Category Archives: Fashion

🎬🎥🍿Luis’ movie reviews – always in style!🎟️

Barbie Movie Review

By Luis Sanchez

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Luis!

The entire world is talking about this movie, and for good reason. Greta Gerwig has directed this film and written it alongside her husband Noah Baumbach. It stars Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken, as they go on an adventure of self-discovery. Other notable cast members include America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Will Ferrell and Simu Liu. The film has humor, emotion and many references to the real Barbie toys, but behind all the glitter and pink stands a story about patriarchy and feminism.

Not talking about feminism in Barbie is like not talking about fish in an aquarium. What I enjoyed the most about this movie is how it tackled and embraced its themes without hiding them. Direct and upfront, the movie makes sure we all understand where it is and where it is heading.
It begins as a comedic fantasy film, but as it unravels it becomes a serious and emotional narrative and slowly rips away from the bright lights and dancing. It takes the viewer on a rollercoaster ride where one moment we are laughing but the next the whole theater stands in silence. Barbie does a great job with its cinematic storytelling and continues to show the brilliance of Greta Gerwig.

The soundtrack in of itself deserves recognition. There are a few movies I have watched and decided to listen to the soundtrack on the ride back home, and this is one of the few. Usually a song is made by a well-known artist for a movie just for the marketing, and it struggles to truly fit into the movie at the moment that it is played. In this case, there is something about Barbie that makes the songs feel like one of the characters in the film. It embodies the emotions the viewers feel and the thoughts the characters are thinking. Typically the soundtrack takes a backseat ride in movies, but in Barbie it is riding in the passenger seat.

Every actor in this film seemed to have a lot of fun playing his/her role. Margot Robbie as Barbie is an amazing casting selection, as she effectively pushes the movie and its themes forward, both on and off the screen. Ryan Gosling as Ken was also a standout, and it is known that Greta Gerwig wrote the role of Ken for Gosling. Simu Liu and others carried their own weight and effectively made the movie as enjoyable, as it was emotional.

To end, I do want to mention that there are some jokes in this film that will go over some kids’ heads, and that is totally fine! The movie does great with appealing to an older audience through its script. Overall, Barbie sends this message to the viewers: YOU ARE ENOUGH. I rate this movie a solid 9/10 and recommend that you go watch it with all your family and friends in theaters!

✍️Guest columnists – always in style! 📚Back to School????💻

College Focused – and Homeless

By “Lotus”

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South Worcester, summer of 2023. Worcester must help its homeless – not deny their existence! photo: Rose T.

I always dreamed of going to college. I sure fought my hardest. But as a post-foster youth, a victim of abuse, and a single mother at the age of 18 displaced more than 50 miles from my home, a place to call home was something I longed for.

It turns out that a lack of a permanent address was the biggest impediment to further my education. I desperately wanted to pursue my education. While participating in a program as a young adult, I was the only participant that was striving for a high school diploma. Others were trying to achieve their GED. Some had obtained a GED. Only one other resident had already obtained a high school diploma.

I was expelled my senior year three days before graduation for using headphones in music class. I was told that a book that was lost on school property was my responsibility to pay in order to graduate. At that time I was a recipient of public assistance and an abuse survivor in litigation set for trial against my abuser.

The program sent me a termination letter. I tried to sign myself back into foster care, to preserve custody of my child. Truth was, the foster parents wanted to adopt my son, and all of a sudden the youth who needed services was kicked out of the foster home and rendered homeless.

Being homeless, and at the good graces of others, I was not allowed to receive mail at many of the places I stayed. Additionally, I ran the risk of my information falling into the wrong hands. I figured it better safe than sorry. A lack of a mailing address made it difficult to obtain an ID needed to pursue my education, or even to get an apartment.

… People who fall upon desperate times reach out for help. I was in Western Mass and I sought shelter. While in the shelter I was told by shelter management that I could not study for school full-time because I needed to work. I was pushed to take a job at Subway in Westfield. This was on top of my schedule and being dependent upon transportation and having to pay out of pocket for extended-day childcare.

