Father’s Death Leads to Search for Meaning The Legacy of World War II

Walter Carter

Monday, November 13

Cary Memorial Library lower level meeting room,

Hosted by the Lexington Veterans Association

The public is invited for coffee and conversation at 12:45 p.m. with the program beginning at 1:15 p.m.

 

Walter Carter was a young boy in Huntington, West Virginia when his father, Norval Carter, a small-town doctor, was killed by a sniper while tending to a wounded soldier, 12 days after landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day. As an adult researching his father’s life, he wrote a memoir about his father, then spent years thinking, writing, and speaking about the meaning and the changing views of World War II.

Walter wrote a memoir about his father, then spent years thinking, writing, and speaking about the meaning and the changing views of World War II.

As a young person, Carter held a simplistic view of the war. “It was a good war and the Americans were the good guys”, he recalls. “Some nasty people got aggressive and America had to stop them and set the world right.” After years of interacting with fellow members of the American WWII Orphans Network, helping veterans secure their rightful benefits as an officer of the 29th Division Association, or escorting high school and college students to the Normandy beaches as a board member of Normandy Allies, Carter gradually came to realize that the war was much more complicated and nuanced.

“We weren’t totally the good guys,” Carter continues, “America didn’t do it alone. The casualties and destruction suffered by America were only a small fraction of the war’s total devastation. We made some mistakes and committed some atrocities. There were race and desertion issues. Rather than keeping score, a more useful way to look at the war is to ask, what would the world have looked like if Germany had won?”

After receiving a degree in history from Swarthmore College, Walter Carter earned two masters degrees, one in international relations from Tufts University and one in economics at the University of Rochester. His professional career included service as Instructor in Economics at Hobart College, Senior Economist with Charles River Associates, and, until his retirement in 1999, Economist, Vice President and then Principal with a unit of the McGraw-Hill Company. An accomplished amateur trombonist, Mr. Carter performed with the Newton Symphony Orchestra for 40 years and served as President of the Symphony’s board.

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New Lexington Historical Society Executive Director Erica Dumont is Set to Make History

By E. Ashley Rooney

Lexington Historical Society
Executive Director Erica Dumont

THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF LEXINGTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY VOTED UNANIMOUSLY TO APPOINT ERICA DUMONT THE NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Erica Dumont brings enthusiasm, nonprofit leadership experience, and passion to her new position. She sees the future of the Lexington Historical Society (LHS) as being vibrant, relevant in the community, and a center of learning both for families in town and beyond.

One of the opportunities she sees is that the town of Lexington is significant on both a local and national stage. “Where some historical societies struggle to find relevance in their community, the Society has the advantage of operating in the town where the first battle of the American Revolution took place, so there is national and global interest in the town, and an opportunity for the LHS to capture that interest,” Dumont says. Moreover, given that there are over 300 years of history in Lexington aside from the historic battle, Lexington Historical Society also has lots of options for local programming and exhibits to attract visitors.

One avenue of growth, Dumont sees, is more extensive family programming. What about a spinning bee she asks, (adding that this idea came from our programming director), a farming program focusing on Lexington’s agricultural past, an instructional program on colonial clothing and food, or perhaps a program on life in Lexington during WWII? With new families moving to town every day, the opportunity to educate, engage and inform newcomers and the community as a whole about the many facets of Lexington history should be an ongoing project.
Dumont has been the Executive Director of the Wellesley Historical Society since 2013. She says that LHS differs from Wellesley in that it is larger, has a broader reach, and has a focus on historical interpretation.

Her first position after graduating from Salem State University was working at Old North Church. Since then, she has been fascinated with early Revolution history, and LHS fit right in. Currently, she is completing her MA in History at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

Dumont looks forward to partnering with other organizations in Lexington and beyond to have a broader community impact. “I feel that partnering with organizations in Boston would allow us to capture the attention of tourists and museum goers and. hopefully, increase visitation to Lexington’s historic sites.”

