Mara LaBato, Grover Cleveland Middle School Teacher, Recognized by Kiwanis for Student Community Service Programs
by Christine Corliss
Grover Cleveland Middle School, Caldwell, eighth grade teacher Mara LaBato (left) receives a certificate of appreciation for her work and dedication to the youth of Builders Club and their community service from Kiwanis of Caldwell-West Essex president Mary Ann Luke this May. LaBato has advised the Builders Club at the school for 12 years. Credit: Christine Corliss
CALDWELL, NJ - Eighth-grade math teacher Mara LaBato has advised the Builders Club at Grover Cleveland Middle School (GCMS), Caldwell, for twelve years, working with the students to organize fundraisers, host parties for senior citizens, donate to local and national charities, and much, much more, to help students recognize the importance of community service and doing good for others.
However, this spring, the Kiwanis Club of Caldwell-West Essex turned the tables on LaBato, recognizing the important role that she has played in the community and her contributions to community service programs as the Builders Club Advisor.
A Kiwanis Service Leadership Program, the Builders Club is an international student-led program providing students with opportunities to perform service, build character and develop leadership. Clubs are chartered in partnership with a Kiwanis club and a school or community-based organization serving middle or junior high school students. The middle school’s club partners with the Kiwanis Club of Caldwell-West Essex.
Over the years, students involved with the Builders Club have participated in Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF; made and served a Valentine's Day dinner for local seniors that includes live entertainment; worked with the PRIDE committee on their annual holiday Adopt-a-Family; and held numerous bake sales, food drives and coat drives. The Club also sponsors a "Pajama Day", donating all of the proceeds to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
“We try to vary the types of activities to show students that there are
This year, Kiwanis President MaryAnn Luke presented LaBato with a certificate of appreciation for her work and dedication to the youth of Builders Club and their community service.
“I work with the students in the Builders Club
For more information on the Kiwanis of Caldwell-West Essex, visit their website online here.
For more information on Builders Clubs, visit their website online here.
For more information on Grover Cleveland Middle School, visit their website online here.
by Carolyne Volpe Curley / Carolyne@WestEssexNow.com Published 3:51am
WEST CALDWELL, NJ - There was plenty of sunshine Thursday evening as the 199 students in the James Caldwell High School Class of 2014 took to Bonnell Field to receive their diplomas. The ceremony began at 6pm with the combined band and orchestra, under the direction of Nate Lienhard and Andrew Burrows, playing "Pomp and Circumstance" while the seniors marched onto the field.
Charles Lim, president of the class, led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance which was followed by the National Anthem played by the music ensemble.
The advisor to the class and Health and Physical Education teacher, Jodi Longo, welcomed everyone and addressed the students.
"You leave behind childhood ways, and step into the shoes of adulthood.
The Caldwell-West Caldwell Superintendent
Dr. James Heinegg inspired the students with his address on the value of gratitude and appreciation.
"When you practice gratitude - whether by expressing it verbally to another person, by writing thank-you notes, or by reflecting in a journal about the things for which you’re grateful - you are getting at three core lessons that you have been learning throughout your school career thus far,"
The 2014 Class Salutatorian Sean Clarkin spoke about forging a path into the future and taking the road to success.
"The road ahead of us is not easy. It will be filled with trials and challenges, roadblocks and detours that we can scarcely imagine now," Clarkin advised. "Most of us have not even met a true obstacle yet;
Valedictorian Joseph Salter then presented the students with his optimistic views on finding a direction in life and keeping a positive attitude no matter what life challenges are presented to them.
"Whether you’re staying in town, going off to college, or taking a year off,
Dr. Kevin M. Barnes, the school's principal, was the last to speak to the students before the President of the Board of Education, Mary Davidson, awarded them all with diplomas.
"The rest of our world believes the James Caldwell High School is really something quite special. Rejoice in that." Barnes instructed.
The evening concluded with the combined ensemble performing a rendition of Strauss' "Overture to Die Fledermaus" as the high school graduates threw their caps in the air and congratulated each other.
