Barron Goes to Broadway

by Merdan Olevic

Woodbridge High School alumnus Russell Fischer, class of 2004, decided to continue his life-long passion for theater arts after graduating. Since then, he’s performed in multiple shows including the Broadway hit Jersey Boys. Today, Russell Fischer prepares for upcoming shows and his future in theater arts.

Barron Perspective: How long have you been performing?
Russell Fischer: Since age 3, professionally since age 8.

BP: What inspired you to begin performing?
RF: The idea of lifting a story off the page and living in it.

BP: Which shows have you performed in so far?
RF: The Sound of Music, and Children of Eden (Papermill Playhouse), Big-The Musical, (Tour) Thoroughly Modern Millie (Plays-In-The-Park), The Music Man (Chautauqua Opera) and most recently, a six-year run in the Broadway company of Jersey Boys.

BP: What activities/clubs were you in involved in at WHS?
RF: Chamber, concert, and show choirs, the senior class musical, and a Barron mascot.

BP: What was your favorite experience at WHS?
RF: Performing in PIPPIN my senior year.

BP: Which teachers influenced you at WHS? How?
RF: Beth Amory and Q. Bunch were most influential because they valued our individuality and our work as young adults. Class and rehearsals were always regarded as a professional endeavor and it completely helped shape my capacity to work within the context of a team.

BP: Have any teachers helped you after high school? If so, in what way(s)?
RF: Tom Lynch, as an editor of the Theatre World Books, introduced me to the Theatre World Awards, which are given to actors making their Broadway debuts in principal roles. Watching these gifted artists deliver some of the most heartfelt, passionate acceptance speeches was a charge to keep moving forward and never stop learning.

BP: What did you learn in high school that prepared you for where you are now?
RF: Two words: Music. Theory.

BP: What is the most challenging part of being in the acting business?
RF: [There] will always be rejection. Over time you learn to “bless and release.”

BP: What was your idea of success in high school? How has that changed since?
RF: This is a very good question. My idea of success was never “Broadway,” but rather consistently working. Being on Broadway is [a] measure of success, but it isn’t the ultimo. You must define what success is to you, not by what others’ idea of success is. So [as] long as you follow that which wakes you up in the morning – the work that leaves you happy, creative and curious – you’ve remained true to your purpose.

BP: Have you reached your idea of success?
RF: For me, the moment I say, “I’ve reached a certain point in my career where I feel comfortable,” I should really find something else to do. I’ve enjoyed some measure of success, [but] I [still] prepare for audition[s]. Always ask, “What’s next?” Opportunities seldom come along; most times you have to make them for yourselves.

BP: Do you have any shows coming up? What are they?
RF: I’m currently touring with fellow Jersey Boys and Motown alum in a group called “The Doo Wop Project.” I’ll also be playing “Linus” in Out of the Box Theatrics’ inaugural production of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown in the fall.

Editor’s Note:

Doo Wop Project Instagram: @thedoowopproject
Facebook: The Doo Wop Project
Out of the Box Theatrics: www.outoftheboxtheatrics.com

From Barron to Princeton Tiger

by Katie Forbes

Victoria Gasparowicz poses with her mother and father at Princeton University during Parents' Weekend.

Victoria Gasparowicz poses with her mother and father at Princeton University during Parents’ Weekend.

Victoria Gasparowicz graduated from Woodbridge High School as the valedictorian of the class of 2015. Currently, she is enrolled at Princeton University where she is wrapping up her freshman year.

Barron Perspective: What is your major?
Victoria Gasparowicz: I am undecided, but am considering majors like Sociology, Spanish and Portuguese, or Psychology.

BP: What clubs were you in at WHS?
VG: I was in Freshmen Mentors, Social Justice Club, Christian Club, International Culture Club, Spanish Honor Society, National Honor Society, Future Business Leaders of America, Ecology Club, and Paddleball Club (while it still reigned)! I also did a season of Tennis!

BP: What is your best WHS memory?
VG: It is hard to pick a favorite memory; I have many many favorites. But a very bittersweet memory is the night of graduation, when most students of the class of 2015 got together for Project Graduation to have a last “hurrah.” Bonding over endless food, joining little dance circles, running around like elementary school kids, really helped encompass all the sweet and happy things that I got to experience in my K-12 education. It was the last time I spent time with the people I had been learning with for so many years. I still laugh with people over the memories from that fun night, like that very strange hypnotist!