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LexHAB is out front on effort to preserve affordable housing in Lexington

By Jim Shaw

Lexington has undergone many significant changes over the past few decades. Great public schools and excellent municipal management have made Lexington a very desirable community. This has led to an increase in ethnic diversity, and skyrocketing home values that no one could have predicted. While the future looks bright, the rising cost of housing in Lexington have left some with little hope of calling Lexington home. The Lexington Housing Assistance Board, or LexHAB, recognized over three decades ago that more and more families who either wanted to stay in Lexington or relocate here, were essentially being priced out of the market. Since 1984, LexHAB has been at the forefront of preserving and expanding affordable housing opportunities here in Lexington.

Celebrating the dedication of LexHAB’s newest properties are (Top L to R): Kyle Romano, Chris Traganos, Lester Savage, town manager Carl Valente, Mark Sandeen, selectman Doug Lucente, selectman Suzie Barry, LexHAB counsel Pat Nelson, LexHAB chairman Bill Kennedy, LexHAB board members Bill Hays and Martha Wood. Standing to the left are LexHAB board member Henry Liu, Representative Jay Kaufman, and LexHAB vice chair Bob Burbidge.

Developers set their sights on Lexington nearly twenty-years ago and the “tear-down” craze began in earnest. Homes that were remotely affordable were grabbed up by developers, torn down, and redeveloped into what locals have dubbed “McMansions.” More and more opportunities for affordable home ownership slipped away with little objection. The ability for kids who were raised in this community to put down roots of their own was essentially foreclosed upon as hundreds of potential “entry-level” homes were lost to builders. Some believe that town officials were slow to address the situation because the new, larger homes were bringing in significantly more tax revenue. Even more, Lexington’s Vision 20/20 speaks specifically to affordable housing. Under the theme Promote and Strengthen Community Character, points 3 and 4 encourage the Town to: “Provide increased housing options to promote diversity of income and age, and create strong incentives to maintain and expand affordable housing.” This made the need for affordable housing options even greater, and LexHAB rose to the challenge. Since it was established, LexHAB has built an inventory of nearly 70 properties, providing dozens and dozens of families the ability to call Lexington home.

One of the original LexHAB board members, David Eagle, had a vision for creating a program that would benefit the community in a profound way, while providing opportunities for its partners. Dave, who passed away in 2015, suggested that the Lexington Rotary Club could act as the general contractor to build homes to add to the LexHAB inventory. They would invite students from Minuteman Regional High School to provide the skilled labor under the supervision of their instructors. Everyone would win. LexHAB would add beautiful new homes to its stock, the Rotary Club would establish a new and vital way to serve the community, and the students at Minuteman would experience real-world conditions as part of their education. The property recently developed by LexHAB at 11 Fairview Avenue is the 14th home built in cooperation with Minuteman High School and students from several shops including carpentry, electrical, plumbing and HVAC.

Lester Savage of Lester Savage Real Estate/Century 21 Commonwealth assumed responsibility as project coordinator when Dave Eagle passed. Savage has served on the LexHAB board for many years and was eager, yet cautious to step into the role. Lester explained that his predecessor Dave Eagle made it seem simple, but it clearly wasn’t. Savage said, “Dave was a problem solver. He had a keen ability to get to the heart of a problem. He made things run smoothly and dedicated thousands of hours over the years to advancing this program. I was worried that his shoes were going to be too large to step in to.” By all accounts, Savage and the other members of the LexHAB team stepped up in a big way. In fact, they are currently negotiating the building of at least two additional sights. The larger of the two involves the construction of two 3-family dwellings at the site of the former Busa Farm on Lowell Street.

Lester is quick to share the spotlight with his fellow board members, the contractors and the students from Minuteman High School. He said, ” Working with the students at Minuteman Regional High School has become a tradition that we look forward to. This particular project on Fairview consisted of two buildings; one is essentially a remodeling of an existing building which we turned into a single-family dwelling, the other is a brand new building that will accommodate three families and adhere to strict ADA standards for handicapped accessibility. In order to complete the project on time, we essentially split the project between the students at Minuteman and a company named Feltonville Building Company. This concept worked very well in that it didn’t place too much of a strain on the students from Minuteman and allowed a good company like Feltonville to construct a beautiful new building. This was truly a win-win situation.”

