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Sitting Down with Archbishop Blair

by Keith Griffin

Just moments into meeting Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, the newly installed head of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford, you like him. He’s a warm, engaging man along the lines of TV’s late Fred Rogers. Beneath that avuncular exterior, though, lies a strong intellect and deep commitment to his faith.

And it’s all delivered with a twinkle in his eye and a flat Midwestern accent that comes from having grown up in Detroit.

Archbishop Blair, who resides in town, sat down with West Hartford Magazine to talk about his role, the challenges of the Church, Pope Francis, and his limited free time.

In some respects, Archbishop Blair is like Pope Francis in that he was relatively unknown when he came here from the Toledo, Ohio diocese to replace Archbishop Henry Mansell who reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.  Local Catholics are still curious about their new spiritual leader.

The Archbishop had this to say about the new Pope and his rock star popularity. “This is a two-edged sword, this popularity. On the one hand, the Pope has put his finger on some neuralgic points about how the Church is perceived, not only the Church, but the teaching of the Church. It’s a two-edged sword because some of his popularity is based on a misperception or false impression that somehow the Pope has any desire to change Church teaching on some very fundamental points that are very difficult for some people in the world today and they don’t accept. I think they’re going to be disappointed. I hope that doesn’t create some further difficulty,” the Archbishop said.

“Pope Benedict [the predecessor to Pope Francis] was a scholar, he was a theologian. He was a humble and rather shy man. Pope Francis is certainly not shy. Priests and bishops are not all cut from the same cloth and neither are Popes. We always pray God will give us the right man to be Pope for the times and each Pope makes his contribution.  Now Pope Francis is making his and it’s very welcome,” Archbishop Blair added.

His humility is apparent when asked about his role as the CEO of the Archdiocese, which comprises Hartford, Litchfield and New Haven counties and includes approximately 700,000 Catholics out of the three counties’ population of 1.9 million. He’s an influential man yet doesn’t project that image.

“I know I have to be vigilant about the temporal goods of the Church. This means getting the very best people to administer these things. The buck stops with me as far as the ultimate responsibility but it wouldn’t be proper nor am I qualified to actually manage or administer all of these things personally,” said the Archbishop, who turned 65 on April 12.

But then his spiritual side comes to the fore as it does with everything he will discuss during the one-hour interview. “The chief role is to be a pastor of souls and principally as a bishop to be a teacher of the faith. That’s the principal job of the bishop as a successor of the Apostles to hand on with integrity the deposit of the faith, the faith of the Church in Christ. “There are many other things the bishop has to do be a spiritual leader and provide for the Church. But you have to appreciate being a teacher of the faith is the most important.”

archCommunion“As long as I could remember I wanted to be a priest. I suppose as a kid I probably wanted to run off and join Rin Tin Tin on the TV at Fort Apache,” Blair said, “but my most abiding memory is wanting to be a priest, adding that his vocation was inspired not only by his parish priests but the nuns who taught him.

Archbishop Blair also sees as a challenge the “great crisis of faith” facing his Church. “We speak of various programs and methodologies we’re trying,” he said, “to draw people back to church, to try to attract other people to join the Catholic Church.  All these things are well and good as outreach. But ultimately in our society today what we are facing is a great crisis of faith. Many people question the need for religious practice as a member of a believing community that lives by an authoritative creed that includes moral teaching and sacramental worship.    For many, religion is reduced to philanthropy–doing good, trying to be decent people and helping others materially. They think that the practice of faith, attendance at church, is not essential for happiness in this world or the next.

“So when it’s a question of what to do to bring people to church, it’s a combination of many things but mostly it’s a question of asking God to give people the gift of faith. Then, of course, on our part to make that gift of faith credible in their eyes, because we’re practicing what we preach. If we say join us, come to church, go to Mass, and then when we leave church we don’t act in a very edifying way, we contradict the Gospel. Young people in particular are quick to see any hypocrisy. Of course we’re all weak, we’re all sinful, none of us lives the Gospel perfectly, but we try with God’s help,” the Archbishop said. “And just as with the Judas the mystery of iniquity was at work even among the Lord’s own apostles, so now the scandal of iniquity can be found whenever the faith is betrayed, as in the tragedy of clerical sexual abuse.”

A touch of sadness comes to his voice when he posits that the crisis is driven by more than just a loss of faith. “A lot of the traditional ways that brought people together, for example, close family life and the extended family, neighborhoods—for Catholics all of these things revolved around the practice of the faith. Today family life is in crisis for many, and family and neighborhood ties aren’t what they used to be. All of these things make it more difficult to hand down the faith. So we have to work in new ways to create a sense of community,” he said.

