Barry Minkow, one of the most famous and youngest stocks swindlers of the 1980s, was my client while he was on the rise with his growing company ZZZZ Best Carpet & Furniture Cleaning from 1984 through 1987. As his account executive at Jeri Carr Public Relations and without knowledge of any of his on-going fraudulent activities, I managed the publicity campaign for his book release, Making is in America, 18 Years Old and a Million Dollars. From 1985 to 1986, our boutique firm obtained extensive press and media coverage for Barry including an appearance on Oprah among many others. At age 20, his company went public and we continued to publicize the boy wonder of Wall Street who was CEO of a $300 million company. In 1987, I was the lead planner of a 3-day conference at the Century Plaza hotel in Los Angeles, California in conjunction with the ZZZZ Best $25 million acquisition of KeyServe, the authorized carpet cleaner for Sears.  Only month’s later, and just short of his being president and chairman of the board of the largest independent carpet-cleaning company in the United States, Barry Minkow was charged with 54 counts of of racketeering, securities fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, mail fraud, tax evasion and bank fraud.  Along with my PR firm associates, I had promoted this man and his company with all our heart and soul only to learn that it was all based on a house of cards. We were crushed and heartbroken.  It was a painful but valuable lesson to learn early in my career as a publicist and event planner–everything is not always as it seems.  In 1989, I received a personal handwritten letter of apology from Barry who wrote to me from federal prison while serving his 25 year sentence.

Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Photography and Imaging from one of the world’s foremost institutions for art and design education, Art Center College of Design in California, it might have seemed a logical choice for Bruce Plotkin to follow in his father’s footsteps to be a wedding and portrait photographer. It presented an opportunity to continue a family tradition of documenting the most special moments in private lives, recording real history of real people. Instead, Bruce headed to New York to pursue a fast-paced life as one of the leading advertising and magazine photographers for over twenty years. His career in the photography world during these years included working on national magazine covers including…

…Time Magazine and US News & World Report, working on editorial spreads as well as on ad campaigns for diverse clients from Fujifilm to Visa to Duracell.   His talent secured his reputation in the creative community, and through these experiences, he continued his journey to search for ways to bring a human and more personal touch to his photographs.  

During this time, many of Bruce’s close friends asked him to photograph their weddings.  He began interjecting his photojournalistic style early on using his 35mm camera and taking mostly black and white photos which he invariably spent hours in the dark room himself developing.  At the time, he didn’t even realize how treasured these gifts were.  

Bruce Plotkin decided to make a change in the late 90’s and followed in his father’s footsteps after all.  He recalls, “When I started photographing weddings and other celebrations full-time, I quickly discovered that my new clients were looking for the kinds of photos that I’d always shot for my friends:  creative, unobtrusive and personal.  In fact, I had come full circle both personally and artistically.” 

Combining his unique blend of experiences as a fine portrait artist along with his love for photojournalism, today, Bruce takes great pride in his fortune to be able to witness a new celebration and a new beginning through his photography each week.  Bruce Plotkin provides his clients with a collection of exquisite pieces of art in the form of captivating photo albums which forever preserve passing moments in time. He makes a difference in the lives of the people that he meets which he finds exciting and magical.   “The magic is truly in the passion that I bring to my work,” he states.

January 8, 2007, Riverside, CT – The RIVERSIDE SCHOOL 4th Grade Class has proudly completed “Monumental Riverside”, the student’s first major individual Project-Based Learning assignment this year which is a part of their six week Social Studies unit on the United States Land and People. Teachers HELEN GILES, DENICE CRETTOL and HEIDI ROESE gave each student the challenging architectural task of designing and constructing a three-dimensional model of a monument that honors a person, place, event, or tradition which embodies the values and cultures of their own Riverside community. The variety of these individual projects is quite impressive. Among the 60 monuments created are tributes to the…

…Riverside Train Station, Dorothy Hamil, The Riverside School Award Winning ROPES  Program, the St. Paul’s Fair for All,  Binney Park, the OGRCC Soccer Program, Ada’s Corner Store, and many more.  Many students demonstrated particularly advanced conceptualization for this project, one of whom created a cornucopia with the Mianus River running through it.  The theme of this monument represented the “abundance” in Riverside and the river was symbolic of the flowing of this positive abundance within the community.

Parents, teachers and students were amazed and delighted with the outcome of this project.  Students created monuments within specified guidelines that were both moving and thoughtful.    “As a result of this project,” states Riverside School Staff Development Coach COLLEEN ALFANO, “these children will never forget the meaning of culture.  They really internalized and extended what they learned about culture in class.  They have made their ideas visible to others using their own creativity.”

Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a program being incorporated into RIVERSIDE SCHOOL as a part of the School Improvement Team goal.  Project-based learning is a model for classroom activity that shifts away from the classroom practices of short teacher-centered lessons and instead emphasizes learning activities that are long-term, interdisciplinary, student-centered, and integrated with real world issues and practices.   One immediate benefit of practicing PBL is the unique way that it can motivate students by engaging them in their own learning. PBL provides opportunities for students to pursue their own interests and questions and make decisions about how they will find answers and solve problems within the parameters of the school curriculum.   The program helps make learning relevant and useful to students by establishing connections to life outside the classroom, addressing real world concerns, and developing real world skills.   It also provides many unique opportunities for teachers to build relationships with students. Teachers may fill the varied roles of coach, facilitator, and co-learner. Finished products, plans, drafts, and prototypes all make excellent “conversation pieces” around which teachers and students can discuss the learning that is taking place.

RIVERSIDE constantly strives to extend the learning challenge to their students and to avoid complacency.  “Testing is one measure of learning,” states Riverside Principal JOHN GRASSO, “but we also want to make learning relevant and visible and to teach our children to think for themselves.  Thinking routines support the development of students as self-directed learners and learning for understanding.”  

Staff members have developed two after-school Professional Learning Programs (PLP) for the RIVERSIDE SCHOOL teachers recently.  One was facilitated by 4th Grade Teacher and Math Learning Facilitator HELEN GILES who introduced Project-Based Learning in the spring of 2006.   The other program was presented by the RIVERSIDE SCHOOL PROJECT ZERO TEAM:  ALP Teacher AMY MCCRACKEN, 3rd Grade Teacher TRESSA TORRE, 4th Grade Teacher DENICE CRETTOL, 5th Grade Teacher MARY ANSTEY, and Staff Development Coach COLLEEN ALFANO.  This program integrated PROJECT ZERO with the concepts and practices of Project-Based Learning.  PROJECT ZERO is a research group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education which has investigated the development of learning processes in children, adults, and organizations since 1967.     Project Zero was founded by the philosopher Nelson Goodman to study and improve education in the arts. Goodman believed that arts learning should be studied as a serious cognitive activity, but that “zero” had been firmly established about the field; hence, the project was given its name.   Today, Project Zero is building on this research to help create communities of reflective, independent learners; to enhance deep understanding within disciplines; and to promote critical and creative thinking. Project Zero’s mission is to understand and enhance learning, thinking, and creativity in the arts, as well as humanistic and scientific disciplines, at the individual and institutional levels. 

Riverside Principal GRASSO was first introduced to PROJECT ZERO six years ago at the “PROJECT ZERO CLASSROOM” an annual one-week symposium held at Harvard each year for educators from around the world.    This year, the RIVERSIDE SCHOOL Project Zero team of five had the honor of attending the worldwide symposium at Harvard.  “We walked away from this symposium with so much information and new understandings about how learning occurs and what we as educators can do to increase our students’ capacity for thinking,” says ALFANO. 

RIVERSIDE SCHOOL is hoping to display the work of the “Monumental Riverside” project at the Perrot Memorial Library or another venue in the near future so that the community may view the projects.

The YWCA OF DARIEN/NORWALK will kick off the holiday season with its annual Mix and Mingle Holiday Party on Friday, December 7th at 8:00 pm at the Carriage Barn Arts Center in New Canaan’s Waveny Park.   Tickets for the event are $80.00 per person and can be purchased in advance by contacting the YWCA at (203) 655-2535.

The festive evening, supporting the YWCA’s Better Beginnings as well as other community service programs, will include a signature martini bar, mouthwatering hors d’oeuvres from Michael Joseph’s, music by jazz pianist Jerold Goldstein, and a delicious candy bar…

A special four-foot “giving tree”, on loan from Darien’s Seasons Too, will give attendees opportunity to make charitable donations.  Guests will also have the opportunity to see the Carriage Barn Arts Center’s dramatic exhibition, “From Gravity to Grace: The Art of the Circus”, featuring paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture and photography by three world-class circus performers and five other east coast artists inspired by the circus.    “We are thrilled to continue the tradition of this event to kickoff the holiday season”, says Abby Crawley, Membership and Activities Board Chair.   “This holiday party has always been a huge success for the YW and for its’ outreach programs, and it’s so nice that we can have a fun community function while helping others.” 

The holiday committee members planning the Mix and Mingle event include Jessica Sturdivant, Sara Blake, Kate Steers and Anne Fox, and Sarah Janne.  Also acknowledged is Leary’s Liquor for providing the beverages of this event at cost.   

Proceeds from this affair will help to support YWCA programs including Better Beginnings, a free local prenatal program available to low-income expectant mothers who are in their second and third trimester of pregnancy, and for their partners.  Bilingual classes (Spanish/English) are offered on prenatal nutrition, labor, delivery, and home care of newborn children.  Since its start, over 260 young mothers have learned how to help their babies get a healthy start in life through this community service program.  

