— Grandparents Circle knits warm, tight community

Seniors, students learn together. By Sarah Griego Guz. Published in the Half Moon Bay Review on November 29th, 2017.

Grandparents Circle Half Moon Bay ReviewFirst-grader Mira Mukerji sings Bengali songs with her grandmother. Seventh-grader Aidan Popple makes food with his grandma and model planes with his grandpa. Fifth-grader Shane McGuirk watches TV with his grandparents. They’re members of multigenerational families who have the opportunity to spend time together. Sea Crest School’s Grandparents Circle seeks to strengthen that connection.

Inspired by the pleasure and privilege of having known her own grandparents, Head of School Tekakwitha M. Pernambuco-Wise said she pitched the idea to Maryann McGuirk, a Sea Crest grandparent and friend, to start the group about two years ago. Since then, it’s developed into a steering committee of six grandparents who organize socials and initiatives that weave fellow grandparents and other senior special friends into the fabric of the school’s community.

“What I was noticing more and more was the young children in our school … not (having) that good fortune to know their grandparents,” Pernambuco-Wise said. “I think it’s important for us to value and treasure our elders and their wisdom. I see them as the wise generation.”

That includes grandparents, grand aunts and uncles, family friends and other senior community members.

On Friday, people of all ages attended Grandparents and Special Friends Day that coincided with a fall performing arts showcase.

Grandparents Circle member Kay Beffa greeted these guests of honor with roses as they filed in to watch students perform musical and theatrical numbers.

“I just want to make sure it’s very special for grandparents and special friends,” Beffa said.

The circle gives something special back to her — she gets to spend time with her grandson and meet his friends, Beffa said. “It makes a nice, community feeling.”

Grandparents Circle Half Moon Bay ReviewGrandparents Circle members also led an effort to transform the school’s innovation lab into a museum that day. They curated “artifacts” from their lives including a sewing machine, bound atlases, school textbooks, and models of cars, helicopters and other means of transportation from decades past.

Denny Freezer, a former captain for the U.S. Coast Guard, put his manual aviation computers and slide rule on display.

“I love them and I’d like to increase interest in how things used to be done — I guess because I’m getting old,” Freezer said.

He and his wife, Linda, relocated to the area to be near their family, including grandson Shane McGuirk, a Sea Crest fifth-grader.

“They can experience our life and we can experience their adventures too,” she said. “It’s priceless.”

Grandchildren spoke of the unique relationship they forged with their elders during these times.

“You end up with a very special relationship,” Aidan Popple said.

Pernambuco-Wise echoed this. Sometimes, a grandparent gets the job of passing on knowledge in a gentle way, she said.

“There’s just this feeling of warmth and being wrapped in a warm blanket and having them listen to you,” Pernambuco-Wise said.

As Linda Freezer phrased it, “What happens at Nanna’s stays at Nanna’s.”

At a reception for grandparents, Jana Mukerji sat between Donna and Ankur Mukerji, enjoying the company of her granddaughter’s parents. She was visiting from India, creating not only a multigenerational connection but also a multicultural one, said Donna Mukerji.

Jana Mukerji said she missed Mira’s birth, but was with the family three months later. Since then, she’s made an effort to make the transcontinental trip every other year for three months at a time.

“He’s my only son and she’s my only daughter-in-law. We have a special bond,” Jana Mukerji said.

And she dotes on Mira, whose classroom she visited later that day to see what she was learning in school. They also snuggle a lot, her parents say.

“Just having her as a part of Mira’s life is really a blessing,” Ankur Mukerji said.

Aidan Popple’s grandparents also traveled to visit him and his siblings, this time for their dad’s 40th birthday. Coming from Park City, Utah, the journey was a bit quicker for them. They visit often.

“They’re more like secondary parents,” the seventh-grader said.

His grandparents can attest to that. During visits, Cheryl Popple said she helps make sure the three grandchildren are fed and clothed and John Popple gets them to school on time.

“I drop off the kids. I pick them up. I know exactly what time we have to be out the driveway,” John Popple said.

“I’m a real believer in extended family involvement. Just because you’ve moved away is not an excuse not to be involved,” grandmother Cheryl Popple said.

