Youth Counseling CONNECTION: Teens Under Pressure

In the post-pandemic world, Lexington’s Youth Counseling Connection is a vital voice promoting mental well-being in Lexington.

By Jane Whitehead


Above Left to Right the YCC Board and Staff: Nicole Manetta (Intern), Jon Suber, Emily Hayes, Jamie Katz, Bea Mah Holland, Linda Bartlett, Yvonne Lu, Betsey Weiss, Anne Khudari, Connee Counts, Bill Blout.

Steps across from the Battle Green, housed in the lower level of historic First Parish Church, are the offices of Lexington’s Youth Counseling Connection (YCC). Since opening its doors in 2012, this community-supported nonprofit has helped troubled Lexington teens and their families with free, confidential counseling and outreach services.

As YCC – originally known as Lexington Youth and Family Services (LYFS) – celebrates its tenth anniversary, those services will likely be more in demand than ever. Surveys of high school students’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic show a significant increase in the social, academic, emotional, and economic pressures faced by students nationwide.

In a study released in March 2022 by CDC, more than a third of high school students reported suffering poor mental health during the pandemic, with 44 per cent reporting persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, figures that were even higher among lesbian, gay and bisexual youth, and young women.

Calling these data “a cry for help,” CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H., noted that CDC research also shows that “surrounding youth with the proper support can reverse these trends and help our youth now and in the future.”

A Safe Space for Teens

A safe place. YCC is located in the basement of First Parish.

Years before the pandemic, offering young people “proper support” was the mission that motivated YCC’s founders. In 2008, social worker Bill Blout and developmental psychologist Connee Counts headed a group of concerned Lexington citizens committed to tackling student stress after the annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed high levels of emotional distress, including depression and suicidal thoughts, among Lexington High School students. A cluster of teenage suicides in Needham added urgency to their efforts, said Blout.

To realize their vision of an accessible, confidential, independent drop-in counseling service, with no insurance or out of pocket payments required, the group needed premises in the town center. For a small community start-up, funded largely by private individual donations, market rents were out of reach. The generosity of First Parish in making space available free of charge at its central location was crucial, said Counts, who with Blout still serves on YCC’s volunteer board of directors. She noted that YCC operates completely independently of the church.

YCC is also independent of the town, though its original name led many to believe wrongly that it was a town-funded service, said Counts. In 2021  YCC seized the opportunity to rebrand with a new name and logo.

“We changed our name to really demonstrate what our priorities are,” said YCC co-chair and independent clinical social worker Anne Khudari. Khudari joined the YCC board in 2016, motivated by a “passion for mental health concerns and the promotion of positive mental health messages in the community.” She noted that YCC has evolved since its founding to become a force for advocating “mental wellness for all,” by “making connections within the community, with kids, with parents, and with town personnel.”

According to the YCC website (, since 2012 the organization has provided more than 1,000 therapy sessions and 2,500 drop-in hours to local youth and families, all free of charge, and an estimated 3,500 individuals have participated in free therapy services, group support, presentations, and community projects, thanks to financial support from the Lexington community.

Pandemic Impact

On a chilly winter morning, YCC Executive Director Emily Hayes welcomed a visitor to the organization’s snug offices, where in-person services are restarting after the pandemic hiatus. Hayes is a certified art therapist and licensed mental health counselor with nine years’ experience working with young people and their families. She took the reins of YCC in 2019, just months before the pandemic upended every aspect of operations.

“YCC was founded ten years ago to give youth and their families a place to turn to when they needed extra support, initially at a time when those supports were less available, but urgently needed,” said Hayes. Pre-pandemic, she said, everything was in person. “Kids would walk over from the high school to drop-in sessions,” she said. There were evening gatherings with games and art activities at the newly opened Queer Hang Space for LGBTQ+ youth, support groups for students and parents, and monthly meetings of the YCC board with an active and vocal Youth Advisory Board.

Hayes outlined the struggles that bring clients to YCC. They range from dealing with typical life stressors – fighting with siblings, not feeling able to communicate with parents, feeling isolated, dealing with social and academic pressure, figuring out where to go to college – all the way up to “I don’t want to be alive anymore,” she said. With training in trauma, family attachment, adoption, depression, anxiety, and suicide/self-harm, Hayes is well-equipped to give support across this broad range of needs.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, YCC board member and LHS Dean for World Languages Linda Bartlett said she was “pretty impressed by how quickly they made a plan to shift to virtual,” and maintain threads of connection through the unprecedented upheaval. “Emily was brilliant,” said Khudari, as Hayes faced the challenge of moving individual clients over to Zoom and taking the support groups virtual. With in-person drop-in hours suspended for a couple of years, Hayes and the board pivoted to offering short-term solution-focused individual and family therapy, lasting up to 10-12 sessions, and when needed, help with referral to longer-term services.

The pandemic stoked demand for YCC services, said Hayes. “Last year we doubled the number of families we saw,” she said, “and this year we’re on track to move far past that.” And while the months of August and September have historically been quiet, in 2022, she said, “we walked in the door with six referrals and families starting right off the bat in August.”

“The biggest struggle right now is space and staff,” said Hayes. With a primary focus on individual and family therapy, and the resumption of in-person drop-in counseling, she also hopes to launch some new after-school groups for middle schoolers, who currently make up the majority of YCC’s caseload. “One of the biggest things I’ve seen, post-pandemic, is kids saying, ‘I don’t even know how to talk to people anymore,’” she said, “so there’s such a need for a space where kids can come together and just be.”

Peer Power

A major legacy of YCC’s first decade is the introduction of the nationally recognized youth suicide prevention program Sources of Strength (SOS), to Lexington schools. The program started at LHS in 2015 and expanded to the middle schools in 2019, when as Emily Hayes said, “the school system saw how effective and important it was to the high school.” The SOS model is based on peer-to-peer counseling, with adult guidance. Students are trained to identify peers struggling with depression and anxiety and connect them with trusted adults.

Several YCC board members act as advisors to SOS, including Linda Bartlett, executive coach and consultant Bea Mah Holland, and former YCC president Jamie Katz, who sees the program as empowering “the whole teen community to help themselves collectively.”  Many SOS peer leaders have also served on YCC’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB), creating a natural pathway to YCC’s professional support services.

Bill Gao was one of the first group of SOS peer leaders, who joined the YAB as an LHS sophomore in 2016. Gao went on to study psychology and business at the University of Pennsylvania and now works in market research for a small Boston-based company. Even in middle school, he said, he was acutely aware of the pressures on some of his friends, and at LHS he was struck by “this sense of high-function depression, high-function anxiety,” and by the number of people who seemed to be doing fine but “on the inside, were going through really hard mental health issues.”

