Category Archives: InCity Voices

This school year: Ideas for the Worcester Public Schools and our students and families

By John Monfredo, retired principal of Belmont Community School and former grade 5 teacher at the ol’ Lamartine Street School – and former Worcester School Committee member!

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Mr. Monfredo, this summer. photo: R.T.

“To reach a child’s mind a teacher must capture his heart. Only if a child feels right can he think right.” – Dr. Haima Ginott

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Mr. and Mrs. Monfredo’s annual book drive puts books into the hands of hundreds of Worcester County kids! photo submitted.

School is back in session and, after being affected by COVID-19 for the past two years, our schools need to come back even better! Most important, parents are a child’s first and most influential teacher: they must be part of the learning process! Together with our educators, parents must be an important part of the solution in moving forward after the global pandemic.

According to researchers, learning loss due to the COVID pandemic is much greater than most educators and parents realized; assistance from the Federal Government and the State of Massachusetts needs to continue. There are funds out there to help, but the funding needs to be used in the most comprehensive way. Moving forward this school year will require that our educators look at the data, present funding parameters and meet the new needs of our students. Hopefully, the administration and Worcester School Committee members will assess the needs and use the money in the best way possible to help our students learn and grow.

Based on the research, school districts will need to expand their after-school activities and tutoring opportunities for students. They will need to make more of an effort to encourage parents to enroll their children in a variety of activities, ranging from after-school homework assistance to mental health counseling. Enrichment might also include learning to play a musical instrument, getting involved in art classes or projects or trying new phys-ed programs/sports. Students can also start a variety of clubs, such as pen pals, a school newspaper, a school video movie etc. Let’s hope that all school districts come out soon with their plans after meeting with parents and talking about how they intend to move forward this school year.

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Worcester, Highland Street: a dad walking his son to school, first week of school.

As for our teachers, it is so critical that from day one they begin to build a strong relationship with their students. As a former Worcester Public Schools elementary school teacher and principal, I know firsthand how important it is to reach out to all of your students and to find the opportunity to help each and every one of them – and their families. Make sure that each student feels important and knows that you care! I would recommend that teachers make the effort to contact parents early in the school year and establish a rapport with them – let them know you want them to be part of the learning process. Give them ideas as how they can assist their child at home. Again, that will vary from parent to parent.

Having been an educator in inner-city schools for decades, schools with a high level of poverty, I support what researchers have continued to state:

* That no matter what the parents income or background, students with involved parents earned higher grades and test scores, enrolled in higher level academic programs, attended school regularly, had better social skills, showed improved behavior, adapted well to school and graduated and went on to post-secondary education.

Even with very busy schedules, parents can make a real difference in their child’s education by encouraging them to talk about their school day and by listening to them explain the events, classes and people at their schools. Talking to your child about school sends a message that you value their education. Plus, the discussions provide an opportunity for children to use the language they are learning in school. It all starts with teachers making that important move in reaching out to parents and to continue doing so throughout the school year.

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Keep your kids reading!

So, parents, let’s look at your commitment this school year!

At home, parents need to set priorities at bedtime because a good night’s sleep is at the center of a healthy lifestyle and in your child getting off to a good start each school day. According to research, it’s essential that parents keep a bedtime routine, especially during school time. Another suggestion: an hour before bedtime, put away all electronic devices to help kids wind down – and use that time for reading before bed.

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The Worcester Public Library is a great place to check out children’s and teen books.

Parents need to develop good management practices for their children such as homework time and packing their backpacks before turning in and placing them outside their bedroom doors. Speaking of backpacks, parents need to retrieve them as soon as their children come home to get all those school papers out so you can sign permission slips and add appointments to the family calendar. Routines can be an important force in keeping everyone on the same track. Consider making a checklist for the simple tasks of who gets to use the bathroom first and what’s for breakfast!

Now for homework. Here are just a few strategies to consider:

* Make sure your child has a quiet, well-lit place to do her homework.

* Try to avoid having your child do homework with the television on or in places with other distractions.

* Help your child with time management. Establish a set time each day for doing homework. Don’t let your child leave homework until just before bedtime.

* Think about using a weekend morning or afternoon for working on big projects, especially if the project involves getting together with classmates.

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The Worcester Historical Museum – another great learning resource for students – fun and interactive! Cool old Worcester photos! Great staff! And located in downtown Worcester at 30 Elm St.

* Be positive about homework. Tell your child how important school is. The attitude you express about homework will be the attitude your child acquires. When the teacher asks that you play a role in homework, do it. Cooperate with the teacher. It shows your child that school and home are a team. Follow the directions given by the teacher.

* Watch your child for signs of failure and frustration. Let your child take a short break if he/she is having trouble keeping his/her mind on an assignment.

* Reward progress in homework.
If your child has been successful in homework completion and is working hard, celebrate that success with a special event (e.g., a fun walk, a trip to the park or nature sanctuary) to reinforce the positive effort.