Grandparents Circle Half Moon Bay ReviewHowever, the extent to which Sea Crest opens its doors to senior generations is something that’s different from when she was a child, she said. Grandparents might have been invited to a dance recital or an Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony, but not to day-to-day activities. Later this year, the Grandparents Circle will help make a date night possible for parents as they recruit grandparents and special friends to babysit the children at Sea Crest.

“You look at how education has changed since I was in school. They just didn’t have this type of thing,” she said.

Expectations for family arrangements in the United States have evolved over generations. Pew Research data suggests that multigenerational households became less common after World War II as people moved to the suburbs as nuclear families, and aging populations had better health and economic prospects. They’re on the rise again, driven by various economic and cultural factors.

At Sea Crest, the school community is modeling a way to connect different generations in a modern context.

“I think this is one thing I like best about Sea Crest: It’s so welcoming to the whole family,” Grandparents Circle member Diane Sikes told the audience at the performing arts showcase. “It’s really important for kids to hear their grandparents stories and see the items they’ve handed down … Kids have an opportunity to place themselves in time and see themselves on that long generational line they’re a part of.”

The payoff is invaluable.

“(It’s) just the importance of knowing grandparents, their story, their journey, an appreciation of what the journey has entailed,” said Maryann McGuirk, Grandparents Circle founding member and Shane McGuirk’s other grandmother. She added that she wished she had asked the generations that came before her about these experiences. “You don’t know what you have missed until later in life.”


 

— Nolan develops acting chops for ‘Coney’

Coastside kid about to make her center stage debut. By Sarah Griego Guz. Published in the Half Moon Bay Review on November 22th, 2017.

The current Coastal Rep production Coney Island Christmas stars our Eighth Grade student, Sadie Nolan, as Shirley a Jewish girl cast as Jesus in her school’s Christmas pageant. This Holiday show is fun for all the family and runs through December 17th.

Sadie Nolan has spent her childhood at the theater and is now set to make her center stage debut in “Coney Island Christmas.”

Nolan will play Jewish girl Shirley Abramowitz, who is cast as Jesus in her school’s Christmas play. The story unfolds in flashback fashion as a much older Shirley, brilliantly portrayed by Darlene Batchelder, gleefully recalls the scenario.

“The show is about a girl, me. She’s Jewish and basically she gets cast in a Christmas play,” said Nolan. “Her parents are not OK with it because it’s just against their religion. They don’t think that she should do that. She basically goes behind their back.” 

It’s complicated, to say the least. Abramowitz’s parents are Jewish immigrants who fled their homeland to escape persecution. Now, with feet planted firmly in America, they struggle to keep their traditions alive in a new world awash with the Christmas spirit.

“I plan to bring a little sassiness, a little spunk to the role,” said Nolan. “Her parents are strict. I think they are a good strict, but that they are too strict. The people who play them, Kelly Gregg Rubingh and Eric Berglund, are wonderful.”

As she prepared for her big moment in the spotlight, Nolan reflected on those who have offered their support along the way.

“Sea Crest School has been wonderful with offering all the different acting electives,” said Nolan, who is in her eighth-grade year at Sea Crest Middle School. “The classes I’ve taken have helped me build my confidence in my theater skills. They’ve given me opportunities to actually act in front of an audience and really just do it.” 

Her father, Doug Nolan, is a fixture on the Coastside theater circuit. Coincidentally, it was Doug Nolan who starred in last year’s Christmas program, “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some).” He is also one of the leading men of the Half Moon Bay Shakespeare Co. whose most recent performances included roles in “Romeo y Julieta” as well as “Macbeth.”

“We run lines together,” she said. “I wouldn’t have done the Christmas show if it wasn’t for him. He’s always running lines with me, giving me pointers and helping me out.”

The younger Nolan is also a seasoned member of Coastal Repertory Theatre’s children’s program, an offshoot of the theater aimed at cultivating young talent.

“I started doing shows when I was in first grade,” remembers Nolan. “I got really serious about it when I was in fourth or fifth grade. I moved up to the older class and was ‘Wow, I’m really going to buckle down, work on my lines.’ I’m just very committed.” 

Her first performance was eight years ago, when she acted in Oklahoma. She was in first grade.