As a YAB member, Gao found the YCC board of directors “a group of the most incredible people I’ve ever met,” with their collective decades of experience as social workers, clinical psychologists, and community activists. Their joint meetings, he said, were “a collaborative space” in which the adult board members were committed to listening to and learning from the students. “They were excited to hear about our ideas. They were our biggest cheerleaders. They pushed us when they needed to. They gave us the courage that we needed, reinforcement when we needed it,” he said.

When recruiting SOS peer leaders at LHS, Gao remembered, “we tried to hit all racial groups, all activity groups, all club organizations, all grade levels.” By reaching out across a broad spectrum of the student body, he and his fellow YAB members recruited 50 peer leaders.

Rod Tavangar (LHS 2021) valued that diversity.  Now in his second year at Northeastern University, studying computer science, he joined SOS as a freshman, and enjoyed the monthly SOS meetings with an adult facilitator and between 30-60 students of all ages, who would split up into small groups for discussion. Given the high pressure at LHS not only to perform academically, but to engage in multiple extra-curricular activities and clubs, he found it “really liberating” to have a space where “the whole point was to sit back and reflect on how things were going.”


YCC Youth Advisory members participate in a brainstorming session.

“You become friends with people in different years, you get to hear their experiences and learn from them, you see that you’re not the only person dealing with these struggles,” said Tavangar. In his junior year, he was invited to join the YCC YAB, and like Gao, was impressed by “how much the adults on the board wanted to hear from us,” on everything from logistics of how and where to stage events at the school, to the design of the new YCC logo.

Current YAB members Sitara Mitragotri and Veronika Moroz, both LHS juniors, appreciate the return to in-person meetings. Through YAB, said Mitragotri, she has learned to focus on “giving students resources and a platform to understand how poor mental health impacts the entire community, rather than just individuals,” and she would like to see YCC expand its reach into elementary schools, “to show young students why it’s important to care for themselves,” and to bring mental health promotion to a wider community.

“It’s really fun – there’s such a sense of community – and you can joke around, not like on Zoom,” said Moroz, who joined the SOS program in seventh grade at Diamond Middle School. “We brainstorm what might be bothering people around us, and how we can help,” she said. In a culture where “everyone is trying to show how competitive and strong they are,” she said, people can be afraid to reach out for help, and one of the key roles of the YAB is to spread the word that there are adults who really care, and that teens need not feel alone with their struggles. As YCC charts a new path in the post-pandemic world, that core message is more urgent than ever.


How do kids and families access YCC services?

YCC Clinical Services are accessible, free, and confidential.
  • Available to youth age 12-22 and their families
  • No fees or insurance needed
  • Crisis intervention drop-in hours and short-term therapy
After the COVID hiatus, Youth Drop-in hours are back!
  • Our drop-in center is open on Wednesdays from 3:00-4:30 p.m. at our location inside First Parish Church, 7 Harrington Road, Lexington. During this time, young people or families can walk in and have immediate access to a therapist
  • The fastest way to access clinical services is to submit our referral form online, found at the bottom of our clinical services page:
  • Our office phone is 781-862-0330 but we are currently not on site every day so the best way to reach us for non-emergency questions is by email,
Visit the YCC website:

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LexSeeHer Exhibit Opens

LexSeeHer’s mission is to make women visible. Their 2023 collaborative show at LexArt goes beyond visuals, adding sound, texture and poetry to help gallery visitors appreciate the contributions made by Black women across 300+ years of Lexington history.

Amelia Worthy shares, “this is my third year working with LexSeeHer, and our second year curating an installation at LexArt. It was wonderful to see so many people come through the gallery last year. I hope that as people come in to see the student work, the hand-sewn Dress for Margaret, and all of the aprons, I hope that visitors will have some of the same feelings that I had when I joined the group and got into the history of these women; I could just feel them in my soul.”
One of these historic women is Margaret Tulip, whose life and legacy were explored in the 2022 show. She lived in Lexington for about 75 years. In addition to growing up in town, marrying here and raising children, Margaret’s life invites visitors to grapple with the meaning of “freedom” and “liberty” in pre-Revolutionary years. Margaret was enslaved, then free, then re-enslaved, and eventually won her freedom back in a court suit known as a Freedom Suit.

The “Put Her On the Map: Then and Now” theme for this year’s installation follows women’s contributions across time, including several women included in the new “Something Is Being Done” monument that Meredith Bergmann is sculpting: Phebe Banister Burdoo, Margaret Tulip, Mary Elizabeth Miles Bibb, and Sylvia Ferrell-Jones.

Margaret Tulip first came to Lexington as an enslaved child and was given to Amos Muzzey and Esther Green as a wedding gift from Ester’s parents. Student illustrations help illustrate important moments in Margaret’s life from birth to adulthood. Research Team member Leslie Masson has spent the last two years researching Margaret Tulip’s life. “I initially volunteered to study and document Margaret Tulip’s freedom suit which she filed when she was in her mid-50s. But the project has expanded to looking into her mother’s life and that of Margaret’s descendants – including her son James’s own freedom suit. The exhibit includes examples of the records uncovered during my research. This past year I was able to locate and contact living descendants of Margaret – it is still an amazing experience each time I speak to them.”

Celeste Freeman, co-curator of the LexSeeHer installation, has been connecting with Margaret’s descendants, as well as other descendants who have ties to free and enslaved 18th century Black women from Lexington. Freeman adds, “We have been able to bring back some of the most loved items from last year, and thanks to descendants, there are new layers and voices to explore. These historic women have a living legacy. Their children’s grandchildren bring us into greater connection with each woman. Meeting each descendant has further underscored how important it is to bring these hidden stories forward. With the help of student artists, we also have visual ways to reflect on the unknown stories of Black women who were forgotten by time.”

The upcoming LexSeeHer exhibit at LexArt

This past year the LexSeeHer Research Team continued to grow, and volunteers have unearthed new information about Black women in Lexington. Team member Alexandra Moellman has focussed on Phebe Burdoo and her family. Margaret Micholet has been learning about Cate Chester and her family. The past year’s research efforts enrich the gallery in 2023 to make the trip exciting for returning and new visitors.

Jessie Steigerwald, co-curator and president of LexSeeHer, Inc., remarks that the show’s mixed-media approach offers a chance to blend visual arts, music, poetry and textiles with historical documents. She notes, “the interchange between art and history makes the gallery an engaging place. LexSeeHer is grateful to LexArt for giving us a home during Black History Month. Black women’s stories have received too little attention. LexArt gives our community a powerful space to help us literally ‘see’ women, celebrate their contributions, and take in the obstacles they have confronted.”