Savage added, “If I needed someone to fill a gap at the old house I could get someone to take care of it. The students finished about 90% of the job, certain aspects were beyond their ability. But, the students, as always, did an extraordinary job. Their work is beautiful. They built it to a higher standard than most contractors. It was an old house so there were framing issues and Chris Traganos from Minuteman’s carpentry shop really worked closely with the students to do things the right way.”

As the project leader from LexHAB, Lester depended on advice and counsel from other members of the board including chairman Bill Kennedy and vice chairman Bob Burbidge. He also looked to draw on the experience of others who have participated in the past. Kyle Romano and Chris Traganos from Minuteman have been involved in previous projects. Lester explained that Kyle Romano from the plumbing shop was his liaison to Minuteman. He said, “It was my first time leading a project like this for LexHAB, so Kyle helped me to better understand the expectations of working with the students. At the end of the day, they met and exceeded my expectations. I can see why Dave Eagle was such a proponent of working with them.”

The concept of approaching the construction from two perspectives was a bit daunting. In one situation they were dealing with redeveloping an existing property. They were also looking to build a brand new multi-family building that would meet their low energy consumption stands. So, while the students focused on the redevelopment project, Feltonville Building Company was selected as the general contractor for the multi-family building.

Feltonville owner, Ian Mazmanian, was impressed with LexHAB from the very start. He explained that he had never quite seen the level of commitment to building such a large inventory of affordable housing. Mazmanian said, “Working with LexHAB was an incredible experience for us. It really opened my eyes to what is possible when good people come together to do good things. Working with Lester Savage and the others that LexHAB was especially rewarding. These are people who are committed to the idea of providing quality affordable housing to folks who might not otherwise have an opportunity to reside in a community like Lexington. Clearly, there is a need, and we were honored to participate in this project.”

Like Lester, this was Mazmanian’s first experience at leading a LexHAB construction effort. He said, “This was our first experience working with LexHAB, and it couldn’t have been more fulfilling. We had been working with Transformations [the original contractor] and circumstances prevented them from continuing on the project. We were ready and eager to take over the project.”

There were certain challenges with the specs on the project. For example, the project was originally intended to meet handicapped accessibility standards. It was changed to meet ADA standards (Americans with Disability Act). The differences are subtle, very important. It affects counter appliance requirements and basic mobility needs. But, Feltonville was able to adapt to the change seamlessly.

Mazmanian explained that he was pleased to see the students from Minuteman on the site, and that he was impressed with their commitment and skill levels. He said, “Although we were principally retained for the new 3-family building, we were involved to some degree with the old house project. We pulled the permits and assisted the students from Minuteman as needed. They were a great bunch of kids who are clearly devoted to honing their skills. I really enjoyed working with them.”

Lester explained that Transformations, the original contractor was unable to continue on the project. They had been working with Ian Mazmanian from Feltonville who stepped right in that took over the project. Lester said, “The folks at Feltonville are honest, and they do good quality work. Their clerk-of-the-works, Dave Woerpel served as the site manager and he really helped the project to move along. I would recommend them to anyone.” Lester also expressed gratitude to several local contractors and builders who provided goods and services at below market rates. They include Bob Foss Contracting, Arlex Oil Corporation, Arlington Coal & Lumber, J.M. McLaughlin Excavating and Wagon Wheel’s landscaping division.

Zero net energy is a concept that is becoming a standard here in Lexington. Last month in his Colonial Times column, Mark Sandeen outlined LexHAB’s commitment to very low to zero net energy consumption. Mazmanian explained that he appreciated LexHAB’s commitment to meeting very low net energy usage standards. He said, “One aspect of the project that I was particularly impressed with was the commitment to zero energy consumption. LexHAB was firm in their resolve to build a close to zero net energy facility. In the end, we achieved a 1 to 2 net energy rating.” Savage added, “There’s no reason why you can’t produce affordable housing that will be affordable in the long run, especially when it pertains to energy consumption. Our energy rating at the new property is better than 99% of the homes that are being built. Where in the top 1%. We are committed to drastically reducing the carbon footprint. Lexington is ahead of the curve when it comes to reducing consumption, and we want to honor that commitment by doing everything we can to achieve high energy standards on all of our new properties.”

