Thursday, December 18, 2008

Looking Beyond Main Street and Wall Street to Those Stranded on the Street: Pt 1

By Margaret DeJesus (

BOSTON--(Dec.18,2008) Kyla Middleton carried a heavy burden at a young age. When she walked the halls of her elementary school she appeared like any other fourth grader, but something gnawed at her beneath the surface.

“I felt like I always had something to hide,” said Middleton.

“It was tough seeing my classmates make plans. ‘Oh, you want to come to my house after school and hang out?’ ‘Yeah, sure what time?’” she acted out the scenario changing the inflection in her voice.

Like any fourth grader would, she longed to have her own play dates.

“I could never invite my friends over,” she explained.

Her “secret” was that she had no room to call her own and no home to live in. At nine years old she was homeless. Along with her mother and two younger brothers, she lived out of a small motel room in 2003 paid for by Massachusetts.

“There was always that little thing there that said you’re worse than everybody else,” she said dropping her arm by her side.

Middleton, who is now 14, stood tall before students at Emmanuel College on November 16 to educate them on how that nagging feeling of unworthiness can haunt so many homeless children and families.

“If the people that were actually homeless and know what it’s like don’t stand up and say anything, then how will anyone know anything about it?” said Middleton in an interview after her speech. “A piece of paper with statistics doesn’t tell you everything.”

Advocates say the number of homeless families has skyrocketed in Massachusetts, which has led many to once again be placed in motels due to overcrowded shelters.

According to Kristina Barry, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), approximately 640 families are currently housed in motels across the state.

“Homeless families are placed in motels only in emergency situations when there is no available shelter,” she said in an email.

The issue of homelessness in Massachusetts and across the United States does not seem likely to disappear soon despite well intentioned efforts by officials like Governor Deval Patrick to eliminate it. According to advocates, lack of affordable housing options, misguided public perceptions and the declining economy’s effect on the shelter system will make it extremely difficult to stop the cycle of homelessness.

“Hurricane Katrina showed that when a problem is so massive we, our governments, our charity systems, are not set up to deal with masses of people who have nothing,” said Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), a nonprofit organization. “It was the initial red flag that our system for helping people is broken.”

The impact the foreclosure crisis will have on increasing the number of homeless may not be felt for some time according to Stoops. The people who have lost their homes “won’t become homeless overnight” and “may not join their ranks” for a couple of years, he said.

Stoops pointed out that along with the income they might be able to rely on, there is also the natural support system of family and friends. If that doesn’t work, the next steps could be living out of a car or renting a cheap motel room for a week.

“Their worst nightmare would be to become literally homeless or having to go to a shelter,” he said in a telephone interview.

BOSTON--(Nov.16, 2008) Cheryl Middleton and her daughter Kyla speak about how it felt to be homeless before students at Emmanuel College as part of the National Coalition for the Homeless' Speaker's Bureau.

A Shelter is Not a Home:Pt 2

By Margaret DeJesus (

As a single mother of three children, Cheryl Middleton and her oldest daughter Kyla had to do all they could to make the best of their situation. After losing her job and her house in 2003, Middleton reached out to the DTA. The family was placed in a motel for more than 10 months. Middleton couldn’t afford the rent at a market rate apartment and was on a long list for Section 8, a federal program that subsidizes rent and is designed to help low income families with rent.

“In the beginning I tried to pretend like it was a mini vacation with the kids,” she said. “But when you realize that it’s a place where you’re stuck, where you have to stay, it ain’t a vacation anymore.”

“I tried to do so many things every single day to make that hotel room feel like a home,” said Middleton’s daughter Kyla. “I even once tried to make Ramen noodles to make it feel like we had a home cooked meal,” she said explaining how the room didn’t have a kitchen.

Now Cheryl Middleton serves as a board member on various groups that address affordable housing issues in her community of West Medford and lives in an apartment with her family.

“Looking at those little faces everyday kept me going. They were my drive,” she said.

According to Middleton, homelessness costs in many different ways, but ultimately it costs your dignity and your pride.

Randy Eck knows this all too well.

Eck has been homeless seven times since 1992, the last time being in 2005.

“That’s a road I don’t want to go down again,” he said in his hoarse, raspy voice. A longtime smoker, his vocal chords never quite recovered after a severe cold he had a few years ago. The 40-year-old also suffers from cerebral palsy and chronic depression.

Eck now has his own apartment and works as the director of operations at Spare Change News, a newspaper designed for and sold by Boston’s homeless. In the cramped office located in the basement of Old Cambridge Baptist Church, in Cambridge, he answers the phone and distributes papers to those looking to make some cash as a vendor.

“There’s what you think it is and then there’s the way it actually is,” he said about spending time in the city’s homeless shelters.

Eck compared the shelter environment to the Mount Doom depicted in the Lord of the Rings films based on the popular novels by J.R.R. Tolkien.

“Sleeping with your wallet in the front of your pants can get uncomfortable after awhile,” he said matter-of-factly and with a laugh. He explained that most guests of shelters keep their belongings close by to prevent theft of what little they have.

According to Eck, people like himself who are not yet enrolled in a shelter’s program or system most likely will spend the night on a mat on the floor as there are not always enough beds.

“And you’re not guaranteed that the person sleeping right beside you won’t wet themselves in their sleep,” he added. Since it’s usually tight quarters, Eck said it was common for people’s tempers to flare up during the night.

“If you accidentally roll over into the guy next to you trying to sleep, he could snap and then you have yourself a fight at two in the morning,” he said.

Although he understands that “shelters have a lot of people they are trying to help,” unfriendly staff and rations on food and even toilet paper were nevertheless frustrating. He put down the liter of Mountain Dew he was gulping down and his eyes became watery.

“You begin to lose your humanity after a while,” he said.