James Caldwell High School Class of 2014
A group of longtime friends who all went to Wilson Elementary School together
celebrated their graduation with their former principal, Scott Keena.
Front row, from left: Jimmy Stille, Johnny Hunter, Michael Wasik and Nick DeSena
Back row, from left: Ray Iodice, Cooper Milano, Jack Docteroff, Wilson School Principal Scott Keena and Joe Galioto
John Carroll, Jr.
Nicholas Del Duca
Joelle Melissa Furbeck
John Hunter, II
So Yi Lam
Alyssa La Medica
Gino Lo Manto
The James Caldwell Varsity Baseball team senior starting infield:
From left: Valedictorian Joe Salter, Cooper Milano, Dylan Soriente and Jack Docteroff
Edwin Ramos, Jr.
Joseph Valentino, Jr.
Click here to view many more photos of the graduation,
by photographer Theresa Valentino of West Caldwell.
By Joseph Salter Published 2:04am
Finding a purpose is one of life’s most difficult challenges. But today, just now, moments ago, we all came together and found a purpose - to help a friend fight his battle. But that applause was not just for Steve Brown. It was for Mrs. Renzetti, for my grandmother, maybe your grandmother, for anyone fighting the same battle. We just applauded for a cure, for hope, for change. We applauded because we want to fight the battle.
Every day is a battle. Studying for a test, perfecting Shrek the Musical, getting to a state championship, raising environmental awareness. Whether monumental or insignificant, everyone has a battle to fight. And what is unique is that the solution to every battle—big or small—is the same.
My brother told me the story of a battle he faced in Africa last year, and I think it perfectly exemplifies the proper way to go about fighting a battle. Now this is a much less serious battle, because his biggest obstacle is his sense of direction. I mean, he can barely find Bloomfield Avenue from Bloomfield Avenue. So when he went to Africa for a year, he had some pretty good stories to tell.
He and seven others had trekked to an extremely rural village in the country of Senegal. After an exhausting day, they had gone to sleep for the night. Early the next morning, before the sun came up, my brother was woken by the urge to relieve himself. Not wanting to disturb the sleeping villagers, he walked into the nearby forest—a mere ten steps into the forest. After taking care of business, instead of turning around and walking ten steps back out of the forest, he obliviously walked deeper into the forest. It probably took him a few minutes to realize that he was lost in a deep, dark forest in rural Senegal, Africa. But he continued walking, the wrong way, and probably began to wonder if these were his last moments on Earth.
Finally, he reached a clearing and saw a village. Sadly, it was not his village. So if any of you were under the impression that valedictorians are highly intelligent, I hope I cleared up the misunderstanding. At that point, two sleepy-eyed young boys approached him quizzically. My brother greeted them with a smile and they started giggling in a language he was unfamiliar with. After a lot of hand motions, my brother was able to convey to them which village he was from. The boys knew right away, and they peacefully and generously guided him back. Three hours had passed from the time he had first walked into the forest. But he made it back. Safe and sound.
My brother faces the everyday battle of never knowing where he is. The other day, he got lost in France for four hours. I think he’s in France, I don’t even know where he is half the time. But then again, neither does he. Wherever he goes, his fight requires trust. He trusted those two children to bring him back home. It requires courage. He remained brave as he wandered through the deep and dark forest. And it requires a positive attitude. Two roads diverged in a wood, and he definitely took the road less traveled. But he kept moving, optimistically hoping that he would get home. And he did. Oh and by the way, my brother definitely redeemed himself—you see, he waited over three months before he told our mother the story.
These past couple of weeks I have been able to step back and think about all the positive times from our four years here. I remember the final scene in Shrek, with the actors and actresses running down the aisle, singing and dancing to “I’m a Believer,” with every member of the audience on their feet, laughing, crying, singing, loving. I had never seen so much joy in a single room. I remember the crowd rushing onto the field after the Lodi football game, which put the Chiefs into the state championship. I had never seen so much excitement. And just last week, I remember every student walking the halls with an orange ribbon and a blue bracelet. I had never seen so much support.
