Team P.A.C.T., Tiger Friends involve Connections program

The Newtonite

[media-credit id=25 align=”alignright” width=”283″] Connections teacher Lisa Goldthwaite shaves special education teacher John Briggs’ head as a part of Be Bold Be Bald.
by Gloria Li

Connections students take an active role in the school community, participating in Be Bold, Be Bald and Tiger Friends.

Be Bold, Be Bald

To make Be Bold Be Bald, a fundraiser for cancer research, possible connections students and faculty took an active role, wearing bald caps and shaving their heads.

 Team P.A.C.T. organized Be Bold Be Bald, and through the club’s efforts this school raised for Facing Cancer together, a support group in Boston.

To make the fundraiser such a success, behavioral therapist Ashley Bordelon “got excited about Be Bold, Be Bald” and got connections students involved, according to connections teacher Lisa Goldthwaite.

Goldthwaite said Bordelon managed to talk the rest of the staff into focusing on Be Bold, Be Bald as the theme for the month for connections’ current events group. Everyone in the program, including staff and students, wore bald caps for at least part of a day. Additionally, Goldthwaite and special education teacher John Briggs shaved their heads.

“I was the one who set a $500 bar for me to shave my head and my other condition was that at least one other person had to do it with me,” Goldthwaite said.

Goldthwaite said she felt compelled to participate in Be Bold, Be Bald and to get connections’ students involved because she has many friends and family members who have been impacted by cancer. A friend of hers passed away last Friday from lung cancer and another was just diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma a week ago, she said.

Most significantly, Goldthwaite wanted to honor her grandmother, who passed away from cancer a few years ago, by shaving her head.
“I remember how upsetting it was for her to lose her hair, so this was a particularly poignant fundraising effort for me,” she said.
She said, “while the bald caps are great, I thought it might be fun to up the ante with a higher fundraising goal and higher stakes—actually shaving my head.”
Goldthwaite said she is glad that the event has caught people’s attention and hopes that it that more will choose to participate in it next year, either by using the bald caps or by actually shaving their heads.

Tiger Friends

Connections students also participate in Tiger Friends. Special education teacher Sasha Greenberg, the advisor for Tiger Friends, said the club meets every Monday X-block in 313. Tiger Friends is a student-run program in which mainstream students think of activities to do and games to play with connections students.

“The goal of this club is not only to allow time for students to have a fun and easy-going time in a friendly and structured environment, but also to allow communication and social skills to grow and also to increase positive peer interactions within a safe setting,” Greenberg said.

Senior Michael Denaro, a co-president with senior Madeline Murphy, said since its establishment five years ago, is has become an organization where “unexpected friendships have formed.”

Murphy noted that she has specifically seen all types of students working together collaboratively.

Additionally, Murphy noted that “seeing people step out of their comfort zones has been rewarding.” She has watched as students have tried activities that they might not have had access to before.

Denaro and Murphy have put together activities for connections students, such as holiday turkey-hands coloring, safe-environment monopoly and water bottle bowling. Tiger Friends also watched The Polar Express upwards of five times last year.

According to Greenberg, “It is great to see the students of Newton North High School start and maintain friendships with students in our connections program.”