Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How Breakthrough Manchester opened the door to opportunity

Breakthrough Manchester, a tuition-free academic enrichment program for middle school students, recently held its annual Back to Summer breakfast to celebrate the start of the upcoming season. Students who apply and are selected to participate in Breakthrough Manchester begin the program after 6th grade and spend three summers taking rigorous classes.

Once students complete their three year middle school Breakthrough commitment, they are able to continue with the tuition-free College Bound program at Southern New Hampshire University. Designed to support students in high school, the College Bound program is rolling out the supports for ninth graders this school year.

Memorial High School Senior Selina Nwikina spoke at this year's Back to Summer breakfast about her experience and the impact of Breakthrough Manchester on her life. Selina's remarks are posted here with her permission.

I have been a part of Breakthrough for five years. Quite honestly, it does not feel like that at all. It feels like just yesterday I was sitting in the Bakersville library learning about Breakthrough from Kate and Trevor, the directors at the time. I will be honest with you, from that first presentation I was not that interested. Mostly because I spent my summers at Copper Cannon Camp and playing with friends from my neighborhood. If I went to summer school then I wouldn't be able to do those things.

Then, Mrs. Mancuso, my fifth grade teacher told me it would help me become a better student, allowing me to work on my writing and excel further in math. Those are the two things that meant the most to me. And I soon began to realize that if I really wanted to become something great, I would have to work for it. Even if that meant giving up six weeks in the summer. I always loved going to school anyway, so what was six more weeks? I figured I would take the opportunity to hone in on my strengths and my weaknesses, and maybe I could be faster at math and better at writing. You see, math was easy for me but writing on the other hand not so much. In fifth grade, we started writing persuasive essays and it was challenging. I remember one time I wrote a persuasive letter to my mom begging for a cat. Until I realized it was not any different from me asking her in person, I included the normal ten pleases and the “I’ll even change its litter box.” In case you were curious, the essay did not work. Even as a fifth grader, I may not have had long term goals such as college. But I knew I wanted to be the best student I could be. And with that always in the back of mind, I worked hard on my application.

The day I found out I was accepted into Breakthrough was one of the most life changing moments in my life. After all, it led to be where I am today. Breakthrough not only paved the way for me to become one of the top students in my class but also it changed my character for the better. Being part of Breakthrough also helped me attend Phillips Exeter Summer School in 2015 on a full scholarship. My summer there was amazing. I made new friends from every corner of the world, I tried foods that I had never heard of before, and I studied strange sea creatures. That summer was one I will never forget, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have found myself on a level I thought I would never reach. Meanwhile, both Breakthrough and Exeter Summer School made the transition from middle to high school that much easier.

Now that I am in high school, it means so much more to me to be an outstanding student. I am taking level four and AP classes, I have two jobs, and I volunteer with my local parish. One thing I am extremely grateful to have learned from Breakthrough is time management. Otherwise, I may not have made it the past two months, which have been filled with studying for different exams, preparing for presentations, and working many hours. I got it all done but, it took a lot of energy and effort. And for that I am grateful to have a skill set that allowed me to push myself past what I thought I ever could achieve. Time management is one of the most useful skills one can apply to their education. Another concept that I still use in various situations, is “dare to be different.” That was the theme of my first Breakthrough summer in 2012. And since then, I know what makes me different from everyone around me and I embrace it everyday. After that summer, I finally understand how to answer the question “What makes you different?”

After my years at Breakthrough, I found out about another program that is very similar; UNH Upward Bound. This program for me was the best next step I could have taken. And now I am a part of two amazing educational programs that have changed my life and so many other kids just like me. One thing I do have to say is Breakthrough really did teach me that “if you believe it you can achieve it!”

Manchester schools in the news

NHPR reporter Jason Moon recently visited two elementary schools and spoke with teachers there, as well as Dr. Vargas about some of the challenges our district faces. Listen to the story online.

A Christian Science Monitor reporter spent a lot of time at the Manchester School of Technology this spring, talking to students and teachers about the hands-on programs. You can watch and read that story here.

McLaughlin Middle School is in its second year of a 7th and 8th grade STEAM-focused curriculum. The program was featured in an online blog of education consultants, impressed by what they saw.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Call for book donations!