BP: What teacher(s) had a lasting impact on you and why?
VG: Every single one of my high school teachers has had a lasting impact on me! I can’t help but smile at memories I have with so many multi-dimensional teachers of Woodbridge High School. Some teachers helped me discover what not to major in, some teachers helped keep me focused on doing my best. I felt like I could open up to some teachers, which was really special. Above all, the relationships I had with some of my teachers helped shape my high school career, and helped me get to where I am today. Thank you all!

BP: What aspects of high school best prepared you for college?
VG: Unfortunately, I did not get many hours of sleep a night in high school because of all the homework, studying, and extracurricular activities I was involved in. In college, I have had to actively make time for sleep. High school helped get me in the mindset of trying to balance academic, social, and extracurricular activities, as well as find time for rest!

BP: What is one thing you wish you had done in high school but never did?
VG: Honestly, this question has taken me the longest to answer, and I’ve come to the conclusion I really did all I could while in high school. If I had more time, I would have loved to be a part of the Swim Team or School Play because I knew some really cool people involved in those activities.

BP: How has your idea of success changed from when you were in high school?
VG: In high school, my idea of success was doing everything to make my family proud and happy. Success meant making my parents’ decision to move to the United States worth all of their sacrifices. After contemplating my calling for a long time, I think being successful is just figuring and living out what God is calling me to do. If I am in that place, I know my family will be proud and we all will be content because God wouldn’t have it any other way.

BP: What is your favorite part of college?
VG: My favorite part of college has been the experiences with professors I’ve had. Although it’s been scary to talk to some of them one on one, every time I have spoken to them I’ve been surprised how very kind, down-to-earth they are. I have found my professors to be committed to breaking information down for me, without making me feel like they are talking down to me. I like they are rooting for me! That is extremely motivating.

BP: What are your plans after college?
VG: Life after college is far, far away! I will vaguely answer that I hope I can travel the world with my sister, Natalie.

BP: What advice do you have for current WHS students?
VG: My advice for current WHS students is to work hard and enjoy every moment. High quality school is not picture-perfect. For me it was a lot of sleepless nights and exhaustion from pushing myself to do my best. At the same time, there were also a lot of special moments. For example, experiences like laughing at the of Driver’s Ed, counting down the minutes of an early dismissal, showing up to a school event to cheer on your friends! It’s hard to enjoy every moment—particularly the challenging ones—but it’s all part of the journey!

WHS, Township Seek Grant to “Makeover” Media Center

by Brian O’Halloran

Woodbridge High School, in partnership with Woodbridge Township, is in the second round of a competition to win $20,000 towards revamping the current media center into a makerspace for the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.

The grant competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, is open to all schools who submitted a design for a CTE—Career and Technical Education—makerspace, which, according to www.ctemakeoverchallenge.com, provides students with the materials and environment they need to create, invent, tinker, and explore, helping them build vital career skills, including critical thinking, planning, communication, and problem solving.

When the dust settles, Woodbridge High School hopes to be one of 10 recipients to be awarded “$20,000 in cash and other prizes to turn their vision for a makerspace into a reality,” according to the website’s description of the contest.

If awarded, the $20,000 will be used, according to the school’s vice principal, Mr. Connelly, in three key areas: furniture, technology, and sustainability. Mr. Connelly, accompanied by the Township’s grant writer, Woodbridge High School’s media specialist, and a panel of four teachers and four students, met to discuss how they would like to see the media center transformed into a 21st century makerspace.

The team’s plan calls for a re-imagining of the space’s layout to create an environment more conducive to collaboration, with new tables, and even couches, for a feel somewhere between an Apple store and a Barnes & Noble.

Since preparing students in STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics—has picked up traction as an educational initiative, schools have looked for new and innovative ways to get students the hands-on experience they need. This is why Career and Technical Education is important, and where the technology aspect of the school’s plan comes into play.