Mazmanian emphasized that working with LexHAB was a uniquely satisfying experience. He said, “The overall experience of working with LexHAB was better than I could have imagined. Lester spent a great deal of time working with us and we felt supported throughout the entire project. I look forward to future opportunities to work with LexHAB.”

For Savage and the rest of the LexHAB organization, the challenge of identifying affordable building opportunities is becoming much greater. Lester explained that in order to meet their criteria, they have to be able to acquire land and build for well under $500,000 per unit. With land values in Lexington constantly climbing, meeting their budget limits is becoming nearly impossible. Lester said, “The challenge for us is to find a site that is affordable and within our budget. At Fairview Avenue we were able to acquire a good size parcel of land for around $500,000 and keep the construction cost to under $900,000. With the cost of land constantly increasing, it really is a challenge to find buildable lots within our budget to allow us to increase our inventory of affordable housing. We were able to build the Fairview properties at a cost of about $380,00 per unit.”

Savage added, “The multi-family property at Fairview should serve as a good model for what we hope to do at the Busa Farm property. In order to build affordable units you have to have multiple units. It’s really the only plausible way to keep total building costs under $500,000 per unit. If we wanted to build a single-family and keep it affordable, we would have to buy a lot for approximately $300,000 and keep building cost under $200,000. The multiple-unit concept was how we were able to keep the costs in check.”

LexHAB is a working organization comprised of individuals who have dedicated countless hours of service for a cause that grows more important every day. Lexington is fast becoming an exclusive community with few housing opportunities for low and moderate income families. The work of LexHAB and the people who make it happen has never been more necessary.

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Lex Eat Together

THE POWER OF KINDNESS, COMMUNITY
AND A HEARTY DINNER

Above, Head Chef Bruce Lynn with the new LET spice cabinet. Below, some of the fresh food prepared each week by LET. COURTESY PHOTO


By Jane Whitehead

Every Wednesday afternoon, the community room at Lexington’s Church of Our Redeemer transforms into an elegant dining space. Volunteers wheel out round tables, haul stacks of chairs, spread tablecloths, set out bread baskets and water jugs and arrange flowers, to welcome guests to a three-course dinner, free to anyone in need of a good meal and companionship.

Since its launch in October 2015, Lex Eat Together (LET) has served more than 5,000 meals, welcomed an average of 64 guests a week, and built a network of over 200 volunteers. “I’m proudest of the community we’ve created,” said LET co-founder Laura Derby, referring to the wide range of backgrounds and ages among guests and volunteers.

It Doesn’t Matter Who You Are

On a Wednesday in late September, the LET menu included Udon Chicken Soup, Battered Pork with Tonkatsu Sauce, with sides of rice, Napa cabbage and butternut squash. Among the early arrivals for the 5:15 p.m. dinner were regular guests Ruth Amiralian and her friend Mary.

“Look at what we get,” said Amiralian, gesturing to the table setting, the flowers, the basket of assorted breads. “To be able to walk in and be greeted with such love, kindness and graciousness is unbelievable,” she said. And as a long-term worker in the food industry, she’s impressed by the high quality and presentation of the food. “They have fine chefs,” she said, but most importantly, “they do it with their heart.”

Volunteers make LexEAT Together possible! Clockwise from left: 3-Bruce Ward, Shailini Sisodia, Toby Ward, Daniel Palant and Barbara Palant.


“I think I have fallen into a little heaven,” said Mary. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you are – there’s a comfortableness, nobody’s haughty.” “This is our night out,” said Amiralian. “We could never afford to go out to eat.” She gives a warm welcome to a young man in his twenties who takes the seat next to her. He lives in neighboring Douglas House, a facility that provides independent affordable housing for brain injury survivors.

