw what the other kids were doing and what my kids weren’t,” Howarth recalled. “At around a year old there’s a certain number of words that a typically-developing child will say, that our guys were not saying. It made me ask some questions. It was a significant factor that made us speak out and have discussions with our pediatrician,” Howarth says.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened for general development using standardized, validated tools at 9, 18, and 24 or 30 months and for autism at 18 and 24 months, or whenever a parent or provider has a concern.
By their first birthday, a child will typically say “mama” and “dada” and voice exclamations like “uh-oh!” as well as trying to repeat words they hear from their parents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC’s milestones checklist may downloaded here: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/pdf/checklists/all_checklists.pdf.
An early intervention therapist was sent to work with the family, visiting the home four days a week over the next six months, after which Gavin and Noah were diagnosed with autism, also called autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
“When you do hear it, it’s a blow and all of these things you picture as a parent come crashing down: Will my children ever play sports? Will they have friends and go to the prom? Will they drive? will they get married?” she wondered. “There’s no welcoming committee when your child is diagnosed with autism. No one comes and knocks on your door to say: Here are some things that you can do; Here’s a go-to guide. You basically leave the doctor’s office after that diagnosis and you think: What do I do now?”
The CDC estimates that 1 in 68 children, in multiple communities in the United States, has been identified with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD - roughly 30 percent higher than estimates previously reported in 2012. The data also show that ASD is almost five times more common among boys than girls.
Howarth searched the Internet, but answers were hard to come by a decade ago. “They were diagnosed at just over two years of age and it quickly became pretty obvious to us that there weren’t a lot of resources in our area, short of traveling down to Albany,” she says. “It was a challenge because we live up in Queensbury. We figured, why can’t we create it? So, we did.”
Gavin and Noah were the driving force behind the creation of Upstate NY Autism Alliance (UNYAA). The organization provides resources, education, recreation and advocacy services. Howarth provides advocacy, program development, consulting and education through the group.
“It was a very emotional time and that was also one of the factors in starting the group. We wanted to give children as many opportunities as we could, just like their typically developing peers, because they’re kids first. Autism is secondary.”
Howarth’s group is comprised of volunteers who help connect parents with children diagnosed with autism, with resources. “We also provide activities every month so parents can get together with their children and talk to other families and meet other people in their school district - families involved in the group, somebody they can feel comfortable talking with,” says Howarth, who adds that she has also accessed valuable services from Saratoga Bridges. “They have some wonderful things that provide services for families such as ours.”
UNYAA and Saratoga Bridges are teaming up to co-host this weekend’s Autism Expo at the Saratoga Springs City Center. The family event will feature more than 85 vendors and exhibitors, a variety of activities and games, arts and crafts, and sensory toys for kids. More than 1,000 people are expected to attend Sunday’s expo.
“It’s an amazing event under one roof. We have all these resources for families who can talk to different vendors, providers, and people who offer different services for kids in the spectrum,” Howarth says.
ASD is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.
“They have to be taught in a different way and broken down into simple steps. People don’t really understand what autism is, but really, it’s just that their brains are wired differently. They don’t learn the way we do, or they may not interpret things the way we do,” Howarth says.
All of the causes of ASD are not known. There may be many different factors that make a child more likely to have an ASD, including environmental and genetic factors.
“They look typical, but they don’t process information – both incoming and outgoing – so it can be a challenge for them to just pick up those social cues like another child might.”
The sixth annual Autism Expo will be held noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 23 at the Saratoga Springs City Center. The event is free and features exhibitors from camps, school programs pre-k through college, technological apps for autism, recreation and therapeutic programs, a bounce house and arts and crafts.
Upstate NY Autism Alliance (UNYAA) is a not-for-profit alliance formed by dedicated parents of children experiencing the affects of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). For more information, go to: http://www.upstatenyautism.org/. Saratoga Bridges has provided programs to people with disabilities and their families for more than 60 years. For more information, go to: http://www.saratogabridges.org/.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Several plans are currently being considered to address the city’s push to help local workers retain city residences. Workforce housing specifically is a gap Mayor Joanne Yepsen has identified as a primary need to be filled.