The Manchester Board of School Committee is holding a book drive to collect books that will go home with elementary school students across the city. All the books collected will be shared among schools and classes to ensure that every child at every grade level receives at least one book to take home for the
summer. Please spread the word and clean out those book shelves!

Monday, May 22, 2017

MSD director of EL instruction is a UNH distinguished alumna

Manchester School District's director of English Learner instruction, Wendy Perron, was awarded the "2017 Distinguished Alumni Award" during the University of New Hampshire's Education Department commencement on May 19.

As part of this honor, she was the featured guest speaker for the Education Department graduation. Wendy shared her perspective on what makes Manchester's schools so special and diverse, and how our school communities welcome all cultures. Her inspirational speech challenged these new educators to make critical reflection a part of their practice, as well as ensure that they would continue the quest for equity in education for all students.

We're proud that Wendy plays such an important role in educating our students!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Life after high school: An EL student's success story

Vanessa Wallace, left, with Central High School
EL teacher Connie Swenson
Vanessa Wallace, Central High School class of 2007, visited Mrs. Swenson and Ms. Droney's advanced English Learner classes this spring to tell her story as a Central High School EL alumna. When Vanessa and her family arrived in Manchester from Colombia 12 years ago, she started at Central as a junior. She described to students her struggles and successes, her determination and persistence, and expressed her gratitude for teachers who believed in her.

After graduating from Central, Vanessa attended the University of New Hampshire, where she earned a B.S. in business administration and B.S. in international affairs in 2011. She continued her education at UNH and received a masters in administration in 2013.

Vanessa is now married, has two children, and is an accountant at BAE Systems. There, she also serves as VP of Activities for HOLA (Hispanic Organization for Leadership Advancement), and she is a company-trained emergency responder.

Vanessa Wallace with Central students
Josefa Lopez, Estefani Rodriguez, and Mynor Yoc 
During her presentation to Central's current EL students, Vanessa encouraged them to get involved in school programs and clubs after school. Vanessa explained the process of preparing for a job search to start her career after college, which included deciding what direction she wanted to go in: public or private accounting, the importance of family vs. career.

Thank you for sharing your story, Vanessa. We look forward to hearing from more of our graduates about their journeys after high school!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

"The Little Green" honored with New England award

The Little Green, Central High School’s student newspaper, received a second place All-New England Award for Class I newspapers from the New England Scholastic Press Association (NESPA) for the second consecutive year. The paper also received the Highest Achievement Award, which was presented at the NESPA’s 69th annual spring conference at Boston University’s College of Communications on May 5.

In addition to the All-New England honor, Little Green editor-in-chief Aidan Ryan was recognized for Best Page Design for his “Election 2016” feature, and writer Lily O’Connell received an award for her article, "The Central 'Stache."

The Little Green, which is published eight times a year, is a forum for student expression and is not funded by the school district. Faculty advisers are Carol and Scott MacDonald.

NESPA’s judging panel consisted of Boston University journalism professors and experienced scholastic media advisers, who considered entries from 800 New England school publications. 
The 2016-2017 Little Green staff:
Back row: Ryan Leonard, Niko Kacavas, Aidan Ryan, Declan Knieriem, Liam O'Connell, Brendon Lewis
Middle Row: Matt Gilroy, Aidan Latona, Sophia Ferro, Abbey Conrad, Max Nakos, Jayda Ragas
Front Row: Lilly Hayward, Andriana Skaperdas, Meredith Stisser, Monericka Semeran, Natalie Rivera

Monday, May 15, 2017

Principal McCafferty receives inaugural SNHU Loeffler Prize

Hillside Middle School principal Brendan McCafferty is the first ever recipient of Southern New Hampshire University's newly established Loeffler Prize, recognizing those who have unselfishly and generously contributed their time and talents for the enrichment of others and the betterment of their community. In the description of the award, SNHU says honorees set an example for the spirit of generosity, everyday contributions, sometime heroism, and perseverance.

Mr. McCafferty was honored in part for his hard work to build a network of opportunities for his students across the city of Manchester. He has been an instrumental champion in the work of local nonprofit BRING IT!, an acronym of the program’s full name: “Bringing Refugees, Immigrants and Neighbors Gently Into Tomorrow.” An average of 100 kids attend the Tuesday and Wednesday sessions after school, which started at Hillside and is now also offered and hosted by the Middle School at Parkside. These evenings feature dance, in-door soccer, and sports, and a Homework Club, as well as volunteers from across the Manchester community, who act as mentors for program participants, encouraging and inspiring them to establish a sense of place, and belonging.