As the December rain pounded against the window and the icy wind howled, Eck pointed out how on a night like this the lines outside shelters would be especially long. He was accustomed to lining up at 7 p.m. at the Kingston House in downtown Boston for a place to sleep, but by 7 a.m. it was back to the streets. He said some might head to “Sally’s”, the street slang for the Salvation Army, or “you could go to South Station and hang out.”

“That’s the part I never understood. Where am I supposed to go now?” he said.

Homeless Shelters Feeling the Effects of the Economic Decline:Pt 3

By Margaret DeJesus (

While more people struggle to make ends meet in the weak economy, homeless shelter directors worry about increased demands for space and less donations to run on.

“When corporate commerce fails like it is right now, you have people getting laid off and now they have new issues in their own life to deal with,” said Michael Fetcho, the Boston Rescue Mission’s director of community outreach.

Major wage earners who lost their jobs might “take care of their own immediate needs” and not be able to donate as much money to nonprofit organizations and shelters. Struggling businesses also might not be in a position to make larger gifts.

According to Fetcho most human service organizations raise about 50 percent of their money in the last three months of the calendar year, which includes the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

“Everyone thinks of giving in the holiday season. Offices have parties and people donate. The Salvation Army rings bells on street corners,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s wonderful but it all ends in January and the needs are just as great the rest of the year. We have to spend nine months chasing the other 50 percent.”

Fetcho said department stores can hold sales and promotions to recoup their losses in later months unlike shelters that rely on getting it right the first time.

“I can’t do Christmas again in February. If we come out of this quarter weak, there’s more pressure to raise money during the time when people are not thinking of philanthropy,” said Fetcho.

Shelters like St. Francis House and Pine Street Inn are already noticing a decrease in cash donations.

“Those who are concerned about their poor brothers and sisters seem to be volunteering and making food and clothing donations instead of giving money. The manpower is tremendously helpful, but with fewer monetary donations, it’s difficult for nonprofits to meet the increased need,” said Elizabeth Lund, the director of communications at St. Francis House.

According to Barbara Trevisan, Pine Street Inn has been forced to purchase more food. Companies that donate excess food have cut back their inventory and are preparing less to give away. She also said less food is coming from the Greater Boston Food Bank because their demand has gone way up.

Rosie’s Place, a women’s shelter in the South End, is serving more women as of late.

“Our advocates are seeing 50 new women each week. In September our food pantry distributed 1,400 bags of groceries, a 50 percent increase from the number of bags we distributed last September,” said Lori LaDuke, communications director at Rosie’s Place.

“We are seeing guests coming to Rosie’s Place who have lost their apartments due to foreclosures on the building and women who have lost their jobs and can no longer afford to pay rent, utilities and groceries,” said LaDuke in an email.

Pine Street Inn has already seen a 40 percent increase in the number of people seeking support there while St. Francis House is serving about 100 meals more a day than usual according to Trevisan and Lund.

“With every new wave of layoffs and foreclosures, people will become homeless and many more will teeter on the brink,” said Lund.

According to Kristina Barry of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, approximately 1,200 families have already entered shelters since the 2009 fiscal year began.

Advocates expect the number of homeless families and individuals to be even higher this year. Last year’s annual homeless census coordinated by Mayor Thomas Menino indicated 6,901 as the total number of homeless men, women and children in Boston. The number was an increase of 3.9 percent from 2006 while the number of homeless families jumped by 17 percent. The results from this year’s census held Monday night are being calculated.

Shelter advocates are concerned about state budget cuts during the country’s economic recession and how to absorb the increased demand for help it is causing.

“Up to this point, the shelters' budgets have been spared through the first round of state budget cuts. However, we fully expect that we will experience cutbacks when the governor has to make further cuts in January or March,” said Michael Libby, director of programs at the Somerville Homeless Coalition.

According to Libby, cuts could “translate into layoffs, less staffing and dramatically reduced hours of operation,” where guests may only be able to enter the shelter late in the day and leave earlier in the morning.

There isn’t any state funding available for winter overflow shelter beds this year according to Jim Greene, director of Boston’s Emergency Shelter Commission.

Although shelters were meant to be a transitional aid for people in need of emergency help, they have often been looked to as a more permanent solution.

“When you put cots and beds up after a natural disaster like a flood in the Midwest, the original intent is for short term relief so people can eventually return to housing,” said Greene in a telephone interview.

The failed economic and housing policies that resulted in too many people with too little income to afford high cost housing, unfortunately makes homelessness a harder situation to resolve he said.

“Homelessness isn’t short term or short lived so it’s become a long term problem,” he said explaining how the shelter system evolved into the longer term solution.

More Than Spare Change is Needed: Pt 4

By Margaret DeJesus (

“Part of the public perception of homelessness is based on what we’re all used to seeing, a guy drinking on a park bench or those stemmers begging for money,” said Eck, who spent years being homeless following his downward spiral from chronic depression.“You might look at them and think, ‘If you can shake a cup for eight hours a day then why can’t you go get a job?”

Stoops, NCH spokesman, said many people tend to briskly walk by the homeless asking for help in the streets because they know homelessness can happen to them too.

“The reason we ignore the homeless in the streets is because we know that could be us and America has this looking out for number one attitude, yourself and your own family, and everyone else be damned because you can only help so many people at a time,” he said.

During their speech to local college students, the Middletons of west Medford stressed that money wasn’t the only way to help the homeless.

“You don’t always have to give money every time you see someone on the street. All you have to do is say, ‘Hi or God bless you,’ and just give that person a sense of hope or dignity,” said 14-year-old Kyla Middleton.

Mentally ill, alcoholic or drug addicts are just a few adjectives that might come to mind for some when conceptualizing who makes up the homeless population.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, many cities are passing laws against sleeping and panhandling on the sidewalk.

“This can give the perception to teenagers that the homeless are low lives, scum and even the city wants to get rid of them,” said Stoops.