“The personal element, personal contact will always be essential.  It’s not just the Church but also other voluntary groups and organizations that are experiencing real challenges in bringing people together.  Much of today’s society tries to go it alone. People have the mobility and the communications now, and often spend time on their cell phone rather than talking to the person next to them. That kind of thing is a challenge for all of us,” he said.

But then the Archbishop demonstrates he is not a man mired in the past. Technology can and is being embraced to help the Catholic Church in its mission. “We are very blessed to have excellent resources on the web today. All you have to do is Google something about the faith and you will find some very good Catholic resources for answering questions and getting guidance. Not that it’s any replacement for personal contact, but it’s a great resource,” he said.

The Archbishop embraces technology in his daily life – to a degree. “Most 10 year olds are more savvy than I am, but I do use the web, and actually get most of my news off the web– church or secular. I use it a lot for communications. I have my iPhone to communicate. But if there is anything lengthy to read, I find it hard to do so on a computer screen. I still have to print it out and read it.”

Another challenge for the Church is the education of children in the Archdiocesan schools – a challenge many parents find difficult because of the cost. There are 16,000 students attending the Archdiocese’s 53 schools, including nine high schools where 98 percent of graduates attend college. Catholic school students consistently test two grade levels above their public school peers.

“I acknowledge that the costs today are high and not everybody can do it. Catholic schools grew in the United States because immigrant Catholics came who were not well received by their Protestant fellow citizens. The public schools were basically Protestant and not very favorable to Catholicism. In the big cities, at least, the Catholic people made a great financial sacrifice to send their kids there so they’d get a really good education and also preserve their faith.

“I’m not saying our public schools are anti-Catholic today.  Without prejudice to public education, which we all want to succeed, I hope that Catholic people would still be willing to make a sacrifice for the added dimension that the Catholic school can give. It’s always been a sacrifice.

“Ultimately we’ll only have Catholic schools to the extent that the Catholic parents are convinced of the importance of a Catholic education. That necessarily includes the religious dimension. In that sense it’s in their hands how well we will survive and flourish,” he said.

archbishop2 The Archbishop has praise for programs in place to help with tuition. The Archbishop’s Annual Appeal has a tuition assistance program that helped more than 1700 people last year. There is also Matthew 25, which provides aid to Northwest Catholic students from individuals or foundations willing to support four years of education. The program identifies gifted students and monitors their progress throughout their high school experience.

It’s a program run by Catholic Charities, which the Archbishop praised for its scope. “I was very impressed with the Hartford Archdiocese,” he said. “The Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, for example, is remarkably generous on the part of Catholic people. That includes a whole array of Catholic Charities outreach services and other charitable activities. Catholic Charities also gets grants and other support to conduct this work. It’s extremely important. Archbishop Mansell was fond of pointing out that after the federal government the Catholic Church is the largest provider of social services in the country.”

Archbishop Blair is a man who knows his limits and realizes the need to step back from the work that can easily swallow up all seven days in the week. “As a bishop or a priest, I always try to take a day off – one of the seven. I don’t have the weekends off so one of the seven. Some weeks it doesn’t happen,” he said.

Being outdoors is very appealing for him whether it’s walking or riding a bike. Those are the kind of things I do to unwind. A while ago the weather warmed up a bit and I took a ride down Route 44 to the reservoir for a long walk. Doing that, I unwind a bit.  I think about the Archdiocese but not in a hectic way, and I don’t just think about work. We all need that.”

“I also love the water. I grew up around the Great Lakes in Michigan. I’m happy that Connecticut is near the Sound and the ocean and there are some nice inland bodies of water. I was attracted to the walk at the reservoir because of the water there. It is very peaceful on or by the water.

“The Lord said to keep holy the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath was meant to show among other things that everything doesn’t depend on us and our work. You have to give a day to God to show that ultimately things are in His hands. I’m not saying my day off is the Sabbath – far from it. But the idea of activism, that one has constantly to be doing things, it not healthy for the body or the soul.

“I realize that many of our fellow citizens are working very hard and don’t get any time off. Some are even pursued by their employers on the cell phone or web after hours and on holidays. I don’t think that’s a healthy thing.”

His humor comes through even when discussing his growing knowledge of the Archdiocese after four months as the archbishop. “When Father Romans, [then his secretary] and I are driving to various events, he often points out churches and some favorite restaurants to me. He claims that I seem to remember the restaurants better than the churches. Maybe that’s not a very edifying thought.”

To view the full magazine online, please visit our ISSUU library.

On the Road to Better Health

Allyson’s weight loss journey continues!

by Nancy Roy

When Allyson first came to me for help with losing weight and getting fit, I was impressed with her determination and knew that she could accomplish any goal she set!  We began working together in the comfort of her home living room at a slow pace since she hadn’t exercised in a long time. I knew she needed to incorporate regular cardio workouts since she was hoping to eventually drop 20 pounds or more. She began a strength training and stepping program a couple days a week with me and was also diligent about adding ‘homework’ assignments on those days she wasn’t working out with her trainer.

