Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bain demands 'Respect' at statewide conference

All text by: Jen Cowart
Cranston Herald
July 1, 2010

This spring, 45 students from Hugh B. Bain Middle School went to the Third Eye conference, “Youth Lighting the Way to New Directions,” at the University of Rhode Island.

At the two-day conference, the students participated in workshops, conducting two of their own in front of the 500 or so other students from 50 other middle schools around the state.

According to Project Respect’s faculty advisor, Sheri Brown, the Bain students also performed skits for the other students, which conveyed messages promoting the theme of respect. The skits dealt with topics such as domestic violence and bullying, with the Bain “Knight Steppers” performing a dance routine that carried an anti-bullying message.

While the students were busy preparing for and participating in the conference, the group also earned three prestigious awards and citations, being named the Attorney General’s Middle School of the Year, receiving a citation from the Rhode Island House of Representatives as Middle School of the Year, Creating a Safer School Community, as well as a Senate Citation for being the Middle School Third Eye School of the Year.

“The whole idea behind Third Eye is kids being a third eye at the schools,” said Brown, noting that the students look for bullying and brainstorm ways to intervene, address and solve problems during their twice-weekly after school meetings.

“Sheri Brown has really come into her own with this,” added Bain Principal Tom Barbieri. “She’s become a leader in our school community, and she was named National School Advisor of the Year last year.”

At the Third Eye Conference, the students shared snippets of the work they do at Bain, including the bullying education, peer mentoring, proactive assemblies and community projects.

“The activities that the kids have done strengthened their leadership skills. Some have gotten more self-esteem and self-confidence. This will absolutely benefit them in high school,” said Brown.

She also stated that going to the Third Eye conference let the students truly understand some of the dangerous bullying types of situations going on in the community and the seriousness of them.

“Now they know how to address them,” she said.

Brown started Project Respect at Bain eight years ago. Since that time, it has tripled in size as more students have joined. Brown has had to start an application process for the program due to the amount of students who want to be involved.

“I really believe it’s had a positive impact on the school climate,” Brown said.

The 45 students meet every week for two hours. There’s a specific agenda at each meeting and the students work on team-building activities and plan assemblies and activities for the entire school community.

“In reality, kids aren’t going to listen to adults,” said Barbieri. “I talk to them every day in the dining room and they look like they are listening, but we all know that when kids talk they will listen to each other.”

The students do a great deal of brainstorming during their meeting times to think about the types of problems being faced on a daily basis at the school and within the community, even globally.

“Respect is the foundation of our school. Sheri’s award and the other awards say a lot for our building,” said Barbieri. “We know what’s important in life and that’s what has been holding our building together for the past 80 years. This is what will hold it together for the next 80 years. Nothing’s going to change that.”

A performance of EPIC proportions

All text and photos by: Jen Cowart
Cranston Herald
July 1, 2010

GETTING INTO CHARACTER: Olivia Harding and Arik Beatty introduce students to warm up exercises that are done by Brown University actors to prepare for their theater performances.

Before the EPIC program in Cranston Public Schools came to an end, the students and teachers in the magnet program that meets at Glen Hills Elementary School had a very special event planned.

Having studied Shakespeare during their weekly meetings, reading plays and presenting them to their peers, the students got the chance to have Shakespeare presented to them.

Marie-Elaina DiMaio, an EPIC teacher, explained that the students from the Shakespeare on the Green program at Brown University came to perform for the students, and run some improvisation activities.

As Arik Beatty, Olivia Harding and Carolyn Aker from Brown University, sat with the students from EPIC, they tossed out the names of various Shakespearean works that they liked or didn’t like.

The students from Brown all said they had a very difficult time picking a favorite. However, “Macbeth” and “A Comedy of Errors” came out on the top of the list.

After discussing the works of Shakespeare, Beatty, Harding and Aker put on a mini presentation for the students, acting out several Shakespearean scenes for the students before getting them actively involved in the acting themselves.

Gathering the group in a circle in the back of the room, Beatty, Harding and Aker taught the group five different warm up and improvisational activities.

In the first activity, called King Lear, the students were asked to repeat and emphasize various consonants that the Brown students called out. Next, the group played a more physical game called Head and Shoulders, in which they used parts of their bodies to warm up. A voice warm up followed.

During the improv portion of the activity, the EPIC students were asked to combine both sound and motion, going around the circle mimicking the sound and motion of the person that went before them, until the whole group had gone.