Incorporated in 1976, the YWCA Darien/Norwalk has served women in the Lower Fairfield area for over thirty years and proudly to receives support from local donors, members, and the Community Fund of Darien.  The YWCA is the oldest and largest multicultural women’s movement in the world. Across the globe, it has more than 25 million members in 122 countries, including 2 million members in 300 local associations in the United States. The YWCA’s mission is to eliminate racism and empower women.  

For additional information about the exhibition, From Gravity to Grace: The Art of the Circus, and its artists, visit: 

The YWCA is grateful for the support of the Community Fund of Darien.

**Photo emailed separately of Holiday Committee members at Seasons Too.**

Greenwich, CT , October 23, 2007 – The Greenwich Youth Cheerleading League is hosting its’ annual GYCL Cheerleading Exhibition this year on Sunday, November 4th at the Greenwich High School Gymnasium. Doors will open at 5:30pm and the show will begin at 6:00pm and will last for about 2 hours. Tickets were pre-sold to friends and families of the participating cheerleaders, but additional tickets will be available at the door for $10.00 on a first come, first serve basis. Seating is limited. Approximately 400 girls ages 6 to 18 will participate in the Exhibition. All GYCL cheerleading squads will perform including the Generals, Raiders, Mavericks, Crushers, Bulldogs, and the new Gators. In addition to the GYCL squads, other teams performing include the Cardinal squads…

…from Greenwich High School and the four-time National Champion Liberty All-Stars who train at Greenwich Tumble and Cheer. The Cheerleading Exhibition is the largest fundraiser of the year for the relatively new Greenwich Youth Cheerleading League which was formed in 2004.    Prior to this the Cheerleading squads operated under the GYFL organization.    Proceeds from the event help to support the League including Team Support, Facility Fees, Coaching Clinics for CPR, 1st Aid and Cheerleading Safety, as well as a Scholarship Program for graduating high school students who have participated in the program.  The annual Cheerleading Exhibition was established 9 years ago by Dana Conelias with the assistance of Sue Ambrogio and both women continue to run the event each year.  In 1998, Conelias, a Greenwich resident, had been a youth cheerleading coach for 4 years in Port Chester and saw an opportunity to create this exciting event for the girls in her own town.  The first Greenwich Cheerleading Exhibition was held at the Boys & Girls Club with about 200 girls participating.   The number of participants has doubled in size and the number of audience members has more than quadrupled.  The event now sells out each year with an audience capacity of 1100.  Both Conelias and Ambrogio have remained dedicated to the Exhibition long after their own children have outgrown the youth cheerleading program.  “It’s such an exciting event for the Cheerleaders,” says Ambrogio.  “We do this out of love for all the kids and it’s so rewarding just to enable them to showcase their talents.”   Dana Conelias is the mother of 7 children and has worked as a Banquet Manager for Fjord Catering for the past 7 years.  Sue Ambrogio is the mother of 2 children and has worked as an Administrative Assistant in Sheldon House at Greenwich High School for the past 8 years.  Ambrogio also is the head of the GYCL Cos Cob Crusher squads.  

Cheerleading has grown to become quite a real and true sport in recent years.  In addition to cheering for football teams, cheerleading squads now compete with each other at organized competitions throughout the country.  At one time, girls with little or no cheerleading experience could try out for high school teams, but now it’s quite difficult to obtain a position on such team with out prior experience.  “It’s not just a rah-rah thing any more,” states Bantam Putnam Generals Coach Carole Monette.  “The girls must also have advanced gymnastics tumbling skills at the higher levels which is difficult to achieve unless they start training at a young age”.   In Greenwich, girls can enter the GYCL program in the 3rd Grade and their primary function is to cheer for and support the GYFL Football Teams.  The girls practice twice a week in addition to cheering at their Sunday games.   They also participate in the annual GYCL Exhibition which is not a formal “competition”, but a vehicle in which the girls in the program are given the opportunity to learn and develop a choreographed group routine that incorporates cheer, dance, tumble and stunt work.    The “season” for the GYCL teams starts at the end of August with games beginning in September and ends in early November with playoff games in mid-November.  Also in Greenwich, girls can try-out for the Liberty All-Star Teams of various levels at Greenwich Tumble and Cheer in Byram.  These teams do not cheer for football teams, but rather are exclusively competitive cheerleading squads that travel throughout the Northeast to various competitions throughout their season which lasts from September through April.  This year the Liberty All-Star teams will compete in 11 Competitions.  

For additional information about the GYCL Cheerleading Exhibition, contact Dana Conelias at (203) 861-7217.

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