Swing Night at LHS

Swing Night Organizers and Pura Vida Project Members, Catherine Fiore’17 (L) and Allie Antonevich’17 (R)

Swing Night Organizers and Pura Vida Project Members, Catherine Fiore’17 (L) and Allie Antonevich’17 (R)

By Ami Stix
Lexington High School’s annual Swing Night – an evening of fun with part of the proceeds going to the pura vida project, a student-run, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and young families throughout Central America.

Swing Night 2016 celebrated, once again, the classic American sounds of big band and swing with three hours of live music and dancing. More than 100 guests of all ages took to the dance floor in the Fiske gymnasium as the LHS Big Band, Jazz Ensemble and special guest, The Beantown Swing Orchestra took to the stage.

The evening was a delightful experience for those who could remember this uplifting music from their youth and for those that were new to the Big Band genre. The Boston Lindy Bomb Squad kicked off the evening with a lesson, teaching the basics to those born long after the boom in Big Band had ended.

The Boston Lindy Bomb Squad kicked off the evening with a lesson, inspiring young and old to take to the dance floor and swing!

The Boston Lindy Bomb Squad kicked off the evening with a lesson, inspiring young and old to take to the dance floor and swing!

Originally conceived as an event to raise money for various causes, Swing Night has become a staple of LHS Commencement week festivities as well as an opportunity to support a worthy cause. The first was in 2007 and called Dancing for Darfur. It featured Jazz Combo, Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Big Band. In this case, the Pura Vida Project of Lexington was the beneficiary. Families attend to support their musicians, graduates return to see friends and, increasingly, members of the community and local swing enthusiasts attend to hear some of the best live jazz west of Boston.

Above: Emily Zhang ‘17 and Ester Zhao ‘17

Above: Emily Zhang ‘17 and Ester Zhao ‘17

Alumni Involvement
LHS Alum, Frank Hsieh’89 has been instrumental in propelling the popularity of Swing Night with his tremendous 18-piece orchestra as well as spreading his passion for the elegance and vitality of this jazz form. Hsieh took jazz improvisation classes at LHS and played in various combos and ensembles. He continued playing during his time at Cornell, forming his own band as an undergraduate. An avid swing enthusiast and dancer, he decided to start a large swing orchestra upon moving back to Boston. He credits Jeff Leonard as the most influential person in helping him to reach a high level of artistry and focus as jazz musician and for inspiring him to pass on those lessons to younger musicians with his orchestra.

Special guest The Beantown Swing Orchestra

Special guest The Beantown Swing Orchestra

Now in its 10th year, the Beantown Swing Orchestra is considered to represent the future of Big Band. Hseih (pronounced Shay) founded the ensemble with a mission to promote classic big band swing music and its history to younger generations and keep this music alive for future generations to enjoy. His band, whose members range in age from their teens to their early thirties, is a continuation of the tradition of the danceable swing style of bandleaders such as Benny Goodman and Count Basie.

LHS Jazz Ensemble trumpeter, Alex Tung’19, and Belmont resident, Clare Stanley, getting ready to try out a few steps.

LHS Jazz Ensemble trumpeter, Alex Tung’19, and Belmont resident, Clare Stanley, getting ready to try out a few steps.

The LHS Experience
Justin Aramati, director of the LHS Big Band considers swing music and swing dancing critical parts of the histories of Jazz and America. A term of praise for playing with a strong, rhythmic groove or drive, swing was the dominant form of American popular music from 1935 to 1945. It was the music of orchestras, led by masters like Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey, that first crossed societal barriers in appealing to young men and women of all races. “Swing Night is an opportunity for our students to experience that history in a direct and meaningful way. Getting to be a dance band for a night is fun! It’s also a way for us to connect with our community. It’s great to see so many people come out to dance,” says Aramati with a shy smile.
It is impressive to see these young musicians bring so much passion to classics that were popular with their grandparents. Music ranged from the elegant arrangements of Ellington and Carter to the playful rhythms of “Don’t Get Sassy” and “Count Bubba.” Featured student vocalist, Katharine Courtemanche was fresh and polished as she made Count Basie’s “Every Day I Have the Blues” her own.

Community Service
In the tradition of supporting worthy causes, student involvement also extends to Swing Night’s charitable partners. For the last few years, a portion of the proceeds have benefited the Pura Vida Project, a student-run, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and young families throughout Central America. The PVP is comprised of approximately forty students from Lexington High School and beyond who share a passion for Latin American culture and for meaningful philanthropy. This year’s contribution will benefit the Latin American Children’s Fund.
Student organizers, Allie Antonevich’17 and Catherine Fiore’17–with a small army of PVP volunteers–managed the logistics of the evening: staffing the event and making sure that band directors and their musicians could focus on the evening’s performance.

Both young women found the project incredibly gratifying for a variety of reasons and expressed great satisfaction in being part of an effort that brought the community together for a common purpose. “I like that we are working for a cause outside of LHS. It’s something that is bigger than all of us,” Ms. Fiore pointed out. Swing Night represents Lexington at its best: its students, its music program and the ever-present desire to give back to the community. The evening has become a multi-generational celebration of culture, music and the sheer joy of dance. If you missed it this year, make sure your dancing shoes are shined for next June.

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LEF Grant Brings Robotics to Elementary School Students

By Varsha Thatte  |  LEF Student Ambassador

The future has arrived at Estabrook Elementary School!! Thanks to the Lexington Education Foundation (LEF), elementary-age students now have the opportunity to learn engineering concepts through hands-on instruction in robotics. The use of robotics to teach science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts is gaining wide-spread popularity in the U.S. as a way to help students develop a passion for STEM subjects, and to teach skills such as problem-solving, goal-setting and logical thinking.