There was never a rule or regulation that I broke pertaining to education, and I was well within the qualifications of cash assistance, but I am sure that it had to do with my level of education. I was not respected for who I was and where I was in my journey. This impeded my ability to continue my education. This triggered many symptoms of post traumatic stress, particularly surrounding housing insecurity.

While attending Westfield State University as a homeless single mother and non-traditional student, I majored in Criminal Justice. The major courses were held at an entirely different building than the remainder of the campus courses. The majority of my colleagues within my major were young males, majority Caucasian.

I took a CLEP Exam where my score earned me 12 credits for my proficiency in Spanish. Instead of applying the 12 credits, I was only afforded 5 credits. Worcester State College asked for confirmation from the administrator of CLEP. I had my exam scores sent over. Worcester State College realized the error and attempted to correct my transcripts in the semester in which the error was realized.

When Westfield State University was presented with the evidence they refused to respond further. As it stands, I was denied an opportunity to participate in the C.A.P.S. Program reviewed by the State of Massachusetts. I currently hold 126 credits, and I have fulfilled the requirements of both universities, minus an arbitrary residency requirement that would not apply under the C.A.P.S. Program. I was also a MassTransfer Compact student, which allowed me a guarantee of credits transferred in from Holyoke Community College and also allowed for the entire 12 credits. I have been allowed to transfer in all but three courses equivalent to 9 credits already obtained at another C.A.P.S. participating university. I am told that if I want my degree I have to take more courses.

I am now homeless. I have not been able to achieve the educational goals I have set forth for myself – and I didn’t have a choice.

❤️📚Worcester Book Drive – always in style!🎈

“WORCESTER: THE CITY THAT READS” BOOK DRIVE WAS A HUGE SUCCESS!

By John Monfredo, retired WPS teacher and principal and former WSC member

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This spring: John with boxes of donated books for Worcester County kids! photo submitted.

“Worcester: the City that Reads” 19th Annual K to grade 8 Book Drive, which started in late March and ended in June, was a huge success! My wife Annemarie, also a retired WPS teacher (Nelson Place), and I started doing book drives years ago through the organization that we started and have collected over a million books.

We were able to collect more than 25,000 books this year and have finished sorting them by grade levels, Pre-K to grade 3, grades 4 to 6 and grades 7 to 8. We have sent the books to the elementary and middle schools of the Worcester Public Schools for summer reading. Books have also been distributed to local homeless shelters, Head Start, and to non-profit groups and private and public summer school programs. We also received a good number of adult books which we sent to the Senior Center, Worcester Public Schools adult learning center and the Worcester Public Library. If we missed any organization looking for books for summer reading, we do have some available. Just contact us.

Over 25 sites across Worcester were involved as collection sites, and we want to thank the many individuals within this community who also contributed: the businesses, social organizations, and the many private and public schools and colleges that assisted in the drive were so helpful! It was a real team effort! My wife and I put in more than 300 volunteer hours for this campaign, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor if you want to put books into the hands of students.

The books, during the drive, were stored at Worcester Technical High School garage area. Senior Custodian Paul Jarvis and his crew were a tremendous help to us and accommodated our needs for additional space. In addition, the WPS school’s facilities department assisted in transporting the books to many elementary and middle schools.

With school out, the summer reading process begins! This book drive has started the summer reading process, but it has to be a cooperative venture. We know that reading is most effective when parents or family members provide reading guidance. Parents, you are the key this summer! Our advice is to pick just one idea a week to kick start your week’s literacy adventures but include a wide range of literacy fun for the whole family. Be sure to embrace the theme of having your child read each day for 30 minutes. Remember, reading time does not take a vacation. Those who know how to read SUCCEED!

How important is summer reading? Well, research has pointed out that children not reading in the summer months tend to lose two to three months of academic growth. This is better known as the “Summer Slide.”

According to research on literacy, studies clearly indicate that children in homes that have books and read them are more likely to succeed in school. One study found that the ability to read well is the single best indicator of future economic success, regardless of one’s family background. Let me just end this column with a quote from the famous Walt Disney: “There is more treasure in books than in the entire pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.” We all need to reach out to our parents and children and encourage read-alouds, reading at home, reading in the park … reading for fun! Let’s do it!

