GHS students and staff honored with Essence Awards

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Thu., Dec. 6, 2012
Teacher Mark Durstin explains how GHS students Nick Karp and John Ostrowski started their own service organization, which caused him to nominate them for an Essence Award, at the ceremony on Dec. 5. Photos by Steve Smith.
Teacher Mark Durstin explains how GHS students Nick Karp and John Ostrowski started their own service organization, which caused him to nominate them for an Essence Award, at the ceremony on Dec. 5. Photos by Steve Smith.

“There are people that make Glastonbury High School tick,” said GHS Principal Dr. Nancy Bean at the school’s 2012 Fall Essence Awards on Dec. 5. “Today’s recipients are the people who make Glastonbury High School what it is today.”

Dr. Thomas Neagle, who is the chair of the Essence Awards Committee, said the awards, which are given twice annually, are in their eighth year. “The Essence Awards are given to students and adults who have made outstanding contribution to the GHS community,” he said.

Student Council President Amanda Siskin said the awards are in line with the school’s mission statement and reward hard work and diligence, as well as being kind to others. “I think one of the most impressive things about the Essence Awards is even though it’s all based on that mission statement, it’s also a different kind of award for everyone who receives it,” Siskin said. “Each of the recipients today has done something different in order to receive it, and that’s really incredible.”

Music teacher Dr. Ethan Nash was nominated by teachers Ray Laramie and Anita deMercado and staffer Kathy Kray. Besides being director of the concert choir and chorus, he has also been musical director of the drama club’s musicals, the men’s choir and the madrigals. “Each year his productions become more professional and polished, and the audiences grow,” deMercado said.

“He is truly passionate about his work,” Kray added.

Nash said he was “really touched” by the award, and thanked his family and fellow staff members.

Teacher Nina Skarvelas said she was one of three teachers to nominate junior Justin Kretzmer for an award, in part because during her first year teaching at GHS, Kretzmer made her feel welcome. “Justin would walk by my class every day, and without fail he would say hello,” she said. “To me, that was pretty remarkable, for an individual who I didn’t have as a student to reach out and say, ‘How are you?’ It may seem insignificant, but it meant a great deal to me.” Skarvelas added that many other students began to follow Kretzmer’s example.

Seniors Nicholas Karp and John Ostrowski were nominated because of their dedication to community service. Teacher Mark Dursin explained that the two wanted to join Key Club, but couldn’t find the time, due to their commitments to athletic teams. “Then they realized they actually could do something… Instead of joining a service organization,” Dursin said, “they could create one – one that would allow them to do their volunteer work after their athletic commitments.”

The students created a group called Post Game and recruited other student athletes to shovel snow for elderly neighbors, collect items for food drives, and help provide Christmas gifts for needy families.

Neagle nominated teacher and Key Club advisor Peter Marshall. “I believe Peter’s role in making Key Club an integral part of our efforts to bring clean water to Africa, to challenge our own students to use water responsibly here at school, to help feed the hungry and starving all around the world – is deserving of our recognition,” Neagle said.

Marshall said he admires Neagle’s dedication to community service at the school, and values the student community and their work helping others as well, especially that of the Key Club. “These kids are amazing,” he said. “I cannot tell you how hard they work.”

Teacher Robert Markowicz said he nominated GHS office staffer Marilyn Weil for several reasons. “Marilyn is a tireless worker,” he said, adding that she often handles a large number of students and their issues each day, and does so professionally and with kindness. “She treats kids with respect,” he said. “They sense that. They sense that she likes them and they like her, too. A lesser person would not have the patience and support that Marilyn shows these kids.”

Weil choked back tears during part of her acceptance speech as she thanked her mother and father, who were present in the audience, for her work ethic. She said she truly enjoys working with the students, parents, staff and administrators every day. “We all work together as a team, and it’s just a wonderful place to work,” Weil said. “I just feel as if I have the best job in the world.”

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