Getting outside more, even to walk the dog everyday, is a huge part of getting fit. There are so many physical activities people can easily work into their day, such as taking the stairs, dancing, walking more, and so on.

After working with Allyson during phase one of her new fitness plan, in 8 weeks, she has lost over 5 inches of body fat and lost over 4 pounds, despite gaining some new-found muscle! Her overall body fat count dropped from 39.1 down to 36.2. I was really impressed and Allyson was excited at her results, which only motivated her even more to continue her journey!

She is headed in the right direction. Taking weight off slowly and safely (1/2 pound-2 pounds a week is ideal) so she’ll be more likely to keep it off.

And the best thing about her results is that she accomplished them with just two one-hour sessions with me each week, right in her own home! How easy is that to get started?!

Her workouts now consist of 20-30 minutes of cardio (depending on how intense the strength training workout is for achieving toned muscles and a strong core). We now do various forms of step aerobics (low impact/high intensity) such as jumping jacks, mountain climber, burpees, etc. As time progressed, Allyson was able to handle longer cardio work-outs due to her increased endurance and stronger heart.

Now, during phase 2 we have pumped up the weights! During this time it’s important to stay away from the scale because muscle weighs more than fat…so even if she may gain a few pounds in muscle she will be increasing her metabolism to burn fat longer, which will eventually show up in losing inches and seeing her clothes get looser!

Did you know that 45 minutes of cardio burns fat for 8 hours just sitting in a chair? Adding weights to that workout and the time increases to 12 hours! This will achieve muscle definition and a flatter core (visible in one’s abs). Allyson is also doing sit-ups, crunches  and planks during this phase of her fitness journey.

Next phase will be focused more on increasing balance and flexibility along with longer cardio workouts and heavier weights for toning.

“It’s been wonderful!” smiles Allyson, “I already feel better and my clothes are looser. I can walk my dog longer and also think about what I eat everyday to maintain and continue to lose some weight!”

The key that a fitness program is working is when you are physically and emotionally ‘feeling better’ and Allyson certainly lives up to the challenge!

Find out how Allison is doing on her fitness journey and what she looks like after phase two of her workout program in the next issue of West Hartford Magazine and perhaps you’ll start moving more and join Allyson on her quest to get fit!

To view the full magazine online,
please visit our ISSUU library.

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Economic Development

West Hartford Construction Projects Unveiled

At the annual Economic Development Luncheon on March 26, hosted by the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce, Director of Community Services, Mark McGovern updated business leaders on commercial and residential building plans to unfold in the near future. “It’s not just development, but re-development,” McGovern explained as he unveiled construction projects at various locations around town, and added “Get ready for construction!” From landscape improvements and re-zoning approvals to retail expansions and new structures, nearly every section of town will see some type of construction upgrade, from the Center and Blue Back Square to Bishops Corner, Elmwood and Park Road. Event sponsored by People’s United Bank, Whole Foods, Comcast Business, and DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse. West Hartford Magazine media sponsor.

To view the full magazine online, please visit our ISSUU library.

Cynthia and Peter Gutermann, Honorary Chairs of the Children’s Charity Ball.  Peter is Vice President & General Counsel, at UTC Propulsion & Aerospace Systems.

Bridge Family Center Gala

A Great Success—New Record Set

Silver stars and streamers filled the air at the Hartford Golf Club as 375 guests gathered for the Children’s Charity Ball on January 18, 2014.  The theme for the 15th annual gala was “Reach for the Stars”—what the Bridge hopes to inspire in the lives of the children and families it serves.

United Technologies was the Presenting Sponsor for the event.  Peter and Cynthia Gutermann, UTC Propulsion & Aerospace Systems, were the Honorary Chairs for the gala.  Channel 3 TV personality, Scot Haney, was the host for the 13th year in a row, and “Timmy Maia” entertained guests.

The Diamond Sponsor was Allstate and the Sapphire Sponsors were All Waste, Inc., eBenefits Group Northeast, The Farmington Company, ING, The McInerney Family, Reid and Riege, P.C., Robinson & Cole LLP, Stop & Shop, and UTC Aerospace Systems.

The Bridge Family Center is grateful to a committed and creative group of women who planned the gala; to hundreds of businesses and individuals who sponsored the event or donated items to the silent and live auctions; and to many individuals who made monetary donations to support the gala.  The event netted more than $270,000—a new record—for Bridge programs for children and families.

Visit www.bridgefamilycenter.org.

Joyce Mandell and Irene O’Connor.