🍿🎟️New film review by Luis!🎬The Super Mario Bros. Movie!🍿

Movie Review

By Luis Sanchez

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Luis is applying to colleges this spring/summer! Go, Luis! photo submitted.

It’s me – Luis with another movie review! This time we will be referring to The Super Mario Bros. Movie released on April 5. It is an animated movie based on Nintendo’s popular Mario video game franchise. It was produced by Illumination, Universal Pictures, and Nintendo itself. The voice cast includes Chris Pratt as Mario, Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Charlie Day as Luigi, and Jack Black as Bowser.

The story follows plumbing brothers Mario and Luigi who are magically transported to an alternate universe where a battle between the Mushroom Kingdom, led by Princess Peach, and the Koopas, led by Bowser, is occurring. This film has gained a lot of appraisal, including breaking the record for the biggest worldwide opening weekend for an animated film and the highest-grossing film based on a video game.

To begin, let’s talk about voice acting. When the trailer was first released, a lot of people were against Chris Pratt’s casting as the voice of Mario. Although the public was right – Chris Pratt did not “sound like Mario” at all – it worked incredibly well for the tone of the movie. The rest of the voice actors fit incredibly well for their respective roles as well. There wasn’t anyone else that I would think of who would fit a role better. Jack Black as Bowser can go down as one of the best castings in the history of cinema, along with Joaquin Phoenix as Joker!

I enjoy video games, so I always find it exciting when a video game becomes a motion picture. On some occasions, it’s more fun for the film to follow the plot of the video game. Otherwise, it feels as if the film is only using the characters, and not the game as a whole for the movie. The Super Mario Bros. Movie does an excellent job at sticking to its video game roots, while also developing a new path for the characters to follow.

There was never a time in which I found myself wanting to skip over a scene, and I know that when I rewatch the movie I will want to see it from the opening credits to the climatic fighting scenes. This is a film that is meant to be watched with friends, family and loved ones.

If there was a word to describe this movie, it would be “cute.” I recommend this movie, and rate it a 9/10 for its amazingly fun adventure and the true dedication that the screenwriters had towards making this a tribute to the wonderful Super Mario Bros game.

📽️🍿🎬Luis! Always in style!

Movie Review
You: Season 4 Review

By Luis Sanchez

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Luis

Last time I wrote a review I criticized part 1 of the brand new season of You on Netflix. Season 4 of the show was released in 2 parts, and on February 28 the second part of season 4 was released. With the entirety of the season now out, I will be reviewing the season as a whole.

To begin, I would like to address what You began as in 2018. It was about a simple bookkeeper who fell in love with a girl. This bookkeeper grew more interested in the girl, but he became a little too interested. The season developed into a psychological rollercoaster with themes of obsession, stalking, and lots of inner dialogue. The premise of it relied on the girl, the obsessive guy, and some trouble for the guy to get the girl. Overall, the show was creepy enough to leave its viewers interested for the next season. I struggled to understand at first as to how this would be spanned throughout multiple seasons. As it turned out, my worries were correct.

With this new season, there was an extremely low amount of obsessive stalker Joe. Any of the few moments that we got of it were just flashbacks. Besides that, the majority of the season just revolved around Joe trying to get around with his new rich friends. It felt bland, and I did feel like an extremely important part of the series was taken away in this season (except for all of the deaths). The first half of the season was slow; it was mostly just an introduction of Joe’s new life, his new friends, and the murder mystery that he was living in. The first half of the season could have probably been established in 2 episodes. On the other hand, the second half of the season felt much more fulfilling. There was still minimal stalking-Joe, but it ramped up in terms of its signature creepiness. Something that this show has always characterized as is giving viewers this feeling of helplessness and a want for the prisoner to escape. This was absent for the first half of the season (completely), but for the second half of the season we did get to experience that feeling, for a little bit. Even the psychological climax in the second half gave this new season more of a spice than the first half’s boring and predictable outcome. So, how come I still found this season enjoyable?