A Dress for Margaret
Artists help illustrate the lives of Lexington women from the 18th century forward. Here, student artist Hannah Sul presents Margaret Tulip Sewing. 
Artist: Hannah Sul
Photo: Nicole Mordecai


















VIRTUAL GALLERY PREVIEW – A Partnership between LexSeeHer, LexArt and the Cary Library Foundation
“Putting Black Women on the Map: Then and Now”

Scan Code to register

Virtual gallery event in conjunction with LexSeeHer’s installation at LexArt in celebration of Black History Month. Join this special LexSeeHer Speaker Series event to celebrate Black women in Lexington’s history from the 18th century forward. Learn more about the installation “Putting Black Women on the Map: Then and Now” with exhibit co-curators. The gallery space at LexArt brings our focus to the ongoing research taking place to document the lives of women in the 1700s, including Phebe Banister Burdoo, Cate Chester, and Margaret Tulip, who won her freedom in the courts in 1768.
Moving forward to 1843, we learn about Mary Elizabeth Miles Bibb, the first Black woman to graduate from the Normal School in Lexington. After graduating, Mary Elizabeth went on to become a teacher, abolitionist, journalist, author who helped publish “Voice of the Fugitive”, and founder of integrated schools in Canada – where she had fled with her husband following passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act.
Bringing us to the 21st century, the installation celebrates the life, passion and work of Sylvia Ferrell-Jones, attorney, business woman, and leader in the non-profit world who was committed to addressing racial and gender justice.
Hosted by co-curators, Amelia Worthy, Celeste Freeman, and Jessie Steigerwald, the evening will bring together special guests who helped contribute to the installation, including: descendants and family members of Margaret Tulip, Cate Chester, and Sylvia Ferrell-Jones; Elizabeth Pope, Curator of Books and Digitized Collections at the American Antiquarian Society; LexSeeHer Research Team members Alexandra Moellmann, Leslie Masson, Margaret Micholet, and representing LexArt, Mathew Siegel, Executive Director, and Wayne Davis, Board Chair.
Please register on the Cary Library website to participate.

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Story of a DO-er

By E. Ashley Rooney


Ethie Slate, President of the Friends of Cary Library, Toma Kiio (junior entrepreneur, and Faith Kiio, philanthropist/entrepreneur,  in the Friends of Cary Library’s office. There they have a special container for books for Kenya.

There are some of us who sit around and think. Then there are those who DO
Originally from Kenya, Faith Kiiio is a Lexington resident. She grew up in a village where access to food, water and other basic amenities was challenging. Unfortunately, that is still true today.

Faith says, “The first time I saw a dollar and realized how powerful the currency was, I decided I had to move to wherever the dollar was used. At the time, I had just completed high school with no prospects of continuing with education so I began going to the market to buy and sell cabbages: a business I started with 5 dollars approximately 500 Kenya shillings. I funded my move to the US and joined a nursing school, finally graduating with a bachelor’s in nursing.

“I got the opportunity to better my life, but many others did not and are stuck in a cycle of poverty. The only way to break the cycle is by promoting literacy. Books open up minds to possibilities and inspire the need to do and be better.” A former British colony, Swahili and English are Kenya’s official languages.

Faith began helping a few individuals and collecting books designated as free or near trash areas and sending them back to Kenya. Realizing that the job required more than one able-bodied person, she formed Faith Kenya Mission, a not-for-profit institution, to allow many to make a difference, break that cycle of poverty, and give young people a chance to flourish. More specifically, it increases the literacy rate by supplying books, provides water, conducts feeding programs, and addresses healthcare needs for communities.

Here in Lexington, the Friends of Cary Library receive many donations of books and runs profitable sales. During the pandemic, however, Cary Library was inundated with book donations. (You may recall that at one point they weren’t taking any because there was no more storage space.) Then Ethie Slate, President of the Friends of Cary Library, learned about Faith and her mission.

Concurrently, Faith’s daughter Tomi, who attends Maria Hastings, started a nonprofit student initiative, the One-student, One-book, One -dream movement through Faith Kenya Mission. One of the Mission’s goals is to put books in the hands of kids, teens, and adults to fight illiteracy. It has given books to local schools in Massachusetts, to homeless shelters, and to families who need them.

Faith thought it would take a year to fill a 40-foot container, but when Maria Hastings and Cary Library donated she was able to fill three, 40 ft shipping containers. Subsequently, she sent five more containers. This year it has sent 240,000 books to Kenya and traveled to over 45 schools there. She has nine more storage containers ready to go. The homeless help with the work, Faith happily says, “So Maria Hastings book drive and Cary Library gave Faith Kenya Mission the first seeds of growth and that means a lot to the people of Kenya.”

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LCA Funds The Arts Through Grants Program

There’s something for everyone in these Arts Programs around town!

By E. Ashley Rooney

This year will be a great one for the arts in Lexington. Lexington will hold the dynamic Dance Around the World this March and display whimsical Fairy Houses along the bike path, thanks to the Lexington Council for Arts (LCA). Moreover, the Council has awarded some exciting grants for this year.
One of the more fascinating projects that received a LCA grant is the Earth Day Awareness Sculpture to be built by Munroe Center for the Arts. With the recent emphasis on climate change and plastic proliferation, artists are creating powerful art works that remind us of the impact of our waste on our environment and stimulate us to consider our own lifestyles.

Hoping to build people’s awareness about the vast amount of plastic that humans ingest each year, the Center is planning to partner with Lex Zero Waste, to work with a local sculptor, and build sculptures filled with discarded plastic pots, yogurt containers, bottles etc. These sculptures highlight the importance of recycling and the damage plastics are having on our environment.

Generally, the backside of stores and office buildings are drab and dreary. But when they are adorned with a colorful mural, they can become quite thought-provoking. LCA is sponsoring Jill Strait, and artist who will create a Community Mural of musical instruments on the back of the Music Emporium facing the Minuteman Bikeway. It will be a treat for cyclists and walkers, encouraging everyone to slow down and admire their surroundings.
Of course, some of LCA’s grants went towards music in this musically diverse town. There will be Brass in the Grass from the Lexington Symphony, band Concerts at Hastings Park, and Harmony on the Green Coffeehouse.