Site plans are anticipated to be in place by early-to-mid May for the development of more than 100 workforce housing units on a near five-acre parcel of land on South Broadway, according to a report by the city’s Affordable Housing Task Force, which held its monthly meeting at City Hall this week.
The proposal calls for the development of 120 one and two-bedroom units with a rent structure of 60 to 100 percent AMI - a $50,400 to $84,000 range - while 14 units would be offered at a “fair-market rent” to military veterans. AMI, or the Area Median Income for a family of four in Saratoga County is about $84,000, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Saratoga Diner, which closed in 2012 and occupies the land, will be razed. The owner of the property – who plans to lease the land – has indicated that the horse atop the diner will be salvaged and likely remain with his family.
An Orlando, Florida based developer involved in the project has created local partnerships to help facilitate the project. “I think it’s going to be a stunning design,” Mayor Yepsen said. The South Broadway scheme will include a retail business component.
Housing Units Slated for Stonequist, Jefferson Terrace
A Request for Proposal, or RFP, is expected to be issued shortly regarding two other projects that could site 110 additional “affordable” units. Eighty of those units are expected to be developed adjacent to the Stonequist apartments, projected at 40 to 100 percent of AMI, with another 30 units at the former site of the William H. Ford Community Center, at Jefferson Terrace. Both are under the ownership of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority. The latter site will feature eight housing units reserved for military veterans, eight units for victims of domestic violence, and are based on 30 percent of income, in which vouchers may be used.
West Side Plan Calls for 10 New Buildings
Two potential west side projects seek to collectively site 10 new buildings, a five-story hotel, more than 400 residential units and nearly 30,000 square feet of retail space adjacent to the Saratoga Springs train station. Residences would include 114 units dedicated for senior housing, 66 units for senior assisted care, and 160 apartment units which seemingly would fall under the “workforce” or “affordable” housing category. Seventy-two residential for-sale condominiums, a retail business component, and a new five-story hotel and spa would also be part of the project.
City-Wide Affordable Housing Ordinance Vote Slated for May
Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen remains hopeful the City Council will vote in May on an Inclusionary Zoning ordinance that would have all new housing developments and apartment complexes across the city include as much as 20 percent of those units deemed affordable to people with lower to moderate incomes.
The city Affordable Housing Task Force has advocated for the SPA Housing Zoning plan, and would integrate persons of all income levels across the city ,said Task Force Chairwoman Cheryl Hage-Perez.The proposal has met disapproval, however, from some local groups who indicate they would rather see “site-specific” programs – such as the South Broadway plan. Such a plan sites those seeking affordable housing in one place. Some builders have also expressed concern that while the ordinance would allow them a 20 percent density bonus in construction to make the project financially viable, city zoning restrictions would hamper any such extended development, and are requesting zoning regulations also be increased by 20 percent to aid structural development. A City Hall workshop will be scheduled regarding the ordinance, although a date has yet to be set.
Code Blue Permanent Shelter Moves Closer to Nov. 1 Opening
Plans for a permanent Code Blue emergency homeless shelter, which would operate during cold-extreme weather months, cleared its first hurdle at the city Land Use boards this week when the Zoning Board of Appeals approved that the project move forward.
Plans call for the 6,400 square-foot site to be built as an addition to existing Shelters of Saratoga properties on Walworth Street. Officials said this week they are targeting a Nov. 1 opening for the 61-bed facility. Should that timeline not be met, the possibility exists Code Blue may continue to operate at the Soul Saving Station on Henry Street where it is currently located. Last February, local business owner Ed Mitzen and his wife Lisa announced they will pay for the costs for the new shelter to be built. The plan was slated to go in front of the city Planning Board on Thursday, April 13.