Penn Badgley. Acting on point, and not to mention how he directed the final episode which was honestly the best episode of the entire season. He single-handedly carried all of the emotions of the season. By this I mean that his new love interest is completely bland and expressess little emotions. There were no tears shed, no screaming at Joe, and no feelings of helplessness. Trust me, this season was not what I was expecting at all. Still, Penn Badgley as Joe is admirable to watch. Although the inner dialogue might have been a little too much, when it came time to show some character development Penn Badgley did it right. When it came time to be serious or be as scared as he heavenly could, Badgley did it right. When it came to expressing an internal conflict more than describing it, Badgley did it right. My favorite part in this entire season is definitely the last 10 minutes where we finally saw some real-creepy-Joe action. This new season I would give it a 4/10, and it’s now available to watch fully on Netflix! Feel free to have this in the background while doing some other productive thing; you do not need to give this new season your full attention.

💐Peter Stefan – forever in style!💐

MISSING PETER STEFAN

By Rosalie Tirella

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Peter, outside his funeral home. Photos: R.T.

Thinking of the late, great Peter Stefan, the powerhouse behind a Main South funeral home, a swinging saxophone player, a writer of corny jokes, an inveterate flirt and a great friend. Thinking about how many people Peter would have saved this winter, if he were still alive. Thinking about how he would have shaped the City’s conversation around tiny houses for the poor, homeless villages and City-run homeless camps or converting hotels to affordable studio apartments for the homeless. Peter would have advocated for them all – loudly, intelligently, passionately and with the tenacity of an old pitbull with his favorite shoe lodged firmly between mighty upper and lower jaw.

I am thinking about what I saw…the homeless guy sleeping on the grates outside the courthouse in Downtown Worcester, just yards away from the theater with all its patrons rushing to their cars in the garage after the show… running as a cop stood in the crosswalk and stopped traffic so they could cross the street, get to their cars in minutes because it was so cold out… meanwhile a homeless man wrapped in a nylon comforter slept on a grate. Just yards away. I’m thinking about the opioid-addicted young woman, shoeless, bent over and holding a long piece of metal, gripping it so tight in the Canal District. Had she shot up? Was the drug killing her – not making her high, not making her forget? Her pain was so obvious. Everyone on Millbury Street could see… And the senior citizen who couldn’t afford his insulin this winter and unlike prior winters couldn’t knock on Peter’s big heavy Victorian front door and ask for his help … and get it.

Peter, if he knew about any suffering, man or beast, would step in and get to rescuing. I mean pronto. In his prime, up until his late 70s really, he was his own social service agency, the most hands-on Good Samaritan in Worcester. He’d drive to crime scenes to pick up burned bodies …then give the usually homeless person a wake at his Main South funeral home. The body would often be cremated for free. … Or Peter would fund the Worcester Senior Center podiatry clinic. Or he’d start a school supplies drive in the fall, out of his funeral home, for poor neighborhood kids going back to school. Or he’d be out driving a car-load of sweets and loaves of fresh bread from Nissan’s bakery/wholesale shop in Green Island to the PIP shelter on Charlton Street – treats for the often drunk, stoned, “actively using” homeless PIP clients who were often sprawled out on the floor by the entrance way. Peter would enter the PIP, make the donation to PIP Executive Director Buddy Brousseau, another terrific person, and together – because Peter was on the PIP’s board of directors – they’d hash out solutions to a few of this week’s crises. As Peter reminded me and Worcester at every turn: all homeless folks, everyone who’s shooting up in some stairwell or stumbling drunk in the Canal District and may be hungry and exhausted “has a mother and a father. Everyone is someone’s son or daughter.” Peter always saw the person drowning in his or her addiction, and he acted with love because he knew the person was in pain.

I miss my friend today! So much! When good people die they leave a hole in your heart, in the community’s soul, too. No one can quite replace them, their special way of helping, relating to people and animals. In my case, it was often a cute smile, a bawdy joke or two, a stroking of Lilac’s floppy ears and referring to Jett as “The Little Charm” – and then his ad $ donation. And InCity Times/CECELIA lived to fight another day.

For so many, it’s a colder winter without Peter Stefan …
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❤️

💕The Worcester Public Schools – always in style! New column from John Monfredo …

For the New Year … MY THREE WISHES FOR OUR WPS STUDENTS AND SCHOOLS

By John Monfredo, retired Lamartine Street School teacher and Belmont Community School principal and former Worcester School Committee member

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This September on Highland Street: a dad walking his son to school. photo: R.T.