There will be a concert of staged scenes from the worlds of Operetta/Musical Theater; Francis Hart will treat us to a cultural and historical reflection of the 1960s through the music of the Beatles; and Thomas Rull will take seniors on a musical journey through the years
Additionally, the LCA grants will provide music for the Lexington Bicentennial Band, fund art supplies for neurodiverse art classes in the Special Needs Art Program, help sponsor a May Day celebration, and support the popular Open Studios Weekend tours on May 20-21.
LCA will subsidize summer programs at Lexington Community Farm and help fund a juried exhibition of contemporary ceramics created by clay artists at LexArt. Seniors will do hip hop chair dances and celebrate the season.

LCA also plans to present another new event, Porchfest, this summer. What is Porchfest? Have you ever sat on your porch on a sultry summer evening and overhead someone strumming a guitar? Porchfest builds on this experience and amplifies it to become a community event where Lexingtonians share their love of music.
What could be nicer on a hot summer night? Maybe a cool drink to go with it?

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Saturday, March 18, 2023 at 8PM

Meghna Chakrabarti is the lively host and producer of National Public Radio’s On Point, a radio show produced by WBUR-FM in Boston and syndicated by American Public Media. Meghna has received journalism awards from the Associated Press and the Radio Television News Directors Association, among others.
Ms. Chakrabarti’s special brand of hosting involves highly informed and provocative dialogues with expert guests on topics ranging from the current news headlines to politics, the arts, health, technology and the environment.
The Alliance for Women in Media honored On Point’s episode “A Look Back at 1992 Los Angeles And America Since Rodney King” with a 2022 national Gracie Award for Best News Documentary. In 2021, On Point won a National Edward R. Murrow award for best news documentary for “What the President Knew,” a show that examined presidential decision-making before 9/11 and the COVID pandemic.
How does Meghna keep the ideas flowing and the discussion lively? Come and discover the science and the art of creating an engaging dialogue.

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Happy Anniversary to the Lexington List

Harry Forsdick’s community email forum has been connecting Lexington for twenty years—and it’s still going strong.

By Jeri Zeder

Step aside, Mark Zuckerberg. By the time Facebook launched on February 4, 2004, our very own Harry Forsdick had been running the Lexington List for nearly two years, with Lexington residents sharing everything from the dates of the East Village Fair to out-of-town restaurant recommendations to announcements of School Committee meetings to questions on snow-blower repairs. And way, way, way more.
The Lexington List, an email-based community bulletin board and discussion forum founded by Forsdick on September 22, 2002, turned twenty this year. It was, and still is, a private (not Town-run) forum hosted, administered, and moderated by Forsdick himself, with membership open to people who live and work in Lexington, and to METCO families with children in Lexington schools. The List’s first member was Hank Manz.

Membership slowly increased in its first three years, took a steep upturn from 2010 through 2015, then saw a surge in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. It boasts just over 1,800 members today, with an archive of some 43,600 messages. It costs around $100 a year to run. In a fundraiser several years ago, List members donated enough money to cover List expenses for the next ten years—a tribute to its value and popularity.

Harry Forsdick

Harry’s Vision

When Forsdick started the List, he did so knowing its potential. “I had been living the internet since I started grad school at MIT in 1971, and I’d seen all these things that could be done,” he says. “I thought there were not enough opportunities for people to share their tips and tricks for living in Lexington. I had a slightly loftier goal than just, oh, who was your roofer, but also, did you see a good play, did you go to a good concert.” From the start, Forsdick has let topics flow organically, following whatever happens to be going on in town that people wish to talk about.

The first subscribers were friends Forsdick had invited to join, and also members of Town Meeting, who learned of it from little business cards that Forsdick left on information tables. The first three messages to the List were by Forsdick’s. Message #1 introduced the List. Message #2 demonstrated possible topics drawn from actual subject lines from the Arlington List, on which the Lexington List was modeled, including: “can you identify this insect?”; “dog play group”; “reliable silver coin dealer”; and “holy moly (was grass fed beef)”. Message #3 was Forsdick’s query about where to find wooden shipping palettes. Then, on September 26, 2002, the first message that wasn’t Forsdick’s was posted: Message #4, by Jon Dreyer, asking how to get a school bus policy changed.
And off it went.

Early Challenges

The first challenge Forsdick encountered in those early days involved discussions of controversial subjects. Whenever conversations got too heated or prolonged, Forsdick noticed an uptick in membership resignations. In response, Forsdick started a separate email discussion group and called it Lex Pol-Rel, a nod to the adage “Never discuss politics or religion in polite company.” Members of the Lexington List can join Lex Pol-Rel and talk about anything they want to, for as long as they want to, provided they comply with Forsdick’s rules of civility (no name-calling or personal abuse). In further service of civility, Forsdick requires people to sign their full names whenever they post to either list. “People have their own reputation to think about when they say things on the List, and I think that can result in civility,” Forsdick says. “People do value their own reputation.”

The Covid Connection

The Lexington List is often where people hear news as it’s unfolding. “I like serving that civic function of having a place where you could go and find out the latest,” says Forsdick, who estimates that he spends a total of about an hour a week administering and moderating the List. He says that, in the early confusing days of what became the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of messages skyrocketed, and membership surged. It was a touching demonstration of neighborly concern and support. “I think there’s something about closing your eyes and imagining someone writing what they’re writing and sort of trying to put yourself in their shoes,” Forsdick says. “COVID was particularly emotional like that, because you knew a lot of people were scared.”

List member Melanie Lin learned just how potent community-level information-sharing can be in a crisis like COVID. Lin, who is co-president of the Chinese American Association of Lexington (CAAL), frequently posts CAAL news to the Lexington List, and disseminates information from the Lexington List to the Chinese American community. When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted and medical-grade masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) were scarce, CAAL raised $280,000 to buy PPE to support hospitals, nursing homes, and individuals. Lin informed the Lexington community about the availability of PPE from CAAL primarily through the Lexington List.

Fast forward a couple of years to a party Lin recently attended. When a man there heard of her connection to CAAL, he told her, in a voice filled with emotion, that early in the pandemic, his sister had to care for her very sick husband at home and desperately needed PPE. He learned about CAAL’s PPE program, and was able to get his sister what they needed. “They felt very isolated and desperate,” Lin says, recounting the conversation. With resources from CAAL, publicized through the List and elsewhere, “they felt like someone cared about them.”
Lin has used the List for personal purposes, too. She attended high school in China, but many of her high school classmates are here in the United States. When she was organizing a high school reunion, she posted a message to the List asking for recommendations on a venue. Thanks to advice she received from John Rudy, a devoted Lexington List member, the reunion was held at a place in Newport. Seventy people attended. “It turned out to be a really great choice,” Lin says.