Miracles Gala XXIV

It was another sell-out evening at the Connecticut Convention Center for this year’s gala,presented by Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center. Nearly 1,400 guests came to support this year’s beneficiary, The Comprehensive Women’s Health Center at the hospital. Since its inception in 1990 to celebrate the affiliation of the Saint Francis and Mount Sinai Hospitals, the annual Miracles galas have raised over $14 million for hospital initiatives. The event featured a cocktail reception, dinner, dancing, silent wine and wine dinner auctions.The Comprehensive Women’s Health Center will provide dedicated services for women in the nation’s most advanced state-of-the-art facility.

Maurice Kaoud with his family and Santa.

Annual Holiday Stroll

Saint Brigid School (SBS) and The New Children’s Museum (TCM) enjoyed greeting children of all ages at their display in the showroom of Kaoud Oriental Rugs at the Annual “Center & The Square Holiday Stroll” in December. The main attractions, aside from Santa and sweet treats (thanks, in part to Taylor Rental Party Plus and Edible Arrangements), were the animals from TCM, which included a colorful milk snake, a bearded dragon, and a fluffy bunny. West Hartford Magazine (WHM) was a co-sponsor of the event, and Publisher Tom Hickey was the main “bunny handler” for the night (hey, someone had to do it!). Meanwhile, out on the streets, WHM Creative Director Joy Taylor and West Hartford Patch Advertising Manager Kaushik Makati along with Patch Editor Ted Glanzer strolled every corner to find the best window displays. There were many festive designs and the top winner of the night was Kimberly Boutique for it’s evergreen-drapped mannequins.

Lucas and Lilly Price-Glynn.

Pumpkin Carnival Halloween Stroll

Halloween Stroll Moms & More Club of West Hartford

Hundreds gathered in West Hartford Center on October 26 for the annual Pumpkin Carnival & Halloween Stroll, presented by the Moms & More Club of West Hartford. Event began at the Town Hall parking lot with a festive carnival of live music, prize give-a-ways and games. Then, children of all ages dressed in costumes and went trick-or-treating at participating merchants in West Hartford Center and Blue Back Square. A fun evening was had by all.

The event is produced by the Moms & More Club of West Hartford with collaboration of West Hartford Center and Blue Back Square merchants, as well as the town of West Hartford.

Moms & More Club of West Hartford was formed as a way to help both working and stay at home moms. Their mission is to bring a small town atmosphere into a large metro area.  www.momsandmoreclub.com

Mark Milligan, Sean Doyle, Eduardo Gonzalez, Lary Levitts.

Chamber Annual Golf Tournament

More than 100 golfers came out to support the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce’s 27th annual Golf Tournament at Wampanoag Country Club in West Hartford this fall. Presented by Rockville Bank, the tournament featured brunch, 18 holes of golf, an on-course BBQ shack, and was followed by a cocktail hour and dinner, with many prize drawings and a live auction.

Proceeds from the event make it possible for the Chamber to offer a wide array of activities and programs. Major sponsors of the tournament were: AAA and Westfarms at the Platinum level. Farmington Bank, People’s United Bank, Legrand/Wiremold, Blue Back Square, and Edens att the Gold level, and Comcast Business, Webster Bank, and TD Bank at the Silver level.

 

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West Hartford Center Merchant Association

The West Hartford Center Merchant Association set out to re-brand the semi-annual Sale Days event in July by enhancing the shopping experience to include a family train ride, live music, balloons and more!  Each day a different  band played out front of the Music & Arts store on the corner of Farmington Ave. and LaSalle Road. Banned For This Name, Connor Zane Millican and Pushing Static all showed off their musical skills. Barbara Karsky (co-owner BK&Co., and the Merchant Association President), was happy with the renewed enthusiasm for the traditional shopping days, and plans on having more events in the center of town.  With the help of media partner, WHMedia, Inc. (publishers of West Hartford Magazine), and the new marketing team at the association, the event was well publicized in print, and on social media. You can find “West Hartford Center & The Square” on Facebook.

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Terrific Teens To Watch

West Hartford Magazine’s Third Annual Assemblage of Noteworthy West Hartford Graduates

As the new school year begins, we take pride in our annual review of outstanding high school graduates. While there are countless others, we have selected eight students from four West Hartford high schools as an example of excellence to their peers, validating their worthiness!

What makes these terrific teens stand out? They are each a role model in their own right. From overcoming incredible challenges from childhood to simply standing out as award winning athletes or scholars, you are sure to agree that these eight teens are to be admired.

They all have an admirable work ethic and understand that you cannot accept opportunities life gives you without paying it forward. Having that unstoppable drive to accomplish what they set out to achieve…all while taking time to give back to their community. It’s their collective compassionate and philanthropic spirit that we all can learn from.