In addition, parents also need to make every effort to meet their child’s teacher early in the school year. Teachers are always excited about meeting their new students and their parents. It is always best to make an appointment to meet with your child’s teacher to introduce yourself and let them know that you are here to support your child’s learning.

Taking time to meet and introduce yourself and your child to the principal is also a way to let your child know other adults at the school are there to help.

Communicating with the school early on is a good idea, especially if your child has special needs or if your family may be going through difficult times such as divorce, an illness or death of a family member – or a recent or pending move. Keep that communication line open!

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Blackstone River Road: mom and daughter bundled up this winter day. CECELIA file photo.

Other ideas:

· Learn everything you can about your child’s school

· Review the school’s handbook and the district’s web site

Contact the teacher immediately if your child doesn’t understand an assignment or if you notice a change in your child’s behavior or school performance.

· Worth mentioning … participate in parent meetings and conferences and special events at the school. Do join the school’s parent organization!

Also, remember the importance of reading, for reading is a key to a successful school year. Here are some other tips to consider…

– Read to and with your child every day (including weekends).

– Make sure your child sees you reading regularly.

– Talk to your child about what you are each reading. In addition to keeping your child on track, regular reading activities with your child will help you spot any possible problems in plenty of time to work with teachers and prevent them from becoming serious. So practice day to day reading and include writing by having your child write in a journal about the day’s events. Be consistent and have this done perhaps before bedtime.

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Stay abreast of all that is WPS! Attend the weekly Worcester School Committee meetings at Worcester City Hall, or watch the policy-setting sessions and more on-line! Photo: R.T.

Best wishes for a great school year and should you need any advice – teachers or parents – please feel free to contact me at monfredoj@gmail.com.

MOVIE REVIEW BY LUIS!🎬📽️🍿🎞️🎟️

Minions: The Rise of Gru

By Luis Sanchez

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Luis loves the movies and plans on writing a book!

In this film, an 11-year-old Gru dreams of becoming a supervillain with the help of everyone’s favorite yellow bean-shaped characters. Minions: The Rise of Gru was produced by Illumination and distributed by Universal Pictures. It is a sequel to the Minions movie released in 2015 and a prequel to Despicable Me released in 2010. It was directed by Kyle Balda, produced by Chris Meledandri, Janet Healy and Chris Renaud, and written by Matthew Fogel with Steve Carell reprising his role as Gru.

The minions have made such a name for themselves that this animated film has brought families and friends together. I found it quite interesting how there were essentially two storylines within this movie: one featured Gru and his childhood supervillain idol, and the other featured the minions on a quest. Surprisingly, the movie did well on balancing screen time and dividing the workload of entertainment to the audience between the two storylines. What I enjoyed a lot about the Gru storyline was the “supervillain becomes parent” plot which keeps warming all of our hearts.

The minions storyline was hilarious as ever, and that brought good balance to the film between comedic gold and a story. What many movies fail to achieve these days is exactly that: balance between comedy and story. Sometimes comedy distorts the story because the directors are trying harder to get the punch line right rather than developing characters. Minions: The Rise of Gru thought outside of the box and separated both so the comedy would not interfere with the story, and it worked out excellently. This balance also provides a great medium for a family film, one which gives the parents a narrative to follow and provides the children with shrieks of laughter (not to mention the parents laughing as well!). If you have children, definitely try and watch this film with them. Those family-go-to-the-movies moments are the ones that last a lifetime.

I had a lot of fun with this movie. Obviously, like all movies, it was not perfect. Sometimes the division between the stories left a lot to wish for, or perhaps the characters were not fleshed out enough. Either way, the main objective of this movie was to entertain and it achieved it. Being able to hear laughter in a location that is meant to be completely silent says a lot about a film. With its distribution, characters and unique production, Minions: The Rise of Gru was a solid 7/10. I would not be upset if I was offered to watch it again.

Adjustments …🏠🚙🦅☀️🐾💕🐶

By Rosalie Tirella

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Coffee and Jett 💕 in the new apartment. photos: R.T.

Today: breakfast at HOME!! God, it feels … almost surreal! I’m still not used to the domesticity! I’m used to waking up at 5:30 a, watch the sunrise (always magnificent), throwing off the blankets, getting out of my car, slipping on my shoes, stretching, taking the dogs to pee and poop, running them in the dog park…staying in park for an hour so Lilac and Jett can have some real fun. I’m drinking my morning coffee that I bought at McDonald’s (they open at 6 a) and enjoy an egg biscuit sandwich they make special for me because they know I don’t eat meat…or sometimes I slurp yesterday’s yogurt, all the while listening to nature greet the day. And what a show! All the birds are chirping like crazy, they’re almost too noisy, too ecstatic about the new day! The grass in the field and dog park is sopping wet – my shoes are soaked. Lucky I’m not wearing socks! The sunlight is not very warm but looks so pretty on the trees and leaves. Jett and Lilac are so happy, they’re sniffing the ground by the rocks, on the hunt for still drowsy snakes and chipmunks … They’re like the singing birds – excited for the new day!