And Even the Weather…

List member JJ Krawczyk uses the list to, among other things, post his highly popular messages about local weather. He serves as a storm spotter for the National Weather Service, helping the NWS to track severe weather and its impact on communities. “The National Weather Service really likes getting pictures and information to document when there are extreme weather situations,” Krawczyk says. “If I send out a message to the List saying ‘send me pictures of damage or anything,’ people have really been good about that. I have a bunch of different eyes around town.” He sends the documentation along to the NWS, which allows them to see the actual storm results and correlate that to the data they were looking at. NWS uses the information to provide timely and accurate reports and help keep communities safer.

Sharing Ideas; Creating Community

Irene Dondley, one of the original List members, misses the small community that the List was in its early days, but still finds merit in hearing views that are unlike her own, in learning about town issues she might not have otherwise known about, and in staying connected to the larger community. “I had a window that was rotting and I put out a question about it and somebody contacted me off-list and I hired the person and it worked out well,” she says. “I think I found my electrician on the list. Things like that have been worthwhile.”
Umesh Shelat, a Town Meeting Member from Precinct 7, says that the lists help him stay informed about the many perspectives on various issues that he’ll have to vote on at Town Meeting. “The Lexington List,” he says, “is a great resource because Lexington by and large is a town of relatively thoughtful, intelligent people who spend a lot of time doing research for their day to day lives, and this is a forum that allows them to share the results of that intelligent, thoughtful analysis for everybody.”

Andrei Rădeulescu-Banu is a heavy user of Lex Pol-Rel, where he enjoys posting and reading about national and international issues. He reads widely, and when he comes upon something particularly striking, he feels a compulsion to share it. Lex Pol-Rel is his outlet. “You can put it on Facebook, but Facebook is not really that good a medium for these things because that’s more with friends and family,” he says. Pol-Rel is where he’s likely to find people interested in that information, and in sharing what they find.

A Lifeline

For Olga Guttag, the Lexington List has been nothing short of a lifeline. Even before the pandemic, health issues were keeping her cooped up in her house. “This was my connection to the world,” she says about the List. “I was a prisoner in my own home, and the List was definitely one of the ways I still felt that I was part of the community.” Guttag is known for sharing her knowledge of do-it-yourself home repair projects. In response to a recent question, she posted a message about how she fixed her driveway without having to redo the entire thing. “If I know something, I’ve probably done a lot of research, and it really irks me that all that research is used only by me, so if somebody asks a question on a topic that I know a lot about, I try to answer in detail,” she says. These days, Guttag is using the List to collect items needed by Ukrainian refugees.

A Gift and a Resource

As a person who loves information and is intellectually curious about the world, Forsdick has enjoyed watching the List grow and change and become a vital piece of the fabric of Lexington. He has archived every message ever sent to the Lexington List—a wonderful resource for history buffs, data geeks, and anyone wishing to look back at early 21st century Lexington history—and he welcomes as subscribers anyone who meets membership requirements. “I’ve learned a lot about the people who live in Lexington, how many different points of view and talents they have,” he says. “I’m glad that people feel that this is where they can turn to, to talk.”


Hank Manz, a three-term Select Board member and popular Scout leader, passed away in 2020, but his engaging posts to the Lexington List are still community favorites. Take, for example, Message No. 18,700, from June 18, 2011.

A resident who was uncomfortable with reptiles had turned to the List for advice on shooing away a garter snake that had taken up residence by her back door. Manz responded with a delightful riff on the wildlife in his and his wife Wendy’s yard: “When we had grubs in the lawn,” he wrote, “we had skunks. Seven of them to be exact.

Hank holding one of his campaign signs autographed by well-wishers at his retirement from the Select Board.

When the apple trees were really producing, we had a resident woodchuck. The compost pile attracts voles and the woodpile attracts shrews so we now have animals who drop in to hunt them including the neighborhood cats.

And we have a bumper crop of dandelions this year so now we have two resident rabbits. Storing seed in the shed brought us tons of mice and more than a few mini-bears, also known as chipmunks. Now we store leftover seed in metal bins. Oh, yes, we stopped putting out trash the night before so now the raccoons have moved on. They were entertaining, but very noisy … If a snake moves into our yard, he will have plenty to eat and we will welcome him.”



Membership on the Lexington List is open to residents of Lexington, METCO families whose children attend Lexington schools, and people who work for a company or organization at an office that’s located in Lexington. Posts are archived and visible to the public.

To join, read up on the rules at , then click the blue “+Apply For Membership In This Group” button at, or send an email to . Subscribers can choose to receive each message as an individual email, or get messages in a digest (up to twelve messages grouped together in one email) or a daily summary.


Jeri Zeder is a long-time member of the Lexington List.

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A Bolder Past for a Brighter Future

“History is more than just the study of things that have already happened. It’s a set of analytical skills and competencies that is necessary for understanding and navigating the world.” -James Ikeda, Educational Consultant


Next year, in a groundbreaking move, Lexington High School will be offering two new courses: one in African American history, and one in Asian American history. From conception to syllabus, students and faculty are equally involved in their design.

It’s unusual for courses like these to be offered at the high school level. It’s all happening because of student activism.

Back in February of 2019, five METCO students in the 2020 graduating class—Annabelle Charles, Takirah Clark, Kyra Cooper, Naiomi Harris, and Alea Turner—were exploring with METCO Academic Support Teacher Gretchen Segars what LHS did to observe Black History Month. The more they looked into it, the more they realized that recognition of African American history was pretty much relegated to February.

“We felt like a lot of what we knew about Black culture we either learned ourselves through internet research, or it was told to us by other Black people. We weren’t educated through the school on Black topics,” says Kyra Cooper, LHS ’20, who is now majoring in global finance at Suffolk University . In contrast to Lexington, Cooper’s friends in Boston were covering Black culture and history in school. “When I would talk to kids from Boston Public Schools, it felt like something was missing from my education,” Cooper says.

Kyra Cooper LHS ‘20
When I thought about Black history education in Lexington, the only picture I remember was a diagram of slaves packed into a boat. It’s kind of upsetting that the curriculum only showed the pain that Black people went through. They didn’t show the creativity that we had, like the stuff we had invented. It was a very awkward position to be in, especially when you’re the only Black person sitting in a class full of other people who aren’t Black. You almost feel like a spectacle. A teacher would say something like, oh, slaves were punished for doing this, this, and this. And then you get the side-eye from the kid sitting next to you, people looking at you to see how you’re reacting to these things. … I think this new education is very beneficial, not just for the mental state of Black students, but for keeping white students and people who aren’t Black educated. It helps to prevent microaggressions, which is something that I had to deal with a lot when going through the Lexington Public School system.”

