News Around The District
'In the Heights' comes to AHHSPosted by Alicia Smith on 3/13/2019 3:00:00 PM
The stage at Alexander Hamilton High School is in the process of being transformed into Washington Heights, a neighborhood in New York City. The Elmsford community will have an opportunity to visit this area and meet the fictitious characters who live there in an upcoming performance of ‘In the Heights.’
“We were all really excited to do the show,” Dahlia White, who plays Nina, said. “When we heard, we were really ecstatic.”
“When the show was announced last year, I spent my whole spring break going crazy,” Jason Bernard, Jr., said. “This show tells a nice story.”
The play is a contemporary musical with music and lyrics by popular entertainer Lin-Manuel Miranda and incorporates hip-hop, salsa, merengue and soul. It focuses on three days in a Latino neighborhood where residents contemplate their futures and happiness.
“It’s a big, vibrant show,” director Chris Guzman said. “The characters are very relatable.”
Mr. Guzman said at the heart of the story is the question of what home is and what it means to different people.
The leads in the show have found their characters to be ones they can understand and recognize how they change as the story unfolds.
“First, I thought he was more stoic, but I really see him as more emotional,” said Chris Yeosock, who plays Sunny. “He is concerned about the state in which he lives.”
Lizbeth Medina’s character, Vanessa, is mostly concerned about herself; however, the actress said as she became more familiar with the character, she realized she is more concerned about those around her than first thought.
“I feel like I can relate to Benny,” Jason said of his character. “He is an ambitious guy.”
“I like Usnavi,” said Taiyo Tatara. “He tells a good story and learns about appreciating what he has. In the end, he realizes he is home and where he wants to be.”
Dahlia said her character struggles with trying to please everyone around her.
“She feels she is not as successful as she was hoping,” Dahlia said.
In addition to being able to understand where their characters are coming from, the music from the show, further helps to tell the story and will appeal to a large audience.
“I love ‘It Won’t Be Long Now,’” Lizbeth said of her favorite number in the show, in which her character reminisces about the elevated train that runs through her neighborhood. While others find the noise disruptive, she hears a sounds from her home.
“It’s the thing she listens for,” Lizbeth said.
Jason said he finds the tune “When the Sun Goes Down” to be powerful, serving as a contrast to the first act.
“He tells Nina he won’t forget her,” he said of his character’s love interest.
For Dahlia, the song “When you are Home” spoke to her as it contains a confession of how her childhood friend has come to love her.
“He is her safe place,” Dahlia said.
‘In the Heights’ will be performed March 22 at 7 p.m. and on March 23 at 2 and 7 p.m. For tickets, visit musical.eufsd.org.
Grady Drama Club presented 'Mulan, Jr.'Posted by Alicia Smith on 3/12/2019 9:30:00 AM
All the elements for a good story can be found in Disney’s Mulan Jr.’ — honor, adventure, conviction and even love. The Grady Drama Club told the tale during its performances on March 7.
The show tells the story of Mulan, a young girl who seemingly dishonors her family by dressing as a boy and joining the army to fight the Huns so her father does not have to. Through her bravery, and with the help of her funny sidekick, Mulan redeems herself, restores her family name and falls in love.
“We have an amazing show for you,” Principal Doug Doller told the afternoon audience consisting of students from the Carl L. Dixson Primary School.
“The kids have been working very hard. You are going to love what you are about to see,” he said before the curtain went up.
“Oh, pretty!” one young audience member exclaimed when the opened curtain revealed the exterior of an ancient Chinese temple, and members of the cast appeared on stage dressed in colorful traditional Chinese dress.
The audience was informed they were about to witness a story of “destiny and love,” during the show’s opening number, “Written in Stone.”
The drama club presented two shows. A shortened version matinee performance for the younger students and a full-length evening show for family and friends.
The cast consisted of almost 50 students and featured Christina Clancy as Mulan, Alana Lewis as her sidekick dragon, Mushu, and Deana Guerra as Captain Shang.
The set reflected a Chinese landscape, the home of Mulan’s ancestors, the Fa family, complete with the exterior of the family temple. The audience was transported from Mulan’s ancestral home to the battlefield and back. They witnessed a disastrous match-making ceremony, an assault by the Huns, an avalanche, and peace finally restored to the Fa family.