Home life is a bit … less dramatic. This past year+ I learned nature is amazingly dramatic, noisy, ecstatic … intense! Something is always buzzing, swooping, chirping, being born or dying … It takes such energy! I once watched a hawk take wing – not at all a pretty sight like I’d imagined it would be. Nothing graceful about this hawk. Athletic is the better adjective. You could see his gargantuan effort to become skyborne: the hawk crouching low on his big powerful claws, then as he pushes up with those thick feathery “legs” like two tree trunks, he starts moving his wings…once, twice, they gather the air, the hawk leaps off the ground … and I think is he gonna do it? Whup, whup go the big wings… he’s young so there’s not the huge wing span. I once heard a reddish HUGE hawk fly off a tree branch directly above me as I walked the dogs at Holy Cross college. Frightened at the tremendous noise I looked up to see the hawk push it’s way skyward. His wing span was easily as broad as I was tall…at least 5’6″. I read a few years later that a red tailed hawk had been killed in Auburn, a town right by the college. I wondered if it was my hawk who had been killed; I never saw him in flight, over the Cross, ever again …

Why kill something so majestic????

Another gal pal gave me a new French press; so I made my morning coffee here for the first time☕. … And look who’s peeking ’round the corner!💕🐾My best ramblin’ boy, Jett! … I think he misses our outdoor adventures …

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Jett at the dog park.

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Lilac romping …

John Lennon …

By Rosalie Tirella

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There’s John! photo: R.T.

October 9 – John Lennon’s birthday. Here’s one of my favorite Lennon songs❤️🎶. Hearing this tune for the first time, when I was 15, sent me summersaulting into the stratosphere! The song, the entire album … the Beatles outfits, their long hair, the color of their clothes. The trippy lyrics, that nasally Lennon voice. Everything changed for me after hearing “Sergeant Pepper” – young guys singing the truth about being young to another young person – for a whole album! The tunes got to me: SHE’S LEAVING HOME. LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS. LOVELY RITA METER MAID. A world that was kaleidoscopic in its beauty. Sad, too. Wistful … Just turn the tube to the left or to the right, and the colors of the flowers changed or now you were in love with the kid in chemistry class and he loved you back and that beautiful maxi dress with the paisley print at the Walrus shop in the mall would be yours … and you would dance in it with your sweetheart. Imagine …

Lennon and co. got me feeling cool, introspective, sexy, curious … HAPPY. No small feat for a band from Liverpool! I was a kid growing up in Worcester! I grew up poor in a crumby three decker in rough and tumble Green Island. No money. No father. No car. No nothing … just my imagination and my mom, kid sisters and Bapy. … Daddy could be an absentee as*hole. Bapy could be a nag: GET ME MY SANKA, ROSALIE. BRING ME MY LIVER PILLS, ROSALIE! Ma could be quiet and steady and strong and good but too often the fight had depleted her. But THE BEATLES NEVER DISAPPOINTED. THEY SWADDLED ME IN INTENSE FEELINGS. About LIFE. THROUGH THEIR MUSIC.

Wow.

The Beatles weren’t like Sinatra who could be too cool and worldly, though the kids (my mom) loved him in the 1940s and ’50s. The Beatles were not like Elvis – whom they idolized. For me, Elvis was too sexual, too dangerous, too hicky. The Beatles were sexy but cerebral … in a very funky way. … They were not like the Stones, who are, in my 61-year-old mind, the greater of the two bands (check out the lyrics of SATISFACTION, and the music is AMAZING!). No. Lennon, McCartney, Starkey and Harrison were the artsy boys who sang of and from a different world. Possibilities. Alienation. Neighborhood. Friendship. Complexities. Love. Love. Love. That’s one of their gifts to humankind: The Beatles were never ashamed to sing about love. They may have been idealistic about it, but they were never gullible. Maybe they sang cryptically of love and sex like John did in his NORWEGIAN WOOD. Maybe they sang openly about a universal coming together as in ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE. Best of all, they told this Green Island girl that being different was ok. Even good. Being yourself, in your tree, with no one else in it … that was ok. You were gonna be just fine. That nasally Lennon … so young, so wise!

I had bought my Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in the tiny record section of Jordan Marsh in the old Worcester Center Galleria and, when I returned home, closed my bedroom door, plopped it on my old Emerson portable stereo my mom had bought for me at Radio Shack, sprawled out on my bed and closed my eyes … and listened. And dreamed …

Happy Birthday, John!

Little black dress

By Rosalie Tirella

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Ma’s dress. photos: R.T.

Yesterday I found my late mom’s black dress and hung it up in my closet to get the wrinkles out. Ma wore this dress in one one of my favorite photographs of her – Ma sharing a laugh with her big sister Sue. It was in the early 1960s: Ma was about 34 years old and had just given birth to my sisters – identical twins who were born premature – “they were as big as the chickens at Supreme Market!” Ma used to like to say – and she needed help. The twins were just home from their extra long stay in the hospital, where they could grow bigger, stronger. Ma was worried. She was stressed: caring for newborn “preemies” and me, just around 2 years old…plus our demanding Polish grandmother Bapy, plus her useless, peripatetic husband – “Daddy” – who was hot tempered and angry at being made a father once again – he refused to support us financially. “GO TO WELFARE!” he’d scream at my mother, who never did because she had so much pride. The twins’ birth made Daddy mad enough to slap my mother’s pretty face after she had just gotten home with two tiny adorable babies! When my sisters and I were little kids Daddy would storm out of our tenement and not return for weeks. It was all just too much for him.

