Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Park View YUGA group advocates for women's rights

Cranston Herald
June 2, 2010
All text by Jennifer Cowart

Last year the seventh- and eighth-graders at Park View Middle School formed a chapter of Youth United for Global Action and Awareness (YUGA).

This year, YUGA is making a difference.

Working with their faculty advisor, Lloyd Bochner, the YUGA students decided to focus on educating their peers about the issues faced by girls in impoverished countries.

“We decided to raise money to sponsor a child,” explained Angelina Marra, an eighth-grader at Park View. “We’re going to write to her for a year and the money will go towards her health care and food.”

Classmate Rachel Moore said a little bit of money from the United States can go a long way in other countries.

“Just $288 a year will help her community with water and houses,” she said. “It also helps other girls learn different types of jobs, not just being stuck in their own community,” student Claire Ramirez-Raftree added.

To increase awareness at their own school about the plight of girls in other countries, the YUGA group decided to host a YUGA Day.

According to Olivia Tagliaferri, a contest took place over the intercom on YUGA Day, with students having to name quotes from different movies to earn prizes, and two different fundraisers took place as well.

“We made bracelets to sell to the students for 50 cents and we had a teacher dress-down day for $1,” said Hekmet Haddada.

Bochner is impressed by the YUGA students’ determination and drive.

“These guys are fantastic. They are very socially driven. I really just advise them,” he said.

Principal Joseph Rotz agreed with Bochner, stating that the program was originally a 10-week after-school program that Bochner volunteered to extend using his own time, due to the high level of interest shown by the students.

“This group of students is a very overachieving, mature group,” Rotz said. “They are very aware of global issues. They’ve really set an example for our students with initiatives like what we’re doing today.”

The YUGA students also created a video, which they shared first with Principal Rotz and then with the other Park View students.

“We decided to interview some staff and students about their knowledge and views of girls and rights. Then we recorded them and put in statistics about how people are living in poverty,” said Marra.

According to Moore, the YUGA students at Park View are pleased with the success of their first YUGA day.

“I think it’s good that we got the word out,” she said.

Alexis Cabral made sure that throughout the day everyone understood why the fundraising and activities were taking place.

“When people asked, I told them why. I told them that it goes towards the girls, and that got people’s attention,” Cabral said.

Rotz feels that the YUGA Day provided valuable lessons for the entire school community and also gave the YUGA group a chance to get involved in an after-school program that they truly believed in.

“This is a perfect example of the value of after-school programs and the role that they play. We need to grab them when they’re this age and point them in the right direction,” Rotz said. “These are the types of things that we need to offer more of.”

Prima Donna sparkles at new Cranston location

Cranston Herald
June 2, 2010
All text and photos by: Jennifer Cowart

LET THE BUSINESS BEGIN: Prima Donna owner Stephanie Rossi and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung cut the ribbon, officially marking the store’s grand re-opening.

When March floods destroyed Stephanie Rossi’s Warwick jewelry store, Prima Donna, things looked grim. But as she cut the ribbon on her new Cranston location, Rossi’s outlook was sparkling.

Finishing Touches: Prima Donna jewelry store owner, Stephanie Rossi gets ready for the grand re-opening of her store in its new Cranston location.

“My store was so cute, it really was, but everything happens for a reason,” Rossi said while preparing for the opening of the new store, which is located on Park Avenue.

Rossi had only been in her previous location in Warwick for five months when the floods ravaged the building in which her store had been located, near Bed Bath & Beyond on Bald Hill Road.

Rossi considers herself lucky, though, because she did not lose any merchandise in the floods.

“I got there on that Tuesday and lifted everything up. I only lost two stools and the money I’d put into the place,” she said.

When the rains ceased, the owner of the building where Rossi had been renting came in to assess the damage. The water had filled the entire basement as well as a few inches on the main floor of the store.

“They couldn’t give me an answer either way as to whether or not the building could be saved or whether it would be demolished,” Rossi said. “I gave the owner a week, but he still had no answer. It was coming up to my busy season, so I started looking for another location.”

Rossi said she spent a day driving through several locations including Warwick, East Greenwich and even the Garden City shopping center.

“I made my way down Park Avenue and the owner of this building happened to be outside. I asked him if there was a basement in this building and he said no. I asked him if this was in a flood zone, and he said no,” she recalled.

That was all she needed to hear.

“I was there on a Tuesday and signed the lease on Friday,” said Rossi, who is a lifelong Cranston resident.