Co-directors for the show were teachers Kim Breen, Christine Budzynski and Mary Potenza.
Winter Carnival 2019Posted by Alicia Smith on 3/8/2019 2:00:00 PM
Many may be wishing for spring to arrive but they were willing to give winter one more day in order to enjoy the Parent Teacher Student Association’s annual Winter Carnival.
For a few hours on the evening of March 1, no one paid much attention to what the weather was doing outside as families were having too much fun inside.
The gymnasium at Alexander Hamilton Junior/Senior High School had been transformed into a playland. There was a bouncy-house, tossing games, “tattoos,” and crafts to enjoy. Guests had an opportunity to buy raffle tickets to win a basket full of great treats.
A DJ spun the tunes, inspiring some to dance, while event sponsors had booths to share their goods.
The hungry found refuge in the cafeteria, where they enjoyed pizza, pasta, hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy and more.
Scroll through the Winter Carnival album of photos to relive the day!
History comes alivePosted by Alicia Smith on 3/5/2019 2:00:00 PM
Friends and families of students at the Alice E. Grady Elementary School were invited to enjoy the first-ever Living Wax Museum on Feb. 27.
Students in each grade had spent time researching a famous African American, from history or contemporary times, and presented their research to the public. Many students dressed up to further enhance the experience.
The students were stationed throughout the school — in the gym and hallways — and guests were able to “push a button” which “activated” the student to begin speaking. The children shared details about the life of the person they represented — where they were born, the work they had done and other interesting facts
Students introduced famous African-American astronauts, athletes, musicians, political figures and more during this celebration of Black History Month.
Second-grader Ina Borja was there as Marian Anderson.
“She is a singer and I like to sing,” Ina said as to why she selected this notable individual.
Lilly Loriega, a fourth-grader, adopted the persona of Mae Jemison, the first African-American astronaut.
Lilly said the life and work of Ms. Jemison interested her because she would like to be a scientist too when she is older.
“What she did was really inspiring,” Lilly said.
Fourth-grader Autumn Jones was famed singer Ella Fitzgerald.
Autumn said she has something in common with Ms. Fitzgerald.
“She was a jazz singer and I like jazz,” she said.
During her research, Autumn said she learned something new about the singer, Ms. Fitzgerald was the first African-American woman to win a Grammy.
“I like basketball, he was a good choice,” third-grader Hasani Price said of his person, Michael Jordan.
Amarirani Rendon had her cell phone out and took several pictures as her brother, fourth-grader Thomas Zepeda, made his presentations.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Ms. Rendon said of this student project. “The students get to learn a lot about each person.”
Thomas was appearing as musician Stevie Wonder.
He said he was familiar with the artist’s music and discovered that Mr. Wonder learned to play the harmonica at 5.
Dayra Galindo, a third-grader, spent the evening contorted in a backbend as Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas.
While Dayra does not take gymnastics herself, since she can do some gymnastic feats, she decided to learn more about a famous gymnast.
Third-grader Cameron Dimas went a bit further back in history than some of his classmates and selected Frederick Douglass, a figure he was very familiar with, as he had learned about the famed activist and author earlier in his education.
“He was an advisor to President Lincoln,” Cameron said of one of the facts that interested him in Mr. Douglass.
“It’s great,” Veronica Phillie said of her grandson’s project.
“They could pick their topic, which makes it more interesting for them,” she said.
It helped that Sebastian Cuateco, a fifth-grader, plays the trumpet. His selection was jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.
Sebastian said his band teacher introduced him to the musician. One of the things he learned about him was that before Mr. Gillepsie took up the trumpet, he played the trombone.
The evening was sponsored by the Elmsford Parent Teacher Student Association. As guests took their walk through history they were serenaded by an African drumming group.
Read Across America at DixsonPosted by Alicia Smith on 3/4/2019 3:05:00 PM
Students at the Carl L. Dixson Primary School had an opportunity to take a few minutes out of their school day to read with a good friend as part of “Read Across America” Week.
The event, called Cozy Up and Read, was part of several events which promoted reading during the week of Feb. 24. “Read Across America” was created by the National Education Association and corresponds with the birthday of famed children’s author Dr. Seuss, whose birthday is on March 2.