He referenced the infamous and disturbing “Bum Fights” DVD series popularized on the internet which depicts homeless individuals being coerced to do dangerous and outrageous acts for small amounts of money and alcohol. Stoops said many teenagers post videos to the web of their own acts of violence against the homeless.

“They’re (the homeless) there, they’re visible and they won’t be able to fight back,” he said.
Because of this negative perception, poverty can sometimes be conceived as a punishment for bad behavior or substance abuse.

“Homelessness was very great in the Great Depression, but drug and alcohol abuse was not,” said Brendan O’Flaherty, an economics professor at Columbia University in New York.

O’Flaherty based his 1996 book Making Room about the causes of rising homelessness around economic analysis of housing markets instead of merely explaining it in terms of destructive habits.

Middleton’s daughter said that a multitude of issues are connected to homelessness and need to be addressed.

“I love advocating to end homelessness but I think everyone is putting too much energy into one thing. There’s many other things, like education. In this country if you don’t go to college you probably won’t get a job. Or health care, if people can’t pay for it then they could end up on the streets,” she said.

Many advocates say that attention should be focused on providing affordable housing rather than depending on emergency shelters to help the homeless.

“A shelter is a cost we pay that doesn’t necessarily result in long term stability and economic opportunity that you want for families,” said Greene, Boston’s Emergency Shelter Commissioner. “Housing is an investment because it’s stable and allows a family to be a part of a neighborhood with schools, shops, and places to work.”

Eck, who experienced homelessness, also said that “more opportunities to be self sufficient are needed,” but recognized how human nature tends to prefer the quick fix.

“We all want to bandage the problem. If the pipe above my head starts to drip, I’ll put some tape around the hole. If it still drips, then I’ll get a bucket to put under it. And if it keeps dripping and dripping I’ll keep getting buckets instead of fixing the actual problem,” he said.

Governor Deval Patrick’s plan proposed last year to end homelessness by 2013 puts greater emphasis on providing permanent housing and taking steps to prevent people from slipping into homelessness. According to the 2007 Homeless Commission’s Report, “A key defining principle for the new system is targeting the right resources to the right people at the right time.”

“I think the worst economic circumstance since the Great Depression will present enormous challenges, but the level of commitment and partnership between city, state and local partners on this issue is extraordinary in Massachusetts,” said Greene.

According to Stoops of the NCH, a solution to ending homelessness comes down to more of a grassroots level nationwide.

“If average Americans are talking about it then officials will respond and provide leadership. I don’t care who does it, whether it be a celebrity, the Pope, Bill Gates, or Ted Kennedy. Someone has to make ending poverty a priority, because right now it’s not a priority,” he said.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Boston Bruins Unveil New Third Jersey With Fans

By Margaret DeJesus (

BOSTON--(Nov.24,2008) Bruins center Patrice Bergeron signs some autographs for fans at TD Banknorth Garden. Even though the players were scheduled to leave at 4 p.m., Bergeron along with Blake Wheeler and Milan Lucic stuck around after to make sure those who were still in line got a signature.

Over 700 fans turned out for the Bruins third jersey launch at the Pro Shop in TD Banknorth Garden Monday afternoon. They waited in line in the cloudy, cold afternoon for over an hour to catch the six team members (Zdeno Chara, Phil Kessel, Tim Thomas, Blake Wheeler, Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron) that were on hand to sign autographs.

Fans who purchased a new jersey were rewarded with a free autographed photo and the opportunity for the players to sign the new black and gold sweater.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ballroom Dancing Without the Stars

BOSTON-(Nov. 20, 2008)--Boston University students practice their tango under the guidance of ballroom dance instructor John Paul in the University’s Student Activities Center.

By Margaret DeJesus (

“Slow, quick, quick, slow,” John Paul instructed his ballroom dance students. He glided across the floor in his shiny black shoes chanting the words over and over. It created a rhythm for the American style tango that only they seemed to understand.

When watching the students of the Thursday night advanced ballroom dance class it became clear that every turn of the head, snap of the wrist or twirl of the foot mattered and had to be executed perfectly.

Precision, memory and grace were on display in Boston University’s activities center.
Ballroom dancing originated centuries ago as the elegant dance of choice for the old and wealthy. Today it has a much broader reach beyond the gala or wedding hall.

You don’t necessarily have to be Fred Astaire to enjoy the art form, competitive sport, or recreational pastime. College students and even couch potatoes are taking notice and looking to get in on the fun.

Ballroom dancing encompasses 19 types of dances ranging from the upbeat jive to the provocative tango. The dances are divided into the two categories of American or International. Since it’s a partner style dance that requires a man and a woman to work together in unison, it’s not uncommon for sparks of romance to develop.

Anne Marie Paul met her husband John at a dance teacher seminar where he asked her to save him a dance, and she obliged.

The pair have danced together professionally in competitions and each teaches at local colleges like BU and at DanceSport Boston, the studio they co-own.

Although sparks can fly, Paul said in a telephone interview that ballroom dancing is a wonderful and unique art form that can also be a great social tool and form of exercise.

“It’s an exercise that a man and a woman can do together where they just socialize as friends, move to the music and grow as people. Where else are you going to get that?”

Paul has been teaching ballroom dance for over 20 years. She got hooked after graduating from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design with a degree in fashion design.

She meshed her love of fashion with her desire to dance and answered an ad in the paper looking for people interested in being trained to teach ballroom dance.

“Next thing I knew I had a partner and was competing professionally. I found something I really loved to do 26 years ago when I answered that ad,” she said.

The popular television show “Dancing with the Stars” may be awakening the inner dancer in others.

Whether she’s getting her nails done or waiting on line at the supermarket, Paul said she hears people talking about moves from the show all the time.

“It’s educating people on what a quickstep is or what a paso doble looks like. At least they have a clue now,” said Paul, who trained some South Shore realtors for the ‘Dancing with the Realtors’ charity competition for Habitat for Humanity.