Rossi went in to her new location and began painting and preparing for a spring re-opening. Her store specializes in affordable costume jewelry and accessories. The prices range from $3 to $100. She has jewelry for every taste and style, including jewelry for proms, brides and wedding parties.

Mayor Allan Fung was at the re-opening celebration and told Rossi how glad he was to welcome her business to the city of Cranston.

“I know you had to go through some tough times to get here, but we’re glad to have you in the city,” he said.

The Prima Donna store is open Tuesday through Saturday and is located at 1458 Park Avenue, in the plaza across from Antonio’s Restaurant.

Bain remembers

Cranston Herald

June 2, 2010
All text and photos by: Jennifer Cowart

Flag First: Two dozen student flag holders marched in and lined both sidewalks facing
Gansett Avenue during the hour-long ceremony.

In a tradition dating back to World War II, the students, staff and community came together at Hugh B. Bain Middle School on Friday to remember alumni who have given their lives in service to the country.

“Eighty years young, Hugh B. Bain has become a leader in the Cranston Public Schools and in our state,” Principal Tom Barbieri said. “Today’s event is one example of this. The Rhode Island Veterans of Foreign Affairs has recognized our tradition by awarding us the Rhode Island Patriotic Award.”

The Reverend Bob Bailey led the group in the Invocation. During his prayer, he stated that memory is what allows people to connect to those who have died, emphasizing the importance of gathering on Memorial Day to remember those lives lost.

The Bain Concert Choir sang throughout the ceremony, performing the “Star Spangled Banner” and later the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “God Bless America.”

Bain student Alexander Corvese recognized the importance of Memorial Day during his introductory remarks.

“Memorial Day is a time for reflection and gratitude,” he said. “This program started as a dedication of trees for the men lost in World War II. As more and more men were lost, this tradition continued.”

Following Corvese’s speech, Bain faculty member Tracy Wasilewski and her class performed Faith Hill’s song, “There You’ll Be” in sign language.

Follow the signs: Tracy Wasilewski leads her class in signing
Faith Hill's song, "There You'll Be."

Mayor Allan Fung echoed the patriotic sentiments of school staff, adding that he was impressed with the school’s dedication to the holiday.

“I’d first like to commend all of the students, Tom, the staff and all who honor and continue this tradition,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to remember lives of those who have walked these hallowed halls, but have gone on and made the ultimate sacrifice for us so that we can continue to have the freedoms that we enjoy.”

Fung went on to say, “Their honors and memories will always continue on in all of our hearts. We will never forget their ultimate sacrifice and I ask each and every one of you not to take the liberties and freedoms we all have for granted.”

A common theme that ran through many of the student speeches was the shared experience they had with these soldiers.

“Today, Memorial Day, is a day to stop and think. The soldiers we remember today went to this school. They were students here. They changed classes; they opened our lockers. We celebrate them this Memorial Day,” said eighth-grader Ivy Swinski.

Superintendent Peter Nero, a former Bain student, reflected on his memories of the school’s Memorial Day Ceremony.

“I first experienced this as you did today, as a 12-year-old young man who had moved from Providence to Cranston. As the generations pass, the tradition continues,” he said.

The traditional ceremony continued with a recitation of the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution followed with a prayer given by Reverend Francis W. O’Hara.

Bain student Emily Ellinwood gave the Roll Call of the Dead, calling out the names of all of the former Bain students who have given their lives in service, while a drum roll accompanied her.

As she did so, fellow students Anne Sinapi, Tianna Ugarte, Lauren McDonnell and Carley Rotenberg put one carnation for each name into a memorial wreath.

The Rhode Island National Guard did an honorary three-gun salute, which was followed by a playing of “Taps.”

An emotional Michael Traficante was the final speaker, bringing greetings from the Cranston School Committee. A Korean War veteran, Traficante tried to maintain his composure as he spoke to the crowd.

“We, as Americans, are sometimes prone to making light of ceremonies like this or symbols of our freedom, like the flag. We salute the Bain community for perpetuating this tradition,” he said. “It’s a realistic fact that it is the American soldier, not the press, who has given us our freedom of the press. It is the American soldier, not the poet, who has given us our freedom of speech.”

Traficante spoke emphatically to the students he faced, passing along a most important message.

“Please don’t ever lose sight of our great history and our great nation,” he said. “If you truly enjoy the freedoms we have today, you thank an American soldier today and every opportunity you have.”