Author Archives: John McElhenny

#ChooseGloucester video series: Meet Gloucester High student Lizzie Luster

First in a series of video profiles about why students and their families choose the Gloucester public schools. Read the introductory post about the #ChooseGloucester series here.  

Lizzie Luster was diagnosed with a learning disability in elementary school. Her mom, Ann Marie, says school is not easy for her. But through her own hard work and help from teachers at Gloucester High School, Lizzie is now taking honors and Advanced Placement courses in preparation for college.

“Her teachers pushed her to be better, to go beyond what she thought was possible,” says her mom. “They’ve allowed her to see the type of student she can be.”

Watch Lizzie’s story:

 

Introducing a New Good Morning Gloucester Video Series: #ChooseGloucester

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We’ve all heard them. The insults about Gloucester and the people who live here. The lame slights, the outdated stereotypes, the pregnancy pact – seriously we’re still doing that? I remember the soccer game where an 8-year-old boy on our team forgot to take off his watch before playing. The other coach joked about making sure our players took off their guns and knives, too. “This is Gloucester, after all,” he grinned. Another time, a group of parents from the opposing team yelled at us to “Go back to your stinkin’ fish city.”

Of course it seems like it’s always people from other towns that are the most down on Gloucester. The ones who’ve never had a picnic dinner on a blanket at Niles Beach with the kids paddling around on kayaks as the sun sets orange and pink across the Harbor over downtown. Who’ve never walked Main Street at a block party where it takes you an hour to go from Floating Lotus to Toodeloo’s because everyone you know is doing the face painting and giant chess set and “It’s great to see you how are the kids?” Who’ve never gone to a preschool Christmas concert at the Gloucester Fraternity Club where you have to get there 90 minutes early to get a seat because every 3-year-old has four grandparents, three aunts, two cousins and a bunch of neighbors who’ve come to see them mangle “Jingle Bells.”

It seems like it’s always the people who don’t know Gloucester who have the worst impression. I’ve noticed the same thing about the Gloucester public schools, too. As a parent of three kids, I know that our schools, like any school district, can get better. But I also see in our own kids and their friends the little moments of learning and wonder happening in the Gloucester public schools every day. Like the boy at the Math Olympiad ceremony, a Plum Cove Elementary School 5th grader, who did extra math problems all year and worked hard and slowly got better and better and by year’s end ended up scoring in the top 2 percent of all students statewide and there he was, accepting his award at the ceremony last week bashful but smiling as the parents’ applause and cheers rained down. Or our own East Gloucester Elementary School 4th grader, who learned to love music at school this year and at last week’s school-wide concert sang on her own from the stage in front of an auditorium-full of people and it didn’t matter that every note wasn’t perfect because she was brave and fearless and strong and her parents couldn’t have been more proud.

The people who don’t know the Gloucester public schools don’t know about these little moments. How could they? That’s why, over the next four Monday mornings, Good Morning Gloucester will feature a series of videos – one per week – telling the story of a student in the Gloucester public schools in their own words and those of their parents, too. The series was created along with two other Gloucester parents – John Sarrouf and Andrew Luman – in the hopes of sharing stories of why families choose the Gloucester public schools and what they love about their experience.

So stay tuned – the #ChooseGloucester video series debuts here on Good Morning Gloucester next Monday morning, June 18.

(photo of students above – credit to Gloucester Education Foundation).

New exhibition about the cottages of Long Beach opens this Saturday

House 36 Long Beach

This is one of the paintings in Erin Luman’s upcoming show. It’s called “Thirty Six.”

The Jane Deering Gallery will host a month-long exhibition of the work of Gloucester artist Erin Luman, whose new paintings focus on the cottages of Long Beach in Gloucester. Luman’s previous work explored the power lines, buildings and rooftops of downtown Gloucester (You prolly read about that one on Good Morning Gloucester here), and now she’s turned her view toward the beach to make sure the cottages that have served as the backdrop of generations of family vacations are remembered. The opening reception will be held this Saturday June 2, from 4 to 6 p.m. The Jane Deering Gallery is at 19 Pleasant Street in Gloucester.

We had a Burnham’s Field clean-up and the people came and it was awesome

clean up - francescaWell, it happened again. We said, “Hey, it’s time for the spring clean-up of Burnham’s Field” and put out the word and the morning came and people came out of the woodwork to lend a hand. There was Gina Briguglio who’s been looking out for Burnham’s Field since the beginning  and Deb Salah who with her family quietly plants flowers in the field and shovels the walkways in the winter without asking for credit and nobody ever knows. And City Councilor Melissa Cox who’s been Burnham’s Field’s biggest champion in the City for years.  And Donna Ardizzoni and her One Hour at a Time Gang who clean up our city every weekend and as soon as they heard we were cleaning up the field raised their hand and said “How can we help?” and changed their plans last-minute so they could help out, too. And Aaron and Jamie and Brieana and Ambie and Bill and Steve and too many others to name. And so on a Saturday morning the people came to the largest park in central Gloucester and picked up litter and fixed a fence and cleaned over some graffiti and tightened some basketball rims and put up a community garden mural. And then the families came and the softball games began and the kids ran in the field and played on the playground and the sun shone over Burnham’s Field.