“I think ‘Dancing with the Stars’ changed the perception of it (ballroom dancing) and showed people that ‘Yes, the average person can do this,’” said Paul. “It really helps us (teachers), because before, people were in the dark about it. They thought it was just something their grandmother did.”

But, she admitted that the average person doesn’t have the gift of time. A grueling work schedule would be required to replicate some of the dances so quickly. Getting the arms, head and feet to cooperate with the musicality, presentation and timing technique isn’t as easy as it looks.

“It might take two or three years for the average person to get it down like that, since they can’t come in four hours a day for six days of the week like they do on the show,” she said about the time commitment necessary to learn at such a fast pace.

Allison Chang, co-president of MIT’s Ballroom Dance Club had a different opinion of the show’s effect.

“The show is very entertaining to watch, but it also illustrates how difficult ballroom dancing can be,” she said in an email. “While I do believe more people are now more aware of what ballroom dancing means, they don't necessarily feel more encouraged to try it themselves.”

Chang started ballroom dancing at MIT with her sister Emily because it “seemed like a lot of fun and because it's a nice social skill to have.”

Ballroom dancing has a presence on many of Boston’s college campuses like Northeastern University, Harvard, Tufts and BU. It’s even the inspiration for various groups on social networking sites like Facebook and its “I ballroom danced before Dancing with the Stars made it cool” group.

And ballroom dancing doesn’t just work with the traditional classical instrumentation but there’s even room for the hip hop and pop music of the present to make its way on the competitive dance floor.

“Each dance has a specific rhythm and tempo. As long as the music fits the rhythm and tempo requirements, whether it's more traditional or contemporary, it will work,” said Emily Chang, a sophomore MIT graduate student and co-president of the club with her sister Allison.

Christina Aguilera’s “Come on Over” and the Pussycat Dolls “Don’t Cha” can be good tunes to practice the cha-cha while Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” could work well with a samba according to the BU Ballroom Dance Club’s website.

Even though the stars on TV make it look effortless, they’re following very specific patterns that can be learned with patience and practice.

“Learning the basic steps does not take long. Usually one or two beginner workshops are sufficient. In order to really master the techniques and look comfortable, though, you would mostlikely have to practice several times each week,” said Chang.

And although the list of dances, 19 to be exact, may look intimidating, knowing one or two goes a long way.

“There are many different styles, but some of them are related. Foxtrot is a little bit like quickstep, cha-cha is a little bit like rumba and salsa. So knowing one dance can help you learn another one faster,” said Chang.

Dancers need to be in great shape if they want to swing to a samba or have the stamina to fox trot in style.

“If you’ve never exercised in 20 years, we got some work to do,” said Anne Marie Paul, who’s been teaching since 1984. “Not everyone has the same goals, abilities or talents. There’s going to be highs and lows, injuries and setbacks. Part of the fun is getting there,” she said.

Paul said she’s seen a recent surge in people age 30 to 60 coming into the studio to learn the dance moves.

“When they try it out, it’s like finding a hidden gem they didn’t know they had before,” she said.
Paul said her studio has something for everyone, with showcases and competitions for the experts and fun parties for the rookies to show off their new moves.

“You can go out and use the skills you learn at the nightclub or you could have fun being a star or a Cinderella for the night with the glittery dress or big gown. And that goes for the guys too who just love the limelight and wish they could be in it.”

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bruins Continue to Offer Discounted Tickets for College Students

BOSTON-(Nov. 14, 2008)—Bruins’ fans Dan Reggiannini (left) and Matt Young (right) enjoy the B’s game versus the Montreal Canadiens in the discounted student section at TD Banknorth Garden on Thursday night.

By Margaret DeJesus (
The Boston Bruins are working extra hard this season to win games and also to win over young fans by offering low priced student tickets on weeknights and granting media access to college papers.
Students can catch games between Monday and Thursday nights for as low as 23 dollars which is about half the price of a ticket in a regular section. Thirteen rows in sections 320 and 321 of TD Banknorth Garden are allotted for students to purchase.
Students in section 320 at the Montreal Canadiens game last Thursday gave the promotion a thumbs up.
“Absolutely it’s a great idea,” said Dan Reggiannini, a senior at Lasell College in Newton about the deal.
Reggiannini said he buys the discount tickets for at least 10 Bruins games a year along with his friend Matt Young. The pair said they’ve been going since they started college in 2006 when the promotion began.
The seats situated in the upper section to the side of a goal net aren’t too bad either and the opposing teams that come to town usually make for a good match according to the students.
“The corner angle is good because you can see the whole ice and play of the game,” said Reggiannini.
“This is what you want,” said Young about the type of teams the Bruins face on student nights.
“It’s Montreal and these are good seats for 20 bucks,” he said.
According to Matthew Chmura, the Bruins director of communications, one of Boston’s greatest attributes is “the students that are here.”
Another way the Bruins are trying to win over the college crowd is by granting aspiring sports reporters media access to the team.
Recognizing how influential student newspapers can be, Chmura said in a telephone interview, “it’s another way for us to make sure we get our message out about our games and how entertaining they can be.”
Once a hopeful journalist himself as a college student at Holy Cross, Chmura said, “It’s almost an obligation for the Bruins to give the students access. It can only help those people who have aspirations in the field and we’re hopeful that they’ll take part.”
Korin Hasegawa-John, the Inside NHL writer for the Tufts Daily, the university’s student paper, said he’s been given access to the press box, the locker rooms, and the post game press conferences at the Bruins games this season.
“For anyone considering a career in the print journalism field, the chance to talk to pro athletes without the additional pressure of being a professional reporter is a great developmental step,” said Hasegawa-John in an email.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Boston Bruins Beat Canadiens 6-1

By Margaret DeJesus (

BOSTON-(Nov.14, 2008)—The Bruins may have been sleepy but they were hungry for a win and it showed when they clobbered the Montreal Canadiens 6-1 last night at TD Banknorth Garden.