So big sis Sue came down to Lafayette Street in Green Island to lend Ma a hand and teach her how to care for three teeny ones with very little support from anybody. Ma did it all – and loved it. Babies and little kids were her metier… teaching them, dressing them, putting pink ribbons in our hair, letting us play with her costume jewelry and putting on her old Al Jolson records on Bapy’s Victrola – HALLELUJAH, I’M A BUM AGAIN! we’d sing along with Al, Ma smiling as she cooked her beef and potatoes over the stove.

Ma’s favorite mommy chore? Buying those sturdy little kids tie-up shoes at Lisbon’s Shoe Store on Millbury Street – with us kiddos there, standing on that special kiddie foot ruler that Mr. Lisbon used to measure our feet, looking up at Ma to explain what shoe size was best for us and explaining foot growth in children. Ma would listen intently, keenly interested, and then she’d buy those no-nonsense brown little shoes for the three of us. Three pairs of the the leather beauties. Expensive for Ma who worked at the dry cleaners down the street, but the shoes were excellent: had great support for growing feet, growing kids, who needed to walk straight and tall. Ma didn’t want us to have “fallen arches.” She wanted us to grow up with “good posture.”

Ma was fascinated with little kids on so many levels… how we learned to read and write and draw and paint. Often she’d jump in with her own drawings of little girls she’d just sketched on some drawing paper. She’d give them to us to color with our Crayolas – lying on the kitchen floor in the middle of all the domestic hub bub. Ma’s girls were always wearing dresses from the 1940s, with aprons, and they had round, apple cheeks. I’d color Ma’s drawings for her, which made her smile. Our very own little art project!

Ma was made for little children…but we were so much work! That’s why she swam in this black dress…and it’s a pretty small dress to begin with! The shoulders, look at them!

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❤️

My mother had such small shoulders! Yet for years she carried the weight of the world on them!

My sweet mother …

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Little Rose and her mom at Crompton Park, circa 1963

❤️Downtown’s Worcester Public Library📚📖🎥🎸 is a great resource for all!❤️

By Jim Coughlin

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Jim is an avid reader!

The Main Branch of the Worcester Public Library was closed from March 2020 until June 2020 and had the formal opening of the new front entrance on Franklin Street on August 17, 2020. However, just prior to the June re-opening, the Library Board of Directors had chosen a new director in December of 2020, Jason Homer, who formerly worked as the Library Director in Natick.

Homer is absolutely passionate about his job as the library’s director. He came to Worcester during a difficult time for our city, state, country and the world because of the global pandemic. However, in his very short time in Worcester he has already been recognized for his leadership qualities.

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WPL librarians – always there to help students with projects, book searches … and so much more. photo: J.C.

As a youth growing up in Worcester, I was a regular patron of the Main Branch of the Library at Salem Square. From memory, I could tell you exactly where each particular section (of only books) were located, such as Humanities, Social Sciences and Science, the Children’s Room, Newspapers and Periodicals and much more.

But the recent assignment from my editor Rose to write a story on the many new services available to all at Salem Square library was something of a “reporter’s surprise,” if you will. I learned that no longer is the Worcester Public Library a huge collection of books, books and more books, as it was back in my early days. But rather it is a vital community center of all kinds of information and resources that have kept pace with the new age of information in the 21st century.

In comparison to earlier days, there is a relatively new and updated Children’s Room and a Teen Room, complete with inter-active technologies such as a computer generated drawing board in the Children’s Room where little ones as young as 3 or 4 years of age can “draw” on a computer screen that lights up with bright colors to keep their attention. One added benefit for Worcester’s increasingly diverse population is that this screen is also programmed in Spanish. To show how thoughtful the planners of these new library features were about generating positive vibrations among the youngest amongst us: there is a game of “Tic Tack Toe” on this wall-sized computer. But in addition, it also features a corollary game of “Tic tack Woo,” as in Worcester.

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The WPL, pre-new front entrance. CECELIA file photo

Also in the children’s room is a rocket ship where the little ones can go in and view a computer screen and, if parents are at all concerned what they are viewing, there is an adjoining computer screen that will let them see exactly what their child was just viewing.

In addition, there is also a “baby’s play area” where the little ones can play with various building blocks to their hearts content.

The library director told me that the children’s room rocket ship is placed there in honor of Worcester’s Dr. Robert H. Goddard who is credited as being the father of rocketry and the Space Age. Goddard fired the first jet fueled rocket into space on March 16, 1926, at Pakachoag Hill in nearby Auburn. It is good that Worcester’s future generations will get to know their former famous neighbor’s contribution to the Space Age – he played such an important role in things that we, as Americans, take for granted today – such as landing astronauts on the moon!