Jeffrey Harris, LHS Mathematics teacher.

Jeffrey Harris, LHS Mathematics teacher.

Jeffrey Harris, a Mathematics Teacher at Lexington High School, received an LEF grant to design and implement an after-school robotics program for elementary school students. The grant funds Lego kits for students and training for the teachers running the program.

The program, designed for fourth and fifth graders, has been extremely well-received at Estabrook Elementary School, where it was implemented. “The first six-week session started in the fall and the class got filled quickly. There were 25-30 kids signed up for the whole series. I myself taught robotics for a group of fourth graders. Kids at Estabrook wanted to get involved and were really excited about it,” stated Mark Taggart, a 4th grade teacher at Estabrook.

Jeffrey Harris explains one reason for the program’s warm reception, “Elementary kids did not have the opportunity to learn about robotics until LEF helped us to establish the program at Estabrook. The LEF grant has had a huge impact on the elementary kids. It gave us an opportunity to teach robotics, which will spark their interest in engineering at an early age.”

The curriculum is divided into six sessions. Each session is structured as a conceptual presentation for 10 minutes, followed by a challenge period to be done in small groups. The introduction session starts with brief explanation about Lego and how robotics work. This session is then followed by hardware and software sessions. The hardware session teaches concepts such as using sensors and motors. The software session covers programming objectives and the programming languages used to program the Lego Mindstorms robotics kits.

Mark Taggart, with Lego robots, at Estabrook Elementary School.

Mark Taggart, with Lego robots, at Estabrook Elementary School.

The fifth session tests students’ abilities through an advanced challenge, which incorporates the hardware, software, and engineering concepts from the earlier sessions. The last session is a free build session, which runs like a robotics science fair. During the final session, students think up, design and build a robot of their own, and then present their creation to the entire class.

Kevin Le, a student at Lexington High School who helped to create the curriculum for the robotics program said, “The curriculum we made gives a huge exposure to engineering. Kids will gain problem-solving skills and creative decision-making capabilities.” Also, completing these hands-on projects builds concept understanding and reinforces students’ confidence in their own abilities.

Mark Taggart mentioned that they received many thank you notes from parents, saying their kids learned a lot of interesting, fun, and useful concepts. A parent at Estabrook said, “It was the absolute best after-school program we’ve ever participated in. Thank you so much for bringing that program. It taught my son that he absolutely loves computer programming, which is a big deal for me, since he doesn’t seem to like anything but watching TV! Thank you, LEF.”

Mark’s vision is to take this initiative to greater heights, explaining, “Our next goal is to bring robotics into the regular classrooms, make it a part of the curriculum officially, and extend it to the five other elementary schools.”


The Lexington Education Foundation (LEF) was founded in 1989 to support “better schools, brighter futures” for Lexington Public School students. LEF funds faculty-initiated grants that help address emerging issues and priorities in the district. LEF grants often fund pilot programs that point the district towards the most effective ways to address challenges and improve achievement for all students.Lexington Education Foundation (LEF) is an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization.  LEF is not affiliated with the Lexington Public Schools. For more information go to www.lexedfoundation.org or find us Facebook.

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LHS Peer Leaders Spread Hope, Health, and Strength

Lexington Youth and Family Services (LYFS) Sponsors Sources of Strength Program

By Bea Mah Holland, EdD, MSW

LYFS Board Member and SOS Adult Advisor


Front Row (L-R) Mona Tavangar, Bill Gao, Emily Zhang, Gili Grunfeld, Maya Joshi Delity, Logan Wells, Vivek Gopalakrishnan. Back Row (L-R) Connee Counts, James Mercier, Betsey Weiss, Bea Mah Holland, Bill Blout, Scott LoMurray and LYFS Director, Erin Deery. Courtesy photo by Betsey Weiss.

Front Row (L-R) Mona Tavangar, Bill Gao, Emily Zhang, Gili Grunfeld, Maya Joshi Delity, Logan Wells, Vivek Gopalakrishnan. Back Row (L-R) Connee Counts, James Mercier, Betsey Weiss, Bea Mah Holland, Bill Blout, Scott LoMurray and LYFS Director, Erin Deery. Courtesy photo by Betsey Weiss.


Lexington and SOS’s beginnings

Last fall, when Lexington Youth and Family Services committed to hosting Sources of Strength (SOS), a resilience-building program, seven smart and energetic LYFS Youth Board members identified diverse groups at Lexington High School and their leaders, then actively recruited them to attend a daylong training event. Last November 46 LHS students and 13 Adult Advisors—a mix of community and school adults who have a relational connectivity with Sources of Strength Logostudents—spent a fun and powerful day learning how to help others and more consciously use and further develop their own Sources of Strength.

SOS, a preventive program with proven results, increases teens’ connections with adults, builds resilience, and develops protective factors called Sources of Strength for navigating adolescence and life. “This is really the first peer-leader program that has shown impact on school-wide coping norms and influence on youth connectedness,” according to University of Rochester psychiatry professor and researcher Peter Wyman.  SOS is presently on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP), the gold standard of prevention programs in the U.S.

The LHS SOS Peer Leaders have already accomplished much. Through peer-to peer contact and messaging on Facebook and Instagram, they encourage each other to activate and mobilize at least three or four of their Sources of Strength, knowing that having several strengths is more powerful than one. SOS is now in 250 schools and communities in over 20 states, is one of the nation’s most rigorously researched peer leader programs, and has been the subject of research and evaluation efforts at universities, including Stanford and Johns Hopkins. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is currently funding a six-year randomized study of SOS to measure the impact of 1,500 Peer Leaders on 15,000 adolescents in more than 40 high schools.