The team exploded for three unanswered goals in the first period despite returning to Boston from Chicago early this morning after defeating the Blackhawks in a shootout the previous night.

With the big win, the Bruins finally snapped a 12-game regular season losing streak against their division rival.

“Maybe they felt tired but they really wanted this game and it showed… They’ve gone a lot of games against us without a win. We just weren’t ready for whatever reason,” said Montreal’s captain Saku Koivu after the game.

Koivu scored his team’s lone goal in the second period on a wrap around shot after Bruins goaltender Manny Fernandez lost control of the puck.

BOSTON-(Nov. 13, 2008)--Montreal Canadiens' Captain Saku Koivu reflects on his team's 6-1 loss in the away team locker room at TD Banknorth Garden.

Gritty fourth line forward Shawn Thornton scored the first goal of the night and his first of the season for the Bruins on a backhand shot just two minutes into the game after poke checking the puck away from the Canadiens in their own zone.

Thornton’s line, with Chuck Kobasew and Stephane Yelle had seven points in the game.
Fernandez, who made 27 saves, got lucky in the first period as a shot ripped past him only to clink off the goal post which could have shifted the momentum back to Montreal.

After the Canadiens failed to convert on the first powerplay of the game, the Bruins took off and never looked back.

Yelle fired a wrist shot past Canadiens’ goalie Carey Price to make the score 2-0 after being denied on his first shot attempt on the play and Marco Sturm made it 3-0 after scoring on the power play.

Yelle got his second goal of the game late in the third period making it 6-1 to add salt to the wound of the Canadiens. Montreal’s goalie was taunted throughout the game as fans sang “Carey” louder and louder each time a goal was allowed.

“I think us being on a roll previous to this game helped us with our confidence tonight,” said rookie forward and breakout star Milan Lucic, who had a goal in the game.

The Bruins had won four games in a row and seven of their last eight.

When Lucic dropped the gloves and fought Canadien defenseman Mike Komisarek at 7:25 of the third period, the crowd of 16,816 erupted in cheers. After winning the fight, the forward roared along with them the whole way to the penalty box.

“When the fans are screaming and they’re pumped up it gets you even more pumped up,” he told reporters after the game. “It’s pretty much adrenaline going through me.”

It was clear that the revived rivalry between the two clubs was still burning after their exciting playoff series battle last season.

Team USA jerseys and an American flag could be seen among the crowd which occasionally burst into “U-S-A” chants. Not to be outdone, the large number of Canadiens’ fans in attendance made sure to sing out their proverbial “Ole, ole ole,” song.

Bruins Coach Claude Julien said he thought his team “showed so much character” and “resiliency and determination tonight.”

“We certainly went out there with a lot of jump,” he said in the post game press conference. “I thought our guys were great and their character certainly showed tonight.”

The Bruins are continuing to exceed expectations as they are at the top of the Northeast Division and only three points away from a first place spot in the Eastern Conference. The B’s face off against the league leading New York Rangers on Saturday.

The three stars of the game were Marco Sturm (LW), Shawn Thornton (LW) and Milan Lucic (LW).
Sturm has three goals in his last two games after scoring two last night and one against Chicago on Wednesday.
Andrew Ference was injured in last night’s game and will be out of the lineup for 6 to 8 weeks with a broken tibia.
The game was the second of four Original Six team matchups in a row this week as the Bruins faced the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday and the Montreal Canadiens last night. On Saturday the B’s play the New York Rangers before heading to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

BOSTON-(Nov. 13, 2008)--Boston Bruins forwards and three star selections of the night Marco Sturm, Milan Lucic and Stephane Yelle talk about the team's big win.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

BU Parties Like it's 2009

By Margaret DeJesus (

On election night I had a paper to work on (Shocker, right?). I got sidetracked and typed some thoughts on the fly in my open WORD doc. Here are my procrastinating ramblings and videos from the night kept just as they were.

Tonight, November 4, 2008, is a historical night. America has begun to write a new chapter in its book of history. Outside my window in Boston, students are dancing and cheering in the streets as though the Red Sox just won a big game. Cars honk away, bells ring and music blasts in the dorm across the hall. Well, the idiots next door always crank up the volume on their speakers, but I’d like to think they’re celebrating too.

Tonight, the 44th president of the United States was elected. Chicago looks like a rock concert with thousands of fans clamoring in a park.

Tonight, an African American is the president elect. In a country where there was once slavery, segregation and Jim Crow; in a country where Emmett Till and Medger Evers were ruthlessly murdered; in a country where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated; in a country where fire hoses were used to shoot water at students protesting discrimination at a lunch counter, an African American is now president.

Tonight, I put my politics aside and looked at the history I was witnessing.

Tonight, I can’t help but relish in this moment and I can’t really explain why. I’m not a Democrat and I’m not a Republican. I don’t know if raising taxes on small businesses is a good idea, and I’m not sure if Iraq was the way to go. I’m not sure if I’m totally for or against abortion and I’m not sure if the bailout was the right remedy for the ailing economy.

I’m sure that something changed tonight.
BOSTON-(Nov. 5,2008) Commonwealth Avenue looks like a Red Sox party for President-Elect Obama between 12-1:30 a.m. as about a hundred or so students celebrate his victory in the street.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Coldplay Viva La Vida at the Garden

BOSTON--(Oct.29, 2008) Coldplay, the popular British rock band, performs in front of a sold out crowd at TD Banknorth Garden on their Viva La Vida tour.

By Margaret DeJesus (

BOSTON--(Oct. 29,2008) “It’s going to be a good one,” said Chris Martin, the lead singer of Coldplay, into the microphone at the start of the concert. In fact, it was a great one.

