The Harvard-Kent Elementary School has a very unique program that honors scholars and leaders annually and this year’s program was extra special. On Thursday, May 12 six students were awarded $l,000 scholarships in the sixth annual ceremony. The total awarded since the Harvard-Kent Leadership and Scholarship Partnership was founded is $36,000. The funds are deposited into accounts for the children until they are college-bound and the whole school population looks forward to the award ceremony each year.
The program was originated by Petie Hilsinger, a resident of the Charlestown Navy Yard for many years. She met with Jan Winkler and Hermine Drezner from Florida to learn about their programs. These two women began to encourage students in their state to work hard, excel in school and have a goal of attending college.
Petie is a strong believer in equal opportunity for all children and she told Mary Fahey, also a Navy Yard resident, of the idea of a program for the Harvard-Kent School. Mrs. Fahey was a teacher at the school at that time and they met with Mr. Richard Martin, principal. Together they worked on guidelines for this unique venture and the program was off and running including applying for non-profit status, developing an advisory board and establishing guidelines for the scholarships. Many Charlestown residents and school staff members have worked hard to make this program successful and Richard Martin has been very supportive through these past six years.
In the spring of 2006, the first six winners were announced and were formed into the club at school. Representative Eugene O’Flaherty hosted the first field trip to his office at the State House. Since its beginning, the various clubs have visited colleges, participated in a whale watch, participated in historic tours, attended plays and the circus, went ice skating at the Frog Pond, visited a harbor island to swim, climbed the Bunker Hill Monument and visited the Museum and stayed overnight at the Museum of Science. Some children also visited the Arnold Arboretum, Boston City Hall, The Massachusetts State House, the New England Aquarium, WGBH and City Square Park.
The board has enlarged and community financial support has grown in the past 6 years. Donations from residents and businesses are greatly appreciated and make it possible for the program to continue.
Luette Bourne and Beverly McHugh are directors of the club and teacher Debra Allen is the in-school club liaison. Many teachers, staff members and student’s families have been very helpful over the years and their assistance makes this program very successful.
The children were pleased that Mayor Thomas Menino, Dr. Carol Johnson, Superintendent of the Boston City Schools, Representative Eugene O’Flaherty, Senator Sal DiDomenico, City Council President Stephen Murphy, Joseph Shea, Deputy Academic Superintendent of Boston’s Schools, Richard Stutman, President of the Boston Teachers’ Union, City Councilors Sal LaMattina, John Connolly, and Felix Arroyo were present at the event. A citation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives and The Senate was presented to each winner from Representative O’Flaherty and Senator Di Domenico.
The six scholarship winners from this year’s club played a very important part in the ceremony by acting as announcers, welcoming the audience to the event and telling of their experiences as leaders/scholars. Two former scholars from 2007, Sahrina Mohamed now at the O’Bryant School and Yingfeng Chen (Ben) now at Boston Latin, were present to tell of their experiences as leaders/scholars and encourage students to continue to work hard. The enthusiasm of the children, the dedication of the staff and board members will insure that this program will continue and grow.
Anne Rand, president of the Constitution Museum and Rebecca Crawford, manager of academics and family programs were also present and hope to work more closely with the members of the club this coming year. All the leaders/scholars from 2010 and 2011 have been invited to be aboard the USS Constitution when she leaves the Charlestown Navy Yard and turns around near Castle Island. The students are very excited about the cruise and have learned much of the history of Old Ironsides.