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By Janice Llanes Fabry

 

Rye Neck High School recently collaborated with the Community Resource Center in Mamaroneck to determine the role that accessibility to transportation plays in the lives of Hispanic/Latino immigrants. Through an enterprising elective, Action Research for Community Change, students work directly with various organizations to devise a research framework that will meet their needs. 

 

“The course is a big adjustment from going to a more typical class, taking notes, and doing homework,” offered senior Matt Lawhon. “Action Research draws a lot more on creative ability and abstract reasoning. There are a lot more directions you can go in because you’re dealing with unanticipated complexities. It’s more representative of what you see in the real world.”

 

For this particular collaboration, Lawhon and a think tank made up of fellow students initially met with the Community Resource Center’s former Executive Director, Milan Bhatt. They discussed examining just how pivotal transportation accessibility is in the overall well being of new and undocumented immigrants. The students had the task of designing and conducting a study to provide the center’s staff with data on how immigrants use transportation to get to work, health care, and healthy food.  

 

Enrichment Coordinator and Action Research instructor, Dr. Valerie Feit explained that because of the nature of the course, its syllabus is constantly evolving. It is contingent upon a community organization’s specific requirements. In the past, the students have tackled senior care and food insecurity. 

 

This time around for the Community Resource Center, Lawhon and his peers pored through immigrant and transportation studies, reviewed national and local demographics, and then developed an anonymous survey to be completed by those who utilize the Center. 

 

According to Feit, the unbiased research painted a portrait of a fragile community that struggles with job and income insecurity in an environment where transportation to work, health care, and supermarkets is a constant challenge. 

 

Among the most startling findings was the fact that over half of the immigrants do not have a car to get to the closest supermarket three miles away. They either walk or rely on bicycles or public transportation. Moreover, almost a third end up to driving without a license to get to a job or a medical appointment. 

 

“One of the lasting impressions I had was just how important transportation is to a population in this area even though there’s a high degree of affluence and almost everyone has a car,” said Lawhon. “It’s an interesting idea that high school students can do the kind of research that can have a positive impact on people’s lives.”

 

 

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Rye Neck High School senior Matthew Lawhon

 

 

 

 

By Janice Llanes Fabry

 

Rye Neck High School presents “Legally Blonde” at the Performing Arts Center March 2-4 at 7. After three months of rehearsals, a cast of 40 students and a crew of 71 are ready to bring the house down with the sassy, effervescent musical that follows the metamorphosis of a young woman who defies all expectations. 

 

“It’s a fun play for everyone, with a good message and lots of dancing,” said Director Scott Harris. “The main character learns she is worth so much more and can achieve a great deal with her intelligence and self-confidence. It’s very empowering for girls.” 

 

It was that positive message that convinced Harris to select “Legally Blonde” when the students approached him with the idea last year. The director also saw the value in the musical’s sharp humor and big dance ensemble numbers.

 

“This musical gives students the opportunity to be on stage at the same time and to feel more ownership of the show,” noted Harris, who is working with Choreographer Jesse Pellegrino, Music Director Mark Galinovsky, and Costume Designer/teacher Karen Fontecchio. “It offers much more of a communal experience and it has dynamic leads and strong characters.”

 

The musical, which opened on Broadway in 2007, is based on the highly popular 2001 PG-13 film that put Reese Witherspoon on the map as the resourceful, pink- clad Delta Nu sorority president Elle Woods. Although the movie came out the year many of the students were born, most have seen it and are very excited.

 

Senior Rachel Wurzburger, who is playing Elle, remembers watching it on TV with her older sisters. “At first, Elle is completely unaware, but then she realizes she is able to push boundaries she thought she never could,” she observed. “I think it’s such a good lesson and a great part to play.”

 

Among the other leads are Justin Sturgis as Emmett, Mariko Sugaya as Brooke, Hunter Greenhill as Professor Callahan, Joshua Goldin-McCarthy as Warner, Erin Drace as Vivienne, and Bria McClain as Paulette.

 

Stage Manager Jillian Hurlbut, who has led the crew all four years, said, “I feel privileged. And the experience here made me realize that I want to pursue theater or film in college,” said the University of Wisconsin-bound senior. 

 

Additional crewmembers include Assistant Stage Managers Margaret Kohler and Matt Ponticiello, Technical Director Ian Gabriele, and Assistant Technical Director Michael Quartararo.

 

Harris, who teaches acting and musical and technical theater classes, a freshman public speaking class, and now an eighth-grade theater class as well, makes sure all the students have a full theatrical experience. This year, he has even rented an impressive set that is a slightly scaled-down version of the one utilized on Broadway.

 

“I’m not looking to do a high school musical, but rather a professional-level show that stars high school students,” said Harris. “They’re getting an elevated experience and it really helps that Rye Neck supports theater.”

 

<For tickets, visit http://tinyurl.com/RNLegallyBlonde.> 

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Director Scott Harris with Rye Neck High’s “Legally Blonde” cast

 

Midland School students have been running all over North America recently. They’ve been learning their states using National Geographic Giant Traveling Maps, which are so enormous that they require a gym or cafeteria for full display. 

 

Students spent several days engaging in collaborative and competitive activities designed to stimulate, educate, and give them a sense for where they are in relation to the rest of the world.

 

 

— Annette McLoughlin

 

By Annette McLoughlin

 

Performing arts programs enrich children in so many ways — emotional, social, and intellectual. They build self-esteem and engender great bonds through teamwork, where the focus is not on winning or losing, but on a great shared performance. Rye High School has long offered excellent performing arts programs, including a long-standing tradition in theater. And in the past 10 years, the school has enriched its offerings with The Parsons Street Players (PSP). 

 

Begun by Rye High English teacher Mike Limone, the Players offers members year-round theatrical opportunities. Limone, along with other faculty, including Rye Middle School social worker Peter Green, teacher Leann Janos, and music and chorus teacher Tom Snowden work with students on various projects and productions which, in addition to the fall and a spring shows, include a senior-directed production, “Senior Scenes,” and an end-of-the-year cabaret. Although PSP is active in all productions, tryouts are open to the entire student body.

 

Mr. Snowden, who currently oversees the Players, is directing the group’s upcoming production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” He has a rich background in theater. “I have been very fortunate to work in in various capacities in the field. I always say, ‘The versatile person is the employed person.’ Having a music background allowed me to often stay involved in theater.” He served as Assistant Music Director on the National Tour of “Anything Goes” and was Assistant Music Director for the Off-Broadway show “In Dahomey.” “Fiddler on the Roof” ranks high among Snowden’s favorite productions, and in fact, he has performed the role of Tevye a number of times.

 

He’s sure the Players’ upcoming production will be an emotional tour de force “Fiddler is a musical that makes you laugh, cry, and think.” 

 

There are close to 90 Rye High students working on the show on- and back-stage, along with talented faculty members Dr. Dan Brown, conductor; Douglas Kostner, vocal director; Cathy Cunningham from Rye School of Dance, choreographer; and John Gwardyak, set designer and technical director.

 

Snowden says ambitious productions like this wouldn’t be possible without the enormous support of the school administration and parent volunteers. “There are many people who understand the importance of the arts in education and make theater happen at Rye High,” notes Snowden. “I am grateful to every single one of them.” 

 

“Fiddler on the Roof” will be performed March 3 at 7:30 and March 4 at 2 and 7:30 in the RHS Performing Arts Center. 

 

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Rye High School students rehearsing for the upcoming production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”