Cheers and Kudos to Columbia High School Students and Alums

by The Village Green
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The following is excerpted from a letter to the CHS community from Principal Elizabeth Aaron on June 8:

We welcomed back a member of the Class of 2000 last week to speak with Mr. Tumolillo’s current and next year’s science research class and Ms. Biasucci’s biology students. A graduate of CHS, Boston University (undergrad and grad) and Harvard, her work in her post-doctorate fellowships at Harvard and Cornell have resulted in her receiving a National Institute of Health $1 million dollar grant to set up a lab at Albany Medical School, where she will continue her work on atherosclerosis. Congratulations, Dr. Gabrielle Fredman!

Our first-ever “Pops on Parker” concert was a resounding success. Peter Bauer and our musicians rounded out a gloriously musical year with old and new pieces for the free lawn concert. We hope this is the first in a long tradition of outdoor CHS concerts.

Film and animation teachers Paul Marigliano and Richard Cutrona hosted a fantastic CHS student film fest last week. Congratulations to sophomore Edmund Toussaint on being anointed the “student to whom the film-making torch is passed”, and to MacKenzie Bowles for his fine work on his ‘Captain America-takes-Columbia’ film shared with our students the next morning. We were especially impressed with the 6-second shorts made up of 80 – yes, count them – 80 – drawings made by teams of student filmmakers. Bravo and see you at the Oscars someday!

Thank you to Youthnet and our CHS students who did a great job at the first Youthnet/CHS talent show on June 7, 2015, and congratulations to the first-year participants, who each earned a well-deserved spot on stage at the South x South Orange (SOxSO) festival scheduled for June 26-28. We can’t wait to see them on the SOPAC stage!

We have lots of congratulations to offer these days:

Many of our students were honored last week at our annual Senior Recognition Night. Thank you to the teachers and supervisors who worked so closely with our students during their 4 years here to make such accomplishments possible…

Kudos to our mens’ Ultimate Frisbee team, who are NJ state champions, and our JV team for being second in the state this season. Congratulations to our senior Emilie Cowan, who placed FIRST in the state Meet of Champions last week in the 400… and to Brett Reckling, Jimmy Martinez, Jared Loadholt, and Donte Rolley for their school record and personal best by a FULL SEVEN SECONDS in the mens’ 400 at that meet as well…..kudos to Tae McLaughlin, who received the America’s Youth in Concert/Universal Academy for Music’s Natinal Oustanding Musician Award…our students in AP Studio Art whose art is on display at the SOPAC 2nd and 3rd floor art galleries – please stop by to see it. Their work is also on display in our own Domareki Art Gallery on the first floor of CHS. Stop by!

Job well done to our many track athletes and CHS track Coach Lisa Morgan, who hosted the first-ever USATF-sponsored Run, Jump, Throw clinic at Underhill for our community. It was great to see the ‘next generation’ of Cougar tracksters at work under the tutelage of our high schoolers, and many thanks the track parents who helped make this day such a huge success.

Students in Mrs. Bachenheimer’s biology classes recently concluded their genius hour projects by sharing their accomplishments with their peers. Genius hour is based on an idea made popular at Google and other companies, where employees are encouraged to spend 20% of their work week working and developing products of their own choice. Genius hour in the classroom establishes a student driven, passion-based learning environment. Some examples of students genius hour projects included: the children’s book “My Island Home” available for purchase on, a trailer for a movie called “House Dare”, the accumulation and reporting of various new sports achievements, care packages being sent to troops overseas, and strategies to increase memory, organization and prevent procrastination.

This is a big week for our choral groups at CHS. Please add some music to your life and share the schedule of our week’s performance with your friends:

Friday 6/12: Excelsior Singers @ St. George’s in Maplewood, 7:30 pm

Saturday 6/13: Canens Vocem and “BroChoir” at St. Andrew’s in South Orange, 3:30 pm.

Members of those groups, as well as the Excelsior Singers, Canens Vocem and the Combined Chorus of Columbia High School traveled to Kutztown University on Friday, May 29 to compete in the Music in the Parks Festival. Each of the three choirs placed first in its division with the highest possible rating of Superior. Columbia High School also won the trophy for Best Overall Choir. Additionally, sophomore Charlotte Steiner won the Best Student Accompanist medal. The choir spent the rest of the day celebrating its success at Dorney Park in Allentown, PA.