With Segars’ encouragement, the students started thinking that LHS might offer courses in Black literature and history. “They were saying, ‘This is essential to our well-being in school,’” Segars says. “‘We need to be able to have a space where we can be centered for a moment, where Blackness can be celebrated and hard conversations can be had.’”

But the students wanted more. They wanted better representation throughout the school system. They wanted Lexington Public Schools to hire more teachers of color.

Merkeb Amanuel LHS ’22
I think it’s exciting that they’re offering African American history and Asian American history. The fact that these classes are starting to enter our curriculum I think will set a precedent for the future for more cultural classes to be in our schools.”

So, they started a petition drive, with one petition seeking the creation of courses in African American literature and history, and the other seeking greater diversity in hiring. They set up stations with music in the cafeteria, explained their goals to their classmates, and within a week, each petition garnered around four hundred signatures. They delivered the course petition to the heads of the English and Social Studies departments, and the hiring petition to the Superintendent’s office.

“They [students]were saying, ‘We need to have a space where we can be centered for a moment, where Blackness can be celebrated and hard conversations can be had.’” -Gretchen Segars, METCO Academic Support Teacher

The English department was already offering an East Asian literature course, and got right on board with the idea of a course in African American literature. English Department Head Jane Day calls both courses, which are year-long electives, a “resounding success.” They are taken by students of all colors, backgrounds, and nationalities. The same is true of the women’s literature class; it’s not only girls that enroll. “I’m really proud of that, that our students recognize the value in these courses, that they are highlighting voices that are not their own, but they want to learn about them, and they’ll spend a whole year digging in,” Day says.

Min Feldman LHS ’22
I am proud to be joining a legacy of students who pioneered the way, and hopefully being an example to the freshmen or underclassmen or the middle schoolers who might

The students were among the catalysts for other diversity efforts, including a professional development forum for teachers, and the school system’s hiring of a diversity, equity, and inclusion officer. In 2019, they received the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award, presented by School Superintendent Julie Hackett before Lexington Town Meeting.

Charles, Clark, Cooper, Harris, and Turner never got to take the courses they lobbied for; they graduated before the literature course was offered, and they went off to college without knowing the fate of their demands for an African American history course or the hiring of more teachers of color. (Lexington Public Schools has been making steady progress with diversity hiring, but is still far from representing student demographics—see below.)


“We weren’t really doing it for ourselves,” Cooper says. “We were doing it for the kids who were younger than us.” And they were doing it for all students, regardless of background. “Not only is it education for Black students, but it’s also education for non-Black students,” Cooper says. “If you’re learning about other ethnicities or other nationalities, and you’re familiar with that topic, you’re going to know right from wrong.”

Ameera Suttles LHS ’24
“One thing I’m excited for is for everyone to get a chance to learn. I feel like history is just a big story of everyone’s different perspectives.”

But Cooper and her friends left a legacy. By their example, they inspired other students to pick up the mantle. In the fall of 2021, Phoebe Tian, then a junior, took action that would lead to the formation of the two new history courses. In the wake of rising violence against Asian Americans across the country, she organized the Asian American and Pacific Islander History Inclusion Benefit Concert at LHS. “After that, Dr. Dunne reached out to everyone,” Tian says.

Tian is referring to Kerry Dunne, the new head of LHS’s Social Studies department. Dunne invited interested students into focus groups to create the courses in African American history and Asian American history. She met regularly with dozens of students, many from the Diversity Equity & Inclusion Student Council, during the weekly free study and enrichment period known as I Block. Dunne also made available a Google doc where students could contribute their thoughts and ideas.

Grace Ou LHS ’23
“I think that having students collaborate with the teachers can really foster an environment where students are actually interested in the curriculum and actually want to engage specifically in areas talking about culture.”

“Let me give you an example of how this was so valuable,” Dunne says. “In the African American history course focus group, we were talking about, what do you most want to see in this course? And there was an African American student, Nathanael Esperance, who raised his hand. And he said, ‘The thing I most want to see emphasized in this course is Black success. I want students to be learning about African Americans who made major contributions that were very positive to this country, and who are right now, today, continuing to make positive contributions to our country.’” Dunne says, “I literally grabbed a pen and I wrote ‘Black success’ and underlined it twice. And we used that phrase in the course description. I would not have come up with that on my own.”

“An example of other input we got was with the Asian American history course,” Dunne says. “It was very important to students to see the South Asian presence in that class.” Students made clear that, in both classes, they wanted to learn about personages from local history as well.

Chuning Yang LHS ‘23
We usually learn about the Bill of Rights, the Revolutionary War, just mostly U.S. and European-focused ideas. I feel like I never learned much about Asian or African history, and as I became older, I realized how little I learned about Asian and African history.”

Students helped write the course descriptions, which are published in the LHS Program of Studies. Both courses are one-semester electives, and will be taught for the first time next year. Dunne expects they will be fully enrolled. The curriculum development work will be accomplished this summer, supported by a $10,000 grant from the Lexington Education Foundation. The grant will pay for six workshop days for two teachers, plus honoraria of $100 to each of six students for their work reviewing and selecting books and course materials. Further funding for the Asian American history course will come from the benefit concert organized by Tian. Dunne will match that with regular department funds for the African American history course. A substantial portion of the grant will pay for a consultant who will mentor the two teachers as they develop the courses and teach them for the first time.

The consultant is James Ikeda, a high school history teacher, community-college adjunct professor, and doctoral student in history at Northeastern University. He created and teaches an Asian American history course at Bunker Hill Community College and an African American history course at Quincy High School. “History,” he says, “is more than just the study of things that have already happened. It’s a set of analytical skills and competencies that is necessary for understanding and navigating the world.”

Phoebe Tian LHS ‘23
We wanted to make sure that in the first Asian American history course, all the core cultures and all the people from that area are represented—not just East Asian, but Southeast Asian, South Asian, and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities. And we also wanted the course to cover not just civil rights activism and social movements, but also the modern experience of culture and immigration, and of the experiences of Asian Americans living here. I think that’s what makes this course so unique and diverse and basically amazing.”

Both the English and the Social Studies departments are increasingly adding the voices of Asian Americans and African Americans to their required courses. These new specialized electives are opportunities for students to go deeper. Ikeda has a distinct perspective on why this is crucial: American history is frequently taught as having a prevailing master narrative, which typically either omits the history of those Ikeda calls “minoritized” people, or merely uses their history to fill out the narrative. That approach, Ikeda believes, blocks important epiphanies. “I don’t think, just for an example, of Asian American history as a corrective where you are modifying a master narrative,” he says. Instead, he thinks it is an opportunity to reconceptualize history to reveal new truths about the past. “There doesn’t have to be a single story that contains all historical truth, but in fact historical truth is multitudinous enough that you need to have a lot of different entry points,” he says.

