Briarcliff High School Presents Part Two of the Freshman Orientation

Nichole Culotta With students at the Community Service Fair.

While Briarcliff High School upperclassmen took the PSAT exam on Wednesday, ninth graders experienced part two of their orientation. This year, a new element was added: the first-ever Briarcliff High School Community Service Fair.

The idea for a community service fair was conceived by longtime Briarcliff mom Nichole Culotta, who is also the Program Director of 914Cares, an organization that provides essential items, such as clothes and diapers, to Westchester residents in need.

“Nichole came to me with the idea of a community service fair based on her experience representing 914Cares at neighboring schools. I am extraordinarily grateful to her for her inspiration and organization in bringing this wonderful event to BHS,” said Principal Diana Blank. “All students at the high school are required to have a minimum of eight hours of community service each year.  Our hope is that students will discover volunteer opportunities that they can connect to and feel passionate about, opportunities that they will enjoy throughout high school and beyond. Sometimes service experiences lead students towards a career path or vocation. We hope that this will become an annual tradition, bringing students and the community together.”

The fair, which was held outside the auditorium, was open to all ninth graders, as well as upperclassmen, who visited it after they finished their exam.

The organizations that participated were: The Briarcliff Manor Library, Hope Community Services, Mount Kisco Food Pantry, Ossining Padros Hispanos, Boys and Girls Club of Northern Westchester, Ossining Children’s Center, 914Cares, Briarcliff Fire & EMT, Sleep in Heavenly Peace and Oprime.

“The fair is a great opportunity for students to make connections with members of the community,” Culotta said. “I hope it makes it easier for them to get their required eight hours of community service. Plus, the representatives from the organizations can also connect with one other, so it is just a nice way to bring everybody together.”

Other aspects of the freshman orientation included learning about the power of play, beginning work on their four-year plans with BHS counselors, and learning CPR skills.

In the cafeteria, students watched a TED talk called “The Power of Play,” which stressed the importance of carving out time to play and recharge.

After the talk, students had the opportunity to play various games, such as ping pong, cornhole and cards.

“Play is good for us on many levels,” said BHS Social Worker Tim Pellegrin. “Cognitively, it enhances the prefrontal cortex, helps us socialize with others and helps us learn about ourselves. It helps with creativity, and also helps us physically. There’s restful play, which is good for recharging our batteries, but playing is also important in terms of keeping a playful spirit as students grow into adulthood. It’s a lot about attitude change, and it can also be a stress reliever.”

At the Troy lecture hall, students met with their guidance counselors to work on their four-year plans using Naviance, an online college and career-readiness program.

“We will hold individual meetings with the students at a later date, but today they are just logging into Naviance to create the plan, familiarize themselves with graduation requirements, learn about earning high school credits, work on goal-setting, find out which courses have Regents exams, etc.” said Guidance Counselor Michael Muranelli. “I want them to understand how everything works.”

At the gym, students worked in groups and learned CPR skills with the physical education teachers.

“I have never done CPR before,” said ninth grader Ava. “It wasn’t hard, but setting it up is a lot of work. It’s necessary, though, to help save lives, so it’s always good to learn it.”

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