Grace Clark, a junior at Newtown High School, said she always knew she would want to apply for her Girl Scout Gold Award when the time came, but did not know until last year that her project would create a music mentoring program between high school students and elementary school students.
On Monday, March 25, the first day of the new program was held, and Grace said it was a success.
Grace has been a Girl Scout since she was very young, has played the piano since she was in third grade, is now in the NHS marching band, and also plays with the Norwalk Youth Symphony as a percussionist.
Last year while thinking about what her Girl Scout Gold Award project would be, a friend asked Grace whether she had considered doing something with kids. That was April 2012. Nearly one-year later, Grace now oversees 19 high school mentors who help 103 elementary school students play a range of instruments in the afternoons at NHS. Lessons are held every weekday, but each elementary school student attends a lesson once a week, according to Grace.
Everything, Grace said, is going “better than I thought it would ever be.”
To recruit her fellow high school students for the program, which Grace called HEMMA (High school Elementary Musicianship Mentoring Association), she handed out flyers and spoke to a number of music classes at the high school.
Flyers were also sent home to parents to announce the program for the elementary-aged students. The response was overwhelming, said Grace, and there are no openings for more students to be mentored now.
To run HEMMA Grace said she has a board of four students — Student Board Treasurer Elizabeth Charash, Student Board Communications Expert Alex Lampel, HEMMA Student Board Vice President Richie Sadlon, and herself.
“It’s definitely going to continue,” said Grace, about the program lasting beyond her set 2014 graduation from NHS, “and hopefully expand.”
Each of the high school students who offer their time as mentors earn community service hours, Grace said, adding, “and of course the rewarding experience of working with children. It’s a lot of fun.”
A Newtown HEMMA Facebook page and a NHS_HEMMA Twitter account have also started to chronicle the efforts of HEMMA.
Grace also said one big plan for HEMMA in the works is a recital for students in June, which may also feature local bands.
High school mentors working with HEMMA are Nathyn Horovath, Emma Jane Tallon, Sam Omalyev, Gemma Hyeon, Emma Brantl, Dan Spillane, Corey Hilton, Dawson Goodrich, Sophie Kennen, Sarah Riccio, Ryan Moyer, Sasha Nanavaty, Michelle Green, Julia Preszler, AnneMarie LaRussa, Michelle Spanedda, Katie Stawiasz, and Richie Sadlon.
Grace also listed adults who have been supportive of HEMMA, including HEMMA advisor Chris Carley, all parents of HEMMA mentors and students, Jane Matson, Kurt Eckhardt, Chris Lee, and Michelle Hiscavich, NHS Music Department staff, Newtown’s Elementary School principals, her Girl Scout troop leaders, her Gold Award Mentor Hilary Micalizzi, and her parents, Rick and Beverly Clark.
Applying for a Gold Award is a long process, and Grace said it is still ongoing.