Toys Are Us

Sam Engel, a second grade student at Dutch Neck School, definitely knows the meaning of thinking of others first. He spearheaded a toy drive that yielded over 450 toys for those in need. It all begin with a letter he wrote to Principal Scott Feder about gathering toys for those who may not have toys.

Feder shared the letter with Gwen Hitchiner, a third grade teacher at the school who also heads the Spirit Committee. Engel was invited to speak at a faculty meeting and then read his letter at a school assembly program.

“This was a wonderful opportunity for the school to become involved,” says Hitchiner. “The idea was presented by a student and we just had to bring it to life.”

The gifts are headed to HomeFront and Robert Wood Johnson Children’s Hospital to be used not only for holiday gifts, but for birthday presents in the future.

Nurturing the Teaching Spirit

Sindy Godby, Natasha Chan, and Jessica Figueroa are among the group of High School North and South students working with preschools within West Windsor and Plainsboro as part of two classes. Students may elect to take Child Growth and Development or Advanced Child Growth and Development to explore the option of working with children in their future.

From mid-November through the spring, the students work with three and four-year-olds under the direction of Donna Joyce at High School North and Dawn Bozian at High School South. The program incorporates typical preschool activities including circle time, arts, crafts, and story time. The students take on some of the same responsibilities as teachers, including preparing lesson plans and supervising activities.

“In addition to the two child development classes, students can take Youth Teaching Youth classes as well as life skill courses,” says Joyce. “The students become models of good behavior, appropriate appearance, and responsibility.”

“I plan to work in the medical field and thought this experience would be very helpful,” says Natasha Chan, a junior at High School North. “It offers the opportunity to develop one-on-one relationships with children that will teach me about working with young children.”

Creative Reflections on Art

Savanna Jackson Mapelli was the PTA chair of the Reflections Program at Millstone River School, a hands-on creative program is designed to encourage young artists to submit original entries in five categories.

Millstone River School honored participants of the Reflections Arts Program on Friday, December 5. Students participating in both literature and visual arts included Vincent Dicondio, Emily Mapelli, and Harinee Suthakar. Literature participants included Katherine Amigo, Shreya Agarwal, Olivia Donaldson, and Sushruth Kamath. Visual Arts students included Corey Hess, Joseph Jensen, Stephen Lin, Emily Mauro, and Alexa Pogrob. Sandy Kornev participated in photography.

National Scholar

Jeff M. Sadri, 16, of Plainsboro was selected for membership in the National Society of High School Scholars in recognition of his academic achievement and excellence. He is a junior at High School South where he is on the tennis team, the soccer team, a member of the French Club, the Adventure Club, and the Interact Club. A registered soccer referee, he works at recreation and Special Olympic events. He is also a teacher’s aide at Congregation Beth Chaim Hebrew School.

Last summer he explored the Mediterranean as a Dwight D. Eisenhower People to People ambassador. A certified scuba diver, this summer he will go to Australia where he plans to scuba dive and hike.

Born in Manhattan, he and his mother, Deborah, moved to Plainsboro six years ago. “In New York he couldn’t go out on his own and I didn’t want him on the subways alone,” she says. “There is so much more to offer him here and he can ride his bike all over.”

Vegas Is Magic

Ben Nemser of West Windsor, aspiring comic and a senior at High School North, recently returned from Las Vegas where he competed in the second a nnual Las Vegas Comedy Festival. He qualified for the event by placing first in the youth category (17 and under) in the recent Laugh Across America Comedy Contest in New York, which also covered his travel expenses to Las Vegas.

“I am working on a new act for my competition,” said Nemser in an interview prior to his departure for the Las Vegas competition. “Actually it’s an old act with a completely new ending — something that has never been done before by any other magician.”

For more information about the festival visit www.lasvegascomedyfestival.com.

South’s Model UN

High School South’s Model United Nations team of 25 students kicked off the season with a victory at the Rutgers University Model United Nations in November. Conferences simulate the real United Nations with students representing different countries. South’s team represented the Russian Federation at the three-day conference.

Featured committees at the conference included the UN Security Council, World Health Organization, and the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons. Students are judged on how well they adhere to their country’s position, as well as their performances in debating the issues within a committee setting.