And then I think of all the positive things that the future brings. Whether you’re staying in town, going off to college, or taking a year off, the future is bright. Try not to think, “why me?” when something bad happens, because sometimes life is unfair. Think, “why not me?” about something good that is waiting to happen. Face your battles, and make the best of them.
Now I'd like to take a moment to thank the members of the Board of Education, Dr. Heinegg, Dr. Barnes, our wonderful teachers, administrators, and staff for making our four years at JCHS fantastic. Most importantly, the graduating class of 2014 would like to thank their parents for their unconditional love and support throughout the past eighteen years.
I would like to leave you with a challenge. When you are faced with a battle, and the answer does not lie on Twitter, Tumblr, or Tinder, remember the three keys—trust, courage, and optimism—and you will triumph. Then ask yourself, “Why not me?” And if that doesn’t work, well, pull out the GPS. Thank you.
These remarks were delivered to the James Caldwell High School Class of 2014
at their Commencement Ceremony on June 19, 2014. Joseph Salter was the Class Valedictorian.
by Sean Clarkin Published at 11:09pm
Good evening everyone. My name is Sean Clarkin and welcome to the commencement for the James Caldwell High School Class of 2014. I will begin by thanking my parents, family, friends, classmates, faculty, and coaches. Each of you has had a hand, big or small, in shaping me into the young man that stands before you today.
When I learned I was the Salutatorian for our class a few months ago, I was both thrilled and terrified at the prospect of speaking in front of you today. I knew of course that it was a great honor, but also that I had no idea how to spell salutatorian, let alone craft a speech and deliver it to hundreds of people.
As any good teenager would do, the first thing I did was turn to Urban Dictionary to find out what I would do as salutatorian. I learned that I was now officially, “The person who just missed being valedictorian by a few GPA points. Remember, 2nd place is just the first loser.” This definition helped me loosen up and step back a little bit. It helped me to realize that I simply needed to enjoy where I stood, and not worry about the minute details that would eventually be figured out.
I think we could all use a moment like that. A moment that makes us step out from under the anxiety of what the future holds and the pressures of what we will make out of ourselves. A moment that makes us laugh and forget about whatever trials may lie ahead of us. Most importantly, a moment that makes us realize that we are standing at a pretty great point in our lives.
Right now, we have all climbed the educational and social mountain that is high school. By each of us taking our own unique path, we have succeeded, and stand here before you today as graduates. As graduates, it is okay to be sad. Whether you are going into the workforce or into college, you are leaving a great many friends behind. You are likely moving away from your family and your childhood. Parents should be sad as well, as they are losing a child they have never lived without.
However, this is also a time for great pride and happiness. We are going onto great things in our lives, every single one of us. We are going to forge a path into the future, whatever it may hold, and will make incredible relationships along the way. Parents be proud as well, as you have raised a strong child, ready to make their way in the world. Whether you know it or not, your child appreciates what you have done for them to get them here tonight.
As we move on, it is important to remember that graduation is not the end of our lives, but rather the end of our first chapter. While high school will carry some weight in the future, it is not paramount. Grades we may have had, or didn’t have, tests we aced or failed, will not matter in the landscape of our lives. These things may matter in the pond that is JCHS, but not in the ocean that is the world.
What does matter is what we make of ourselves. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” This quotes speaks to the fact that the opinions of others in our lives are a distant second to our own opinions of ourselves. Our ability to succeed does not lie in our high school GPA or in the eyes of another, but in our own hearts and minds.
The road ahead of us is not easy. It will be filled with trials and challenges, roadblocks and detours that we can scarcely imagine now. Most of us have not even met a true obstacle yet; an exception to this is my good friend, Steve Brown, who stands before us representing the strength and resiliency that we all hope to have. No one can know what lies ahead, but we can take solace in the fact that we have been prepared to overcome it by our past experiences. We must move on in our lives and blaze our on path, wherever it may take us. Perhaps scariest of all, beyond any obstacles, is, as the famous composer Colin Davis said, that, “The road to success and the road to failure are almost exactly the same.” But we are not alone in finding our road to success. As we have had in our lives to get us to this point, we will have friends, family, and teachers to help us on our way.
