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  Off the Court  
 

Friday, June 13
6th Grade Team Member Audrey Gallo Shows How to Get it Done Off The Court Too!

Farmington Travel Basketball would like to congratulate 6th grade team member Audrey Gallo for an astounding and amazing job in organizing a book drive to benefit a school in Meriden.  Audrey was assisted in this by fellow teammate Emily Hogan.  We are very proud of both of them, and wish to acknowledge their achievement.  Thank you to Farmington Life for allowing us to re-print the story and photos they have on our Off the Court Stars! 

As Printed in Farmington Life Magazine  

AN ESSAY LEADS TO A LOT OF READING

by Stephanie Riefe 

When Audrey Gallo, a sixth grader at West Woods Upper Elementary School, wrote an essay in December for the Farmington Rotary Club’s essay contest, she had no idea what she was starting.   She was selected as one of the top three essayists and after a luncheon in January; it had to end there, right? It was just beginning.  The 500-word essay topic for this year was “Global Issues on the Minds of Americans.” Audrey’s topic was closing the achievement gap in schools.  Her essay began with the line “they say it takes a village to raise a child.” At the luncheon radio personality Brad Davis spoke to Audrey about his book drive (he has an ongoing drive that benefits Gaffney Elementary School in New Britain).  That gave her an idea, because in her essay she talked about book drives.  

After the luncheon, Audrey asked her mother Libby when she was going to do the things she wrote about in her essay. She wanted to organize her own book drive at her school as a follow-up.  “I thought I really needed to act on it,” said Audrey, 11.  She wrote a letter to her principal at West Woods, Peter Cummings. He liked the idea. Two friends, Emily Hogan and Jacob Entenman, also helped.  She then asked the student council to get involved. The council made posters and announcements were made at school. A flyer was sent home to parents.  “I couldn’t have done it without them,” she said of the student council and her friends.  

“She took responsibility for designing and implementing the drive and recruited many students to help her. It was a powerful example of students building community beyond the walls of the school,” said Dr. Cummings.After some discussion and research, Audrey selected Casimir Pulaski Elementary School in Meriden as the recipient of the books. When she went to the school’s web site and saw a quote about it taking a village to raise a child — just like from her essay — she was pretty sure it was the right choice, and when she saw the school also was requesting books, she knew it was the right choice.  She contacted the school and Principal Tom Brown was delighted to be the recipient.   

The book drive was set for March 17-20. It was the same time as the book fair at West Woods.   Audrey thought people might buy books to donate. The book drive requested new or gently used books. She asked for picture books and chapter books.She wrote a letter to Brad Davis thanking him for his inspiration and telling him about her book drive. He called and invited her to be on his radio show, “Talk of Connecticut.”   “I am very sad that some children don’t even own books, since I love to read,” she wrote. “Thank you for inspiring me to do this.” 

The custodians at the school placed boxes outside of every classroom. Audrey and her family had no idea what to expect. They figured at least 600-700 books or so, figuring a book for every student. The school has 690 students. When the tallies came in, though, the students had collected 7,349 books.   “I can’t believe we collected that much,” said Audrey.  “While I do know how generous our students and their families are, this truly exceeded expectations,” said Dr. Cummings. “The thousands of books that the West Woods community contributed will have an incredible impact on Pulaski School.” 

There were 70 boxes. A group of about 30 students packed, sorted and counted them all. The delivery date for the books was April 11. Four cars were loaded with boxes.   “The janitors were really helpful,” said Ms. Gallo.   They did a lot of the heavy lifting.   “A lot of people helped and I really appreciate that,” added Audrey. Her parents took the day off to help out and her grandfather came, too. As they drove up to the school, groups of schoolchildren were outside cheering and holding signs thanking her for the books.  “They were really excited,” said Audrey, who has some of those posters hanging in her house. “I felt really good.”Her friends Emily and Jacob also came with her to make the delivery. All were surprised by the welcome.   “We didn’t really expect it,” said Ms. Gallo, who in addition to the posters had a stack of thank you notes.

April 14 was declared Audrey Gallo Day in Meriden. While at the school, Audrey read a book to a third grade class. The family was invited back for literacy night on June 4. A night that now is possible, in part, due to the book donation.  Part of the evening is giving away books and at one time the staff was not sure it would have enough.   The school’s library holds 11,000 books, said Ms. Gallo. So in addition to the library and literacy night, each classroom was able to receive a box of books.  

“This is my first book drive or community service thing,” said Audrey. “It makes me want to help other children.” “It was so rewarding for her,” said Ms. Gallo, adding she learned about giving and following up on ideas and beliefs. “Not only has it been a great experience for Audrey, but it has been wonderful for the students of West Woods as well as the students of the Casimir Pulaski School in Meriden.”   Audrey said Farmington is a “privileged” town and she wants to help others who don’t have as much. Ms. Gallo said students at West Woods, fifth and sixth graders are in a transition time with their reading and often have books they will no longer want to read again.  As for Audrey, who has an older and a younger sister, her favorite type of book to read is historical fiction, but she also likes “girly books” like the Candy Apple and Clique series.  

“Every so often a single event, or for that matter a single person, comes along to remind us of how interconnected and committed to each other we are,” wrote Mr. Brown, the Pulaski principal. “Or, perhaps more accurately, how interconnected and committed to one another we ought to be.”  Mr. Brown said he has “rarely witnessed” such an act during his career in public education.  He read Audrey’s essay and was impressed that she understood the disparity in educational resources and opportunities between “kids like her who live and go to school in relative affluence in towns like Farmington and those who live and go to school in more-urban, less-wealthy communities like Meriden.  “She went on to write about how we should all try to do more to give every child the fairest, most equal educational opportunity possible,” he added.   

Mr. Brown said most students would have been proud and satisfied with being selected an essay finalist and that would have been the end of it. Luckily for Pulaski, that was not the case.   “Meriden’s Pulaski School is a better place because of Audrey Gallo’s initiative and commitment. And, to be sure, Farmington’s West Woods School is a better place for the very same reasons,” he said.  “So yes, indeed, sometimes it takes a child to raise a village, maybe even two villages, as different as they may seem … we might all do well to follow Audrey Gallo’s example.   

“Talking is easy. Doing is what counts. After all, the whole village is depending on us. Each and every one of us. Thanks for reminding me, Audrey.”   The Pulaski chorus traveled to West Woods to give a thank you concert at the end of May and the two principals were getting together to formulate plans to continue the relationship.  “Each school has so much to give to the other, so we both feel this is an opportunity that we can’t pass up,” said Dr. Cummings.



Monday, June 9
Connecticut Association of Schools Recognizes Farmington Hoopster Kaitlyn Murray!
 Farmington Girls Travel Basketball has the pleasure to announce that 8th grader Kaitlyn Murray, one of the stars of the organization throughout her years in the travel program has received the Scholar Leader Award, given by each Connecticut middle school and sponsored by the Connecticut Association of Schools.

We are proud to have had Kaitlyn as a member of the travel program, along with her father Jim who has been an outstanding coach for several years, and we wish the Murray family congratulations and best of luck in all their future endeavors.



   
Farmington Girls  Travel Basketball
Farmington Girls Travel Basketball
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