The City Council will hold a pre-agenda meeting 9:30 a.m. Monday April 17, and a full council meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 18 at City Hall.
The Design Review Commission will hold a meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 19 at City Hall.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – They first began to appear on the front of buildings in the city a year or two ago. More recently, structures in areas of high visibility – South Broadway, Henry Street, and Van Dam Street, among them – have been adorned with a square placard marked with a red-letter “X.”
The signs, which grace the faces of approximately 40 buildings in the city, are used by fire and emergency service crews as a “do not enter” alert and indicate the building is structurally unsound or hazardous to safety in some way, explains Saratoga Springs Fire Department Lt. Aaron Dyer.
Building inspections are conducted annually and the placards are periodically added removed as is determined structurally.
Mostly, the red-letter X placard represents an abandoned or vacant structure; if by chance someone is inside during a fire – such as a homeowner conducting repairs or someone trespassing on the property - a decision is made by a member of the command staff about whether to enter the facility, Dyer said. Otherwise, the blaze is battled from the outside the building and any neighboring structures are protected from exposure to flames.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Galloping up and down the emptied corn filed behind Pitney Meadows Community Farm, “Claude’s Alley Cat” begins its preparation for the 2017 racing scene in earnest with some gentle exercises. Before long, the two-year-old stallion will move onto the Oklahoma Training Track, across the street from the Saratoga Race Course, to begin more intense training.
For trainer Melvin Winney, Claude’s Alley Cat, named in memory of his late father, looks to make his return to the horse racing business a successful one. Running his first winning horse back in 1996 with “David Parson,” Winney went on to run eight winning horses during his career, including “Back Door Deal” and “Ms. Will a Way.” Now, after five years away from the business, he sees the potential for victory in his latest horse.
“He’s been doing everything right from day one,” Winney said. “He broke easily, quietly.”
Winney’s new horse was sired by celebrated stallion “Desert Party,” which currently resides at the Irish Hill Century Farm in Stillwater and was previously owned by Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum of Dubai.
“Most two-year-olds will go out with other two-year-olds to keep each other company,” Winney said about his new horse. “This guy, he doesn’t need any company, he’s very attentive, he’s focused. He’s like an older horse for a baby. He’s just a baby.”
All photos by Photoandgraphic.com.
BALLSTON SPA – It was the warmest and sunniest day of spring so far on April 10 when the Ballston Spa High School baseball team took to the diamond for the first time. Heading out onto solid turf that had recovered from recent bouts of rain, the team warmed up for the first game of their spring season against Albany High School as a playlist of high-energy hip-hop filled the air. Varsity head coach Curtis Nobles stood to the side near the dugout, monitoring his players and directing them to help improve their play-styles.
“[We’re] very confident,” Nobles said about his faith in the team heading into the season. “Everyone’s chasing the same thing, getting sectionals, and trying to make a run at a sectional title.”
This goal to grab a sectional title got off to a solid start, as the Scotties bested the Albany High Falcons with a strong 11-5. Standout players from the game, according to Nobles, were sophomore Luke Gold, who put up two hits and two RBI’s, and senior Aaron Hinman, who scored two RBI doubles.
Practice began for the spring season on March 7, but it was mostly indoors on account of the damp and frigid weather that only let up recently.
“They’ve been productive,” Nobles said about the Scotties’ spring preparations. “Lately they’ve had to be short and sweet because we’ve been inside so much. So, just to kind of keep things efficient but not over-dragged we made sure that we come in and gets quality reps rather than quantity.”
Nobles expressed particular excitement for senior Grady Gawrys, citing impressive relief appearances last season and the hard work that he has been putting into practice for this season.
“He looks like he’s prepared and ready and willing to do whatever it takes to have a winning season,” Nobles said about Gawrys.
Jared Winkle, a team captain, was also singled out as a strong, quiet leader for the team, one that leads by example on and off the field
The Scotties are coming into spring off of one of their strongest runs ever. Last season, they became Ballston Spa’s first ever state-ranked baseball team, being ranked 11th in the state, and put up a 15-5 win-loss record.