SOS’s Mission and Method

Sources of Strength GraphicAlthough intervening in crisis situations and making lifesaving connections has been a hallmark of SOS, the ultimate mission of SOS is upstream: prevention of the very onset of suicidal thinking and suicidal behavior, and attention to other factors such as substance abuse, depression, bullying, and violence. As was stated by one community, “Hope, Health, and Strength messages are developed with local voices and faces, saturating our school and community with stories of resiliency instead of messages of trauma.” November, Scott LoMurray, the founder’s son, masterfully trained 59 Lexingtonions.

Most schools have used less time-consuming approaches such as assemblies and presentations. However, there is now agreement that any sustained effort must include adults talking with kids; since the kids often have the best information, students must be part of the intervention and not just its target. And in several communities, relational connections that use teams of peer leaders mentored by adult advisors to change peer social norms have created a cultural shift to a safer environment. Destructive behaviors are lessening because of a contagion of strength.

Lexington SOS Vision

With the committed and creative leadership of Lexington LYFS Adult and Youth Board members, together with the energy and dedication of the developing peer-to-peer social network, it seems possible to positively change Lexington youth norms and culture. This collaborative effort is supported by the schools, town, and many community groups and, with continued support, it could become a comprehensive wellness program impacting many people and touching every corner of our community.

The authors are indebted to SOS for permission to incorporate their material in this article. For further information, please access Sources of Strength website, https://sourcesofstrength.org.


About Lexington Youth And Family Services

Located at First Parish Church
(private entrance on right side of church)
7 Harrington Road
Lexington, MA 02421
Call or Text: 781-862-0330

LYFS is a safe and confidential place to talk and get support. If you or someone you know is having a hard time – feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed; using/abusing drugs and alcohol; having trouble at home; having suicidal thoughts, come in and talk to us! We will listen and can help.
LYFS is located on the side of First Parish Church on the Lexington Battle Green. Open every Friday from 3 pm to 6 pm (September – June) or by appointment. We have a private entrance, office and waiting area, and offer confidential therapy to teens free of cost!

How is LYFS funded? LYFS receives funds from private contributors in the community and grants from the Foundation for MetroWest and CHNA 15. It is a 501(3)(c) tax deductible organization.

Make checks out and mail to:
Lexington Youth and Family Services
c/o First Parish Church / 7 Harrington Road / Lexington, MA 02421
For questions please email our Treasurer: Bill Blout, at BBlout@LYFSInc.org




What are your Sources of Strength?

In January, during an LHS lunch hour, SOS Peer Leaders provided the opportunity for over 100 students to make individual Source of Strength posters, be photographed, and have the photos be posted in high-traffic locations, both on site and online.

Hadar Boker and Carrie Tassel

Hadar Boker and Carrie Tassel

“I thought it was really great to see
that people were so motivated by
their own passions and hobbies.”
“It was really cool seeing everyone from
the high school joining
on a project we worked hard to create.”
Nana Adu and Noam Watt

Nana Adu and Noam Watt









By Logan Wells, LHS Student
LYFS Youth Board Member and SOS Peer Leader    


Lexington High School Lunchroom, January 8th

LHS students curiously walk into the lunchroom, wondering why there are so many people huddled around a table—some laughing with their friends, while others are stopping for a second and thinking before writing on paper. Upon closer look, they see that these students are actually writing their own Sources of Strength, then having a picture taken of them holding their signs. As the months roll by, students will see pictures of themselves and their peers with their Sources of Strength in the local newspaper and the LHS Gazette, on social media, and in the halls of LHS, reminding them of the many people who are in the community they can go to if they need help or just want someone to talk to.

SOS Projects and Training

The SOS Poster Project—students making Sources of Strength posters and sharing them with the school and the community—is just one of the projects in the ambitious campaign of support created by the Peer Leaders of Sources of Strength. It first began last November in the newly renovated Lexington Community Center where a group of 46 LHS students, selectively chosen by their peers as influential in the community, met for their first Sources of Strength daylong seminar.

SOS is safe and trustworthy. The training is both fun and strengthening, non-threatening and informative. We came to realize that everyone goes through both good and tough times and, as a result of the training, we are now better equipped to connect friends to the help they want and need.

We learned the importance of having a support system, and how friends, relatives, and even pets could have a lasting impact on our lives. We learned that even top specialists in their fields said they had mentors to look towards while they grew up, mostly for support and guidance. We learned how a community can do the same thing but, instead of the lucky few having access to a mentor, there would be an ecosystem that would support all of us on our growth path or whenever we needed help.

However, those who attended the seminar were not just students. There were also adult volunteers interested in making Lexington a more supportive community. The goal of SOS is not just to help the high school become a more supportive system, but the Lexington community as a whole. All of the attendees worked for eight hours, with no loss of energy as the hours went by—all 46 LHS Peer Leaders and 13 Adult Advisors stayed for the entire day. Everyone participated equally, whether it was in something silly such as team charades, or talking about who they look for when they themselves need help.

One of the Adult Advisors, Jamie Katz, graduated from LHS in 1969 and has a daughter who graduated from LHS just last year. He found both the mission and the training compelling.