At another table was a group of Mandarin-speaking Chinese guests, all residents of Lexington’s Greeley Village, with their volunteer interpreter Ming-Chin Lin, who runs a senior daycare center in Billerica. “It’s very good to get together, we’re very happy, and we’re here to learn the culture and manners of America,” said Ziying Shi, who moved here over ten years ago from Shanghai to be with her daughter and family.

A Hard Place to be Hard Up

LET founders Laura Derby, Harriet Kaufman and John Bernhard saw how deprivation can escape notice in an affluent community, as volunteers with Lift Up Lexington, a group that supported homeless families parked temporarily in local motels. In 2104, having brought George Murnaghan of Redeemer’s vestry committee on board, they took a year to research and plan their response to the problems of food insecurity and social isolation in Lexington and surrounding towns.

After wide consultation with town officials and community groups, and research visits to other towns’ meal programs, including those in Concord, (where Harriet Kaufman volunteered for 25 years) Bedford and Chelmsford, the group inaugurated a weekly dinner in the newly refurbished community room at Our Redeemer, with its adjacent commercial kitchen. As an independent 501 (c) 3 non-profit with no denominational affiliations, LET pays rent for the space.

Helen Zelinsky with trays of colorful appetizers. COURTESY PHOTO


“It is a little-known, painful and rarely acknowledged truth that some of our neighbors go to bed hungry,” said State Representative Jay Kaufman, at the LET launch in October 2015. According to the non-profit Feeding America, one in ten people, and one in seven children in Massachusetts struggle with hunger.

Even in Lexington, where the average annual household income in 2015 topped $150,000, around 1200 residents live at or below the poverty level, some 200 households receive fuel assistance, over 70 residents use food pantries and eight percent of school students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. And these figures likely understate the level of financial hardship in a high-cost town like Lexington. “People’s circumstances can change very quickly, with sickness, unemployment, or divorce,” noted Harriet Kaufman (no relation to State Representative Kaufman.)

Baked into the LET recipe from the start was a commitment to an open-door policy, and to respect for the privacy of all guests. At LET dinners, there is no sign-in, no need to give a name or address – though guests can choose to write their first name on a stick-on label at the welcome table. “Who needs to know if you’re from Bedford or Lexington?” said Head Chef, Bruce Lynn. “If you start asking questions like that, people feel uncomfortable.” Murnaghan estimates that around 60 per cent of guests come from Lexington and neighboring communities, with some making “quite long journeys on public transport” from towns further afield.

Waste and Want – The Food Link Connection

The flip side of the US hunger emergency (one in seven Americans is food insecure) is a colossal mountain of wasted food. That forgotten bag of salad lurking in your refrigerator is part of an estimated 52 million tons of food that end up in landfill every year, together with another 10 million tons discarded or left unharvested, according to ReFED|Rethink Food Waste (www.refed.com.)

Arlington-based food rescue organization Food Link, Inc., founded in March 2012 by DeAnne Dupont and Julie Kremer, seeks to combat this cycle of waste and want. Their mission is to divert potentially wasted food to people who can use it. With over one hundred volunteers and two paid staffers, Food Link organizes the daily collection of high-quality fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, bread and prepared foods that would otherwise be wasted from 12 local grocery and prepared food stores, and delivers this daily haul to 30 social service agencies serving people in need.

Kerry Brandin with strawberry soup. COURTESY PHOTO


In LET’s planning phase, Lexington resident and Food Link volunteer and board member Ivan Basch immediately grasped the potential synergy between the two projects. He offered to source a proportion of LET’s needs from Food Link donors, who include Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market, Panera Bread and other smaller specialty stores.

“They tell me what they want, then I get as much as I can from Food Link, and go shopping for whatever else is needed,” said Basch in a recent phone conversation. (Sometimes the source is as local as his garden, as in the case of a recent order of chives.) Under the oversight of Head Chef Bruce Lynn (who also volunteers for Food Link), LET’s chefs get their menus and weekly shopping lists to Basch by noon on Sundays, and he gathers as much as possible from Food Link, then buys the rest with an LET charge card.