“The best [season] in school history from what I hear,” Nobles said.
All photos by Photoandgraphic.com.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Most people might balk at the idea of a weekly commute from Ballston Spa to New York City and back, but for one area student and her family, it could not be more exciting.
Alexandra Bretz-Aguirre, a freshman student at the Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs, is currently enrolled in New York University’s (NYU) prestigious “Future Filmmakers” workshop, where she currently spends her Saturdays learning the ways of cinema from the university’s faculty of film industry luminaries. Hitting the road on Friday, Bretz-Aguirre and her mother, Catherine Bretz, stay the night in the city before her lessons, which run from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Following that, they head back home straight away, getting in late on Saturday night.
It can be an exhausting process, but it is one that Bretz-Aguirre is happy to undertake if it allows her to follow her dreams.
“I like, leave Friday, come back Saturday night,” Bretz-Aguirre said. “But we’re always excited. It’s worth it.”
Bretz-Aguirre’s dream to attend NYU began when she was 10-years-old, visiting the city with her mother. After noting the university’s purple flags, she and her mother went to the Tisch School for the Arts and were given a tour. Since then, she was driven to one day attend the school. Frequently, she would browse the university’s online program listings, passing the time and looking for anything that sparked her interest. That spark came when she found the Future Filmmakers program. She was intrigued right away.
Bretz-Aguirre’s love for film grew in tandem with a love for photography, both of which were passed down from her father, Oscar Aguirre. She and her family had also always been film buffs, with a particularly affection for the work of director Hal Ashby. She has been practicing her photography since she was 13. Considering this love of film and her desire to attend NYU, the Future Filmmakers program looked like a huge opportunity for her.
According to Bretz-Aguirre, the process for applying to the program involved a lot of essay writing. Some of the prompts included “How do you think filmmaking is encouraged in your world,” and other more general ones that were meant to give them a sense of the applicant as a person. There was also an interview portion that came later on in the process, wherein the interviewers discussed various images and their meanings. Two days later, Bretz-Aguirre saw an email in her inbox with the best news she could have hoped for.
“I was screaming,” she said. “I was doing my homework, and I was checking my email, and I saw [the word] ‘accepted.’”
Bretz-Aguirre’s parents noted with particular pride how competitive the admission process had seemed. Indeed, she is one of only 14 high school students from the tri-state area accepted into the program, and within that group, she is one out of only two freshmen.
In the program, Bretz-Aguirre is learning from some of the brightest talents in the film world. These include the likes of Kelly Edwards, Head of Talent Development at HBO, and Grammy-winning music video director Melina Matsoukas. In one standout lesson, her class was instructed by film editor and frequent Spike Lee collaborator Samuel D. Pollard, who showed the class “Mo’ Better Blues” without sound to show them how the images on their own tell the story. Bretz-Aguirre found this to be particularly illuminating.
Lessons began on the first weekend of February. All of the film projects that Bretz-Aguirre and her classmates work on must be silent, so that they can focus on conveying meaning purely through images. The lessons and projects also stress the collaboration at the heart of filmmaking. Her class has worked together with other NYU workshop classes, including the “Future Dramatic Writers” and “Future Dancers and Dancemakers.” She was immediately fascinated with the tasks given to her on their first project, which involved finding actors and scouting for locations.
“It was so interesting,” she said.
Moving forward from the 12-week workshop, Bretz-Aguirre plans on continuing to explore filmmaking. She hopes to make a film all on her own someday soon, and she is hoping to establish a film club at the Waldorf School. And while she stressed that this was not necessarily the only end-goal for her, she said that she could see herself pursuing a career in the film business.
“I love it,” her mother Catherine Bretz said. “I love to see her involved with the diversity of the program and the craft.”
“We’re amazed at her dedication and focus,” her father Oscar Aguirre said. “It was her initiative that drove this.”