“None of us can go it alone,” Katz said. “We all need our family and friends, our pets, or our passions to help us find joy, laughter, and strength. It’s painful to see our teenagers lose sight of their Sources of Strength, to see them feel so isolated and alone. Even the phones they use endlessly often increase the alienation and pressure they feel. We need to remind them, again and again, that their friends will be there for them, their dogs need them, their soccer teams rely on them, and their parents love and will support them. And the teens need to teach us how we can best help them, not further burden them.”

What’s Next for SOS Lexington?

Since then, everyone in the group has been determined to make a difference and allow for everyone in Lexington to have, and understand, that they have access to someone whenever they want it. There is a planned “Challenge Day” at LHS in a few weeks, where another 100 LHS students and 25 teachers will get an experience akin to the one SOS had in November. This will allow for even more support in LHS, especially with the teachers participating, who students often spend more time with than their parents.

LYFS Director Erin M. Deery, LICSW, has these thoughts on the future of SOS: “I hope that SOS continues to grow in Lexington and that these messages of hope and strength just become part of the way things are done in this community. We have all seen how communities come together after a tragedy, but what if in Lexington we came together to prevent tragedy?  I hope that we can repeat the SOS training annually and continue to strengthen partnerships with LHS, other community agencies, places of worship, businesses, and organizations. We want to change social norms, increase help seeking, and promote strength and wellness not just for teenagers, but for the entire Lexington community. “

So don’t be surprised if you soon see SOS around Lexington, such as in Lexington Center. We are planning to team with Lexington businesses in order to send the message that SOS is a community-wide project, and we intend to help every person included in it.

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High School Teacher Receives World History Conference Grant

By Ryan Leung

Kristin Strobel

Kristin Strobel

Over the summer of 2015, Lexington High School Freshman World History teacher Kristin Strobel attended the World History Association Annual Conference, thanks to a generous grant from the Lexington Education Foundation.

“A few years ago, when the World History Association was in Salem, Massachusetts, I went to the conference,” Strobel said, “[but] I really wanted to go back another time, so when the LEF grant came up at the same time I realized the theme was going to be about art, [I thought] ‘that’s perfect,’ and that’s how I signed up.”

The conference, held in Savannah, Georgia, featured scholars and teachers from all around the country gathering together to learn and share the latest ideas and approaches in their respective fields. Strobel said, “It was interesting…to meet historians from all around the world. One of the things that’s great about the World History Association is that it’s both professors and teachers that come, and…both secondary and higher education really inform each other, which is pretty interesting.”

After her experience at the conference, Strobel plans to bring her knowledge back to the high school. “Taking a piece of art and having people analyze it in different methods was really interesting…I came back going through these different steps that different people used. [The conference] really helped me see art through new eyes, so I’m looking forward to being able to do that in my next unit,…use these tactics a little more and really dedicate large sections of the class time and go deeply into one idea and talk about technique….The Renaissance unit is the perfect place for this.”

Not only has the grant benefited her students, the grants also help contribute to the enthusiasm for learning that characterizes Lexington High School. Strobel added, “I think [LEF does] an unbelievable job at just keeping all of us up to date and enthusiastic and constantly learning. And when teachers are constantly learning they’re better teachers…It’s really one of the things that makes the culture of this place so positive.”

“The support that LEF gives is huge, just the idea that I have this special platform. And even if you don’t get a grant every year, you’re still feeding off of grants you’ve gotten in past years or that your colleagues have gotten. Just the fact that the town and the people of the town have supported us so much is really powerful,” Strobel said. “I’m very privileged to a be part of it and work in a place where such a thing exists.”



About LEF
The Lexington Education Foundation (LEF) was founded in 1989 to support “better schools, brighter futures” for Lexington Public School students. Since our founding, LEF has awarded grants totaling over $4.4 million from funds raised from individuals and businesses throughout our community. Grants support exploration of innovative approaches to teaching, development of educational materials, testing of new uses of technology to meet educational needs, and professional development that enriches teachers’ subject-area knowledge and skill. Grants range in size and scope. Proposals are carefully reviewed to ensure a focus on efforts that contribute to student achievement and the quality of our schools. Lexington Education Foundation (LEF) is an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization. LEF is not affiliated with the Lexington Public Schools.

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METCO Scholarship Fund Of Lexington Charts Exciting New Course

METCO LogoWith support from the Indian Americans of Lexington, Merck & Shire

Entering its 45th Anniversary Year the METCO (METropolitan COuncil for Educational Opportunity) College Scholarship Fund of Lexington (MCSFL) is proud to announce generous support from several community-based organizations. The MCSFL awards scholarships to Lexington High School graduates who are enrolled in METCO, a state-funded grant program that promotes diversity and educational opportunity for more than 3,300 Boston students by enrolling them in participating suburban school districts.  Lexington was one of the first seven communities at the forefront of this voluntary school-busing program when it was initiated nearly 50 years ago in 1966.  Currently 37 communities throughout Massachusetts participate.  Two hundred and fifty-one METCO students attend all grades of the Lexington School district, typically enrolling in the first grade and continuing through graduation at LHS. Long time MCSFL Trustee Charles Martin, understands that “an excellent primary and secondary education is no longer enough to prepare students for present and future jobs in what has become an innovation economy.  A college education is now a necessity.  My experience has shown that the majority of METCO families are single parent, low-income, non-college-educated households with much higher aspirations than that for their children.  Lexington’s schools have successfully played their role in making that happen but without financial aid, such as offered by the MCSFL, it stops here – a college education is just not possible.”


From left to right: Jill Smilow, President of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington, Sudha Balasuryan, Archana Singhal, Co-President of IAL and Seema Sinha.

From left to right: Jill Smilow, President of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington, Sudha Balasuryan, Archana Singhal, Co-President of IAL and Seema Sinha.