Members of the club include Mitchell Akselrad, Mufaddal Adenwala, Askshay Anantapadmanabhan, Manisha Bhattacharya, Vinay Bhupathy, Nick Conlon, Jerry Chen, Mainak Dasgupta, Alex Ellis, Brett Frankel, and Leah Gould. Also, Akshay Goel, Tom Hannon, David Hoyt, Jason Hwang, Sidharth Kakkar, Josephine Lee, Rhan Maniar, Reme Meehan, Ankur Oberoi, Santosh Prakosh, Krina Patel, Stephanie Perl, and Murad Peshiman. Also, Tahlin Sanchez, Mita Sharma, Jeff Sutton, Hanif Yazdi, Sherry Zhang, Steve Rockoff, Naveen Sheshadri, Ben Burton, and Amir Kanpurwala.

Best Delegates and their committees named at the Rutgers conference included Jason Hwang and Max Marder, Commission on Narcotic Drugs; Matthew Lipka, Security Council; and Andrew Watrous and Jay Kapoor, Special Political and Decolonization. Outstanding Delegates included Leah Gould and Andy Hwang, International Labor Organization; and Kate Herts and Kate Samardick, United Nations Development Programme.

On Saturday, January 10, from noon to 8 p.m., there will be a mock conference at High School South. For more information about club, visit www.SouthMUN.com.

Grant Writer

Melissa Fekete, a Spanish teacher at Grover Middle School, is also a student in Rider University’s graduate counseling services program in the school of education. She recently flexed her grant writing muscle with skills acquired in a community agencies class taught by Jesse DeEsch last spring. The payoff was a $1,"200 grant to purchase materials in Spanish, French, German, and Chinese for Grover School.

“I am very excited to do something that will help the children,” says Fekete. “My school recently lengthened its class schedule and a new silent reading program was implemented. I have already started ordering our books and the students can’t wait to receive them.”

Books for Trenton Kids

Team 6D at Grover Middle School conducted a school-wide book drive and delivered the books to the Joyce Kilmer School in Trenton. Teachers involved include Judi Kroll, Toni Russo, Janine Lang, Carly Malfa, Phyllis Peterson, and Seamus Downling.

The project began in September when Kroll and Barbara Erber, a teacher at Kilmer, began to brainstorm and plan for the project. The library in the school received more than 800 books. The sixth grade students also paired with a kindergarten or first grade Kilmer student to become “reading buddies.”

“Each of our students reads a book to a young student,” says Kroll. “The students then give that book to the younger student as a personal gift.”

The students will remain in contact through a pen pal relationship. Grover will include the project in their upcoming letter writing unit.

“We are definitely doing this again next year,” says Kroll. “They were so appreciative and the librarian was thrilled.”

College News

Six area women have been named Newcombe Scholars at Rider University. They are students in the College of Continuing Studies, a program for non-traditional students returning to school. The scholarship comes from the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation.

Carol V. Dennis, a liberal studies major, is from West Windsor. Plainsboro students include: Alexis Crenshaw, accounting major; Maria Fischer, liberal studies major; Laura Mejia, human resource management major; Deborah Porcelli, elementary education/ American studies major; and Monali Vora, a management major.

Also at Rider, two Plainsboro women are among the 55 students named Andrew J. Rider Scholars for their academic excellence. Monica Brubaker is a senior secondary education and mathematics double major. She is a graduate of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School, Class of 2000. Maria Fischer is a junior liberal studies major.

College of New Jersey: Emily Benjamin of Plainsboro was selected as an outstanding campus leader in the 2004 edition of “Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.” A junior majoring in elementary education and math, she graduated from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School, Class of 2000, and from Mercer Community College in 2002.

College of William and Mary: Marc Richard Johnson of West Windsor has been elected to the Alpha of Virginia chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. A Monroe Scholar, he is majoring in government and music. He graduated from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School, Class of 2000.

Franklin & Marshall College: Robyn Zislin of West Windsor plays the flute in the community orchestra. A sophomore, she graduated from High School South in 2002. Serena Weren of Plainsboro plays the euphonium for the symphonic wind symphony and the horn for the community orchestra. A senior majoring in geosciences and music, she graduated from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School, Class of 2000.

Somerset School of Massage Therapy: Juana Lopez-Caro of West Windsor has been awarded a diploma in therapeutic massage.

Susquehanna University: Stephanie Scafa of West Windsor received the Joel and Trudy Cunningham Prize at the annual scholars dinner. Scafa, who is majoring in sociology, is a graduate of High School South, Class of 2001. The prize is awarded to a rising senior majoring in mathematics or science who has also excelled in creative or performing arts, leadership, and service.