Tonight is a meant not only as a ceremony to end high school, but a celebration of our pasts together. It is a remembrance of good times and bad on the stage, the field, and in the classroom. It is time for a reflection on the memories we have made, whether they focus on athletic foes conquered right here on Bonnel Field, a performance we shined in at the CPA, or an awesome summer night spent with your best friends.
As we move forward in our lives, I implore you to take some time between hanging out with friends and packing for college to reflect on and appreciate all the good times you have had during your time at JCHS. Thank you and may God bless this James Caldwell High School Class of 2014.
These remarks were delivered to the James Caldwell High School Class of 2014
at their Commencement Ceremony on June 19, 2014. Sean Clarkin was the Class Salutatorian.
by Dr. James Heinegg Published 8:44pm
Greetings, and welcome to parents, relatives, friends, staff, Board members, and of course, students in the James Caldwell High School Class of 2014.
One of the things that tends to happen to high school seniors at this time of year is that people are constantly reminding you about thank-yous. If I’m not mistaken, at every single one of the senior events I attended, Dr. Barnes prompted you to express gratitude to your parents and teachers. And perhaps someone at home has been gently inquiring if you have written those thank-you notes yet; for a teacher or counselor who wrote a letter of recommendation, to a relative who sent a graduation gift, etc. Many of you have mentioned gratefulness when you yourselves have come to the podium at various ceremonies over the past few weeks as well.
Why all of the concern about politeness and good manners?
I would argue that this is not simply a matter of etiquette. Gratitude is actually at the heart of today’s Commencement ceremony; its cultivation is fundamental to what goes on in schools and homes. When you practice gratitude—whether by expressing it verbally to another person, by writing thank-you notes, or by reflecting in a journal about the things for which you’re grateful—you are getting at three core lessons that you have been learning throughout your school career thus far.
First of all, when we reflect upon the many things for which we can be grateful, we are re-affirming that lesson learned in social studies, science, and other classes that, both as individuals and as a species, we are incredibly interdependent. Or to consider the converse, in order to be ungrateful, a person has to think that he or she is pretty much self-sufficient and that they are entitled to everything they have. When we contemplate those who have sacrificed so that we might enjoy those things we have - freedom, justice, and equality, to name three key ones - it is not possible to reconcile the debt we owe them with any sense of entitlement or ungratefulness.
This is true for those whose names we know: Thomas Paine, Sojourner Truth, Cesar Chavez, Rachel Carson, and so on, as well as the millions and millions whose names we do not know - anonymous soldiers, activists, and ordinary citizens - who struggled and even gave their lives for our benefit.
Likewise, when we study biology, we learn that for humans to exist in the first place requires a web of life that involves millions and millions of other species. Or, on a more immediate, local scale, just consider the number of people who were involved in ensuring that you were able to have the most recent meal you ate - from the farmers - to those who harvested the food - to the truckers - to the people who provided the fuel for the trucks - to the processors, preparers, salespeople, and so on. It is mind-boggling how interdependent we are, and the appropriate response to our dependency on all of those others - our parents, our teachers, people we have never met, or even other creatures - is to be thankful.
A second thing we realize when we practice gratitude is that many of the things for which we now give thanks did not seem so great when we were first going through them. As you look back on what has happened through your life so far, you undoubtedly find that some events that were painful or problematic when you were going through them are now things for which you are thankful; perhaps because they taught you a lesson, or made you stronger, or made possible some other event that was important.
Again, there are countless famous examples of this from your classes as well: Helen Keller loses her sight and hearing, and ends up, along with her teacher Annie Sullivan, becoming an inspiration to the whole world. Failed scientific experiments lead to even greater discoveries. Or simply, individual troubles end up bringing a person to a better place.
I recall hearing a speaker who was addressing this topic being challenged by a man in the audience, “My girlfriend just dumped me - what do I have to be thankful for?” "Well," said the speaker, you could say, “I’m so grateful that she broke up with me, because now there is room in my life for someone who can truly appreciate me.”
This may strike you as hopelessly Pollyanna-ish, and I am not recommending that you write a thank-you card to the person who broke up with you in eleventh grade. But it is certainly true, however odd it may sound, that we often find ourselves saying “thank you” for problems, or adversity, or even failure, because of what they ultimately mean for us.