In support of this truth, in November, the Indian Americans of Lexington (IAL) organization chose the MCSFL to be the recipient of the IAL’s Annual Charity Giving at the 2015 Diwali celebration. “This year the IAL Board decided to focus on education and thought giving to METCO will further our mission to give back to the community”. The METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington “is indeed very deserving and we believe it is rewarding to help these kids when they need it the most”, said Co-President Nirmala Garimella, on behalf of the IAL Board.


In 2014, Cubist Pharmaceuticals became a corporate sponsor, providing matching dollars for the May-June fund drive.  The Lexington community rose to the challenge, and the combined total raised provided a significant addition to the scholarships we were able to disburse for our 2014 METCO graduates.  Earlier this year, Merck provided a similar generous donation in matching funds to support the MCSFL for our 2015 graduates. Again, individual donors stepped up and the funds raised through the drive helped our METCO students begin their college life. To close out this year, corporate neighbor Shire donated to the MCSFL to help support our students. “Shire is proud to have our U.S. Operational Headquarters in Lexington and we are committed to being a contributing member of the community,” said Jessica Cotrone, Shire’s Head of External Communications.  “We appreciate the important impact the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington has on deserving students and we are very happy to support it.”


In 2016, the Board of Trustees of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington will be putting into action a new strategic plan focused on raising awareness of METCO and the MCSFL in the community as well as working toward a college completion funding model to help students not just as they enter college but to help close financial gaps as they matriculate on their way toward finishing their college degrees. There is a new website as well as a Facebook Page where visitors can learn more about the MCSFL and future events related to METCO and our students. To learn more about the MCSFL and to donate online go to: https://metcocollegescholarship.wordpress.com/ or contact Jill Smilow, President of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington at metco.csfl@gmail.com. Contributions to the MCSFL are appreciated and can be sent to the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington, 10 Fletcher Avenue, Lexington, MA 02420.
In 2016, the Board of Trustees of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington will be putting into action a new strategic plan focused on raising awareness of METCO and the MCSFL in the community as well as working toward a college completion funding model to help students not just as they enter college but to help close financial gaps as they matriculate on their way toward finishing their college degrees. There is a new website as well as a Facebook Page where visitors can learn more about the MCSFL and future events related to METCO and our students. To learn more about the MCSFL and to donate online go to: https://metcocollegescholarship.wordpress.com/ or contact Jill Smilow, President of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington at metco.csfl@gmail.com. Contributions to the MCSFL are appreciated and can be sent to the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington, 10 Fletcher Avenue, Lexington, MA 02420.


Sunday, May 15th
at 3 pm

Depot Square, Lexington Center
Join in a community-wide celebration of the 45th Anniversary of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington. Meet former METCO students, members of the Board and learn more about the history of the METCO program in our community and our strategic plans for the future of the MCSFL.
The event is free and open to all!

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GIANT Accomplishment! Lexington’s Chris Shaw Chosen in the 1ST Round of the MLB Draft

Chris Shaw_WebHeaderBy Devin Shaw

Every young athlete has dreamed of playing professional sports. In almost all cases the dream fades with age. The realization is painful yet necessary for most, but for a select few, like Lexington’s own Chris Shaw, the dream becomes real.

Chris Shaw will remember June 8, 2015 for the rest of his life—that is the day that the San Francisco Giants selected him 31st overall in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft.

Chris played baseball at Lexington High School and was so good that the New York Mets drafted him directly out of high school with the 800th overall pick, but he chose instead to pursue his education and play ball at Boston College.

I recently spoke to Chris and he told me this time the draft was different, “out of high school I had no intentions of signing professionally; I wanted to go to college and honor my commitment to BC. So this time around it was pretty nerve-racking leading up to the draft because I knew I was signing and I wanted to go as high as possible and end up with the best organization I could. And when I was selected by San Francisco I was excited—because of their track record and the kind of organization they are top-to-bottom.”

Since 2010 the San Francisco Giants have been inarguably the best franchise in professional baseball. Not including this current season, the Giants have won three of the last five World Series. And most of the key-contributors for this baseball dynasty have been developed within the farm system that Chris is about to enter.

Chris possesses what is known in the scouting world as “plus-plus” power. Essentially, the hulking left-hander can hit the ball a mile. His batting practices regularly drew massive crowds of scouts prepared for a show. Power hitters have become increasingly scarce in professional baseball making someone with as much power as Shaw rare and valuable.

Chris has always been a standout athlete; he played both baseball and hockey at LHS. The Lexington baseball team helped shape who he is as a ballplayer. He says, “It taught me all my fundamentals obviously, both on and off field. I learned how to be a good teammate and what it takes to be successful with regards to hard work. It definitely played a huge role in my development in allowing me to get to the position I am in now.”

Chris’ Lexington baseball career was hugely successful; it included an undefeated regular season and the prodigious statistics that got scouts from both the college and professional ranks to give him a look. Chris knew he wanted to go to Boston College from the beginning, it provided him a unique opportunity to not only go to a school in what is considered a premiere conference for baseball but also to continue a family tradition of a attending the college—from his grandfather to his mother to most recently his little brother.

Boston College is in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and for baseball it continually provides some of the best competition for budding Major Leaguers. Chris began his freshman season with incredibly high expectations from both himself and outsiders. He played in 50 games his freshman year at multiple positions including first base and right field and ended his season with a .165 batting average with 27 hits, including five doubles and six home runs (HRs), and ended the season with 27 runs batted in (RBIs).