Each of these eight terrific teens gives credit to their family, school and community for helping to pave the way for them, in order to succeed. They are truly our new rising stars in the community. An inspiration to all!

BLAKE RANDALL “the performer”

BradThe world of musical theater is certainly going to be enlightened in the near future when Kingswood Oxford graduate, Blake Randall takes the stage professionally. As a musical theater major, Blake is enrolled at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, a place where  he already feels very much at home.

“I was born in Oklahoma but used to live in Texas so I’m accustomed to the area.” He explains. He is enjoying his time in college honing his skills in musical theater, as he plans on becoming a professional actor for stage or film in the future.

Blake’s years at Kingswood Oxford were especially instrumental in shaping his future goals. He had performed in the school’s winter musical over the last three years, was in the full school choir all four years, the select school choir and even performed as a member of the renowned all-boys acappella group, ‘Crimson 7’. Blake loves to sing and jam on his guitar in his free time, as well.

Not to be out-shadowed by his musical abilities, Blake is also an impressive football player. He not only played on his high school football team, ‘the Wyverns’ (a type of dragon), but he was also senior captain of the team and even had the role of playing the school mascot, for which Kingswood Oxford was ranked 3rd place in USA Today for best mascot, an honor that provided Blake an exclusive appearance, in costume, on NBC’s ‘The Today Show’ last winter!

Favorite memories of high school are already engrained in Blake’s mind.

“Winning the first football home opener as a senior and as team captain is something I will never forget. But also, an unforgettable memory was the opportunity to experience a foreign country with friends from high school.” Blake refers fondly to his two service trips to Paraguay, where he and other KO students donated shoes and clothes, built and refurbished classrooms, bathrooms, and even school buildings for the less fortunate.

Who does Blake attribute for his drive and passion in life? He answers without skipping a beat, “My parents.  They have been a huge influence on me. They have given me inspiration and have been exceptionally supportive in all that I do.” He adds, “I hold a certain standard in which to live by. Growing up in the south has taught me to see things differently. I am grateful for everything I have. My opportunities have come because of the many great people who came before me. If you choose to be an honest and good person, don’t hide any of it. Get out there and take risks.”

Despite his passion for all things musical, Blake’s favorite subjects in high school were history and English, attributing that to the excellent teachers at Kingswood Oxford. His favorite food is grilled cheese sandwiches and his best local hang-out with friends is Moe’s. “Ever since it opened, when I was in 8th grade, it’s offered me a great place to meet friends, hang out, talk and grab a bite to eat!”

Words of advice for up and coming high school students? “My favorite quote comes from a Tim MCGraw song, ‘Live like you were dying’. It’s simple and straight forward. Everyone should live their life that way!”

ALISON CONNORS “the basketball enthusiast”

AlisonHonor student, Alison Connors, a recent graduate of Northwest Catholic High School, truly understands what it means to be a contributor to her community and her school. She has achieved all her accomplishments through focus and hard work but is also aware that is it important to pay it forward through selfless acts of volunteerism.

Alison was the senior captain of her school basketball team. “I also coach two different basketball teams in my community,” She notes, “through the West Hartford travel program and the CT Rebels AAU program.”

Despite being so busy on the basketball court, Alison always made time for her school and community service. She served as a student leader for freshman orientation at her school and taught CCD at her church, St. Helena in West Hartford. Through her ACTS class (‘A Chance To Serve’) she set up various charity drives for different causes through the Catholic Worker House. “It was a great opportunity to give back.” She says, adding that her favorite school memory was a camping trip she took through the ACTS class at school. “We were in this very rustic campsite for four days. Nothing was pre-done. We stayed in tents, lit fires to cook food. It was pretty cool.”

A member of the National Honor Society, Alison says her favorite subjects in school were always the sciences…biology, in particular. Her dream is to become a physical therapist with special interest in kids and athletes. She is currently majoring in biology at Springfield College.

But Alison isn’t all work and no play. She knows the value of keeping balance. She loves going to the beach with friends and family and loves babysitting because she adores children.  Laughing at a good comedy, whether in a book or at the movies, is a great time. Her favorite local hang-out? The Coolidge gym in the old field house of Kingswood Oxford. “It’s a fun place to shoot hoops with friends!”

Her favorite food is pasta, her favorite color is blue, and her most favorite possession in the world is a small stuffed kangaroo toy that her best friend gave her.

She points out that her biggest role model has been her dad, Ed Connors. “He has always been there for me and my sisters. Well, so has my mom, but, my dad and I seem to have so much in common, such as all things sports. He has coached me in basketball all the way up to high school.” He always used to tell me, ‘The hotter the fire, the stronger the steel’ which inspires me to always keep going.” After all, she surmises, “the more work you put into something, the better it will be. Nothing easy is really worth it.”