Isaac Ostrow LHS ’22
“There was a passage about the Trail of Tears [the 5,000+-mile forced march of some 100,000 Native Americans in 1830, which killed 15,000 people] which minimized the scale of the atrocity and the forced eviction and, effectively, genocide, and said that a positive consequence was that it brought American democracy to more parts of the American continent, which seems so shortsighted and inappropriate and wrong. There are so many ways that is an issue, but that was in my AP history textbook. Our history curriculum and certainly the AP history curriculum doesn’t go far enough at all.”

In other words, these new courses have the potential not only to broaden students’ understanding of the past and to see themselves made visible within the American story. These new courses may also lead to a more sophisticated appreciation for the discipline of history by students and faculty alike.

Perhaps that’s ultimately the power of what LHS grads Annabelle Charles, Takirah Clark, Kyra Cooper, Naiomi Harris, and Alea Turner started in 2019: the rigorous, enriching opening of minds that these courses will bring to our high school, and that our graduates will give to the world as they launch into life.



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Minuteman Superintendent-Director Edward A. Bouquillon Says Goodbye After 15 Years

Minuteman Superintendent-Director Edward A. Bouquillonwas gifted with a pair of green, hand-crafted Adirondack chairs. (All Photos By Reba Saldanha)

It was an occasion filled with high spirits, expressions of sincere gratitude, and fond farewells at Minuteman High School as students, teachers, and administrators showed their appreciation to the district’s longtime superintendent, Dr. Edward A. Bouquillon, on May 12.

He plans to retire in June after 15 achievement-filled years.

Under summery blue skies with a balmy feel in the air, hundreds of students grouped by their career technical programs headed for the school’s football field. Many were carrying signs bearing messages thanking Dr. Bouquillon for his dedication and leadership.

As they wound their way around the perimeter of the new athletic field, bagpiper Seth Fagans of Acton stood in the center playing, adding a lilting musical nod to Dr. Bouquillon’s Irish heritage.

The next phase of the event took place inside the building in Minuteman’s theater. Principal George Clement spoke first, praising Dr. Bouquillon for doing so much to enhance students’ education and for preparing them for productive careers.

“His mission [was] to help kids discover what they love to do and what they do well, and to help kids gain an individual economic opportunity,” Clement said. “The question: Did he get the job done? The answer: Hell yes!”

He then read a checklist of Dr. Bouquillon’s most significant personal and professional accomplishments – “hire and foster top talent, get the school budget in order, rewrite the district charter, watch the school win multiple awards for excellence, be a proud husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and son, as well as a dynamic, generous, and strong servant-leader.”

Perhaps Dr. Bouquillon’s biggest success involved his steadfast advocacy for a new, badly-needed, state-of-the-art Minuteman school facility. It opened its doors in the fall of 2019.

Another notable triumph of his tenure came a year earlier when Minuteman earned the prestigious designation of National Blue Ribbon School in 2018, an honor conferred by the U.S. Department of Education. That same year, Dr. Bouquillon was named a semi-finalist for National Superintendent of the Year by the National Association of School Superintendents.

In his remarks, Dr. Bouquillon struck a thoughtful tone. He said he has been conferring often with his successor, Dr. Kathleen Dawson, as she transitions into the role of Minuteman’s superintendent. She will begin on July 1.

Minuteman Superintendent-Director Edward A. Bouquillon, who will retire next month after leading the district for 15 years, was surprised with a parade of students and staff on Minuteman High School’s new athletic track on May 12, 2022.

The school is “in very good hands,” Dr. Bouquillon said.

He took time to thank his family, including his wife, Diana, recognizing that people sometimes have to make tough choices between their family and the rigorous, unavoidable demands of a job such as a school superintendent.

Continuing on the theme of making choices, Dr. Bouquillon said that the staff’s mission is to help kids “make good choices” for their career pathway and future.

“Helping kids find their passion – that’s what we do, and we do it well.”

Rounding out the tribute were two presentations to Dr. Bouquillon. The first was from Assistant Superintendent Amy Perreault, who gave him a pin to wear on his kilt. The other was from students in Carpentry, who made Adirondack chairs for him.

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Bowman School Pollinator Garden

TEXT BY: E. Ashley Rooney
PHOTOS BY: Peter Lund

Teaching young students to become stewards of the environment.

Working with the soil is great fun. Students researched native flowers with the help of Trevor Smith (pictured right).

On Friday May 27, Rosanne Barbacano’s Room 11 gardening experts worked with Trevor Smith from Weston Nurseries and students in Kindergarten and other Grade 2 classes to plant over 15 varieties of native plants in the Bowman School garden space (located at the flagpole side of the school).

There were squeals when the students found a grub, contented “ahs” when they smelled the mint plant; and great excitement about being superheroes who were saving the bees.

In the 90s, teacher Steven Levy (a published educator) had a garden at Bowman. He grew and harvested wheat there! Upon departing from Bowman, Steven Levy “left” the garden plot to his successor Rosanne Barbacano to incorporate into her classroom studies.

Over the years, the garden project “fit in well” with her grade 2 science units. “I began to ‘weave’ the realization of Bowman’s Pollinator Garden into my science teaching of the “Nature’s Partners” unit,” she explains. Her “dream project,” as she describes it, was to start a “Pollinator Garden” at Bowman. “I realized that a Bowman Pollinator Garden would provide both—meaning, curricular connectivity, and enhancement to Bowman’s landscape,” Rosanne says.

Pollinator Gardens are a relatively new response to the decline in pollinator species (especially bees). Because the decline is closely associated with the loss of habitat, planting gardens rich with yummy nectar and pollen is a small effort to remedy the damage caused by agribusiness and chemicals.

Rosanne connected with Gardening Expert Trevor Smith, the Design and Education Manager at Weston Nurseries. Smith is an award-winning landscape designer, holding several landscape certifications, including MCH, NOFA AOLCP, LEEDGA, and IPCI, and a past President of the Ecological Landscape Alliance and a current Trustee.

Smith was willing to work with Rosanne’s class to help create a Pollinator Garden at Bowman.
The garden is about a lot more than bees and butterflies. Rosanne’s second-grade students have worked hard to understand pollinators and why plants need pollinators. Two students, Katie and Sara, told me that they learned new vocabulary words like pollination, nectar, and larva!
The second-grade curriculum unit is titled “Nature’s Partners.” Rosanne wanted to keep the second graders engaged, motivated, and agents of change as they solved the problem of making a home for pollinators.