All concerts are free but $5 donations to the program and non-perishable food pantry donations will be accepted!

Our students in several Drivers’ Education classes worked with the Nikhil Badlani foundation to create beautiful new art for CHS’s 2nd floor D-wing walkway windows and promote driver safety. Their work is also being featured on NJ Transit buses, and light rail, and on the walls at our local train stations.

Students in our art classes spent a cloudy but fun Friday several weeks ago at Storm King sculpture park in New York. They returned inspired! Students in Dr. Bustrin’s English classes spent a day in Manhattan seeing the Tony-award winning play The Curious Incident in the Dog of the Night-time (after having read the book!) and got a ‘behind the scenes’ visit to the New York Times’ newsroom courtesy of a CHS parent. We so appreciate the support of CHS families to make such experiences possible for our students.

Students in our Shakespeare class visited SOMS English classes last week to share tips and insight into studying and living the Bard. Interactive and multi-modality lessons led by the CHS students brought the works of the writer and poet to life in the SOMS auditorium.

Kudos to our CHS womens’ lacrosse goalie, nominated in the Newark Star-Ledger’s goalie contest: Delaney Prenovost made 244 saves this year!

More musical kudos go to Matthew Schilling, Claire Evans, Aijah Raghnal, Josh Ciolkowski-Winters, who were each awarded the National Band Association Outstanding Musician Award – in recognition of Excellence in Musicianship, Citizenship, and Learning….Zach Heinze received the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award: in recognition of outstanding achievements in the field of jazz as demonstrated through superior musicianship, character, and individual creativity, and Russell Pinzino received the John Philip Sousa Band Award in recognition for outstanding achievement and interest and instrumental music, for singular merit in loyalty and cooperation, and for displaying those high qualities of conduct that school instrumental music requires. These seniors leave big shoes to fill in the CHS music program but we know the classes of 2016, 2017, and 2018 are up the challenge.

Friday night saw the annual Guitar Club show, which was a fantastic display of our musical talents, from beginner to advanced.

While some of us were still sleeping, 9th graders Sage Savoia-Di Gregorio, Zoe Gonzalez and Isabella Vitalo came in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the girl’s 17 and under age group in the North Jersey Pride 5K in South Orange on Sunday. Way to go, Cougars. Our a cappella group also gave up its Sunday morning to sing for the runners. Bravo to all!

Jake Silberg, CHS class of 2011, was the Undergraduate speaker for Harvard Commencement 2015! We congratulate him and fellow Columbia-now-Harvard grads Ben Donald, Priya Duvvuri, and Brian Kaneshige (all class of 2011) for their accomplishments. Enjoy Jake’s speech here:

His CHS Class of 2011 classmate Marques Brownlee, was recently named Best Technology Reviewer on the Planet (Business Insider). Check him out here.

We are still diligently working to craft schedules for our students for the 2015-16 school year, and on May 27 hosted our incoming 9th graders and their families for information sessions on life at CHS and athletics participation in high school. Both middle schools’ 8th graders will make visits to the CHS next week to get tours of the building from our Peer Leaders and get the inside scoop on all things Cougar. FYI, the current course catalog is available on the CHS website.

Thanks to staff at LOFT family and student services for sharing a story on internet and cellphone safety. Though the cases reported are from Wall, Howell and Manasquan we know our students may encounter the same things.

We know it truly does take a village to do what we do in SOMSD for our students, teachers, and families. To that end, on Friday, June 19th, Broadway star and local parent, Charlie Pollock and a group of his talented friends will be at The Woodland to help us celebrate the end of the school year and the start of Summer 2015. This special concert supports the Vanessa Pollock Music Initiative of the Achieve Foundation, which was established earlier this year with proceeds from the Charlie Pollock and Friends Holiday Concert last December. Its goals are to improve the inventory of musical instruments for the entire South Orange/Maplewood School district, provide scholarships to in-need students for instrument rentals and provide private music instruction for exceptionally talented students in our district who have financial need.


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