By Richard Kaufman
Back in 1986, while driving along The Post Road to Greenwich from Port Chester, N.Y., now former Superintendent of Greenwich Public Schools, Ernest Fleishman, noticed a sign on the side of the road.
It read, “Greenwich: Home of Athletic Champions.” Fleishman, who has three children that went through GHS and played varsity sports, felt there was more to Greenwich and the public schools than athletics.
“I said to myself, ‘there are other heroes who need to be put up on a pedestal, and why not recognize those who are helping their school, their community, their family, their state and effectively, their nation,’” said Fleishman.
On Tuesday night in the GHS Performing Arts Center, heroes of the Greenwich community and public school system were showcased for all to see during the 33rd annual Community Service Awards.
The awards were established to recognize service contributions of students to the community. The elementary school students, 19 in total, were chosen to represent their school’s service accomplishments for the year. They were accompanied by their principal.
Middle schoolers Thomas Fahey from Central Middle School, Alexis Killeen from Eastern, and Angela Zarrilli from Western, were honored and presented by their respective principals.
From GHS, five students were selected from each house: Flora Dievenich Braes, Bella House; Gregory Goldstein, Cantor House; Sadie Cox, Clark House; Catherine Veronis, Folsom House; and Julia Merrill, Sheldon House. Each student was presented by their House Administrator.
Additionally, Greenwich High senior, René LaPointe Jameson, was presented with the Fleishman Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the school and the community.
In attendance to greet the recipients as they were announced on stage, was Board of Education Chair Peter Bernstein, Fleishman, First Selectman Peter Tesei, current GPS Superintendent Dr. Jill Gildea, and State Rep. Fred Camillo (R-151). Tesei handed out certificates, and Camillo presented each student with a state citation.
“Greenwich thrives on volunteerism. It’s encouraging to see our students become part of this culture of our community,” Tesei said to the students.
Camillo urged the students to never change, and voiced high hopes for each student’s success in the future. “Sir Winston Churchill once said, ‘you make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.’ Judging by what I’ve heard, you are all on the way to living those types of lives Sir Winston talked about,” he said.
Fleishman Award winner, René LaPointe Jameson, received a standing ovation from the crowd after she was introduced.
The GHS senior has been volunteering and helping the Greenwich community since she was five years old, and has received a community service award two times prior.
Some of Jameson’s accomplishments include: being the president of the Roots & Shoots Club at GHS; helping to secure funds to support care packages for the homeless; organizing the Thanksgiving food drive which provided 150 local families with meals; helping to organize Operation Smile, which sent food to troops overseas; raising money to buy and send supplies to Haiti; raising money for displaced families by recent national disasters in Puerto Rico.
Jameson praised the elementary school recipients and their accomplishments, and encouraged the young students to remain involved in the community. Jameson reminded them that their age doesn’t limit their impact on others.
“You guys are incredible,” she said to the elementary school students.
Jameson also said the key to a brighter future is the younger generations.
“As we’re facing so much division and hatred, we need to overcome that with support and love and it starts with younger generations. We really are the leaders of the future, and we need to make room for us to not only inherit this world, but leave it in a better place for us to improve and grow as well,” she said. “I’m so honored to be here, thank you so much.”
Tesei perhaps said it best when he closed out his remarks towards the recipients.
“Your service and achievement is a strong indicator of the health and vibrancy for our community, not only today, but for years to come. In essence, your dedication to community is not only to be commended, but emulated as well. You are leading by example.
“There isn’t a way to fully know what the future holds for each of you, but one thing is for certain. The world is, and will continue to be, a better place because of what each of you do every day to help your fellow citizens.”
Elementary school recipients:
Della Blucher, Chelsie Glines (Cos Cob School); Chloe Rabinowitz (Glenville School); Pearl Lee, Vera Kim (Hamilton Avenue School); Callie Richards (ISD); Justin Bernstein, Camille Pedroza-Hall (Julian Curtiss School); Hank van Schaik, John Kilgallen (New Lebanon School); Peter Vomvolakis, Calvin Donat (North Mianus School); Daniel McGuire, Ally Bauer (North Street School); Lily Roberts, Brennan Cunnion (Old Greenwich School); Alyssa Gath, Blake Martin (Parkway School); Benjamin Tirana (Riverside School).