Homer said the children’s room is for infants to age 12 and after that there is the Teen Room for kids ages 12 to 17 that is perhaps the most popular and widely used of the different departments in the entire library. Staffing the Teen Room are three young women: the longest serving the Teen Room is Erin O’Neal who has been a librarian for five years and is originally from Wyoming. In my interview with her she said, “I love my job and the (Worcester) library is a great library to work for.” Assisting her is Claire Laprade who has been at the WPL for only one year. She, like Erin, enjoys her job. She said the focus is on the teens. “We can provide a safe place for teens,” she said. The pair said the number of teen patrons on each day depends on whether it is a school day or a day off from school.

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Hundreds of “classics” await you at the WPL! CECELIA file photo

Erin said during school days, the WPL Teen Room averages about 30 visitors. But they said on perhaps a school day there can be as many as 100 teens over the course of the day. For teens, if they have their library card, they can scan it and take out a laptop for whatever they want to do. There is another librarian in the Teen Room who has only worked at the library for a much shorter time and just happened to be off the day that this reporter dropped by for his grand tour.

THE INNOVATIONS CENTER

There is also an area that the library director called “The Innovations Center” that contains among other things, sewing machines that patrons can check out for their use in an identical way as taking out a book to read!

Worcester has long been a “Gateway City” for newly arriving immigrants from all over the world. Behind the table where I sat with Homer for our interview is what is called The Welcoming Center. “What we have on the shelves, here are videos and DVDs for helping people with their test for (United States) citizenship and for English as a Second Language – ESL,” he said.

Also in this area, I found a whole array of both videos, along with newspapers and periodicals in foreign languages such as
Japanese, Korean and more.
Included in “The Welcoming Center,” the Worcester Public Library also hosts representatives from various social service agencies such as SMOC, the South Middlesex Opportunity Center that provides counseling and coaching for members of Worcester’s homeless community who have fallen upon difficult times.

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Jason Homer, WPL director, and staffer in one of the many WPL departments designed to serve diverse Worcester communities. The Teen area is the most widely used section of the library. photo: J.C.

And for those of you who are into reading various newspapers and periodicals from either across the country, New England or Central Massachusetts, there is a very diverse Periodicals Department, with newspapers from Worcester’s neighboring communities and as far away as Pittsfield, Massachusetts (which is as far west as one can go and still remain in our state).

On the second floor and third floor of the library are two banks of computers for those who wish to do letters applying for work or to do either internet or book catalog searches. Directly behind the computers on the second floor is what is called the “Worcester Room,” a collection of newspaper articles on people of historical note to Worcester such as members of the Worcester municipal government, our state reps and other citizens.

And not to exclude those in the city who are visually challenged, there is a department that has a collection of books in Braille and Americans for Disabilities/ ADA-approved and -adapted computers for their use.

Here in the United States, we had a president who had served as the Commander of the Allied Forces during World War II in Europe and subsequently became U.S. president in 1953. During this time, there was a newly elected United States Senator from Massachusetts named John F. Kennedy who became a champion of every demographic who became marginalized, including the blind. He filed bills in the United States Senate to improve the lot of the our visually challenged citizens. Unfortunately, the president, Dwight Eisenhower, did not seem fit to give them a helping hand for improved services. So unfortunate. So come 1961 when Mr. Kennedy had ascended to become the most powerful man in the world, president of the United States, he did not allow the power he had inherited from Eisenhower to go to his head. He made assisting the blind one of his administration’s many, many priorities!

What this reporter has tried to lay out for the readers of CECELIA is that you don’t have to be a professional student or a “bookworm” to visit the Main Branch of the Worcester Public Library on Salem Square in downtown Worcester. No matter where your interests lie or your age or ability, or even challenges in life … for either learning, enrichment or just finding a way to spend your spare time, the Worcester Public Library has something for you.

And perhaps the biggest advocate the City of Worcester has at this time for making all kinds of learning and information available to all of our residents is Jason Homer, the executive director of the Worcester Public Library. He’s intelligent, caring and, based on my nearly hour-long meeting with him, he absolutely loves what he is doing as the library’s executive director!

So, the next time you are in downtown Worcester, near Salem Square, I urge you to drop into the Main Branch of the Worcester Public Library. I promise you there will be something there for you – including copies of CECELIA!

On my way out of the library, last week, I stopped and asked the library’s security officer, Mr. Hargrove, for his thoughts on the new library director. He had nothing but absolute praise for Homer. Worcester needs more Jason Homers. We greatly appreciate his service to our city!

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This September: dad walking his son to school. Parents, visit the library with your children so they become comfortable learning in this Worcester gem! photo: R.T.

✝️The demise of Worcester’s OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL CHURCH⛪: A LOSS FOR THE COMMUNITY … 💒GREAT MEMORIES FOR SO MANY

By John Monfredo, retired Worcester Public Schools teacher and principal and former Worcester School Committee member

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This summer: John Monfredo, outside his Worcester home. photo: R.T.

