ACE recognizes top students with ice cream social

By Sue Berescik

June 8, 2016

Five hundred Trumbull parents and their elementary and middle school-aged children gathered in the Trumbull High School Commons on the evening of June 2 to celebrate achievement and citizenship. The Academic Challenge for Excellence (ACE) Foundation was sponsoring its 12th annual recognition event.

Resolved in the mission to support Trumbull students in their academic and service endeavors outside the classroom, ACE invited the members of academic teams and civic service organizations for a recognition ceremony and ice cream social.

Dan Neumann, co-founder and secretary/treasurer, welcomed the largest audience to date. He said, “ACE provides opportunities for Trumbull students to go beyond content knowledge and classroom skills, advancing academic excellence and encouraging active citizenship.”

Eighth graders Cole Smith and Annika Haakonsen acted as masters of ceremonies.

On behalf of the elementary and middle school teams and civic service groups, they thanked ACE for the support and congratulated all the teachers, parent coaches and students for their hard work and creativity.

Cole, a member of the Hillcrest Junior National Honor Society and the We the People team, said, “Tonight we recognize 330 elementary and middle school students from 34 ACE-supported teams.” Then he introduced School Superintendent Gary Cialfi, ACE co-founder and president.

Cialfi explained, “ACE gives students opportunities to apply their skills and their content knowledge and use critical thinking for problem solving.” He recognized the ACE Board of Directors: Laura Alford, Cory DeWeese, Kate Hampford Donahue, Marcy Koury, Neumann, Tony Pijar, Tom Tesoro and Steve Wright.

Loretta Chory, chairman of the Board of Education, congratulated students on their successes. She said, “The Board annually budgets about $70,000 toward academic teams, but the actual cost goes much higher. ACE is tremendous in helping to fill in the difference.”

First Selectman Tim Herbst said, “It is truly amazing how ACE has grown. At its inception in 2004, the ACE organization sponsored seven teams, all from THS. Now ACE helps 60 teams extend learning outside the classroom.” Then Herbst identified dignitaries in the audience: State Representative Dave Rutigliano, former First Selectman Ken Halaby and his wife Linda, Probate Judge T.R. Rowe, and State Board of Education member Steve Wright.

At the podium Annika Haakonsen, president of Madison Junior National Honor Society and a member of the Southern Stars hockey team, explained procedures for the raffle and announced the broadcasting of the evening’s program. She said, “You can follow the ceremony on Trumbull Community Television on Charter channel 194 or on Frontier Vision 99.”

Taking turns, Cole and Annika introduced the academic teams and service groups, invited teachers and students to come forward, and asked group members to briefly highlight the accomplishments of 2015-2016.

Science Program Leader Floria Mallozi recognized the 51 fifth graders who earned the right to compete statewide in the Connecticut Invention Convention, 22 of whom won achievement awards. Five of those received additional awards. For his Lace Arrestor, Paulo Lopes-Rivera of Middlebrook earned the ASM International Award, one of the best inventions involving use of metals, metallurgical or material science. For his Sarlo Safety Socket, Christopher Sarlo of Frenchtown received the CT Safety Award, one of the most innovative safety related inventions. Misha Patel of Daniels Farm was named Promising Young Woman Inventor when she received the Petit Family Foundation Award for her B.E.D., Bag Extraction Device. Two Trumbull young ladies were named ESPN Sports Award winners for the best inventions related to sports. They were Sienna Hoefer of Middlebrook for The Top Sock and Gabriella Margolies of Daniels Farm for Insta-Rack. Gabby moved on to compete in the Nationals in Washington, D.C.

Math Program Leader Mary Santilli described the Noetic National Math contest. She said, “Three hundred students in grades 3, 4, and 5 competed, solving 20 difficult problems in 45 minutes.” Team achievement awards went to the Booth Hill and Daniels Farm third grade teams and the Daniels Farm fifth grade team. Timmy Basbagill, a third grader at Daniels Farm, earned a score of 100% on the test.

Trumbull Odyssey of the Mind Coordinator Bill Mecca explained that nine Trumbull teams competed in three divisions in March at the Connecticut Statewide Conference for the right to travel to Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, for Worlds. The fourth and fifth grade teams from Jane Ryan, Middlebrook and Tashua, coached by Jamie and Jim Sullivan (students Michael Citarella, Cole Galla, Sara Kocinsky, Katie Levine, Jackson Marsh, Luca Santilli and Alex Sullivan), and the seventh grade team from Hillcrest, coached by Liz Mecca (students Molly Bomann, Calyn Carbone, Alex Coley, Alex Debroskey, Cameron Holmes, Lauren Mecca and Christina Odendahl), both qualified in their respective divisions to compete in the World Championships. Nancy Conroy from Trumbull High, Tom Piekarski from the Agriscience School, and Lauren Bucci from Hillcrest volunteered as judges.

Kathy Belmont and Regina Cebulski, advisers of the Hillcrest Interact Club, told how students collected money for social services in Trumbull, contributed to the Clothesline Project, aided fire victims in Bridgeport, prepared packages for peace keeping forces in Kosovo, and collected books for classroom libraries.

Nancy Yarmosh and Jeanne Malgioglio, advisers of KARE Club at Madison, explained that students made Valentine’s Day and Halloween “goody bags” and created pillowcases and fleece blankets for the children at the Center for Family Justice, made bracelets for soldiers overseas, and earned more than $2400 for Relay for Life.

National Geography Bee winners mastered facts about cultural and sports geography, as well as locations. Lisa Cerulli of Madison introduced Rohit Gunda, the first place Madison seventh grader who took third in the Connecticut state competition. Laura Alford of Hillcrest spoke in glowing terms about Cyrus Asgari, two-time Hillcrest winner in their middle school competition.

Hillcrest and Madison MathCounts, a nationwide competition to excite middle school students about math, practiced weekly. Both schools competed at the regional event at Fairfield University.

In the Noetic National Math Contest, 120 students from both Hillcrest and Madison accepted the challenge in the fall and spring.

Math teacher Gina Zuk explained that the Statistical Poster Contest, sponsored by the American Statistical Association, challenged students to create a statistical math study, analyze their findings and present a concise poster. Three teams from Madison competed.

Nine Hillcrest students quizzed all year long to prepare for the Science Bowl competition.

Peppered with questions by judges, students of constitutional law debated the rights and responsibilities of citizens in We the People challenges. Teams from Madison and Hillcrest, coached by John Cappello and Laura Alford respectively, participated in this opportunity to develop 21st century problem solving skills of how to apply constitutional knowledge to historical happenings and current events. Noted for their ability to debate and for their poise as public speakers, the younger teenagers conferred with the high school team about issues of law and government.

“They are well informed citizens of the United States after this course,” said Cappello.

Then it was time for sweet rewards. The excited winners, patient for more than an hour, crowded around serving tables in the Senior Lounge for ice cream and all the sundae fixings, compliments of the Trumbull ACE Foundation.

Raffle prize winners included the following: Alex Debrosky of Hillcrest, the Girls Just-Want-to-Have-Fun basket; Gabriel LaGuardia of Madison, the Avengers basket; Carol Hughes of Jane Ryan, the Games Night basket; Amanda DePinto of Madison, two Mets game tickets; and Jacob Nyitra of Daniels Farm, two Yankee game tickets.