KATIE NEWTON “the athletic scholar”

katieIt has been proven that high academic ability really can go hand in hand with incredible athleticism. Conard High School graduate, Katie Newton is a shining example.  As an All-State athlete for gymnastics and as an All-State academic, Katie was the only female at Conard to receive the prestigious ROTC National Scholar Athlete Award.

“It was quite an honor for me to receive the award,” reflects Katie, “A former soldier actually presented me with a certificate and a medal!”

But it should come as no surprise to those that know her. Katie has always been a high achiever. This AP scholar is a member of the National Honor Society and the Latin Honor Society. In high school, Katie was the captain of both the gymnastics team and track team.  She has been a gymnast for most of her childhood. Now attending UConn, she is majoring in physical therapy with a focus in sports recovery. “My favorite subjects in school were always math and science. And I loved psychology. I find it interesting to see how everything works for me and those around me as far as how people are acting and what is trending in the world.”

Her best role models have been her parents. “They always showed me right and wrong and what to do in order to be successful.” The West Hartford community may know her mother, Ronni, as the former regional editor for Patch.com.

Katie has also been an active part of her community through volunteer work. She is most proud of her mission trips to New Orleans, as part of the St. James Episcopal Church’s youth group. “We built, renovated and cleaned out post-Katrina water damaged structures and helped families get their homes back.” During the summer, Katie worked full time as a camp counselor at ‘Camp Funtastic’, held in various town parks. “I love being part of a team.” She says, “A sports team, a club or as a camp counselor with a team of children.”

In school, she was the co-president of the ‘Kids helping kids club’, whereby she spearheaded fundraising campaigns to teach special needs children in the community how to ride two wheel bikes. “It’s incredible. Very rewarding!”

Katie’s favorite food is blueberry muffins and her favorite color, as she describes it, is “yellow…always a happy color!”

Her favorite fashion accessory these days is a bright turquoise blue purse she treated herself to while on a recent trip to Italy, a cultural trip she took with fellow Latin students at her school. “It was an incredible experience to share the memories with so many of my classmates. So nice. Very cool.”

A lover of romantic comedy books and movies, Katie prefers to keep all things in her life very positive. “My favorite thing to do is visit my grandparents, who live in Nantucket. We spend many summers and holidays there. It makes me happy.”

She lives with purpose and clarity. She reminds everyone of her favorite quote:  “Don’t let your dreams become dreams.”

GLYNN BARON III  “the rebounder”

GlynnGlynn Baron III is a proud Conard High School graduate, as well as a graduate of the Greater Hartford Math and Science Academy…completing both schools simultaneously, with honors. To really appreciate this accomplishment, it is especially important is to understand the challenges Glynn had to endure as a young child.

“When I was just seven years old, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor,” Glynn explains. “I had to move to Tennessee for treatment at St. Jude’s Hospital. I missed a year of school.” His fighting spirit was always a part of who he was. “I’m ten years out of remission now. Thankfully my MRI’s are clean. On a personal level, I don’t see myself different than others but I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore!”

Attending Stetson University in Deland, Florida, Glynn is hoping to go into the pre-med program with aspirations of one day becoming a sports medicine doctor.

At Conard High, Glynn always leaned toward math and science, which is why he also enrolled at the Greater Hartford Math & Science Academy, a regional school for kids with an excelled interest in math and science. “Going to both schools made for a very long school day,” he reflects, “but being a part of two such great schools made it all worth it!”

Glynn was an honor student and member of the Bio-diesel club, where he worked on projects such as turning algae into oil to convert into usable diesel fuel. “It was a completely student run club. It was a great experience. We got to manage grants and a slice of the real world. We had total control!”

The people he is most thankful for in life is his grandfather, Henry and his grandmother, Maria, who never left his side at the hospital when he was hundreds of miles away from the rest of his family, living in Memphis. “They were literally always there for me. They gave me full support. They always assured me that I was going to be okay.”

Glynn is every bit a typical teen now. A lover of baseball, Glynn enjoys life to the fullest. He was on the baseball team, played basketball rec league and hockey for fun. He loves to get out and play sports with friends and doing volunteer work as a tutor at Webster Hill Elementary school.

His favorite local hang-out? “Since I live nearby, I like playing basketball on the courts at Webster Hill Elementary.” Glynn’s favorite food is mashed potatoes and his favorite color is blue. He loves suspense and fantasy movies.

“One place I’d like to visit in the near future is Italy, because of its rich culture, history and food.” He says, “I would like to meet some of my cousins living there. My grandmother was also born there.”

Getting a second chance at life has changed Glynn’s outlook forever. He appreciates all of life’s moments, big and small. He took time this summer to go fishing with his dad in Canada. He vacationed in Hawaii with his family before leaving for school.