This in turn points to a third lesson of gratitude: namely that re-framing negative events as positive ones, in this way, eventually becomes an overall attitude to life. That it’s not about calculating the good compared to the bad in our lives and then determining whether to be grateful or resentful, but that in some way, whether one is religious or not, the best approach to this whole deal is to see it as a wonderful gift to which the only fitting response is, “Wow - thank you!”
It may be that little glimpses of that kind of experience have led you or will lead you to your chosen field. Music: "wow - thank you!" Engineering: "wow - thank you!" The way kids’ eyes light up when they learn something: "wow - thank you!"
I don’t know when you will receive that next reminder to be grateful - perhaps in one of the upcoming speeches today, or when a relative or friend says something in the next few weeks, or perhaps it will just occur to you when you have a quiet moment sometime later this summer. In any case, I encourage you to look at that expression of thanks not as just another responsibility that etiquette requires of you (like not talking with your mouth full or using the outermost fork first) but rather as a most appropriate way to mark the commencement of this next part of your life’s journey.
So in conclusion, I would just like to say: It stopped raining, the sun is shining, and we’re here on Bonnel Field to celebrate the Class of 2014.
These remarks were delivered to the James Caldwell High School Class of 2014
at their Commencement Ceremony on June 19, 2014.
Dr. James Heinegg is the Superintendent
of the Caldwell-West Caldwell School District.
by Christine Corliss
WEST CALDWELL, NJ - Adding to the eight seniors from James Caldwell High School (JCHS), West Caldwell, already signed on to play college-level sports, two additional seniors, Joanna Carluccio and Andrew Canavan, signed letters of intent to play collegiate athletics this month, joining classmates Steve Brown, David Burton, Michael Wasik, Georiga Mergner, Joseph “Danny” McCarthy, Nicole Kinney, Joseph Salter and Joseph Galioto, creating a total of ten seniors from the graduating class who have signed letters of intent.
Carluccio committed to Richard Stockton College where she will be on the track and field team. Carluccio was a major presence on the Caldwell track and field team, participating in long and short distance races, hurdles and high jump competitions. Carluccio placed third in high jump at the North 2, Group 2 Sectional Championship.
Canavan, a swimmer for the Chiefs and the Cyclones Swimming Team, will compete for Lycoming College. Canavan’s specialty is the 100 meter breaststroke, with a time of 1:08.5 . As a ShopRite Star for his service to community, Canavan shines in and out of the pool.
Carluccio and Canavan complete the group of students who signed letters earlier this year, including Brown, a three-year letter winner and Harvey Lawshe Defensive Award recipient, who will play for Lehigh University. Burton is a NJ High School States Meet of Champions Qualifier and USA Swimming Eastern Zone Sectionals Qualifier. Burton will swim for Franklin and Marshall in fall 2014. Wasik will also travel to Franklin and Marshall, taking his place on the lacrosse field. Wasik, who also played for the Jersey Thunder Lacrosse on their Elite Black 2014 Team, was second team All Essex County 2013 and third team All Junior 2013. Named to the US Lacrosse All-Academic Lacrosse Team in July 2013, Mergner will play lacrosse for Trinity College. McCarthy will play lacrosse for Montclair State University. The attackman/midfielder also plays for Building Blocks Lacrosse, and played at the Blue Chip 225 and FLG 3d where he made the all-star game for both showcases. Named to the second team in the Liberty Division Super Essex Conference in 2012, Kinney will play for Drew University next fall. The defenseman/midfielder was also awarded the Elmira Key Award that recognizes school and community involvement. Salter, football team captain and quarterback for the Chiefs, will head to Princeton next fall. Galioto will play football next fall for Montclair State University. Playing varsity since his sophomore year, Galioto was the only returning starter on the offensive line this season where he helped pave the way for an offense that rushed for more than 2,000 yards.
For more information on JCHS, visit www.cwcboe.org/jchs.
Christine Corliss is the Data Specialist and Communications Coordinator for the