Union College: Orly Amir of Plainsboro has committed to 10 months of service with AmeriCorps/National Civilian Community Corps.

Washington University: Lindsey Johnston of West Windsor is on the dean’s list. She is a graduate of High School South, Class of 2001.

Around Town: Rock Stars of David

Scott R. Benarde, son of Anita and Melvin A. Benarde of West Windsor, has written a new book, “Stars of David: Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Jewish Stories.” His father, an epidemiologist, is author of many books including the recent “You’ve Been Had,” about how the media created a country of hypochondriacs. His mother has also written several illustrated books for children.

A graduate of Princeton High School, Benards holds a masters degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. A former rock music columnist for the Palm Beach Post and South Florida Sun Sentinel, he has been published as a freelance journalist in Rolling Stone, Musician, Billboard, Variety, and several Jewish publications. He lives in Delray Beach, Florida, with his wife and two children.

“Stars of David” is a collection of short vignettes based on interviews with musicians, singers, and songwriters. He was inspired to write the book after David Lee Roth told him that he first learned to sing while preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. Featured interviews in the book include Bob Dylan, Melissa Manchester, Janis Ian, Randy Newman, Billy Joel, the songwriting team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller; and members of Jay and the Americans, Country Joe and the Fish, Bon Jovi, Phish, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and the Tokens.

“The Jewish contribution to music in the rock era has been and continues to be substantial — and Judaism has played a bigger role in influencing the music and the people who make it than anyone ever would have thought,” said Benarde in a Sun-Sentinel interview on November 4.

The book is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com (256 pages, hardcover, $38.95).

Art Awards

Alina Bliach of West Windsor received a Juror Merit Award for her platinum print “The Ward” at the 2003 Mercer County Photography Exhibit. Steven Richman of Plainsboro earned a Purchase Award for his giclee print “Miami.” They will be honored at the opening reception of the exhibit on Wednesday, January 21, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the College of New Jersey Art Gallery in Holman Hall.

Police Academy

The Plainsboro Township Police Department graduated 18 citizens from its second annual “Citizens Police Academy” on Tuesday, November 25. The program offered a wide variety of law enforcement-related topics including: investigations and forensics, domestic violence, firearms, DWI enforcement, mutual aid and emergency management, terrorism, community relations, narcotics, county law enforcement, white-collar crime and religious terrorism and ritualistic crimes.

Guest speakers included F.B.I. agents, members of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, members of the Plainsboro Township Domestic Violence Response Team, members of the Plainsboro Township Police Department, and an expert in the field of Religious Terrorism and Ritualistic Crimes.

The graduating 2003 Citizen Police Academy Members are Theodore Biewer, Stanley Chan, John Crider, Gurmeet Kaur, Michelle Korn, Manickaraj Rajendran, Jose Riestra, Kirsten Sackett, Ann Schwalb, Robin Karp, Ian Shannon, Yugan Sikri, Suresh Srinivasan, Mel Szochet, Sandra Weinstein, Linda Weisfeld, Marcia Szochet and Perry Straley.

Alumni members of the 2002 Citizen Police Academy who assisted with this year’s program include Harvey Trabb, Joan Galpen, Rosemary Barratt, and John Wiegartner.

The Plainsboro Township Police Department will be conducting a Citizen Police Academy in the fall of 2004. Information will be available in July.

Master Gardeners

Marion Norman and Linda Potter of West Windsor recently became members of the Master Gardeners of Mercer County. The volunteer program, which now has chapters nationwide, began in Washington state in 1972 to meet the enormous increase in requests from home gardeners for horticultural information.

Offered through Rutgers Cooperative Extension, this is the 10th class to graduate in Mercer County. For home horticulture questions, call 609-989-6853 Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. until February. From March to October the helpline is available until 3 p.m.

Museum Board

Margaret M. M. Koo of West Windsor has been appointed to the New Jersey State Museum Board of Trustees by Governor McGreevey. A graduate of Ming Chuan College of Commerce with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, she did graduate studies at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

She is active in the Central Jersey Chinese American Association, the Chinese Unit of the American Cancer Society, and is president-elect for the Distinguished Citizen Society International, Eastern USA. She has hosted fundraisers for Congressman Rush Holt and West Windsor Mayor Shing-fu Hsueh.