He reminds us of Michael Jordan’s quote, which is a favorite saying of his: “I can accept failure but I can’t accept not trying.”

GRACE KAUFMAN “future photo journalist”

GraceCreativity simply abounds in Kingswood Oxford graduate, Grace Kaufman. As an aspiring artist, photographer and journalist, Grace wrote and illustrated her first book manuscript in the 5th grade! She has her eye on someday working professionally for a magazine.

Now attending Boston University, Grace is wrapping her major around art, communication and design. Her love of the arts is an integral part of who she is.

“When I’m not studying, you can find me painting landscapes at the beach or traveling to take interesting photos.” She says.

While at Kingswood Oxford High School, Grace was the photographer for the school newspaper and on the yearbook committee. She also loves swimming and playing lacrosse.

Her favorite subject in school was French. “I liked French class a lot. The way it was structured was like you were actually in a different country for that class period!”

One of her favorite role models was her Kingswood Oxford swim coach, Mr. Kraus. “He just had a way to calm me down when I was anxious before a swim meet. He always knew what to say and was always there for me if I needed to talk.”

As a future journalist, Grace knows how to step in and get involved. She participated in The Team Tobati community service trip to Paraguay with her school, and was part of The Shield and Dragon Program, touring perspective families around the school. She volunteers year after year at the Hartford Marathon, doing whatever was needed, collecting runners’ backpacks, organizing them in the trucks, or handing out waters. Over the summer, Grace helped children as a swim instructor at Renbrook Day Camp.

Grace won the Hemmingway Parody Award through her English class in her junior year, after submitting a paper she wrote. She was also senior swim captain of her team and placed second in New England.

But her best school memory was seeing first hand, how the smallest of gifts can help people in need. While on her mission trip to Paraguay, she went into a classroom and gave the kids toothbrushes and taught them how to brush their teeth.

“Things we take for granted here are a luxury in other places. These children never knew basic hygiene. We really made a difference.”

Grace admits her favorite foods are ice cream and chocolate muffins. She loves the color turquoise and her favorite hang-out place in town with friends is Elizabeth Park. “You have to go toward the top of the park so you can see the Hartford skyline. I love looking at cities.”

Her dream is to someday visit Israel, a culture she says she has learned about for many years.

So many things set this creative soul apart from her peers, but Grace attributes her unique vision to her family. “My dad’s side of the family is especially artistic. Like my dad, I see things differently. I don’t really follow trends. I like to step back and really look at the beauty in everything!”

RYAN COURSEY “future business executive”

RyanFor Northwest Catholic graduate, Ryan Coursey, the business world is very intriguing to him after working several years as a community volunteer and being able to land a birds eye view of the needs of organizing a non-profit business structure.

Currently attending Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts, Ryan is a business major with hopes of working at his father’s company as a financial planner.

Ryan integrated his love of sports into much of his community volunteerism. “I was a part of Catholic Worker House, which helps under-privileged kids have a place to go after hardship. I would play basketball with them, help them with their school work and more.” Ryan was also the West Hartford representative for the CT Boys State for the American Legion held at Eastern CT State University. “It was a great experience. In five days, we set up a mock government system, electing senators, judges and mayors. I was a part of this program for both my junior and senior years of high school.”

A member of the National Honor Society, Ryan is proud that he made honor roll every quarter for all 4 years at Northwest Catholic. His favorite subjects were AP U.S. History and AP U.S. Government. “Mr. Fitzpatrick was my Government teacher. He was great. Always the most interactive with students during class, making it fun.”

Probably as a result, he became an active part of the ‘model UN Club’ whereby each club member researched topics in particular countries. “I focused on environmental issues in Cuba. We got to go on a field trip to the United Nations and even got to meet with a Cuban diplomat.”

Although his favorite sport is baseball (he was on his high school baseball team all four years) he enjoys all sports, especially golf and town league basketball. His favorite local hang-out is Rockledge Golf course. His favorite team is the Red Sox, favorite color is purple and his favorite food is mussels.

Best memory of high school? “The day I turned a triple play in baseball during my junior year. I ended the game with bases loaded! That will stick in my mind forever!”

To relax, Ryan says he enjoys going to the movies with friends. “I go to movies a lot. I love all types of movies, especially comedies.”

“My biggest role models in life are my parents.” He says, “especially my dad. To see how hard he worked in his life and in college and to open up his own practice in the financial world, I have learned what hard work can do. I admire my dad’s work ethic.”

While settling in as a freshman at college, Ryan sees good things in his future. “I know if I work hard, I can accomplish anything I want. I enjoy spending time with my family in Cape Cod, but want to someday travel the world. I would love to go to Sweden. Most people don’t realize much of that country is just wilderness. I’ve always been intrigued.”