Martin, along with Jonny Buckland on guitar, Guy Berryman on bass and Will Champion on drums, put on a brilliant show before the sold out crowd at TD Banknorth Garden on Wednesday night.

The spectacle of spacey lights and effects enhanced their solid performance and kept the Garden rocking for the 90 minute set.

Coldplay opened strong with “Violet Hill,” the thundering first single off of their latest album “Viva La Vida.”

Then the group wasted no time delving into old favorites like “Clocks,” “In My Place,” and “Speed of Sound.”

The stage appeared deceivingly plain initially with the French Revolution themed album cover serving as a backdrop for the first few songs. When the bright lights dimmed, the backdrop became a giant screen for "Cemeteries of London." Large spheres hung above like planets switching between colors and live images of the band performing while laser lights calmly swayed up and down.

Martin and his bandmates fed off of the crowd's energy.

The lead singer was practically drowned out by the choir of 19,000 singing along with him on the rock ballad “Fix You.”

Whether he was twirling, leaping, or making monkey noises for laughs, Martin seemed to enjoy bouncing around the stage.

“Incredible singing on a Wednesday night,” he said afterward to the crowd’s delight.

The new material went over well too.

With arms outstretched in the air he bellowed out, “It’s such a perfect day,” the chorus of “Strawberry Swing,” while the fans clapped the rhythm in unison.

Buckland’s guitar solo on the song “42”, which starts out pretty mellow like the Coldplay of old and then explodes into a new realm of rock, got many members of the crowd to play along on air guitar.

After a heartfelt rendition of “The Hardest Part,” which Martin crooned on in a lower octave than usual, “Viva La Vida” boomed out. The powerhouse anthem got the already energetic crowd, which stood for the whole set, jumping and dancing again.

It’s a wonder the band wasn’t torn to shreds by adoring fans when all four members strolled off the stage and up the steps into a section of the arena before the first encore. Yes, they walked right up into a section of the Garden, instruments and microphone in tow and played an acoustic version of “The Scientist,” a hit single from their second album.

Martin jokingly called it, “a romantic song about the governor of Alaska,” which evoked a loud mix of laughter, boos and cheers. “Politics aside, she’s an [expletive] superbabe,” he said into the microphone.

Another highlight surprisingly came in the form of “Lovers in Japan,” a hidden gem on the latest album. Thousands of confetti butterflies in various colors fluttered about after they were dropped from the ceiling. Fans tried to catch them as they fell to the ground.

Duffy opened the night on a weak note. The Welsh singer responsible for the repetitive pop anthem "Mercy" wasn't able to hold the crowd's attention with her high pitched, old fashioned voice. But soulful songs like "Stepping Stone,"which sounds like it came right out of a James Bond movie, showed her potential.

Coldplay's live set, weaving hits from past and present together, proved the band has grown and for the better. With less reliance on soft ballads and piano, they conveyed a healthy mix of guitar, bass and pure fun in their performance.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Happy Howl'O Ween for Dog Lovers

BOSTON--(Oct. 25, 2008) Phyllis Meadows (left) and Laura Johnson (above) dressed as Luigi show off their pets’ costumes at the Howl’o’ween contest sponsored by 93.7 Mike-FM at Fanueil Hall.

Tory was a cowboy for Halloween wearing a tiny pair of denim pants, a checkered vest and a red bandana over his bright white fur along with a mini hat dangling off his ears.

“Such a good boy. How cute are you?” Phyllis Meadows asked her pet Pomeranian and poodle mix after dressing him up.

Meadows was just one of many who showed off their pet dogs on Saturday outside of Faneuil Hall in the second annual Howl’o’ween costume contest sponsored by the radio station 93.7 Mike-FM.

More than 60 dogs were registered in the contest held in downtown Boston, as a way for pet owners to celebrate their love of animals.

“People love their pets so much and some like dressing them up so this event is sort of the next level up for them to show off the care and love that they put into their dogs,” said Bethany Tripp, director of radio relations at 93.7 Mike-FM, in an interview while standing outside Quincy Market.

Tina and Paul MacEachern said they treat their dogs Brewsky and Brady like members of the family.

“Brady’s dressed up like Kevin Garnett today,” said MacEachern who wore a Celtics cap while his Bull mastiff had on a Garnett jersey and white headband.

Pamphlets were set up on the registration tables for people to take and donations were accepted for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“Animal abuse is one of the worst crimes because there’s nothing they (animals) could have done to deserve it,” said Meadows a resident of Revere who owns four other dogs in addition to Tory. “In a way, it’s like child abuse because they’re innocent.”

She said she loves pets because “they’re always happy to see you when you get home. They don’t ask you ‘why’d you do that’ or ‘why’d you say that’ and they just nestle up next to you,” she said. “It’s unconditional love.”

While many people treat their pets as members of the family and adorn them with clothes and “people food”, there are also some who grossly mistreat their animals.

Peter E. Gollub, the director of law enforcement at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the MSPCA investigated approximately 3,100 cases of animal abuse last year.

The MSPCA is a non-profit organization that provides veterinarian services as well as adoption centers and law enforcement officers to investigate cases of abuse across the Commonwealth. The organization also works to spread awareness and promote better animal protection laws in the state and nation.

Gollub said in a telephone interview that animal cruelty, which may not always capture the public’s attention, should be a concern to people because it’s “against the law and newsworthy for all the same reasons that anything else against the law is noteworthy or newsworthy.”

Animal cruelty is a crime in Massachusetts that could result in up to five years in prison. Most of the cases tend to stay in district court and are punishable by two and a half years according to Gollub.

He said that animal cruelty should also be a concern because “where there’s smoke there can be fire.”

“There have been studies that looked at animal cruelty as a red flag which might incline one to wonder if there’s cruelty in other areas, like to people,” he said.