At Dixson, parents were invited to read to their children in school during two sessions on Feb. 28. Some parents decided to surprise their son or daughter and never told them they would see them at the event.
Children were able to select any book from the school’s library and their mom or dad sat and read it to them. Some even got through several books.
“I came to read to him as a dad,” parent John Salcedo said, referring to his son Connor who is in kindergarten. Reading is something the two usually do at bedtime.
“I enjoyed it when my parents did it with me,” parent Omar Cabrera said of having books read to him as a child. “We read every night,” he said of his son Gabriel, who is in first grade. They enjoy reading Spiderman books or those of Dr. Seuss.
Kindergartner Adam Elzenary’s mom, Frances Elzenary, stopped in and they read a book by Dr. Seuss. They also enjoy reading together at home and spending time at the local library.
There were 40 parents who signed up to read on this day.
Earlier in the week, students and staff had a different Dr. Seuss-related theme for each day of the week. Students wore hats for “Cat in the Hat” day, and green for “Green Eggs and Ham” day, as we as silly socks for “Fox in Sock” day.
AHHS celebrates Black History MonthPosted by Alicia Smith on 2/27/2019 12:30:00 PM
Music and poetry were the highlights of the Alexander Hamilton High School Black History Month celebration on Feb. 15.
Organized by special education teacher Cheryl Joseph, students learned how Black History Month came to be and heard the inspiring words of famed African-American poets.
Student Phoenix Harper shared how Black History Month came into existence through the efforts of Dr. Carter Woodson, an historian and the second African American to earn a degree from Harvard University. In 1926 he proposed what he called Negro History Week, for the second week of February. That date would correspond with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. In the 1970s, the month-long recognition was extended to the entire month.
Student Camila Perlaza spoke to the audience about the Clinton 12, twelve African-American students who were the first to desegregate Clinton High School in Clinton, Tennessee in 1956, a year before the more commonly known story of the desegregation at Little Rock Central High School in 1957 in Arkansas.
Lily Tom, another student, spoke of the importance of recognizing African-American figures throughout history. She advocated, however, for paying special attention to those figures from more recent history, as today’s student is more likely to relate to them and their struggles than from an individual from previous centuries. She referenced Madam C.J. Walker, an African-American woman entrepreneur who became a multi-millionaire in the early 20th century when she developed cosmetic and hair products for African-American women. Ms. Walker settled in nearby Irvington on an estate called Villa Lewaro. Another woman she mentioned was Mae Carol Jemison, the first African-American woman in space in 1992.
Student Zamir Olivia recited “I Too Sing America,” by famed poet Langston Hughes, and Sarah Corp recited Maya Angelou’s poem “Million Man March.” Student Mahlaah Desir recited “Too Black,” author unknown.
Student Aliesmer Sarmiento sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in both English and Spanish.
A highlight of the event was an expressive recitation of Maya Angelou’s inspiring poem “Still I Rise.”
Assistant DA talks internet safetyPosted by Alicia Smith on 2/26/2019 9:45:00 AM
The video showed a young man opening a letter and sharing a look of disbelief, which soon turned to joy. He had been accepted into his college of choice.
When Westchester County Assistant District Attorney Susan Brownbill-Vega asked the parents in the room if they would have shared the video on social media, there was a mixed response.
Yes, some said, because they would be proud of their child and excited about the news.
No, others said, because the short video, only 90 seconds long, gave away too much information — the young man’s name, where he would attend college, when he would start and what he would study.
Ms. Brownbill-Vega uses the 2014 YouTube video as an example of how complicated posting information online can be. The video is part of the Internet Safety course she gives to groups throughout Westchester County. She presented the program during a Parent Coffee Hour at Alice E. Grady Elementary School on Feb. 6.
“How do you do this without becoming paranoid,” asked a parent about letting children and teens have access to social media.
There are ways for children and teens to use the internet safely, the district attorney assured.
As many parents know and Ms. Brownbill-Vega noted, this is the world kids live in today.
“A lot of what is going on in their world is online,” she said. “Your kids were born into the technology age, we are immigrants into the technology age,” she said.
The presentation focused on how parents can teach their children to use social media safely. Too often, she said, parents talk to their children about what they should not do online — don’t post compromising photos of themselves or don’t bully others.