Barbacano describes the student’s enthusiasm during Trevor Smith’s first classroom. She explains that seeing and recognizing many native plants and critters bred enthusiasm and engagement. “Student ecologists became convinced that native plants can help familiar and local plants, animals, and other organisms to work together to stay alive.”

Trevor asked the students what endangers bees. One answered, “When they get killed by spray bottles of stuff.” Trevor explains how a garden can play a substantial role in the local ecosystem by helping create climate resilience.

The students researched over 20 varieties of native plants considering native plant height, light, and soil requirements. Meanwhile, regenerative landscape designer Trevor Smith presented a webinar to the Bowman PTO in preparation for the Pollinator Garden. He continued to assist Room 11 gardeners with the design and plan for the 16’3” by 12”5” garden.

They decided to plant the pollinator plants listed in the table below. This program has allowed the young gardeners to learn about classification, life cycles, and the relationship between plants and butterflies in pollination and reproduction.

Beyond providing sustenance for their six-legged friends, Trevor and the second grade pollinator activists want everyone to know how the Bowman Pollinator Garden plays a substantial (very important) role in rebuilding the local ecosystem and helps create climate resilience (for example, strengthening our native plants means cleaner air for us). Students created posters to send the message to the Lexington Community to support native plants.

“The best teaching and education allows student agency alongside the enthusiasm and expertise of gardening expert, Trevor Smith. As a classroom teacher, I just provided the “steering,” a proud Rosanne Barbacano notes with satisfaction.


Start planning your spring garden with pollinators in mind.

  • Allium cernuum Nodding Onion
  • Asclepias incarnata-  Swamp Milkweed
  • Asclepias tuberosa-  Butterflyweed
  • Chelone glabra- White Turtlehead
  • Eutrochium fistulosum-Joe Pyeweed, Trumpetweed
  • Lobelia siphilitica-Blue Cardinal Flower
  • Monarda fistulosa-Wild Bergamot
  • Monarda punctata-Spotted Beebalm
  • Penstemon digitalis-Beardtongue
  • Vernonia noveboracensis-New York Ironweed
  • Agastache Scrophulariaefolia-Purple Giant Hyssop
  • Pycnanthemum tenuifolium  Narrowleaf Mountain Mint
  • Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Little Goldstar’-Black Eyed Susan
  • Carex pensylvanica-Pennsylvania Sedge
  • Rosa carolina L. Carolina Rose, Pasture Rose

Note: We include this list so everyone can take advantage of the second graders research into plants that would help the pollinators, particularly the bee.

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Rachel Dratch Nominated for a Tony Award

By Jim Shaw


Rachel onstage – COURTESY PHOTO

By all accounts, Rachel Dratch was going places. If you talk with her high school friends, they’ll tell you that she was destined for success. After graduating from Lexington High, she went off to Dartmouth College. For most, that’s where the journey ends; you graduate and then head into the working world. But Dratch wanted something different. She was naturally funny and wanted to pursue a career in comedy and acting. She was accepted into Second City in Chicago, where she bonded with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

Interestingly, Dratch and Poehler both worked at the popular Lexington eatery Chadwick’s. Having been there many times, I can see where they would both revel in the organized chaos that prevailed at Chadwicks. Great memories, but I digress.

Soon, Dratch, Fey, and Poehler would move to New York City and take their place with the cast of Saturday Night Live (SNL). Dratch would spend seven seasons on SNL, often incorporating her high school experiences into her sketch comedy routines.

After Dratch left SNL, she appeared in several films and had recurring roles on programs like 30 Rock. Now her career has led her to Broadway, where she landed in the new hit play, POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive.

Rachel and the cast – COURTESY PHOTO

Although the play opened only a few weeks ago, Dratch’s performance has garnered critical praise and led to her being nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play.

As you might expect, Dratch explained that she was honored just to be nominated. During our conversation, she said, “Honestly, I know this is the cliche, but I feel like it’s an honor just to be nominated. I’ve been acting in plays and doing theater for a long time, but a lot of people don’t know that because they just know me from SNL or some of my films. It’s just cool for me to be nominated because it brings me into this theater world that I’ve been an admirer and a fan of for so long. Sounds like BS, but it’s really true.”

Dratch talked about the play and working with the other cast members, including Vanessa Williams who portrays the First Lady. She said, “POTUS is a brand-new play. There are seven women and it’s a farce. It’s seven women trying to keep the President focused. I’ve heard it described as Noises Off meets VEEP. It happens to take place at the White House. But, it’s not political in the sense that you don’t know who the President is. You never see the President; it’s never declared if he is red or blue. It’s just these women trying to keep putting out the fires at the White House. It’s definitely a comedy. It gets a lot of laughs.”

Directed by five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman, POTUS is a Broadway debut by playwright Selina Fillinger. Along with Rachel Dratch, Lilli Cooper, Lea DeLaria, Julianne Hough, Suzy Nakamura, Julie White, and Vanessa Williams star in the comedy about the women in charge of the man in charge of the free world.

Dratch explained “I started out doing both plays and improv. And then, when I moved Chicago, there was a lot of improv. Second City is sketch. It’s just both improv and sketch. I’m used to both of those worlds. But at Second City, we were doing sketches that we wrote, so this role is really fun even though it’s not really improv. But the part is such that I could create a lot of physical comedy within it. It’s a culmination of all the other stuff I’ve done.”

I asked her about working on Broadway, and she was very enthusiastic. Rachel said, “It’s been really fun. Broadway is booming! It feels like New York is back, and we get good crowds every night, and people seem like they really, really want to laugh. On top of just laughing at the jokes, there’s like this extra level of fun.”

Rachel explains that it’s a busy schedule of performances. She said, “We have eight shows a week and a matinee on Wednesday and Saturday.”

This is a limited engagement play that is scheduled to end in August, so don’t wait to see it. A weekend of Broadway in New York City can be lots of fun, especially if you’re going to see Rachel Dratch in POTUS at the famed Shubert Theatre. For tickets, visit

At the end of our conversation, I asked Rachel who would be her “plus one” at the Tony Awards, her son Eli or her mother, Elaine? She laughed and said, “Oh my gosh, I haven’t decided. I have like two hours to decide who’s going to be my ‘plus one’. I don’t know. And, I have to let them know by five o’clock.”

Well, I can speak for many of your supporters here in Lexington that we’ll be tuned in and rooting for you. We wish you all the best. And, congratulations on your nomination.

The Tony Awards will be broadcast on CBS on Sunday, June 12th from 8-10 PM.

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