A research study by professors at Northeastern University and the MSPCA conducted in the 1990s examined the relationship between violence against animals and crime. Results showed that 70 percent of those who abused animals had also been involved in other violent crimes such as domestic violence, murder, or drug use.

Gollub said that protecting animals can help elevate society as a whole and referenced the Mahatma Ghandi saying about the greatness of a nation being judged by the way its animals are treated.

“Taking a moment to think about how we treat our animals is important. Sometimes it’s necessary to reawaken the empathy in our ‘hurry hurry I haven’t checked my blackberry in five minutes’ world,” said Gollub.

Dog owners certainly took the time to show off their creativity and love of animals at the radio station’s costume event which featured a first place prize of $500.

Revere resident Paula Jeffrey, who used to design children’s costumes, and her neighbor Carmen Ortiz dressed up their dogs as Tinker Bell and Captain Hook and had them sit within a mock alligator to go along with the Peter Pan theme. Last year the two dressed up their pets in a Rapunzel and Prince Charming theme at a different event where they won first place.

“I moved into the neighborhood about three years ago and my neighbor was into costumes so that’s how it all started,” said Ortiz. “I’ve always loved dogs. They’re loyal and all they want is some love and attention.”

Laura Johnson of Medford, who like a few others decided to dress up along with their pet, was Luigi while her English bulldog was Super Mario from the popular video game series.

“My sister-in-law’s dog was supposed to be Luigi but they couldn’t make it today, so I filled in,” she said smiling as she readjusted her mustache.

“Me and my husband always wanted a dog and after we bought a house, it seemed to be the next step,” she said.

When asked about animal abuse, Johnson said she’s one of the people who “gets the waterworks anytime that Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercial comes on.”

The MSPCA’s law enforcement director, who started out as a veterinarian before later going to law school and working at the district attorney’s office, said on Monday in a phone interview, “One of the things that’s special about animals is that they are often capable of capturing the human attention and emotion and I think because of that they’re almost like special ambassadors.”

“Aesop’s fables were all written with animals and I don’t think that was by accident. There’s something about animals that captures the attention and imagination of people,” said Gollub.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Donna Brazile Talks Politics with Boston Businesswomen

BOSTON--(Oct.17,2008) Donna Brazile speaks about the historic 2008 presidential race at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel in a speech presented by the Commonwealth Institute.
By Margaret DeJesus (
Before heading to work early Friday morning, some of Boston’s brightest businesswomen were urged by CNN political analyst Donna Brazile to look beyond partisan politics and get active in this year’s presidential election during her speech about the historic race at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel.
“This is our moment. If we sit back and wait, we’ll find ourselves complaining about the same things from 60 years ago,” Brazile said in her speech presented by the Commonwealth Institute.
The Institute supports female CEOs’ and entrepreneurs’ businesses and careers by setting up networking events and forums.
With Marvin Gaye’s classic song “What’s Going On” blasting in the background, Brazile stepped on stage and held her hand out next to her ear enjoying the standing ovation she received.
Brazile, an author, professor, political commentator and longtime political strategist, was the first African American woman to manage a presidential campaign in 2000 when she worked for Democratic candidate Al Gore.
She emphasized that Americans need to “stop being so concerned with who’s Democrat and who’s Republican” and start working together to solve the country’s problems, especially during the current economic crisis.
According to Brazile, who did not hide her preference for Barack Obama, the next president needs to appoint “the best and the brightest” based not on party affiliation but rather on talent and ability.
“I hope that whoever wins presidency finds the grace and humility to ask for help not just from the other side, but also from us. It’s about ‘we the people,’ not just we the politicians,” she said with passion at the podium. “Let’s have one song, one band and stop playing different singles.”
Brazile’s message of unity stood out to many of the women in attendance.
“As a Democrat myself, it’s hard for me to have a discussion with a Republican. It was an important message she had and it was a great insight,” said Judy Dumont, a high tech recruiter, after the speech.
“It’s not enough that we put these guys in office. We have to get in their face as she (Brazile) said and be vocal,” said Dumont.
Mary Skelton Roberts, founder of MSR Solutions, thought Brazile “embodied the change we need and the change this country is looking for.”
“She (Brazile) understands we need a collective effort to solve the country’s problems,” said Roberts.
Lois Lindauer, founder and president of her own executive search firm Lois L. Lindauer Searches and Commonwealth Institute board member, agreed.
“It’s not about being red, blue, white or black,” said Lindauer.
Brazile kept the crowd of about 400 people in attendance, largely composed of local businesswomen, entertained with her comedic take on the current election season.
“As a woman, I’m proud of Hillary (Clinton). As an African American I’m proud of Barack Obama. And as someone who is old and grumpy, I’m proud of John McCain,” she said.
Helene Solomon, CEO and founder of Solomon McCown and Company, said after the speech that she thought Brazile had “phenomenal comic timing” and found it interesting how she “put everything into historical perspective.”
Brazile stressed how the country has moved forward, and said “as a child growing up in the segregated South” she never would have imagined one day seeing an African American run for the presidency or a woman being a heartbeat away from the vice presidency.
She also spoke about how the devastation of Hurricane Katrina was a wakeup call for her.
“It (Katrina) refocused my life. My family lost everything,” she said stressing the importance of having the right people in charge of government.
Brazile added that perhaps the country right now is facing a new wakeup call with the economy.
“Now the country is drowning in debt. In some ways, it’s a Katrina moment for the country.”
Gloria Larson, the president of Bentley College in Waltham along with Atul Gupta, the finance department chair at Bentley led the short question and answer session with the audience and Brazile that followed.

Friday, October 10, 2008

New York Rangers Win Home Opener 4-2 Against Blackhawks

By Margaret DeJesus (

NEW YORK-(Oct. 10, 2008)--The New York Rangers have gone out with the old and in with the new this season -- saying “bye” to Jaromir Jagr and Co. -- and it’s paying off big time so far. The team has won three straight games with contributions from its young rookies and newly acquired veterans to complement its solid goaltending.