Depending on the menu and on the week’s donations, rescued food makes up between 60 and 80 percent of LET’s food costs, Lynn and Basch estimate. Other costs include venue rental, kitchen equipment and insurance. Once a month during the school year, from September to June, LET also purchases a ready-prepared meal from the Minuteman High School Culinary Arts Program.

“I really love the Lex Eat model, because that’s a value-add to the rescue,” said Basch. “There’s so much love and proficiency in turning the rescued food into a fabulous meal,” he said, noting that LET is “about as far from a soup kitchen as you can get,” with its three-course menus and attention to attractive presentation.

Harriet Kaufman turns rejected bouquets into elegant centerpieces. COURTESY PHOTO


Volunteer Task-force

After retiring as Director of Lexington’s Community Education Program, Robin Tartaglia moved to Cambridge, and followed her passion for food by signing up for a ten-month full-time professional training program at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. From LET’s launch Tartaglia has been part of the team of around six vetted volunteer chefs who run the LET kitchen, plan the menus, devise the detailed shopping lists, organize the volunteer assistant cooks, and oversee the presentation of every plate.

“I’ve learned a great deal,” said Tartaglia. “I’ve learned how to cook these large quantities, and I do love managing the very eager and highly qualified volunteers we get in the kitchen.” (Like most other LET volunteer slots, the Assistant Cook spaces fill up weeks ahead of time, as people vie to wield the industrial-size salad spinner or learn what it takes to make Moroccan Chicken for 70.)

Although adults cook and serve the food, in the set-up and clean-up crews, high-school and middle-school students work alongside parents and grand-parents. Luisa Ozgen regularly superintends room set-up, with a sharp eye for detail and a set of laminated instruction cards to make sure the day’s crew forgets nothing, from switching on the hot water urns to bagging the fresh fruit that every guest takes home.

A healthy meal, lovingly prepared. COURTESY PHOTO


“I like to feel needed, and it’s great to see all these people I’ve known for two years,” said Libby Wallis, head of the clean-up team, as she cheerfully surveyed the remains of chicken noodle soup and battered pork (all food waste is composted or saved for animal feed.) As on many Wednesday evenings, Ed Lidman was methodically feeding the industrial dishwasher. “This was a job I knew,” said Lidman, laughing. By day, he works on data quality at Beth Israel Hospital.

With ten people drying steaming silverware, piling clean plates, rolling away tables, stacking chairs and vacuuming the dining room carpet, clean-up is done by 7:00 p.m. “There’s nothing more basic and human than sitting down and eating with someone else,” said George Murnaghan, “and it’s wonderful to be able to make that happen every week.”

 

To volunteer or donate to Lex Eat Together:
www.lexeattogether.org
To volunteer or donate to Food Link:
www.foodlinkma.org

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Lexington Park

By S. Levi Doran

Many of the quotes used herein are from advertising brochures in the collections of the Lexington Historical Society Archives.

Today, the 48 acres on Bedford Street opposite Westview Cemetery are home to dozens of families. A regular residential neighborhood, very few passing through here would give thought to how it appeared one century ago. And still fewer would guess that this was where Lexington Park stood and operated for nearly two decades, during which time it was one of the premier such parks in the area — right up there with Norumbega. [Read more…]

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LHS Peer Leaders Spread Hope, Health, and Strength

By Joan Robinson, MSW, LYFS Board Member

BEGINNINGS Last fall, Lexington Youth and Family Services (LYFS) committed to hosting and funding Sources of Strength (SOS), a program designed to build self-confidence, define one’s own strengths, and know when and where to seek help. Seven high school students who are members of LYFS Youth Advisory Board, were asked to identify diverse groups and leaders at LHS. They then invited 46 LHS students and 13 adults to attend a daylong training event. In November of last year, this mix of students and adults spent a powerful day learning how to help others and more consciously use and further develop their own Sources of Strength. This prevention program with proven results increases teens’ connections with adults, builds resilience, and develops protective factors called Sources of Strength for navigating adolescence and life.