Just recently, as I drove past my old house where I grew up on East Central Street in Worcester, I had to stop my car and look across the way as workers were taking down the Mt. Carmel Recreation Center building.

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Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in its heyday. Photos submitted.

It was a nostalgic time because I started to think of all my childhood memories of growing up on East Central Street and time spent at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and its nearby Center. These were special memories for my family and me. My brothers, Joe and Ben, and I had such good times in the neighborhood at the church facilities!

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Mr. Monfredo’s dad next to the church bell he helped install at Mt. Carmel church decades ago.

It is with sadness that I now look at the demise of the church being torn down and now the property associated with the church … the ball field and the recreation center all gone. However, instead of dwelling on what was, I’d like to look back and think about the good times growing up in the shadow of our beloved church, built by Italian American immigrants. It was the center of Worcester’s Italian immigrants and their families for decades.

Unlike now, we all knew all our neighbors and we all watched out for one another. It wasn’t uncommon to leave your bike or toys in the yard because no one would take them. We respected each other’s property. We were fortunate, for the adults watched over us and made sure we did the right thing.

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A Mount Carmel vigil

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Parishioners fought nobly to save their church, taking their case to the pope in Rome, Italy.

At that time on East Central Street I was surrounded by many Italian families – the Spaziante’s, the Vigliotti’s, Palumbo’s, D’Elia’s the Virzi’s, Ranucci’s, DeLFemine, Dattis, Panucci’s and the Natalie’s, just to name a few. It was a neighborhood of two and three deckers. All the families were vigilant when it came to children, and folks were not afraid to call up your parents if you did something wrong.

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The young Mr. Monfredo reading his essay at a church celebration.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church played a major role in our upbringing because, not only did it provide spiritual guidance to us Mt. Carmel families, but there were many activities available for the children in the parish. …

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The Mount Carmel recreation center, a place where parishioners held spaghetti dinners, candle pin bowling night, dances and many celebrations. photo:R.T.

I remember going to the beach for the day on a bus with Father Bafaro, as well as going on various field trips to state parks.

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WCCA TV’s Mauro DePasquale, far left, one of his church’s cantors. Mauro and so many other parishioners and Worcesterites are heartbroken over the loss of the beautiful Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and the church’s recreation center and baseball field. Mauro was hoping to build a small shrine on the site, where people could come to pray and remember Our Lady of Mount Carmel. But the property was sold by the Worcester Catholic Diocese to a real estate developer who’s building a huge apartment complex and garage on the once hallowed ground and focal point for Worcester’s Italian American community.

At the Recreation Center, who could not forget the teen record hops where we would meet with many of our friends and have a great time? Kids danced the night away! At the end of the night, we would hear these words from Father Bafaro: “The best way home is the shortest way home.” We also had the pleasure of candlepin bowling at the Center, as well as playing basketball with friends or joining a church team and competing against other teams.

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Home-plate at the church’s ball field. photo:R.T.

Then there was the cafeteria at our Recreation Center where all sorts of events took place: community suppers and so much more. The
Rec Center provided so many other events for our families to attend! At the field, next to the Rec Center, we played baseball and football. I can also remember every Thanksgiving Day morning we would go to the field and have a touch football game with the guys.

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Parishioners gathered together to form prayer vigil groups to pray nonstop for the bishop to stop the sale of their church – the church their Italian parents and grandparents built stone by stone.

I asked some family and friends for their lasting impressions and here is what they said: For my brother Joe it was very personal, for that’s where he met his wife to be! He enjoyed going to the dances every week, and he also mentioned that he loved bowling and playing basketball for the CYC at the Rec Center. … Carleen D’Elia Ford, a friend for life, stated that her first impressions of the church started when she went to Communion classes run by the sisters of Venerini because the nuns were so helpful and communicated well with the students. She then spoke about appreciating the Columbus Day Parade and the Italian Festival in the parking lot of the church that took place each year and how the innocence of youth was so prevalent in those days.

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A Mount Carmel church carnival.

Ann Spaziante, my friend and next-door neighbor on East Central Street, had lasting memories of the Friday night dances and of Father Bafaro driving around to make sure we went right home. She also said, We used the bowling alley downstairs and really had fun. In addition, we all enjoyed just “hanging” around the Rec … great friendship, never an argument, just good socializing. You never had to go very far to be with friends because they were always there in good and bad times.”

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These three deckers, by the church site, off of Shrewsbury Street, are still standing. They were once home to Worcester’s Italian American immigrants, their children and grandchildren. The Italian immigrants built their beloved church just yards away from their three deckers! photo:R.T.