In keeping with the spirit of the holiday, CECELIA asked students in Worcester County to write about their “Three Wishes for the Holiday.” In staying with that theme, I thought that I would write about my “Three Wishes” for the WPS administration and the Worcester School Committee, for our students, as we enter 2023.

Let’s start with School Safety!

The WPD police officers were removed from the high schools this year because the Worcester City Council, with the approval of some members of the Worcester School Committee, removed the funding. The move was opposed by former WPS Superintendent Maureen Binienda and our secondary school principals because they felt it was not in the best interest of the students. This was considered a preventative measure. As a school committee member at that time, I opposed the move – not only because of the safety concern but because I had witnessed the positive interaction between students and the safety officers in the schools. Having the police in the schools gave students the opportunity to interact with them and build trust. I felt – and still do – that it was a mistake to eliminate the police officers, especially in this climate of gun violence within our society. According to recent police records, there has been more violence taking place in our WPSchools since the SRO’s were taken out of the schools. In addition, the bonding with the students is a missing ingredient to other plans mentioned by some city council members. At one of the meetings some citizen stated the students are fearful of the police. It is all the more reason to build a partnership!

How best to build a partnership than to have police in the schools and ensure the safety of the students? As a former WPS school principal, I had members of the police department serve as mentors, and we had special nights for the police, students and parents to get together. Many of my former students still talk about this positive relationship. As we move forward, let’s get input from our principals and staff, those in the schools, as to what is working and what needs to be changed. That’s wish #1!

Second Wish

As a school district we need to address the achievement gap starting in the early years. We need more prevention programs. Closing “the gap” is widely considered to be one of the major challenges facing public education. The gap refers to the academic achievement between students whose families who are of low-income and students from middle and upper-income families in Worcester. Despite everyone’s interest, the gap has continued to persist, and only modest progress has taken place.

We, as a community and school district, need to address the problem and make it a top priority. Yes, parent involvement and reaching out to parents is essential. Every school needs to have parent involvement as their number one priority. We need to teach parents and encourage them on how to help their child at home. As part of that process, we need to start early and can’t give up on our parents.

First, we need to expand our FULL DAY preschool programs. I made that request dozens of times as a school committee member but was told it was a money issue or we didn’t have room in the existing schools. Both answers are unacceptable. We have the money – we just hired 17 new school administrators! And there is room in many of our schools.

We also need to work with private pre-school organizations and get our students to attend a full-day pre-school program. I can attest that full-day preschool programs work, for as a principal I had a full-day program for several years and my first-grade teachers told me that they could pick out the students who were in the program. These children were ready to read!

Along with that issue is the problem of students enrolling in kindergarten at the age of four. Many of the four year olds entering school are not emotionally or socially ready! In Worcester, unlike ALL districts in the state of Massachusetts, children can start the year off at age four for the age cut off is December 31st. Other districts in Massachusetts have the cut off date August 31st.

Why is Worcester the only district with an early starting date? As I proposed several times in the past, why not change the date to August 31st?

If you are not going to change the date here is another plan: After screening our four-year olds, consider a Kindergarten 1 classroom or a pre-school program for those students not ready. Many of those children can then be in a full-day two-year program in the kindergarten. They will have ample time to acquire readiness skills and mature. Thus, they will be starting off grade one with the necessary skills to be successful and not be frustrated at an early age. There is NO REASON that this can not be done in Worcester!

In summary, my second wish is for the starting time to be pushed back to August 31st – or that we enroll our four-year olds in a full day pre-school program or a K1 program. Adding more full-day pre-school programs is part of this wish. Let’s do it NOW! Early education is important for our children. Investments in quality childhood education more than pay significant returns to children – our future citizens. Again, this is a preventative approach that is long overdue!

My Final Wish

This is a tough one because I did have several wishes … more after school tutoring, additional training on the teaching of reading, raises for our staff, more Instructional Assistance in the elementary schools … but I’ll stay with the theme of three wishes.

Next, let’s change the starting time in our secondary schools!

This has been an on-going discussion across our nation and, as research continues, more conversations persist. Researchers in the field of health see very early a.m. start times as harmful to teenagers. They concluded that poor sleep has been linked to increased reliance on caffeine, tobacco and alcohol, and they also discovered a link between sleep deprivation and poor academic performance.