She has worked with Tainan Enterprises Corporation in New York City, Elegant Style in East Brunswick, LMK in West Windsor, Margaret’s Boutique in Taiwan, and in New York with El Al Israel, Maritime Overseas, and Nationwide Shipping.

Day of the Child

Montessori Corner in Plainsboro recently celebrated its 10th anniversary with an “International Day of the Child.” To honor the students’ cultural diversity and ethnic heritage, children created booths to represent countries including Kenya, the Philippines, Ecuador, and Ireland. More than 200 families shared the day with students.

“The day, and all the preparations for the day, allowed the entire school to celebrate not diversity alone but a community that is truly diverse,” says Eileen Spiewak, head of schools. “This was a definitive learning process for many of our students. Its impact was substantial because it encouraged the children to get into the geography, cultural studies, wildlife, music, art, climate, and costumes.”

Military

Charles T. McEnroe and Michael G. McMahon, both of West Windsor, received the New Jersey Meritorious Service Medal for their service in the military. The ceremony was held on December 17 at the National Guard Armory in Lawrenceville.

Meritorious Awards are awarded to combat veterans who were not residents of New Jersey when they entered the military service but have lived in New Jersey for five years.

Both served in the army and were in combat in Vietnam. McEnroe was a specialist four and McMahon was a sergeant.

Faith

Several members of the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church recently welcomed a refugee family from Colombia into the community. Active volunteers include Nancy Reyes, Cynthia Reyes, Pam Teske, and Penelope Price. They have offered temporary housing, food, and clothing. They are also assisting with basic needs including providing help with school enrollment, job applications, and basic services.

Partnering with Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey, the volunteers have been trained as “English Language Partners” to help reinforce their new neighbors’ language skills. For information or to volunteer call the church at 609-799-1753.

Business: Computertots Merges

Jenifer Davidson-Morack recently attended a meeting in Houston, Texas, to discuss the acquisition of Computertots by the International Center of Entrepreneurial Development. She has been the owner of Computertots/Computer Explorers in West Windsor since 1990.

Morack graduated with a bachelor of science degree in education from Rider and a master’s degree in office administration, training, and development from the College of New Jersey. Prior to buying the Computertots franchise, she was a training and development manager for Industrial Valley Title of

Pennsylvania.

Engagements

Jennifer A. Housell and Russell S. Kellogg are planning a July wedding. They are both graduates of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School, Class of 1995.

She is the daughter of Josephine Housell of West Windsor and the late Lt. James Housell. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from Boston University, and she is an events coordinator for the office of the governor.

He received his bachelor of science degree in business administration from Northeastern University and is an account executive at AmeriQuest Mortgage.

Amy E.M. Protinick and Richard F. Everett Jr. are planning a May wedding. She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John M. Protinick of Monroe Township. A graduate of Princeton High School, she is a medical assistant for Cranbury Heart and Lung.

He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Everett of West Windsor. A graduate of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School, he is an electrician for MD Electric.

Wedding

Stephanie Nix and Michael McKee were married September 28 at the Cathedral of the Woods in Medford.

The bride is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John C. Nix of Washington Township, formerly of West Windsor. A graduate of Lehigh University, she is employed with News America Marketing.

Her attendants included Renea Sinisgalli, matron of honor; Jennifer Nix, maid of honor; Jennifer Heuisler and Karen Thurston, bridesmaids; and Carly Sinisgalli, flower girl.

The groom is the son of Mr. and Mrs. James R. McKee of Ewing. A graduate of Syracuse University, he is employed with Snapple Beverage Corporation.

His attendants included Thomas Eschleman, best man; Jay McKee, John McKee, Mark Sciarrotta, and Ken Zorovich, ushers; Connor van Kampen, ring bearer.

The couple lives in Maplewood.

Births

The University Medical Center at Princeton has announced the following births:

Daughters were born to Plainsboro’s Ling Huang and Cujin Yu, December 1; Annemarie Harte and Koji Maruyama, December 4.

Sons were born to Plainsboro residents Monica and Adam Krulewitz, November 29; Amanda and Joseph Hesler, December 4; and Doreen and Jody Moffett, December 9.

Sons were born to West Windsor residents Catherine and Robert Ponticiello, November 30; Dorine Stace, December 1; and Mao-Suen Song and Edward Li, December 8.