MISSION AND METHODS The primary stance of SOS is positive, focusing on resiliency rather than trauma. Historically communities come together after a tragedy, while SOS hopes to encourage the LHS and Lexington community to come together to prevent tragedy. When students feel there is a supportive environment–a safety net–they are less likely to feel alienated.
Consequently, they are less likely to get involved in self-destructive behaviors, and more likely to ask for help with their feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress.
As the year has progressed the SOS peer leaders, with the guidance of LYFS director Erin Deery, have developed a number of activities aimed at improving connections between students and with trusted adults. Some activities have been directed towards encouraging students to recognize and define their own Sources of Strength. They may feel more comfortable to reach out to family, friends, a trusted coach, minister, teacher, the school nurse, etc.
Any peer leader program must have adults talking with students: the students know what is going on, and the adults have experience with the world at large. The hope is that both the students and the adults will “spread the word” about the importance of talking with, not at, each other to the community of Lexington. This process is designed to remind students that they are not alone, and to destigmatize asking for help.

LEXINGTON SOS VISION With the committed and creative leadership of 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.
As the LHS 2015-21016 school year comes to a close we asked two SOS peer leaders have crafted descriptions of two SOS activities: The Teacher Appreciation Progect and The Compliment Project, they carried out to to improve the LHS community environment.


Lexington High School teachers wear yellow Sources of strength bracelets in support of the program.

Lexington High School teachers wear yellow
Sources of strength bracelets in support of the program.

THE TEACHER APPRECIATION PROJECT

Approachable teacher mentors are key for a healthy high school culture.

By JULIE KAN
LHS Student and Peer Leader

A core part of students’ lives is mentors — adults or older individuals in whom students put their trust. Whether it be a teacher, a parent or guardian, a sibling, or a guidance counselor, a mentor is an important Source of Strength for many. In times where guidance is needed, students will often turn to an adult for advice.

Ideally, the school environment should be a place where adults are encouraged to help students with their lives, where students feel completely comfortable turning to any adult for support—a place where, no matter where you look, there is always someone smiling, ready to hear what you have to say. Lexington High School is a community in which individuals can find the best help they need if they ask for it. However, many students are unable to find guidance because they are simply unaware of where to go for help.

Inspired by a project originally created at MIT, the Teacher Appreciation Project was Sources of Strength’s way to recognize teachers for being outstanding mentors. Each student Peer Leader nominated one teacher he or she felt was a person who was not only a role model but a trusted adult who students would be able to talk to if they ever needed someone. The 45 nominated teachers selected by the Peer Leaders each received a yellow wristband that read: “Tell me about your day,” signifying that they were approachable. The nominated teachers did not hesitate to wear their wristbands. In the Arts and Humanities lounge, teachers who received the bright yellow bands proudly waved their arms in the air, joyfully exclaiming, “Ooh, I got one of these!”

In an interview with English teacher Mr. Olivier-Mason, he explained how he felt honored to receive one of the yellow bands. He thought the bracelets helped to remind people of overcoming the “professional relationship” between teacher and student — that this can and should be more of a “human relationship.” He continued on to say that even if students don’t need to approach teachers about something, “There is comfort in knowing that if they did want to, people are there.”
At the end of the project day, the nominated teachers were told to gather outside the building for a group photo. Teachers walked out into the sunny school courtyard, looking confused about where to go. Amidst the afterschool buzz in the Quad, student peer leader Bill Gao directed all the teachers to one area as other students bustled around. The teachers smiled and laughed, some holding up their wrists to flash their yellow bracelets at the camera. Even Principal Laura Lasa, left a meeting to join in for the photo.

The purpose of the Teacher Appreciation project was to commend teachers for being trustworthy adults who are making a difference in students’ lives. This appreciation is meant to encourage nominated teachers to continue to be supportive, to celebrate positivity in the classroom and to inspire other teachers to mentor their students as well.