Though he led the team in home runs, Chris wanted to improve. And during his sophomore year Chris exploded onto the national scene with a breakout season. He told me what helped him do that, “I was able to manage expectations far better going into my sophomore year, my freshman year allowed me to see what it takes to be successful at that level. I think my freshman year I went in there expecting to be a freshman All-American and all this stuff but I learned going from a Massachusetts public high school to the ACC is a pretty significant jump.”

“Every single day I am going to the field

with the short-term goal of getting better

today and don’t worry about tomorrow.”


The ACC features some of the best pitchers in the nation, making it more difficult to hit, especially while Chris was there. “You look at some of the guys I faced and they’re in the big leagues already. We faced some very, very good arms and going into my sophomore year I wanted to be a harder worker and not be as result oriented as much as just going out there and having fun and working hard.”

Well it worked.

Chris’ numbers during his sophomore year were absolutely ridiculous. All of his individual statistics went up exponentially. He finished the season with a .329 batting average 68 hits 18 doubles 9 HRs 45 RBIs and a .502 slugging percentage. All of this led to numerous accolades including being named to the First-Team All-ACC Team (essentially, he was the best player at his position in his conference).

Baseball is a game of whispered stories. Before the advent of video and the Internet,tales of unbelievable feats on the diamond traveled ear-to-ear across the country. Mostly exaggerated, these stories grew in proportion until they were deemed unbelievable or would go down as myth (who really hit the longest home run of all time?). During Chris’ summer on the Cape playing for the Chatham Anglers he built his own myths one massive home run after another. Stories of 450-foot home runs to dead center flooded the Internet and scouting circles.

Chris took it all in stride, and ended up leading the Cape Cod league in home runs which is a major accomplishment considering this is the summer league where all the nation’s best collegiate players go to show off their talent in front of major league scouts.

His performance during the summer raised his profile in the eyes of scouts, he said “I’ve had it described to me that after my sophomore year I was viewed as anywhere from a third to fourth round guy but then after my summer on the cape I was put in the discussion of a top-50 guy.”

It also put the pressure on Chris to perform during his junior season which he did—leading all NCAA players in home runs until an injury interrupted his torrid pace. Though inconvenient, it’s an injury that will not impact his future.

And most importantly it did not prevent the Giants from picking Chris in the first round.

Which brings us back to June 8—Chris was in Lexington to watch the draft at home with mom Karen, dad Doug brother Brendan and close friends and family. Everyone was glued to the TV waiting to hear Chris’ name called. Certainly a night filled with stress and excitement but when the moment finally happened Chris says it got very loud—“A lot of yelling, a lot of celebration. We knew at around the 23 pick that the Giants were gonna take me they called and said ‘Hey, if you’re available we’re gonna take you’ it was kind of anti-climatic because we knew they were going to select me. Nevertheless it was still an incredible moment.”

Chris Shaw signs his contract with the San Francisco Giants.

Chris Shaw signs his contract with the San Francisco Giants.

Now Chris is in Arizona practicing every day waiting to find out what the Giants have planned for him. As he says, “I’m ready to take it day-to-day, just go out there keep my head down and try to live in the moment.”

The minor leagues are set up to allow players to develop their skills to a professional level while playing competition of similar ability. There are multiple levels and various teams all over the United States—from Portland, Maine to Salem, Oregon. Some players skyrocket through their systems on their way to superstardom while others play in the minors their entire careers.

Chris wants to stay in the present and work hard as he moves up the ranks, when asked about his goals as a professional entering the minor leagues he says “I think they’re pretty short-term goals—get better every day. I think if I get caught up in thinking about progressing as quickly as possible or setting a date for when I get to the big leagues I may become a bit overwhelmed. Every single day I am going to the field with the short-term goal of getting better today and don’t worry about tomorrow.”

For Chris baseball isn’t just a job, it’s a passion. Becoming a professional athlete is not something that just happens, it requires a lot of love and dedication that usually starts at a very young age, “I’d go and hit whenever I could. I’d be bugging my dad to go and throw me batting practice. Growing up my neighbors and me were always outside playing, I was never a kid that played video games and stayed away from that stuff—I was just always outside. But I think it’s very important to play multiple sports. I played baseball and hockey in high school and once baseball season was over I hung them up and got on the ice.”

Unfortunately Chris won’t be allowed to play hockey anymore. Admittedly he will miss it “a lot” but I think he has more-than-enough baseball games ahead of him to keep busy!

Hopefully we will see Chris in San Francisco under the bright lights playing for the Giants as soon as possible. From what we knew he’ll work tirelessly day-to-day and game-to-game to improve until he’s ready for the big leagues.

Baseball is a game of repetition and one thing will never change for Chris Shaw, whether it’s dad tossing batting practice or facing the best pitcher in the world: “Try to find a good pitch to hit and hit it hard.”

I’m certain of one thing, stories will be told all over the country of Lexington’s Chris Shaw doing just that.


Below: Chris (in Bowdoin tee shirt) marches with his LHS teammates in the Patriots Day Parade.

Below: Chris (in Bowdoin tee shirt) marches with his LHS teammates in the Lexington Little League Parade.

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Twelfth Night at Bridge School

Curtain CallBy Laurie Atwater

Visit Bridge School in the early morning before class, or after school, and you may find that you’ve been transported back to Shakespearean England by enterprising thespians and their intrepid director Leslie Colby.  Long after Lexington lost its elementary theater specialist, Ms. Colby has kept theater alive at Bridge.  For fourteen years, her Shakespeare Troupe has been staging an abbreviated version of Twelfth Night or What You Will.