While it may seem the solution is for teens to simply go to bed earlier, researchers say that isn’t a viable solution. Teens experience hormonal shifts that make falling asleep earlier difficult. Their biological clocks simply won’t allow them to fall asleep at 9 p.m., even when they’re tired.

Schools that have shifted to a later school start time have seen positive results, such as:

… increased attendance rates

… a decrease in disciplinary action

… a decrease in student-involved car accidents

… an increase in students’ GPA

… an increase in state assessment scores

… increase in student attention

… decrease in students sleeping in class

… increase in quality of student-family interaction

One school, according to the research, saw a decrease in tardiness, substance abuse and symptoms of mental health issues.

The evidence is indisputable and, in the past, the administration in Worcester did agree on this – but the problem was how to do it. My recommendation is that we discuss this issue at the next school committee meeting or at a standing committee meeting with a deadline of March 2023 to come up with a plan.

I am asking that we review this issue creatively to see if we can come up with a starting time of 8 a.m. and research what other large school districts that have changed to a later starting time have done to accomplish this goal.

We as a school district need to make healthy policy decisions for all students. So let’s move away from the talking stage and see what can be accomplished. We know the benefits from the research, but we are always stuck in neutral. Let’s be creative and see what can be done!

Those are my three wishes for our Worcester Public Schools students in the new year. If you have any thoughts on the subject, let me know. Email me at monfredoj@gmail.com.

Happy New Year!

Combatting hunger in our community – always in style!

The Worcester Housing Authority (WHA) and Renaissance Medical Group (RMG) are thrilled to announce the kickoff of the Food Matters program on Tuesday,
November 1, 2022, at 1:30 pm at 1050 Main Street (rear).

The Food Matters program is a
new free meal delivery program that will address food insecurity among elderly and disabled WHA residents.

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A rustic stew. Meals delivered to Worcester’s neediest will help folks stay healthy as the price of groceries continues to sky rocket! CECELIA/InCity Times file photos.

The kickoff event will feature a number of speakers, including Congressman James McGovern.

Other speakers include:

• Joseph Petty, Mayor, City of Worcester
• Eric Batista, Acting City Manager, City of Worcester
• Alex Corrales, CEO, Worcester Housing Authority
• Jesus Suarez, CEO, Renaissance Medical Group
• Eric Dickson, CEO, UMASS Memorial Health System
• Gina Plata-Nino, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Through the Food Matters program, the WHA will deliver 12 shelf stable meals per month to more than
1,000 residents.

These meals will be culturally diverse and can be heated and eaten by residents as
needed.

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Fresh vegetables and fruit can be $$ expensive!

The pilot program will initially be offered at 6 WHA properties:

• Webster Square Towers (1050 & 1060 Main Street)
• Elm Park Tower (425 Pleasant Street)
• Pleasant Tower (275 Pleasant Street)
• Murray Apartments (50 Murray Avenue)
• Wellington Apartments (30 Wellington Street)

The pilot program will focus on the WHA’s elderly and disabled community. These populations with limited mobility will especially benefit from non-perishable meals delivered to their door— as groceries are hard to access and nutritious meals may be hard to make.

As the program grows, delivery service will expand to other WHA properties.

The kickoff event will provide guests an opportunity to sample food, listen to live music and learn about other food insecurity resources offered in the community.

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Fresh ingredients make all the difference!

Guest speakers will touch upon, not only the need for food access but also the impact food insecurity has on an individual’s mental and
physical health.

The Food Matters program aims to help residents gain access to healthy meals, consistently. As the
price of groceries has steeply risen over the past few years, there is a greater need than ever to ensure those in need are able to access to food that is filling and nutritious. As food is an essential
part of overall health, the WHA has made it a priority to combat food insecurity and to ensure
residents have the food they need throughout the year. The program also intends to reduce the
mental stress that food insecurity can bring on, by providing residents with shelf-stable food they can eat when needed and can safely store when not.