“‘Beauty and the Beast’ has to be my favorite performance,” said Nolan, who was in fifth grade at the time. “That was the first time I felt the bond of the cast, the way that the cast works together. That’s when I really started to get serious about acting.”

Nolan believes her time spent developing her craft in the children’s program has prepared her for her starring role.

She credits Coastal Repertory Theatre children’s program teachers Kimberly Krol and Sabina Perlsweig for giving her the tools necessary for success.

“Kimberly Krol is the choreographer for the children’s shows,” said Nolan. “She’s such a wonderful singer and actress and she’s such a huge influence. She’s always been there for me. She’s very supportive, but she’s very firm and she really pushes us, which is what we need.

“Sabina Perlsweig is the singing teacher for the children’s classes,” she continued. “She’s really helped me become a better singer.”

Donald Margulies’ “Coney Island Christmas” opens this Friday and is scheduled to run through Dec. 17. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit coastalrep.com.


 

— In the News: Boys Cross-Country Team finished first place in the Small Schools Intermediate League

Young runners reach finish line. Middle school cross-country SEASON comes to end. By Sarah Griego Guz. Published in the Half Moon Bay Review on November 15th, 2017.

As the fall sports season comes to a close, Coastside middle school cross-country teams are finishing strong.

athletics, boys cross countryLast week, Sea Crest School’s middle school boys cross-country team finished first place in the Small Schools Intermediate League Cross- Country Championship.

The triumphant win capped off a rather unusual season in which many of the meets were canceled due to poor air quality triggered by regional fires.

“Our top runners were mostly our eighth-grade boys,” said coach Jennifer Dill. “They definitely worked as a team. There wasn’t one superstar that carried everybody.”

Dill, who is also the co-director of the Half Moon Bay International Marathon, credits the collective finish of the boys as reason for the championship win.

Eighth-grade students Connor Moore, Matthew Spink, Billy Ou and Sean Andrasick snagged the fourth- through seventh-place spots. Jay Alsadir, Cade Ford and Ethan Lucas also finished well, their collective scores contributing to the team win.

Dill and her husband, Franz, have deep ties to the Coastside running community. When asked if she drew from her experience as leader of the marathon, she replied that her main focus is instilling a love of the sport.

“My sole focus is I just want them to like running,” she said. “It’s really great when you win, but at this age running is really hard. People have pretty strong feelings about running one way or the other. I want to make it fun and for the kids to enjoy it.

 

— In the News: Coaches flag benefits of non-contact sport

Middle schools offer alternative to full-contact sports. By Sarah Griego Guz. Published in the Half Moon Bay Review on September 6th, 2017.

The August sun warmed the quad at Sea Crest School as boys and girls donned blue practice jerseys in preparation for the first flag football practice of the season.

Flag football is offered at both Sea Crest and Cunha middle schools. The lessons learned on the field often can translate to stellar performances on the high school gridiron.

“It’s 9-on-9 here, regular football is 11- on-11,” said Sea Crest middle school flag football coach Craig Strong. “It’s two less linemen, that’s the big difference.

“You’re still blocking, passing, running the ball, throwing the ball, catching the ball,” he continued. “On defense, you’re attacking, when you’re pulling the flag, that’s the equivalent of tackling. You’ve got to read offenses and move your body in such a way so that you’re heading where the ball is going.”

“The biggest difference between playing high school football and middle school flag football is the competition level and the intensity,” said Gabe Giacotto who played flag football for Sea Crest Middle School before joining the Junipero Serra High School football team.

“The coaches expect more from the players at a high school level and they rely on you to keep yourself and your fellow teammates in check,” he continued. “The other big difference was adjusting to both wearing and hitting with pads. It gives a whole different feel in running and movement. You also have to learn how to hit and tackle with them if you haven’t played tackle football before.”

Flag Football Middle School Athletics

Kaiya Hanepen (7th grade) practices with athletic director Craig Strong watching during flag football practice at Seacrest School in Half Moon Bay. Jamie Soja / Review

Full-contact youth football organizations have taken great care to ensure the health and wellness of their athletes. From capping the weight requirements of heavier players to ensuring all equipment is in excellent working order, athletes par ticipating in full contact football have never been safer or better prepared.