The vision is to create STEM Maker Stations using more hands-on components ranging from LEGO brick systems or K’Nex to programs like Makey Makey, which will enable students to invent through alligator clips. Collaboration and presentation will also be facilitated through the installation of flat screen televisions outfitted with AppleTVs.

Then, there’s the heart of the makerspace: a backroom with a 3D printer, a Silhouette Cameo, sewing machine, and additional STEM materials to allow students to create virtually anything they may need for any project they can think of.

However, having the tools does not equate to knowing how to use them, and that’s why sustainability is the final key area where money will be allocated. Through professional development and seminars conducted by outside experts, the school hopes to train enough staff to facilitate the needs of the students.

To turn these dreams into a reality, Mr. Jeffrey Mayerowitz, the Township’s grant writer, has worked closely with Mr. Connelly and the team to prepare the second round submission, due Sunday, May 22nd, called “CTE Makeover Bootcamp.” The bootcamp features six lessons that applicants must work through while developing their ideal makerspace.

The U.S. Department of Education intends to announce the winners in June, giving recipients from June through September to implement their design plans, which will then be showcased via a video tour at the World Maker Faire on October 1st.

Township Unites Behind Freshman’s Fight Against Cancer

by Brittany Sa and Cassidy Ronk

Freshman Ben Lepisto takes the turf at the spring pep rally. Lespisto had recently been diagnosed with a form of brain cancer. (Credit: Brian O'Halloran)

Freshman Ben Lepisto takes the turf at the spring pep rally. Lespisto had recently been diagnosed with a form of brain cancer. (Credit: Brian O’Halloran)

After successfully raising over $1,200 to benefit pediatric cancer awareness, the boys’ baseball team learned, in an ironic twist of fate, that one of their own had been diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a large malignant brain tumor.

The fundraiser, called Lace Up 4 Pediatric Cancer, is run by Go4TheGoal, which has organizations sell gold–the color of pediatric cancer awareness–shoelaces for $5.00 a pair. According to their website, “$4.00 from each pair of laces plus 100% of donations go back to helping kids with cancer and their families in the area the funds are raised.”

Go4TheGoal’s mission is “to improve the lives of children battling cancer by providing financial support, developing and implementing unique hospital programs, funding innovative research, and granting personal wishes.”

When Go4TheGoal heard about Ben Lepisto, a freshman athlete who participated in boys’ baseball and ran track, they donated the money back to him and his family–one of several charitable acts in support of the freshman and his family.

Coach Urbano discusses the Lace Up 4 Pediatric Cancer fundraiser at the spring pep rally as Ben Lepisto listens on. (Credit: Brian O'Halloran)

Coach Urbano discusses the Lace Up 4 Pediatric Cancer fundraiser at the spring pep rally as Ben Lepisto listens on. (Credit: Brian O’Halloran)

After word of Ben’s illness was announced, it seemed that almost instantly, the community was organized in an effort to defray mounting medical bills, and garner support for him and his family. T-shirts with “Barrons for Ben” emblazoned across the chest, wristbands, and sports sleeves went on sale, and fundraisers at Strawberry’s Pub and Chick-Fil-A were organized, all in support of Ben.

By the end of April, over 11,600 people had joined the “Barrons for Ben” Facebook page, created by friends of Ben, including Woodbridge Township councilman Kyle Anderson, whose goal is to get the group up to 20,000 members. “It has been a great resource,” Councilman Anderson said, “where we can organize events to raise money for Ben’s medical expenses, offer support, motivation, and create awareness.

“As a councilman, nothing gives me a greater appreciation of my town than when we unite to help one of our own.”

“The best thing is,” said Woodbridge High School’s principal, Mr. Lottmann, “you see a lot of messages on Facebook [from people] who never went to Woodbridge High School, or don’t even know about our town, and they’re like, ‘I wish our town was more like yours.’”

Ben's parents take the field at the spring pep rally. (Credit: Brian O'Halloran)

Ben’s parents take the field at the spring pep rally. (Credit: Brian O’Halloran)

Besides the community, Ben has received support from around the world. In a matter of weeks, not only Woodbridge residents were trying to help, but military personnel stationed overseas, people from Dubai, the Philippines, the UK, Kuwait, and Hawaii, all through the power of an online community.