Rather than telling them don’t do this or that, develop a series of questions for your son and daughter to ask themselves before they post anything — will this get someone in trouble? Will someone get hurt? Will someone be able to find me based on what I’ve shared?
“If there is too much information being given in the post, maybe we shouldn’t post it,” Ms. Brownbill-Vega said.
A source of stress for parents can be not only what their child may be posting on line, but they feel they don’t have the technological knowledge to keep up.
“The kids have more abilities than we have. We gave them the keys to something we didn’t really understand,” Ms. Brownbill-Vega said.
One suggestion was for parents to have their child teach them how to use the technology. This can help parents catch up, but more importantly, teaching someone else makes kids think about what they are doing.
“They start to think, ‘if I post that, mom will see it,’” Ms. Brownbill-Vega said.
Privacy is a huge issue and teens and tweens can find it difficult to grasp where their information is actually going. They may think they are sharing it with just their friends, but they don’t realize their friends are sharing it with their friends and so on.
“Anything you put online, you have to realize it’s going to be shared,” Ms. Brownbill-Vega said.
Talking to children by using concepts they can understand helps, such as having them think of technology as a large filing cabinet that is open to everyone.
Teens have a different view of what privacy means than parents.
Jeffrey Oleander, principal at Carl L. Dixson Primary School, said he sees it with his teenagers. They are less concerned about privacy than they are with seeing how many likes their post can get.
“They want to be out there,” he said. “My kids don’t think about safety.”
Ultimately, it comes down to communication, Ms. Brownbill-Vega said. Parents need to set ground rules and offer alternatives to being online all the time.
One rule Ms. Brownbill-Vega had with her children is they could use the technology, but she had access to their username and password and would check if she felt it was necessary.
Parents can also ask their parent friends for support. If they don’t know how to use the technology, they can find a friend who does and have the person help parents set privacy settings on children’s phones.
It might seem like an uphill battle, but finding off-line things to do can be useful.
“Give them something to do with you,” Ms. Brownbill-Vega said. “Let them help you cook or fold laundry. We have to replace the technology with ourselves.”
Parents should also lead by example by putting their own phone or iPad down. Perhaps more importantly, not use their phone while driving, a habit that has become more dangerous than drunk driving, Ms. Brownbill-Vega said.
“It’s a work in progress,” she admitted.
Grady Living Wax MuseumPosted by Alicia Smith on 2/25/2019 12:45:00 PM
Guests were able to meet and rub elbows with some of the most influential African-Americans throughout history at the Alice E. Grady Elementary School.
While the historical figures and celebrities were not there in person, on Feb. 15, students were dressed as their favorite African-American historical figure and, after weeks of research, presented a Living History Wax Museum.
Visiting the school, guests were treated to a short presentation by students who shared biographical information about the person they were representing. In order to hear the presentation, guests were required to press a “play” button, either on the floor or a nearby desk, before the student — or historical figure — would speak.
Students role-played figures across a broad spectrum from politicians and athletes to scientists, entertainers and protestors.
Third-grader Keerthi Rajesh had selected Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician whose work for NASA was vital in the first manned space flights.
“My favorite part was learning about her,” Keerthi said.
In the past, third-grade teacher Leandra Fulgione said her students have done a biographical research project. This year is the first time Grady decided to turn the project into a school-wide event.
Third-and-fourth graders each presented their information in their classrooms. They stood or sat in front of a tri-fold board, which featured photos and other details about the individual. Many of the students dressed up as the individual and had props to further tell their story.
Fifth-graders created their presentations on computers, developing a slide show that would repeatedly loop images and details when they spoke about their historical figure.
Sixth-graders conducted mini-presentations for the younger students who visited their classrooms.
Third-grade teacher Debbie Barbosa said each student was able to select the individual they admired to report on.
“They worked so hard,” she said. “They all took their own spin on it. That is what is really so special about it. They picked their person and the interest shows in their presentations.”
“We are unbelievably proud of you,” Principal Doug Doller told students.
Sixth-grader Alana Lewis chose former First Lady Michelle Obama.
“She’s a great role model for me. She was the first black First Lady,” Alana said.
On the other side of the classroom, sixth-grader Andrew Graves had researched President Barack Obama.
“He was one of my idols growing up,” Andrew said. “He changed our country as the first African-American president.”