Still, some parents are hesitant to allow their children to play. For middle school-aged children, flag football may be just the ticket for those hoping to one day step foot on the high school field.

“Flag football gives athletes the opportunity to throw and catch the football on a regular basis and get a foundation for the game,” said Keith Holden, varsity head football coach at Half Moon Bay High School in an emailed statement. “Players learn a lot about angles, schemes and about how to move on the football field.”

“The players are learning the rules of the game as well as an understanding of the game,” said Strong. “Full contact is different in terms of some techniques, such as tackling techniques. We don’t tackle, we pull flags. However, we still block, without pads. Some of the techniques and skills developed in flag football absolutely translate to full contact football.”

Flag Football Middle School Athletics

Coach Dan Halepen shows a diagram to the team at flag football practice at Seacrest School in Half Moon Bay. Jamie Soja / Review

Strong stated that a big part of the flag football season includes teaching aspiring athletes intricacies of the game, including how to move and defend the ball.

“They are learning the actual skills, laying groundwork that, if the athlete didn’t have, might present more a of challenge if they played full-contact football without the foundation,” he said.

“I learned a lot on the flag football field that helped me to recognize plays when on defense, such as the difference between a deep pass, short pass and runs both outside and up the middle,” said Giacotto.

“It also helped me to pick up and pursue a quarterback when he is scrambling,” he continued. “Playing flag football helped me on offense when getting the hang of memorizing plays and adjusting to different defensive formations.”

As to how to bridge the gap between flag and full-contact football, Holden believes that the best supplemental training is playing other sports.

“Also, I believe that strength training is beneficial to any athlete, not just football players, for preventing injury,” he said.

“My advice for kids playing flag football, who aspire to play in college, would be to stick with it and to not give up,” added Giacotto. “At first, the sport is going to seem tough and brutal, especially in a program like Serra’s.

“Although, if you work hard and stick with it, you will be surprised at how fast you catch on and make the necessary adjustments,” he continued. “The other thing would be to always hustle and give your best effort because that is what the coaches are really looking for.”


 

— In the News: Sea Crest School dives into new year

Sea Crest School staff, students and their families dived into the first day of school with a lively assembly on Wednesday. By Sara Hayden. Published in the Half Moon Bay Review on August 30th, 2017.

“It’s really a day of excitement for everybody,” Head of School Tekakwitha M. Pernambuco-Wise said, recalling her own love of the occasion as a child. “My heart was just bursting with joy this morning. It reminded me of how excited I was to start school.”

Welcome Back to School CommunityIn some ways, the back-to-school festivities started before the first bell. Residents of the Half Moon Bay senior community dropped by at 6:30 a.m. to decorate with colorful handmade paper flowers and signs for the students.

New Student Council President Olivia Cevasco greeted members of the community dressed as a seal, the school’s mascot, ensured posters welcomed the community in the school’s halls and left every student a handwritten welcome note in their cubbies and lockers. The eighth-grader penned them herself, inspired by similar gestures by last year’s student council members.

“It really touched me when every person had a couple encouraging words for the day,” said Cevasco.

She said she felt compelled to continue fostering that sense of community.

Olivia Cevasco Student Council President“Sea Crest is more than just a school. We’re here to learn, but we’re also here to be friends and support each other,” Cevasco said.

Since Pernambuco-Wise came on board at Sea Crest in 2013, the staff has challenged itself to think about how to take the “school from good to great, from infancy to maturity.” Much of that focus has been on innovation.

“It’s about the mindset. It’s about how we approach solving problems … really engaging the pupils’ ownership in their learning,” Pernambuco-Wise said.

Driving that forward into the 2017-2018 school year is a central theme.

“(This is) ‘Our Year to Thrive. We’re taking on less so we can go deeper,” said Pernambuco-Wise, adding that school leaders will focus on the most effective ways to assess students, cultivate a sense of inclusion and how to take care of oneself.

As faculty, staff and students hit the books, they’ll also hit the yoga mats, a quiet moment to meditate or reflect, or another activity that takes them out of their headspace in the coming weeks.

“We’re now saying, ‘What do we need to do to thrive as human beings, and how can we translate that to the children?’” Pernambuco-Wise said.


 

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