“It started out as a class project,” Ms. Colby explains.  But when the curriculum began to move to quickly to accommodate in class projects of any scope, Colby was undeterred.  Giving generously of her own time, she actually expanded her little Shakespeare experiment to include all Bridge 4th and the 5th graders who wanted to audition.

The Bridge Shakespeare Troupe was formed with the goal of presenting one yearly production that was true to the text and the spirit of the original.

And Ms. Colby knows her Shakespeare.  She earned her BA and Masters in theater education and has directed and acted in many adult productions over the years. Her husband Robert (Bob) Colby is the director of the elite graduate program in theater education at Emerson College.  Together they have theater in their blood.  Most recently Ms. Colby was the recipient of an LEF Summer Fellowship Grant which she used to study drama in London at the Globe Theatre.  “I did some workshops there and I did a lot of work with Shakespeare.”  Work that she’s putting to great use at home in Lexington. Colby tells me that the sets for the play are modeled on the original Globe Theatre sets for Twelfth Night.

What’s great about this story is that I would never have known about Ms. Colby or this Twelfth Night production if it were not for one parent who wanted to highlight this great educational experience in town.  She reached out to me because she realized that special alchemy was happening at Bridge school—that moment when teaching and learning were combining to create the magical potion called education.  This isn’t test prep, drills or CORE requirements, this is the education that inspires and reaches deep within students to foster real joy in learning.

Colby is a big fan of this special joy.  She would have to be.  With the demands of modern curriculum requirements, Ms. Colby no longer has the classroom time to devote to Shakespeare.  All of the work for the production is done on her own time, but she is quick to say that her enthusiasm for the project has never waned.  And she credits the Lexington parents for helping to keep it going.  “We would never be able to do all of this ourselves for so many years,” she says. Even with her husband’s help, it’s a challenge to manage everything that goes into the production.  “We have one family that has let us use their basement for storage,” Colby says laughing. Indeed the Edelman family on Middleby Road has saved the Bridge School Shakespeare Company.

Because the school does not let them store any of their materials on site, they have relied on the kindness of these neighbors whose children have been Colby thespians over the years.  Andy, the youngest Edelman just performed in Willy Wonka at the middle school and is planning to attend Walnut Hill to pursue his passion for the arts.  Over the years hundreds of parents have sewn costumes, applied makeup, painted sets, gathered props, and gotten their children to rehearsal.  The children never forget their experience. “Once they are part of the Shakespeare Players,”Ms. Colby says proudly, “they come back year after year to support the new kids and see the play.” And of course to see her.

The reward is worth the effort for Ms. Colby.  “I have children who have all different skills and abilities, but they all learn and grow,” she says.  “You can see their improved confidence—they learn to work cooperatively and master a task over time,” she says.  Theater is a lot of work. Children not only memorize their lines but they have to understand the context of what they are saying and refine their delivery. The have to be accountable to the other actors—learn their blocking and their cues, hit their marks and become part of the company.  It takes cooperation, self discipline and teamwork.

Parents are thrilled to see their children performing in public and developing those skills that will be important as they grow. “It’s really such joy and excitement,” Ms. Colby says, “A feeling of accomplishment that they don’t get from a short little paper or a worksheet.  That joy—it’s why I wanted to teach in the first place and it seems to be diminishing every day.  When the curtain goes down and the company takes a bow, Leslie Colby always sheds a tear or two, but only for a moment because next year she will begin anew! [Read more…]

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LHS Students Recognized in Boston Globe Scholastic Art Awards

Forty Nine students from the Lexington Public Schools were recognized for their artistic excellence in the 2014 Boston Globe Scholastic Art Awards.

Student artwork from grades 7-12 were selected by their schools, and many received Honorable Mentions, Silver Keys or Gold Keys. Of the 49 students whose works were selected, 29 Honorable Mentions, 9 Silver Keys and 20 Gold Keys were awarded. Gold Key Winners will be on display at Boston’s City Hall March 7 – March 30, 2014.

Following the close of the Massachusetts Regional exhibit, the selected Gold Key award winners from each national region will have their art works reviewed by a blue ribbon panel of judges at the National level in March. The National Jury will select “Gold Medal” National winners and call in their artwork to be exhibited in New York City during June. The National student awards ceremony will be held at Carnegie Hall in mid- June. Selected students will receive an invitation to this National event.

Raindrops-Emma Kaftan-Luckerman, grade 12

Emma Kaftan-Luckerman
Grade 12

A Meaningful Embrace_Colby Yee, grade 12, Gold Key

A Meaningful Embrace
Colby Yee
Grade 12


Convex Concave-  Elana Super, grade 12

Convex Concave
Elana Super
Grade 12

 Gold Key Winners will be on display at

Boston’s City Hall March 7 – March 30, 2014

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Saying Goodbye to Estabrook School

Principals 2

Estabrook Alumnus John Murphy

Estabrook Alumnus John Murphy

By Laurie Atwater

The mood was nostalgic as alumni and families took one last opportunity to stroll the halls of Estabrook School before its official closing on February 14th. The new building, which will open to students on February 24, is just a building, waiting for the memories of generations to come. The old Estabrook almost burst with the energy of 52 years’ of memories on Friday night as alumni, students, parents, teachers and friends reminisced and said goodbye.

Greeted by Principal Sandy Strach, folks grabbed from an abundant supply of Sharpies and searched for the perfect spot to sign their names. Was it the Library, the front office, the entrance of a very special classroom where they would leave their final tribute? According to principal Strach, it has been a “very sentimental time” for her and her fellow educators and administrators. “People have come from all over to say goodbye,” Strach said. “Alumni, teachers—it has been a multi-generational event with families that have attended the school for decades.” Indeed, the 52 year old structure has seen a lot of history.