Finally, using a word pulled from “The Tempest,” the students were asked to take the word “mewling” and explore what it’s like to make that sound using their whole bodies.

Because the EPIC program in Cranston Public Schools has been cut from the 2010-2011 school year budget, this culminating project was one of the last projects for the magnet students.

Bands team up to save the music

All text and photos by: Jen Cowart
Cranston Herald
July 1, 2010

THE COURT JESTER: Special guest emcee Charlie Hall of the Ocean State Follies donated his time and had the audience in stitches between musical performances.

The budget for Cranston Public Schools had no room for elementary music this year, but a coalition of music educators and local bands came together last Wednesday to save the future of the music program.

The benefit concert at Cranston East was held free of charge, but donations were welcome, both in the form of cash and in the form of gently used instruments.

“It’s very crucial to help support the elementary music program and we feel that by holding this performance, it will draw attention to the importance of music in education,” said Councilman Robert Pelletier.

Cranston East Band Director Mark Colozzi came out to say a few words of thanks before the show began.

“Thank you for coming out tonight and supporting music education,” he said to the audience. “As you know, times are tough and in Cranston Public Schools, it’s no different. Next year is the elimination year for the elementary music program.”

Colozzi went on to say that he was thankful for concerned parents and volunteers who are currently working to get an after-school music program up and running for the fall.

He said nothing is set in stone yet, but a supplemental program is a distinct possibility.

Special guest emcee Charlie Hall of the Ocean State Follies donated his time that evening, and had the crowd laughing as soon as he began.

“It’s great to be in Cranston,” he said. “This concert, otherwise known as ‘help Mark keep his job,’ has already raised enough for one used baritone and two drumsticks.”

Hall left the stage, making way for the Park View Jazz Band to kick off the night’s musical extravaganza.

Park View Band Director Robert Hassan noted that he was serving a dual role both as a director for the band and as a performer in his own band, Rockin’ Soul Horns.

The band played several songs that had the audience cheering. Hassan pointed out several students, including one who had only been in the jazz band for one month and one who was doing her first solo performance.

An audience favorite was the song “Tequila,” which for obvious reasons the band had changed to “Tortilla.”

“It’s an old song with a new name,” Hassan said as he introduced it.

When Hall returned to the stage following the band’s performance, he took the new name and ran with it.

“Let me at least touch upon the subject of political correctness in our schools,” he said, referring to some recent issues with a no tolerance policy in the Coventry Public Schools.

“And now, we can’t even say the word Tequila? What has happened to free speech?” he joked as the audience laughed.

The award-winning Cranston East “Big Band” Jazz Ensemble was next in the lineup of bands to grace the stage that night. Hall introduced them as the “World Renowned” Cranston East Big Band Jazz Ensemble.

“You know that they are well trained, because Mark has to cancel every other Follies performance with me to take them to some competition,” he said.

The CHSE band wowed the audience with their performance, which featured students on drums, guitar, trombones, and Colozzi doing a dual role as keyboardist and director, since the band’s regular keyboardist was not present.

Colozzi made special reference to the fact that some of the seniors who had graduated just a week or so prior had returned for the special concert event.

For the final two East performances, Colozzi welcomed life-long friend and Cranston High School West’s band director, Art Montanaro to the stage. Calling him a “Trombone Extraordinaire,” Colozzi credited Montanaro with introducing him to the trombone during their younger years.

Following the East band performances, Hassan’s band, Rockin’ Soul Horns made their way to the stage. Colozzi introduced them, thanking them for donating their time for the cause.

“We’re glad to be here,” said vocalist Chantal Ambroise. “If it weren’t for me being able to be in music programs when I was in school, I wouldn’t be here tonight. I’m glad to see that so many people came out.”

As the evening drew to a close, the audience could be seen moving to the music in the aisles of the auditorium, and the East band students got a chance to jam with the RSH band.

The bands received several standing ovations from the audience, which included Mayor Allan Fung, representatives from the City Council, the Cranston School Committee, and even guests from as far away as Virginia.

“It was a wonderful concert,” said Shelley Fusco, a parent with two students in Cranston Public Schools. “It was amazing to see how well Park View Middle School played and how incredible the East band was. The sad part of it all is that in a few years, we may not have any of this to enjoy.”

Committee members were pleased with the turnout, and thanked both those in attendance and the bands who donated their time.

A final tally showed that more than $1,000 had been raised for school music programs.

Anyone wishing to make donations can send them to the Cranston High School East Alumni Band Association, 899 Park Avenue, Cranston, RI 02910.