“Facebook and social media, unfortunately, have negative things about [them], but things like this make me remember why we have social media, because there is some good that comes out of it,” Principal Lottmann said. The power of social media has helped gain traction for the numerous fundraisers in Ben’s honor, like Bowling for Ben at the Woodbridge Bowling Center on May 14th, and the spaghetti dinner to be held on May 15th at the high school.

According to Councilman Anderson, Barrons for Ben has raised close to $20,000 so far. “The Bank of Woodbridge has promised $5,000, With Eddie’s Help (another charitable organization) have donated $2,000, the Go Fund Me Page has $7,300 presently, and we have brought in approximately $3,500.  Other local businesses have contributed around $1,500 so far,” he said.

Juniors Adriana Josifoska and Taylor Gautier hold a #BarronsForBen banner during the spring pep rally. The hashtag has been a rallying cry in support of freshman Ben Lepisto's battle against cancer. (Credit: Brian O'Halloran)

Juniors Adriana Josifoska and Taylor Gautier hold a #BarronsforBen banner during the spring pep rally. The hashtag has been a rallying cry in support of freshman Ben Lepisto’s battle against cancer. (Credit: Brian O’Halloran)

Mr. Lottmann said, “Woodbridge is great at turning a tragedy into something positive. I’m proud to be a part of this school community that, whenever somebody needs it, we are here.”

While Ben’s long journey gets underway, there is, unfortunately another child in the community who is also battling cancer, and Councilman Anderson said the community is also coming together for her. Gabby, from the Fords section of the Township, was diagnosed with Leukemia three years ago and beat it before it came back, according to the Facebook group “Spreak the Love ❤ Gabby & Isha.”

“I do think [Barrons for Ben] sets a precedent for how children with pediatric diseases can gain support,” Councilman Anderson said. “Our young people should use this as an example [of] how Facebook or other social medias [sic] can be used for things other that music, humor, and tasteless actions like fights.”

There’s no doubt that Ben and his family are feeling the wave of support stemming from the community, and in times like these, Councilman Anderson is reminded of a quote by President John F. Kennedy. “As we express our gratitude, we never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

For those interested in helping the Lepisto family, please join “Barrons for Ben” on Facebook, where an extensive list of upcoming fundraisers can be found, including ways to volunteer.

Boys’ Volleyball ‘Sets Up’ For Success

by Cassidy Ronk

After the boys’ varsity volleyball team welcomed Coach Calhoun as their new head coach, they quickly went to work relearning the game in preparation for their 2016 campaign. Despite the team’s record, their attitude and willingness to improve are already reaping rewards.

Calhoun, who is a three-time Coach of the Year, and whose girls’ varsity volleyball team are back-to-back White Division champions, said, “My beliefs are the same towards coaching boys and girls. I was excited for a new opportunity and a new challenge.”

As a successful girls’ volleyball coach, Coach Calhoun credits much of his transition to coaching boys’ volleyball to being involved with other boys’ sports over the past ten years as an assistant baseball coach, and assistant soccer coach.

“I’m trying to help the boys get to the next level,” Coach Calhoun said. “I think, every day, we’re getting a little bit better… I already see significant improvement in the team.”

           That improvement is also noticeable to the players, and has helped their confidence. “We are running a lot more different sets [than last year] and we communicate more,” senior captain Tim Nerney said.

Besides communicating more effectively, the team has some fundamentals down pat. “The team is strong in blocking and setting,” Coach Calhoun said, something that will help them to compete against the hard hits he expects from the better teams.

But setting and blocking are only two aspects of a fundamentally sound team, and Coach Calhoun knows there is always room for improvement. Before the season began, Calhoun said, “We’ve made some progress so far in improving our weaknesses, but I feel as if we will be almost completely prepared for the season,”

To that end, Coach Calhoun has been tough on the boys during practices, especially in areas where he knows they can be better during games, such as digging and hitting.

The hard work has paid off for a few players, according to senior Sidney Pierre. “Our middles are very good, [they] put a lot of work in at practice, and also our opposite hitter, Connor Penrod, is excellent, along with Robert Parker and Nickoy Nelson,” he said.