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Burnham’s Field clean-up this Saturday morning!

All are invited to the clean-up of Burnham’s Field this Saturday, May 26, at 8 a.m. Bring a rake or broom or just yourself – we’ll bring the yellow trash bags. Burnham’s Field is the largest green space and ball field in central Gloucester, right across Pleasant Street from St. Ann’s church.

Can you believe it’s our 5th annual clean-up? This was the Good Morning Gloucester post a few years back by Joey, the World’s Greatest Headline Writer: “Burnham’s Field Getting All Clean And Shit! Lend a Hand April 21st!

It’s fun to look back at how much Burnham’s Field has improved in the last seven years – the creation of the community gardens, the world-exclusive Good Morning Gloucester video profiles of the Burnham’s Field gardeners, the construction of the new playground and videos where I totally held the camera sideways instead of right-side up. Check out this bunch of Good Morning Gloucester posts about Burnham’s Field.

So come on down this Saturday morning for the Burnham’s Field clean-up. There’s parking in the lot at 4 Sargent Street – see you at 8 a.m!

spring clean up

Clean-up of Burnham’s Field this Saturday at 8 a.m.

All are invited to the clean-up of Burnham’s Field tomorrow (Saturday, June 17) at 8 a.m. (rain or shine). Can you believe it’s our 4th annual clean-up? (the photo below is from one of our past clean-ups) Bring a rake or broom or gloves or just yourself – we’ll bring the yellow trash bags! Burnham’s Field is the largest green space and ball field in central Gloucester. There’s plenty of parking in the lot at 4 Sargent Street. Thanks in advance and see you Saturday morning!

photo of trash cleanup at Burnham's Field

 

Are you Sicilian or are you Italian?

IMG_4658.JPGSt. Peter’s Fiesta is coming and the Sicilian flag is popping up all over Gloucester. This one is in our neighborhood downtown at Pleasant and Prospect streets. We love our Sicilian pals and neighbors in Gloucester (including the creator of this blog). Our daughter’s birthday party this year included a “Martina,” “two Sofia’s” and a “Maria.” Our son’s been known to wonder why all his buddies have jet black hair except him. Which got me to wondering – are Sicilians really Italian? Through most of history, Sicily wasn’t Italian. It became part of Italy only in 1861. Sicilian peeps – are you Sicilian or Italian?

A New Garden Grows in the Heart of Gloucester

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(photo caption: Victoria Martins, Gina Briguglio, City Councilor Melissa Cox and Lara Lepionka cut the ribbon of the second Burnham’s Field Community Garden. Photo by Anna Swanson).

I don’t know the first thing about planting a garden but I know there’s a park in the center of Gloucester where people used to be afraid to send their kids and a few years ago some neighbors started a community garden in the park and now families play on the playground and kids learn to ride their bikes and there are kids playing and running in the park all the time soccer and basketball and baseball and football.

Burnham’s Field — 7 acres of grass, ballfields and playground across Pleasant Street from St. Ann’s Church — was once a landfill. True story. They took the fill from building projects in East Gloucester and other parts of the city and dumped it in Burnham’s. It was more marsh than field in those days.

Eight or nine years ago, some neighbors met with the City because they were tired of what Burnham’s Field had become. Tired of the drug use and graffiti and drinking and other bad stuff. Tired of being afraid to send their kids to play there or to walk there after dark. So they decided to make the field safe for families and kids again. They decided to take Burnham’s back.

It all started with a community garden.

There’s this idea that when lots of people are in a park doing positive things, there’ll be fewer people doing bad things. That was the idea behind the Burnham’s Field Community Garden, which opened in 2011 (see the GMG story here). After the garden opened, all of a sudden there were people working in the 20 new garden plots and keeping an eye on the field at all hours of the day.

Since then, neighbors and the City have continued to renovate Burnham’s Field. Two new playgrounds. Softball backstops and bleachers. Basketball backboards. A lighted paved walkway around the field. Trees and benches. Burnham’s Field is now full of kids and families playing at all hours. Families are no longer afraid to go there. It’s become a huge gathering place for families in central Gloucester.

So it was a big deal this weekend when the Backyard Growers and Burnham’s Field Community Gardeners held a ribbon-cutting celebration to open a second garden of 16 plots in Burnham’s Field. That’s 16 new families who’ll have their own plot to grow vegetables and herbs and flowers. And 16 new families who’ll be part of the good things happening in Burnham’s Field.

I don’t know the first thing about gardening but I know the number of people who care about a once tired old park in the heart of Gloucester is growing just as surely as the tomato plants and strawberry vines. And that’s a good thing.

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