The WHA chose to partner with Renaissance Medical Group (RMG). RMG will provide the premade
meals that will be distributed to WHA residents. RMG is a medical group focusing on holistic
healthcare for diverse populations, with services such as home care, behavioral health care, and
primary care services, in addition to their food program. RMG currently has a health clinic at 1060 Main Street.

The WHA is confident and hopeful that the kickoff event and Food Matters program will bring to light
the needs of the low income residents it serves. Residents will be able to participate in focus groups and take surveys that will measure if the food is assisting them, along with feedback and suggestions to improve the program.

Jim – always in style. Here’s his latest column …🍂🍂🍂

Former WPS superintendent – John E. Durkin – died this fall … and is memorialized

By Jim Coughlin

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The late former Worcester School Superintendent John E. Durkin was memorialized at a Mass at Blessed Sacrament Church on Friday, October 7. John E. Durkin was remembered as Worcester’s school superintendent during financially challenging times for the school district and as the person who succeeded long-time superintendent, John F. Connor who served during the 1970s.

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John E. Durkin was remembered by the community this fall.

In interviews following the Mass with former members of the Worcester School Committee, they said Durkin was especially known for his strong leadership during a time when there were calls for closing schools and laying off teachers in the wake of Proposition 2 and 1/2, the cost cutting initiative approved by the state’s voters in 1980, the same year Durkin became WPS superintendent.

He retired in 1993.

He died on September 2 at the age of 90.

A wake in his honor was held at the Callahhan, Faye & Caswell Funeral Home, and burial services were private. The Blessed Sacrament Mass was for members of his family and those with whom he served with as school superintendent. His friends and neighbors gathered in the church to say “good bye.”

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John Durkin’s church service. Mayor Petty, far right, and John’s family. photo submitted.

Durkin’s career spanned a total of 39 years with the Worcester Public Schools, starting when he was an elementary school teacher at the West Boylston Street School where he taught both the 5th and 6th grades. He later became an assistant principal at Winslow Street School and became the director of staff development in 1977, and then the supervisor of program development and lastly as interim school superintendent after Connor retired in 1980.

When I was in my teens, I was told by Mr. John F. “Jack” Clancy who was the Director of the former Piedmont Nature Center on Piedmont Street what the “three elements of leadership” are. Clancy said they are called “The 3 G’s: Guts, Guidance and God.” He explained that this model of leadership comes from the philosophy of the Boy Scouts of America.

In my estimation, John Durkin exhibited all 3 Gs of leadership throughout his service as Worcester’s School Superintendent – and in ample amounts. Among the past and present city officials with whom John Durkin served during his superintendentcy who attended the memorial Mass were current Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty, former WPS School Superintendent Maureen Binienda, former Worcester mayors Tim Murray (and former Massachusetts lieutenant governor), Timothy J. Cooney, Raymond J. Marianno and John B. Anderson, along with former Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. Former Worcester School Committee members Jack Foley and John Monfredo and current school committee member Tracy Novick represented the past and present Worcester school committees at the funeral.

In interviews after the Mass with some former members of the school committee, they all mentioned the word “leadership” in relationship to John Durkin. Former Mayor Cooney said, “John Durkin called them as he saw them.”

But Jack Foley, recently retired from the school committee, got specific about Durkin’s leadership when the school system had to close 11 city schools, two middle schools, and lay off 270 teachers. This was during the time of Proposition 2 & 1/2 or what was commonly referred to as “Prop 2 & 1/2” (which limited the amount of local city and town spending from local real estate taxes). Foley said, “There were four (Prop 2 & 1/2) overrides on the city ballot that year, and the only one that passed was the one for education. … The superintendent was so happy it passed.”

Former Superintendent Bienienda was equally complimentary towards her precedessor, calling him, “my mentor” whom she regularly turned to for counsel and advice during her superintendency. “He was a strong educator and leader of all the people who worked for him,” she said.

I did not have a chance to interview former Mayor Marianno who served in the Worcester mayoralty during the height of the Durkin superintendentcy.

In eulogizing his former parishioner at Blessed Sacrament, Father Charles Monroe said: “John lived his life like a seed for both the big and little decisions.” And scanning out to the gathering of about 100 attending his funeral Mass, the good padre said, “He helped all of you so often during the difficulties of running the school system and he did a wonderful job.”