To the team’s credit, Calhoun said they are “eager to learn” and “want to get better,” and for a program looking to establish itself in the White Division, it seems that the boys are setting up for future successes.

 

Working ‘Nine to Five’ Proves Successful for Cast, Crew

by Amanda Liska

After the last curtain call, after the props have been put away and the sets dismantled, Mr. Lynch can finally sit down to determine the success of the school’s annual spring musical.

This year’s production, ‘Nine to Five,’ ran from March 17th to 20th in the auditorium. According to director Mr. Lynch, the play grossed between $12,000 to $15,000 but netted $8,000 to $10,000 after expenses, which include renting the microphones, sound equipment, props that the crew could not build, lumber and paint, costumes that the cast rented, added up to $5,000.

The point of doing a school  musical is not to make a lot of money,” Mr. Lynch said. “The point is to expose the performers and audience to the art of musical theatre. And to make enough money to be able to do the next one.”

Keep in mind that although the musical makes a good amount of money, the rights to direct next year’s play can cost from $4,000 to $5,000.

One issue the cast and crew faced this year was that Colonia High School performed their musical during the same weekend, forcing would-be attendees to decide between one musical or the other. Although Woodbridge High School had a slightly lower draw than usual, the musical still had a decent crowd, bringing in roughly 1,500 people over its four-day run.

For now, Mr. Lynch and Mr. Terrell have a short reprieve until they begin planning next year’s production, which Mr. Lynch said will be an adaptation of The Addams Family. During that time, they’ll have an opportunity to take stock of their achievements from this past season.

“I’m proud of those who contributed, and I’m proud to direct and produce the shows, along with Mr. Terrell,” Mr. Lynch said.

WHS Teacher, Support Person of the Year Honored by WTEF

By: Jose Gomez

“If you want to know what makes a great teacher, ask a student,” said Mr. Modeszto, whom, alongside Ms. Salvatore, were honored by the Woodbridge Township Education Foundation this year.

The WTEF honors one teacher and one support person every year from each school in the district. Nominees are chosen by the school’s administration and a small group of teachers, then the principal decides the final recipients.

Mr. Modeszto has been a teacher in the Social Studies Department for 15 years. He said he was “honored, humbled, and slightly embarrassed” by the honor, and believes that there are countless qualities that define a great teacher.

“I work with tremendous people,” Mr. Modeszto said, “and I can’t walk down any hall in this school without running into colleagues who are equally, if not more deserving of this honor.

“Once we close the door to start the block and it’s just [the students] and you, it’s a great feeling. I love the fact that, at least in small doses, we can make [the students] as passionate and enthusiastic about the subjects that we are so passionate and enthusiastic about,” Mr. Modeszto said.

Mr. Kane, the Guidance Department chairperson, said, “Mr. Modeszto is by far one of the most dedicated teachers at Woodbridge High School. He’s here every day, he’s here for his kids every day, and he gives 100% into his lessons, which is obviously why he was chosen as Teacher of the Year.”

Mr. Modeszto did not hesitate to show his gratitude for winning this award. He said, “I want the administrators and staff to know how blessed I feel to be part of the WHS family. I want the students to know how thankful I am to have the privilege to do what I do for you guys every day.”

The second staff member honored, Ms. Salvatore, was also very grateful after winning her award. As a support person for the school’s special needs students, her activities include teaching them to ride a bicycle, exercising, helping them with school work, and teaching life skills.

“I was very surprised. It was awesome, and I owe it all to my great students and coworkers,” she said.

Ms. Grasso, one of Ms. Salvatore’s coworkers, said “[Ms. Salvatore] is very dedicated; not only to the one student she is assigned to, but to all the students in D23 and the other self-contained classes. She is very reliable, she’s understanding, she’s passionate, and she forwards her education beyond the classroom.”

Ms. Salvatore has worked at WHS for three years, and has been a support person since 2001. She believes that being a good support person involves patience, positivity, a good sense of humor, creativity, and being “willing to do absolutely anything.”

“I love the kids, and I have the best coworkers in the world. I love to go to work. I wouldn’t want to stay home, I would miss something,” said Ms. Salvatore.

The Barron Perspective would like to congratulate Mr. Modeszto and Ms. Salvatore on their awards.