PIERCE HIGGINS “king of determination”

PiercePierce Higgins, a graduate of William H. Hall High School, exemplifies the true meaning of an achiever. Aside from being very involved in his school, his church and the West Hartford community, this honor student had a personal challenge that kept his determination always in focus.

Already a success story at age 18, Pierce is happy to share his challenge to help inspire others to succeed. “I have a speech impairment but I have dedicated the last fourteen years of my life to improving my speech.” In his early school years, he admits that his speech impairment started affecting his academic goals and even his social interactions with classmates. “I received a lot of support and guidance from my teachers, speech therapist and my parents. I studied very hard and really applied myself to obtain good grades. My hard work paid off.” Pierce was an honor roll student at Hall and was able to graduate on time with his peers. He is now a student at Manchester Community College majoring in Health & Exercise Science.

Captivated by the Chinese language, which was his favorite class in high school, Pierce would someday love to speak Mandarin fluently and work in the health care industry in China, because he advocates a healthy lifestyle. He now knows all things are possible.

At Hall, Pierce played soccer, tennis and wrestling. He notes that his favorite school memory was when he achieved his goal of making varsity tennis. He achieved the Central Connecticut Conference All Academic Team Award Varsity Letter/Two sport award. He was active in the Anime club, chess club, video game club and social club.

For his community, he volunteered with the Salvation Army at the annual block party in Hartford. He volunteered at the St. Joseph Church annual tag sale to help raise money for people who suffered from drug and alcohol abuse.

“My mom always said to me, ‘Pierce, the opponent does not exist!’ She inspired me to believe in myself and I will be the best in whatever I aspire to be.”

It should come as no surprise that Pierce’s favorite food is Asian Cuisine. His favorite color is green and his best hang-out for meeting friends in town is at Blue Back Square.

In his free time, when he is not studying, he enjoys guitar playing, rapping, exercising and dabbling on Chinese Facebook.

He says he will most remember his high school trip to China last spring. He dreams of one day expanding his Asian experience by discovering other countries, such as South Korea.

“I am equipped with the knowledge of how to advocate for myself. I have learned in my very young life that hard work pays. My motto in life is ‘Failure is not an option’!” His advice for kids in school, “No matter what the obstacles are, always keep working towards your goal!”

CLAIRE O’BRIEN “the soccer stand-out”

ClaireWilliam H. Hall High School graduate, Claire O’Brien is more than just your typical soccer enthusiast.  Her passion for the sport and her natural athletic ability for soccer secured her a place on her college soccer team, recruited by Stone Hill College in Massachusetts as an outstanding soccer player. This summer, Claire was in Kansas for a National Soccer competition.

There’s no stopping what this honor student can do. She gives everything her all and possesses an admirable winning spirit. Claire is a member of the National Honor Society and the Spanish Honor Society. She was captain of the Hall soccer team and also played basketball and indoor/outdoor track during her high school years.

Claire received the 3-sport athlete award for all four years of high school. She also received the ‘Spirit of Hall’ award, for her work in supporting athletics. She received an academic award, as well, for receiving a 4.0 GPA all four years of high school and the Board of Education Award for leadership.

She invested much of her time to the Top Soccer team, serving as a mentor to teach and play soccer with special needs kids in the community.

She was also a member of the Empty Bowls club, raising money to feed the hungry through area soup kitchens, and a part of the school’s Link Crew, whereby upper classmen would help freshman get to know each other during orientation.

Claire spends much of her free time playing soccer, but also enjoys writing, reading and traveling. In college, she is leaning toward English and communications and would like to one-day write for a newspaper or magazine, especially if she could incorporate her love for travel into her job.

As a celebrity role model, Claire looks up to world-renowned soccer player, Alex Morgan. “She’s so inspiring. She is the youngest person ever to be on the women’s national team and a great role model for all young kids!”

“One of my fondest high school memories will always be our soccer team’s bonding weekend. Getting to know, trust and respect each other is so important.”

Despite being primarily a seafood lover, Claire mentions that her mom makes an amazing pulled pork, her favorite meal. Claire’s favorite color is blue and her best hangout in West Hartford is the movie theater at Blue Back Square. “I also love hanging out on Hall turf, playing soccer and working out with my sister and friends.”

“One of my favorite vacations was a family reunion in Ireland with my entire extended family. We rented a tour bus and drove all over the country. It was totally awesome! Closer to home, we have a home in Narragansett, RI, a place I love to visit. My dream destinations, however, are Paris, Brazil and Portugal.”

To understand Claire’s active life, so full of accomplishment, even at the age of 18, she gives a nod to her parents. “My parents always did sports. It became a natural part of me. They were always active. You become what you live.”