The priest’s reference to “the seed” is rooted in the Book of Matthew in the New Testament. That was the way Dr. John E. Durkin served during his superintendentcy in helping others in the field of education. As is written in the Bible: “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of Mustard Seed which a man took and sowed in his field; which indeed is smaller than all the seeds. But when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and lodge on its branches.”

One of the “seeds” which John planted in the Worcester Public Schools just happened to be my fellow writer for CECELIA/InCity Times, John Monfredo, whom he appointed as the principal of Belmont Street Community School in the 1980s.

In saluting his mentor, Mr. Monfredo said, “I was appointed as principal in the ’80s, after an extensive interview with a panel. I then met with him to discuss my new role as a principal. He was dedicated to his profession and expected principals to be dedicated as well. His main goal for us was to provide the best education possible for our students and to do all we could to reach out to our parents.”

John Durkin was, indeed, a gift to the Worcester Public Schools and truly lived his life as the catalyst for quality education in the Worcester Public Schools. Rest in Peace, Mr. Superintendent, and thank you for your many years of unselfish service to our school district and for being that “mustard seed” for students, their parents and the WPS teachers and staff.

🍂🍂NEW!🎬🍿MOVIE REVIEW BY🎞️LUIS!🍂

Thor: Love and Thunder movie review

By Luis Sanchez

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Luis Sanchez

On July 8, 2022, the world was able to witness yet another MCU installment on the big screens. This movie was able to make me laugh, scare and feel all within its 2-hour runtime. This is a spoiler-free review, so feel free to keep reading without fear!

Thor: Love and Thunder was directed by Taika Waititi, produced by Marvel Studios, and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It stars Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Christian Bale as Gorr, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, and Natalie Portman as Jane Foster/Mighty Thor.

This is the first time we see Thor after the events of Avengers: Endgame. In this film, Thor is called back to action after discovering that Gorr the God Butcher is on a quest to kill all gods. What many people did not understand about this film is that it’s comedy-based. This was not meant to be an MCU-lore filled movie with cameos in every frame. This movie was what Eternals tried to be. With expectations set high after Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness, many expected a lot – too much perhaps, and that led to many negative reviews from the public. In my opinion, Thor: Love and Thunder was quite enjoyable. The laughs were great, but the movie remained true to itself and even provided the audience with moments of fear – which made it an all around good movie. It’s a fun way to spend a moment with friends and have a laugh.

Natalie Portman as Jane Foster/Mighty Thor was a surprising character. To not reveal too much, all I can say is that the movie did well on making us care for her, despite not seeing her during Thor: Ragnarok. Her connection with Thor was also surprising, but it remained thoughtful and it kept the audience interested on how it would all end up. Thor was an incredibly funny character, but in the process of making him funny the writers also made him careless. To some degree it remains true to the character, but it takes away from all of the lessons that Odin has taught him about caring for others. Still, this version of Thor works well with the movie’s persona, and I think it was effective in driving the movie forward.

Valkyrie was more or less pushed to the side which is shameful, but Tessa Thompson’s character did not go unnoticed. Gorr was honestly my favorite character. He was amazingly creepy, and it brought a balancing darkness to the light of the movie (Thanos would have been proud). Gorr used darkness as his weapon, and the visual effects were satisfying to see with Gorr. Sometimes he would melt into the darkness, or when he was incoming, the first thing you would see were his extremely creepy eyes. It’s as if they gave the fear of “darkness” a character and filmed how it acted inside a child’s nightmare. If a villain can creep me out or make me afraid of them, then that villain was well written and well performed! Gorr was outstanding. No other way to describe it.

In the end, Thor: Love and Thunder relied a lot on comedy, and it worked out, for me at least. I think that the biggest problem with this film was its audience. When many have high expectations, it leads to harsher reviews because the movie did not reach their expectations. I disagree with many of the “critics.” This movie was a lot of fun and a good break from MCU lore. Its path is its own, and that is something to admire in a movie. To be fair, someone who has not seen a single Marvel movie will enjoy it as much as anyone else.

If you are not willing to spend some money in theaters, then I will recommend waiting for it to come out on DVD or Disney+. I would rate this movie 6/10 and would recommend watching it with people who you know will have a laugh.