One of the strongest advocates in keeping the church from closing was Mauro DePasquale of Worcester and executive director of WCCA TV. I asked him about those positive memories: “My favorite memories of growing up in the Church and Rec Center are too numerous to mention. Attending the church with the organ music shaking the congregation amazed me as a young child. Seeing my Dad kneeling over the pew in deep reverence and prayer facing the alabaster white altar with angels and the Blessed Mother, our Lady of Mount Carmel holding the Scapular was memorable. That was the sacred space where my faith and family traditions were taught to me. I have many other fond memories growing up at Mount Carmel such as attending Catechism and later helping teach our faith to other children and adults. I performed at my first “Battle of the Bands” concert at the Rec Center, produced “Notte D’amore” (two seasons), an evening of multi-genre music and poetry for the Italian Cultural Center, while serving on the Board. The church was a community epicenter for the neighborhood, a community of Italian Americans and blended families, and so much more. Fighting more than four years to save the church from being abandoned and demolished by the Diocese was heartbreaking. The church and the buildings are gone, but the spirit and values learned from Our Lady’s and the Holy Family presence among us will shine brightly in our hearts forever.”

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Mr. Monfredo and his brother with their dad.

Finally, my brother Ben perhaps summed up the many thoughts of others with this statement: “We all loved going to the Rec, for there was candlepin bowling, bus trips to the beach and to ballgames, the record hops, the Italian Festivals in the summer where we could go and enjoy Italian food and carnival rides in the evening hours. There were also Catholic Christian values classes where our parents sent us to learn values that helped shape our lives. There was always something to do. It kept kids off the streets and offered an alternative to just hanging out. They also had the Joe DiMaggio Little League field as well as a playground with swings, seesaws, a jungle gym area and a bocce court. We didn’t have video games, so we played outside with friends and came home when it was dark. Those were special times, and the Church played a big part in our development. Yes, I will always remember those special times growing up and how the church played an important part in my life.”

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Our Lady of Mount Carmel church has been blended into another Worcester Italian American church, Our Lady of Loretto Church. But the Mt. Carmel parishioners still pray together, and together, praying, they are Our Lady of Mount Carmel! photo:R.T.

As you can see, Mt. Carmel was a very special place for many of us. After all these years, it is still missed! The demolition of church and recreation center is a loss for the new generation!

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The church was razed a few years ago. The beginning of demolition entailed removing all sacred elements of the church. Photo:R.T.

The WPD👮‍♀️ – at the Worcester Historical Museum …

From the Worcester Historical Museum, 30 Elm St., Downtown Worcester:

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WPD police cruiser door, signed by officers from all over America. It’s in the Worcester Historical Museum now, in honor of Worcester Police Officer “Manny” Familia who drowned last summer trying to save drowning teens in the pond at Green Hill Park. Photos courtesy of WHM.

“Worcester’s history is not just confined within the walls of this museum. In fact, Worcester’s history is all around you. Our city creates the history, and the museum is the repository of just some of this history.

“Worcester Historical Museum partners with several communities and organizations to share their stories within the physical walls of the museum. For instance, the cruiser door (pictured) is on loan from the Worcester Police Department for our exhibition in the Booth Gallery, “We All Got History … Worcester at 300.”

“The police cruiser door was brought down to Washington, D.C., with the runners from the Worcester Police Department for Police Week in May 2022.

“The door was placed next to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in DC where Worcester Police Officer Enmanuel “Manny” Familia’s name was added this year.

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Officer Familia. Image from a 2016 video, courtesy of the WPD.

“Officer Familia passed away in the line of duty last year. The signatures on the door are from police officers in Worcester and around the country in remembrance of Manny.

“Visit the exhibit to see more items from our community partners.”

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The museum wants your history … Worcester history.

Yes! to COMMUNITY PRESERVATION and TRANSITIONING KIDS!

By Rosalie Tirella

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The new Worcester? pics:R.T.

Yesterday morning: pictures of the Mercantile and Ruth’s – and a totally reconfigured part of Downtown Worcester, where the old Worcester Galleria shopping mall used to be. Now we have trendy restaurants and faceless coffee shops, a fancy hotel, parking … a mini-dog park, all for the rich newcomers. The kiddos and some empty nesters (also dog owners) all live in this new downtown, they live in those ghastly apartment complexes across the street that haven’t a single regular Worcester peep or family living in them! You know the buildings: the huge ugly ones that Ed Augustus built all over this part of downtown to bring people into the neighborhood, to create a new neighborhood, a neighborhood not meant for Worcesterites but for the Bostonians who are coming to our city for the more affordable … everything, driving up prices for the rest of us. The Augustus apartment complexes resemble all those huge ugly hotels you find all over Metro West: cheaply made, character-less … glorified dormitories.

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The Mercantile.

Why did former Worcester City Manager Ed Agustus abandon the neighborhood after he created it? Why did Ed leave downtown City Hall, just a 10 minute walk away from the trendy Mercantile, for a job in some small Worcester County town, working in some small college? The old Worcester vibes … Ed’s contract wasn’t up for a few years. He was the top money maker in Worcester municipal government. Could it be that Ed Augustus couldn’t relate to the new faceless, moneyed downtown he created just across the street from the Worcester Common/his City Hall where he worked? Was Ed’s new neighborhood “too much” for Ed? … totally unrelatable to Ed Augustus, born and raised in blue-collar Webster Square?

