PTA looks to unite Warde, Ludlowe students
Updated 12:27 am, Friday, February 17, 2017
FAIRFIELD — Over a candlelit lunch among a sea of pink and red, seniors dined on a menu crafted, cooked and served by local teens while a student string ensemble accompanied the meal.
For the first time at the Bigelow Center for Senior Activities, the teens represented students from both of the town’s public high schools, working together and donning uniform garb to create a Valentine’s Day luncheon for more than 150 Fairfield seniors. The event was among the first on a new “One Town, One PTA” calendar seeking to unite students and parents from Fairfield Ludlowe and Warde high schools.
“It’s cooking; it’s music,” Ludlowe PTA President Alison Jones Allen said. “It’s the two schools coming together.”
The Tuesday luncheon, which also aimed to bring together seniors and students, is just one way the schools can or do work together, Allen said.
“One Town, One PTA” represents a collaborative effort between Warde and Ludlowe’s PTAs to highlight and host events for town high schoolers. On the tentative calendar are a Ludlowe and Warde Diversity Club Talent Show, which was planned for Thursday, school-organized Anti-Defamation League presentations and joint PTA events. PTA programming includes movie nights, a visit in May from alumni to talk about what they wish they had known leaving high school and an Images of Empathy Festival” in June to round out the school year.
The “One Town, One PTA” calendar comes in the wake of divisive discussion over the high schools’ relationship after a racial slur was used by a Ludlowe student during a soccer match against Warde in the fall.
But the decision to organize more joint events — especially ones with an emphasis on empathy — is not directly related, according to Allen. Instead, it is an attempt to continue to emphasize an already close, united community many feel represents the actual relationship between the schools.
At the Valentine’s Day senior center luncheon, four students from Ludlowe and four from Warde formed a single orchestra for the afternoon to accompany the meal. Family and Consumer Science teachers Rachel Keleher, of Ludlowe and its Falcon’s Nest restaurant, and Mary Ellen O’Connor, of Warde and its Barlow’s restaurant, led a group of their students to prepare and serve chicken Caesar salad, rolls, chocolate cupcakes topped with chocolate love-themed garnishes and cookies and brownies, some heart-shaped or adorned in themed sprinkles.
For students, some saw an opportunity to meet more fellow high schoolers sharing their culinary or musical interests, much as PTA planners had hoped.
After finishing a nearly hourlong performance to a standing ovation, violist and Warde senior Addy Pedro felt the group blended together as they played, a bit rough at first because the joint string ensemble had never had a chance to rehearse together beforehand. But she was glad for a rare opportunity to play with her Ludlowe counterparts.
“It was a good experience to have — especially with the Ludlowe kids — because we don’t get a lot of opportunities to play with them,” Pedro said. “The last time we were able to was two years ago, and it’s just nice to be able to get together in a small group and get to know the other people.”
Pedro knew two of the Ludlowe musicians, but she found while Warde and Ludlowe students often know each other within the Fairfield community, she enjoyed the event allowing a chance to play together and strengthen bonds and friendships.
“It’s a lot easier to connect with people,” she said, of meeting fellow music students. “I find in general most of my friends are musicians, anyway.”
After working with fellow culinary students to prepare the salads in the senior center kitchen, Warde senior Geno Iacurci appreciated the chance to work collaboratively.
“This is also a good way to meet other people that want to get into culinary, maybe,” he said.
His grandmother and her friends were among the diners, and Iacurci said catering and serving lunch felt “like a rewarding thing.”
“It’s good to do,” he said.
Terry Giegengack, the town’s director of human services, who oversees the senior center, said she appreciated the young students coming in, bringing “vibrancy and life.” While culinary and music students from both schools have catered and performed at the senior center , this was the first event that featured groups from both schools together.
There was no sense of competition, Giegengack said, just of students working together.