The Obama’s were not the only politician, or political spouse, represented during the Living Museum. There was also U.S. Representative John Lewis and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm.
Among the many historical figures who were U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, desegregation icon Ruby Bridges, civil rights activist Rosa Parks, human rights activist Malcom X, television personality Oprah Winfrey, gymnast Gabby Douglas, Olympian Tommie Smith, golfer Tiger Woods, basketball player Stephen Curry Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ballerina Misty Copeland and national security advisor General Colin Powell.
The community will have an opportunity to see the hard work of the students during the Black History Month Kids Expo as they present their work to the public. The expo, which is hosted by the PTSA, will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 27 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Grady gymnasium.
Dixson 100th Day of SchoolPosted by Alicia Smith on 2/20/2019 11:00:00 AM
One, two . . . 100!
At the Carl L. Dixson Primary School on Feb. 14, love took a backseat to the number 100 with students and staff celebrating the 100th day of school.
“Happy 100th Day!” announced Principal Jeffrey Olender as the kindergarten classes assembled in the gymnasium, all wearing crowns which had 100 stickers on them to commemorate the special day.
“I know we’ve been practicing every day to count. What number are we up to?” the principal asked.
“ONE HUNDRED!” the students responded enthusiastically.
The kindergarten students were treated to a read-aloud by their principal who shared the book “Miss Bindergarten Celebrates the 100th Day of Kindergarten,” by Joseph Slate.
The day included a surprise aerobics session, when Mr. Olender led kindergartners in hopping 100 times. This activity was followed up by a more mellow STEM activity in which students were divided into small groups to build something using 100 items. Some groups had paper cups and others blocks, straws or dominoes.
“I live for this day,” math specialist Andrea Cleveland said. “The big thing with this is kids get to experience 100. They see how different 100 can look.”
A bulletin board in the gymnasium was decorated with zip-lock-style bags filled with 100 items. For example, one bag had pennies inside, another Band-Aids and another erasers. The bags had been distributed throughout the district to be filled by staff.
An added benefit to this day, Ms. Cleveland said, was during the building activity, students work with children from other classrooms.
“One hundred days of school is a big deal,” Ms. Cleveland said.
The event was celebrated schoolwide.
Students in the pre-kindergarten class celebrated on their own. They also enjoyed a building activity. Each group of students in the room was tasked with building something out of different materials. Some worked with Legos, others pipe cleaners and some had cookies.
Once the kindergarteners had their 100 fun, it was time for the first-graders to enjoy 100 too.
They also assembled in the gym, with crowns of their own. They would also enjoy a building activity. Before that could happen, however, they joined the principal in counting to 100.
This time Mr. Olender lead them in the no small feat of doing 100 squats, as they counted in tens from one to . . . 100.
Chinese New YearPosted by Alicia Smith on 2/11/2019 11:00:00 AM
Third-graders celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year
After studying China’s history, art and places of interest, Leandra Fulgione’s third-grade class enjoyed a repast of noodles, egg rolls and chicken and broccoli one afternoon.
Feb. 5 was the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year for 2019 which
corresponded perfectly with Ms. Fulgione’s unit on China. The students had learned about the country and wrote a rough draft of a persuasive piece on why people should visit there.
As a way to celebrate the holiday, also known as Spring Festival, students were treated to Chinese fare to kick off the Chinese Year of the Pig.
“We’re going to experiment with chopsticks,” Ms. Fulgione announced before her students were served.
For many, it was the first time trying to use chopsticks. They gave it a valiant effort before switching to forks and spoons. Superintendent Marc Baiocco stopped in and impressed them with his masterful chopstick skills. He showed them how to hold the utensils properly and went around the room picking up objects such as napkins and pencils from the students desks.
Student Keerthi Rajesh said she was interested to learn that during China is a dynasty and now knows all about its famous Forbidden City.
Classmate Isabelle Dowd said she enjoyed trying the noodles and one day would like to visit the Great Wall.
Throughout their study, students practiced Chinese calligraphy and learned about Chinese porcelain, including the intricate designs found on the pottery. They had an opportunity to draw their own designs on paper.
“They now have an understanding of what it means to be global citizens,” Ms. Fulgione said.
The festivities wrapped with students sitting on the classroom carpet and reading aloud their fortunes from the cookies that had come with their meal.