LHS, Sources of Strength Peer Leaders used this event to advocate for strong, healthy relationships between students and teachers. The next step is to familiarize more students with the bracelets so that students can actually feel comfortable approaching a teacher for help, and have the opportunity to form a special bond with a trusted adult.


THE COMPLIMENT CHALLENGE

Creating a more positive and communal environment at lhs is one of the cornerstones of sources of strength.

By SHIRA GARBIS
LHS Student and SOS Peer Leader

One of the goals of Sources of Strength is to create a more positive and communal environment at LHS and SOS decided to create a one-day project to do just that.
In early March each member of SOS came to school with a sheet of paper and a simple task. The sheet read, “compliment someone in your next class who you wouldn’t normally talk to.” Each member of SOS went to their first class of the day, gave someone a compliment and passed on the sheet. The idea was that the person who received the compliment would then go on to compliment someone in their next class and hopefully start a chain of positivity.
Although this project was non-tangible and we couldn’t measure how much of a success it was, we hoped to have done a small part in creating a more positive and supportive environment throughout our school. In the future, SOS hopes to reach out to not only students but also other adult members of the community and challenge everyone to be someone’s source of strength.


LHS PEER LEADERS FROM SOURCES OF STRENGTH CONTINUE TO WORK FOR A LEXINGTON WITH LESS STRESS Pictured above from Left to Right: Emily Lo, Julia Kan, Shira Harris and Maya Joshi-Delinty

Pictured above from Left to Right: Emily Lo, Julia Kan, Shira Harris and Maya Joshi-Delinty

Lexington Youth and Family Services Sponsors Sources Of Strength
and continues to offer free and confidential counseling

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.


INTERESTED IN CONTRIBUTING?
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.
DONATE ONLINE: http://www.lyfsinc.org/donate.html

LYFS is located at First Parish Church(private entrance on right side of church), 7 Harrington Road, Lexington, MA
Call or Text: 781-862-0330
Director/Clinician: Erin M. Deery, LICSW

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Voices & Visions—Building Supports to Address Youth Concerns—The Lexington Coalition

Untitled

The Community Coalition invites everyone to gather at Grace Chapel  on March  9th to continue work on the three goals identified by the 80+ participants who attended the October 7th Kick-Off: 

  • Reduce stress and improve wellness
  • Address mental health issues
  • Prevent underage drinking and substance abuse

Steering Committee members include representatives from community groups, including Selectman Suzie Barry, Kate Ekrem and Brent Maracle from Lexington Interfaith Clergy Association, Eileen Jay from the Chinese American Association of Lexington and the LHS Site-Based School Council, Bettina McGimsey Chair of the PTA/PTO Presidents Council, and Kathleen Lenihan (LHS PTO Co-President), as well as Val Viscosi (Director of School Counseling), representatives from the the Police, Fire, and Human Services Departments, and School Committee members Sandro Alessandrini and Jessie Steigerwald.

The Coalition was formed to bring town and school staff together with community members to build a stronger network for youth. Lexington has had a long-standing commitment to supporting community, but organizations have not always worked in concert. Adopting a coalition approach offers many benefits, including aligning on goals, pooling resources, scheduling events so they build on one another, and reaching a broader section of the community. While town and school staff have frequently undertaken outreach efforts together, the Coalition aims to also bring community volunteer organizations to the table to find new ways to address concerns around stress, mental health, and substance abuse.

The October meeting also identified some possible improvements. Sharing and learning from data will be a part of the Coalition’s early work; for example the Coalition aims to utilize data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey to inform its work. Gathering input from students directly represents another concrete step. The Coaltion also plans to make more consistent use of a shared events calendar to avoid situations where two events targeted at the same youth-focused audience are inadvertently scheduled on the same day.

The Coalition welcomes new members, as well as anyone who wishes to attend just to learn more about the goals and how the Coalition is working to achieve them.

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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.
INTERESTED IN CONTRIBUTING?

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
DONATE ONLINE:
http://www.lyfsinc.org/donate.html

 


 

 

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.

 

SAVE THE DATE!
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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