SNHU called Mr. McCafferty "an inspiring example of what an individual, with a passion, and a drive to facilitate change, who makes a positive and transformative impact on the lives of others, can achieve."

The Loeffler Prize is named for Frederic "Rick" A. Loeffler, a member of the SNHU community, who embodies the spirit of this award.  A long-time member of the SNHU Board of Trustees and a local business person, Rick is a champion of his community and the prize commemorates his commitment to make Manchester and New Hampshire a better place for all.

The Loeffler Prize carries a $2,000 gift to be made in the winner’s name to a non-profit of his or her choice. Mr. McCafftery has asked that the Hillside Middle School PTO receive that gift.

Major donation gives elementary school needed technology

Bill Binnie and Mayor Gatsas pose with
some of the 5th graders at Smyth Road Elementary School
New Hampshire businessman Bill Binnie delivered 60 Chromebooks, a laptop, and smart TV to Smyth Road Elementary School this morning, fulfilling a promise to pay for technology upgrades there. Binnie, president of investment company Carlisle Capital and perhaps better known as owner of several television and radio broadcast stations in the state, recently became acquainted by chance with the school’s assistant principal. She talked to Binnie about how a business could support the needs of Smyth Road.

“All of the schools in Manchester welcome partnerships with members of the business community,” said Rachelle Otero, assistant principal. “I mentioned Smyth Road’s wish list of technology items, and Mr. Binnie promised right then to donate $20,000.”

While donations of similar value have been made to the school district or multiple schools at a time in the past, it’s very rare for one benefactor to make such a large contribution to one school.

“We are grateful for Mr. Binnie's extremely generous support of education in Manchester,” said superintendent Bolgen Vargas. “This kind of gift will make a significant impact on students and teachers."

Smyth Road Elementary School principal Jennifer Briggs,
assistant superintendent Chris Martin,
Bill Binnie, Mayor Gatsas, assistant principal Rachelle Otero
Binnie visited Smyth Road not long after that conversation with Otero, to speak with fifth grade students about the importance of doing homework, college and career aspirations, perseverance, and his own experience setting goals and working toward them.

“I was a poor kid with little expectation of going to college,” Binnie said. “Luckily I did make it to college and it changed my life.”

Binnie ordered 60 Chromebooks, two carts to store them, a MacBook Pro to replace the school librarian’s outdated laptop, and a smart HD television monitor that will be mounted in the library. He personally delivered the items to Smyth Road.

“Learning in the 21st century means that educators use technology to enhance everything they do,” said Smyth Road principal Jennifer Briggs. “We are very lucky that our school can continue those efforts thanks to such an overwhelmingly kind gift.”

Friday, May 12, 2017

Free Sam Carey Memorial Summer League for Students Entering Grades 3-8

The Sam Carey Memorial Summer League is a free program open for children in Manchester who are entering grades 3 - 8. For more information please comntact the League Director, David Greenidge, Jr. at d.greenidgejr@gmail.com or the Recreation Supervisor, Erik Bukowski at ebukowski@manchesternh.gov.

Download a flyer and registration form.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Parks & Recreation is hiring for the summer

The city is looking for applicants for pool checkers and Fun in the Sun counselors. Pool checkers must be at least 14 years old and completed 8th grade. Counselors for Fun in the Sun must be 18 or older.

Interested? Fill out an application and return it to Human Resources at City Hall.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Seeking exchange student host families

MANEX, the citywide high school exchange program created by the Office of the Mayor in 1983, is currently looking for Manchester families to host a German student for about three weeks in the fall of 2017.

German students usually arrive in October, attend school with host students, and are interested in everyday American family life.  It is a fabulous opportunity for college readiness skills and to get to know a student from Europe!

Manchester students from Central, Memorial and West high schools then travel in the spring to Neustadt and der Weinstrasse in Germany. They attend our sister school, visit historical and cultural locations, meet with local officials, live with a local student's family, practice world language skills, and make lifelong friendships.

Students interested in hosting and/or travel applications for the 2017-2018 should contact their school's German teacher or Ms. Witkowski at switkowski@mansd.org for more information.

Summer school positions posted

We are looking for teachers and paraprofessionals to staff our summer programs.
Please apply online!