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1939 Worcester…unions on the rise, people working together…very much a blue-collar city. photo courtesy of Worcester Historical Museum.

Where is the egalitarian shopping experience that defined the old downtown Worcester, the old downtown Worcester of Ed Agustus? That Downtown Worcester had something for everyone: rich, poor, working class, middle class …We came together as a community to shop and knosh!

A TALE OF TWO WORCESTER’S – the rich newcomers and us poorer locals!

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The rich newcomers have expected ameneties – and the City has delivered special for them!

Gone is the upward mobility of the old Worcester – via our factories and shops with their reliable paychecks and good benefits. Gone are our once AFFORDABLE three deckers, priced just right for first generation Worcester FAMILIES. Now it’s $2,200 monthly rent for a Woo three decker apartment – 3 bedrooms, 3 roommates coming together to pay for it all. Not a family building anymore. Now an investment. A high mortgage that requires high rents. When a local social worker tells me he’s got a line of 12 people outside his door – all waiting for his help, most struggling with housing, you know SMOC AND CMHA can’t do it all. This social worker told me he’s seeing Worcester working families who pay more than 50% of their income towards their rent!

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Jett💙 and Lilac❤️

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Table Talk Pies factory being knocked down, for the most part … more upscale, overpriced apartments for the Boston crowd to be built. Bet the pie factory guy is a rich owner! His factory rebuilt in Main South. Hope he pays his workers a living wage!

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Ugly

Shame on Tim Murray and his chamber of commerce for refusing to get behind the Community Preservation Act – a way to help fund affordable housing in Massachusetts cities and towns – including Worcester. … Murray knows how to feather his own nest! He got his chamber cronies to almost double his executive director salary during the first year he was hired by the chamber (after disgracing himself politically). His salary went from around $90,000 to around $180,000 – in just several months!

Worcester needs to join this state program to tap into millions$$$ to build more affordable housing here. People are living on our streets, in our parks, in our woods. VOTE YES☑️ this fall FOR COMMUNITY PRESERVATION! It’s on the ballot!🗳️

💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐💐

JESSE …

Almost 18 years ago InCity Times ran Worcester’s first cover story on a transgendered youth: we talked with Jesse, a case manager/social worker at AIDS PROJECT WORCESTER and published his story. We were mocked for writing and publishing the lengthy interview in which Jesse, a WPI graduate, talked of his prior life as a young woman, always feeling he was a boy in the wrong body, coming out to his parents and then the exciting transitioning process – biological, true, what his body was experiencing, how right it all felt now. Jesse was finally happy… Becoming who he was destined to become.

Yes, InCity Times/our website were chastised – but we were 20 years ahead of the times (just like we were with veganism … banning elephants and all exotic animals from circuses … banning greyhound racing … ) We are saddened to learn about the hatred and hysteria that’s threatening the very lived of the great doctors and health staff at a Boston hospital because they helping young people find themselves … begin to make the transition to their true selves … These dangerous people need to be educated: No one pushes these kids into anything. A friend whose wife worked as a principal at a local elementary school told me there was a kindergartner whose parents and teachers felt was showing signs of being mislabeled. THEY LET THE CHILD GROW IN THE DIRECTION THE CHILD NEEDED TO GROW IN AND WANTED TO GROW IN. It wasn’t a joke or a whim or a directive from anyone!

PLEASE! LET’S ALL BE EDUCATED AND LEARN THE FACTS!

Hey, Domino!!!

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

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Who’s the king?!

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❤️

At the park. The guys are playing dominoes now. Not for money, they tell me, but TO BE KING! They all claim to be #1, and there is much slapping down of the plastic dominoes in a kind of sweet bravado! I am bugging them, I know, but keep asking them: Who’s the king? Who’s the king? The guy with the table, I think! One of the men points to his ample chest to tell me he’s the winner and then drops his cig on the grass to pat Lilac. Lilac frees herself from her collar and goes over to the cig. The man stamps his cigarette out on the grass and is distracted by who’s under their table. Then he says to me, Take off your glasses! I ignore him and ask, Where’s this game played? … ALL OVER THE WORLD! they shout! ALL OVER THE WORLD! Cuba! Puerto Rico! CUBA!

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🙂

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♥️

Worcester, Massachusetts!

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All hands on deck!

These friends play every afternoon.
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❤️

Away now sitting on a patch of dry grass with my dogs under a tree, I can still hear their yips and shouts and the dominoes coming down hard on the plastic table or being mixed in the middle. I’m annoyed at this drought. The grass is brown and rough and scratches my calves. Jett rolls around on his back – a good scratching for his old back.

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Jett!!!

… It’s so refreshing to see something slow and social, a kind of jazzy board game, with folks talking across a table, ribbing each other, making eye contact, listening to their music, being happy together.

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🎶🎵❤️🎵

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🙂

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🙂

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🙂

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🙂

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🙂

Beating the city heat in their local park.

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Lilac!!

Worcester ❤️!