Visitor and alumnus John Murphy who attended Estabrook from 1966-1971 recalled the day when his older brother along with all the other children were called into the auditorium and informed that President Kennedy had been assassinated. In fact, Murphy had memories every time he turned a corner and wistfully recalled that they were allowed to ride their bikes to school when he attended Estabrook. Estabrook has also become much more diverse over its 52 years. In his tribute next to the door to his 2nd grade classroom, Murphy scrawled a reference to how his class had voted for Hubert Humphrey over Richard Nixon in 1968.

Parents from many different cultures walked the halls with their children and took pictures. Fifth grade student Nicholas Tringale who is currently in Miss Silberman’s class and will transition to the new school, signed the wall with his mom Beverly who attended Estabrook from 1969-1975. Nicholas has mixed feelings about leaving his old school and his shiny green lockers! Nicholas will be happy to hear that all of the usable items from Estabrook will be re-purposed around the district where they are needed including the lockers. Several items will be contributed to the Lexington Historical Society: mid-century modern chairs and the original sign. Unfortunately, the much-loved mural was not able to be preserved, but it was photographed professionally and that photograph will be lovingly displayed as part of a special exhibit in the new school.

Back in the lobby, Principal Strach greeted family after family and at one point has a circle of Estabrook teachers around her with over 100 years in combined teaching time! Susan Orenstein taught Kindergarten, Elaine Hooper taught both 2nd and 3rd grade, Joan Pirrello taught grade 3 and Renée Sack taught 4th and 5th grade. Among them Len Swanton who went on to work with Carol Pilarski (who also attended) in the main office and has “great memories of this school.”

Principal Strach was not surprised by the outpouring of love for the school. “It doesn’t matter what decade they attended,” she said, “the ‘intangible’ at Estabrook is how much they were loved.” She describes it as “love balanced with progressive learning.” That is the quality that she is determined to foster in the new school as well. Principal Strach is excited that the new building is full of community spaces. “We’ve kept that as a priority.”

Strach is inspired by the rich history of Estabrook School and referred me to her speech at the groundbreaking for a little Estabrook education which I will share with you here:

Fifty-one years ago, when Estabrook School first opened its doors, it was famously known as the first team teaching school in the nation. For decades thereafter, professionals in education, research and architecture traveled worldwide to see the renowned Estabrook School in action. The school’s

progressive instructional vision, inspired by Harvard University and Lexington educators, was

complemented by an open and flexible architectural design. Cooperative learning, flexible multi-age learning groups and teacher leadership were the instructional cornerstones of the 1961 Estabrook School. These advanced best practices were not readily apparent in mainstream education until the 1990’s.


Excerpted from Principal Sandy Strach’s speech at the groundbreaking for the new Estabrook school


According to Strach the new school is designed to push the progressive learning model into the future while maintaining the vision of the past. The building itself will become a teaching tool as a LEED Silver building, it will be a living example to the students of environmental responsibility and stewardship. From the sustainable gardening practices and ecology education through the Big Backyard to a LEEDS Silver Curriculum created around the question: What makes Estabrook a green school?, Strach hopes to send informed citizens into the world. “By the time they graduate,” she says, “they will appreciate the evolution of ‘Green’ and can take it forward into the world.”

It’s part of what makes Estabrook such a special place Strach said—the “ecology” of the school where one person effects the other—the school itself is a metaphor for the community it holds so dear.


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Big Lex a BIG success!

By Mollie Garberg


Big LexThe fast falling snow over the Martin Luther King weekend didn’t phase Nikhil Basutkar, one of the 1073 debaters who had come from across the country for the Lexington Winter Invitational Debate Tournament or ‘Big Lex’ hosted by the Lexington Debate Team. Instead, he posted a picture of himself standing in it on Twitter captioned “Debating in the snow. #BigLex #Boston #PFD”

PFD refers to public forum debate, one of the three types of debates held at the tournament. Students at the tournament were prepared for Lincoln-Douglas and policy debates as well. Though none of the Lexington debaters competed, they spent countless hours organizing and volunteering as hosts to pull off the event which is their largest fundraiser of the year. Lexington parent volunteers pitched in too, doing everything from acting as greeters to cooking for the judges to housing 350 visiting debaters.

Visiting coaches and judges stayed at local hotels, and Whitson’s, the food service provider for the Lexington Public Schools, catered the event and provided nutritious meals for all the participants. Event Chairs Jean Birnberg and Sue Wilner said that local businesses were especially helpful and donated food, beverages and other services to help make the event successful. Some of the businesses that contributed were Wilson Farms, Taipei Gourmet, Prime Roast Beef, Royal India Bistro, Lexx, Neillios, Ruyi Restaurant, Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.

But the event was more than just a fundraiser for the team. Debate benefits Lexington students in many ways according to Sara Sanchez, Lexington high school’s debate teacher and program head. “Our society has a long history of celebrating great oratory and the presentation of ideas, which debate teaches kids to activate. Tournaments and competition provide a unique cumulative education experience that cannot be duplicated by tests/activities in the classroom. On an interpersonal level, it allows kids to challenge themselves academically in an innovative, head to head competition where their arguments are heard, evaluated and taken seriously by adults and educators who dedicate time to give them personalized feedback,” says Sanchez.

If you’d like to learn more and help support Lexington Debate, go www.lexdebate.org for more information.


Mollie Garberg is a Lexington resident, debate parent and volunteer.



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