Brandon Dubinsky, a rising star in his second NHL season, along with his new teammates and linemates Nikolai Zherdev and Aaron Voros led the Rangers past the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 on Friday night at the home opener at Madison Square Garden.

Dubinsky had a goal and two assists in the Original Six matchup against the Western Conference team while his line combined for seven points.

With red, white and blue balloons dropped from the rafters, the lights turned down low and special effects smoke pumped in, the team and its new captain were introduced to a sold out and rocking crowd of 18,200 in a pregame ceremony.

“It’s a huge honor and I’m thrilled to be doing it,” said forward Chris Drury, a 10-year veteran of the NHL, about being named the 25th captain of the Rangers. The former Buffalo Sabres co-captain signed with the team last summer.

Defenseman Wade Redden, who signed a six-year deal worth $39 million with the Rangers this summer, fired the puck past Blackhawks goalie Cristobel Huet after Drury’s weak shot rebounded toward him at 6:47 of the first period to give them a 1-0 lead.

The Blackhawks tied it up before the end of the first period when defenseman Brian Campbell banked the puck off of the side of the net to center and last season’s NHL Rookie of the Year, Patrick Kane, who zipped it past goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

“We didn’t necessarily have the best game in the world,” said Aaron Voros in the locker room after the game in which he had a goal and an assist.“We had a couple of mental lapses out there but all in all, we played pretty well.”

Dubinsky scored in the second period to make it 3-1 after nabbing a loose puck at center ice and gliding past three Blackhawks to beat Huet.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to get thrown into a role where I’m going to play some good minutes and be forced to contribute. So far so good,” said the 22-year-old standing near his locker following the game.

With some bad giveaways, momentary lags in intensity, and some weak play in the defensive zone, the Rangers almost allowed the Blackhawks to claw their way back in to the game, especially in the third period after Duncan Keith scored to make it a one goal game.

“We were good enough to win but almost bad enough to lose it,” said Coach Tom Renney in the post game press conference.

The team started the regular season with a pair of back-to-back 2-1 wins over the Tampa Bay Lightning last weekend in the Czech Republic. The teams were two of four chosen to start the NHL regular season in Europe as part of the 2008 Bridgestone NHL Premier designed to spread interest in the league globally as well as allow players the memorable chance to play in front of fans from their home countries.

The Rangers haven’t had a 3-0 start since 1989.So far, the Blueshirts seem to be doing just fine without Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan and Martin Straka, the former captain and co-captains and bulk of the first and second lines who were not resigned by the organization over the summer. Similarly the fan favorite and agitating forward Sean Avery wasn’t brought back either after two seasons.

After getting ousted in the second round of the playoffs two seasons in a row, getting swept in the first round against the rival Devils in 2006, and prior to that not even making the playoffs since 1997, General Manager Glen Sather decided it was time, once again, for the Rangers to go in a new direction with new players like Redden, Zherdev, Voros, and veterans Markus Naslund and Dmitri Kalinin.

Tomorrow, the team heads to Philadelphia to face the Flyers, where Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin will be on hand to drop the puck in honor of the Flyer’s “Hockey Mom of the Year” award presented to a fan.Coach Renney laughed when asked what he thought.

“I’m Canadian,” he said preferring to stay out of the realm of U.S. politics and stick with the hockey.

The three stars of the game were Aaron Voros (LW), Henrik Lundqvist (G), and Brandon Dubinsky (C).Petr Prucha, Patrick Rissmiller and Dan Fritsche were healthy scratches for the Rangers.The pre-game ceremony featured a special puck drop by Ranger greats Adam Graves (No. 9), Harry Howell (No. 3) and Andy Bathgate (No. 9), who will have their jersey numbers retired this February.

NEW YORK--(10/10/08) Alternate captain Scott Gomez talks about the contributions of the Rangers younger players. Rookie center Brandon Dubinsky and his new linemate Aaron Voros talk to reporters in the locker room following the win.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Big Brothers and Big Sisters Make a Difference

BOSTON—(Oct.2,2008) Big Brothers of Massachusetts Bay along with their “little brothers” pose with Mark Stuart and Andrew Alberts of the Boston Bruins and Blades, the Bruins mascot in Prudential Center after playing a round of mini golf with hockey sticks for the Puck-Putt Challenge.

By Margaret DeJesus (

Imagine being an 11-year-old child hopping off the school bus and entering an empty home. Parents may have to work extra long hours to put food on the table which might mean less time to go over homework problems or to kick around a soccer ball at the park.

For many children in Boston and around the country this can be a daily reality. Adults who volunteer their time to mentor a child can make a difference while getting the chance to let out their inner 10-year-old.

“Providing youth with a role model, a mentor, someone to look up to, is critical. Many people have a misperception about the time requirement needed to play a role in young lives,” said Meghan Keaney, the director of communications with United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley in an email.

“There are currently more than 5,000 youth on a waiting list to be matched with a mentor. So yes, absolutely, we need to get the word out,” she said.

Spending an afternoon playing a round of mini golf with hockey sticks and professional hockey players from the Boston Bruins is certainly one creative way to engage the city’s youth and adults and “get the word out.”

The Puck-Putt challenge held at the Prudential Center on Boylston Avenue last Thursday afternoon built on smiles, high-fives and laughter brought together children, teenagers and their mentors from various groups.

Sponsored by United Way, Boston Properties and the Boston Bruins as part of the inspire4life campaign, the event featured a mini miniature golf course set up on the marble floor of the Belvedere Arcade area of the mall. Defensemen Andrew Alberts and Mark Stuart of the Boston Bruins attended along with the team’s mascot.

Getting a hole in one was cause for celebration for many of the younger kids who threw up their hands in the air as it was pretty tough to maneuver the rather large, orange rubber ball down the small stretch of green into the hole with a plastic hockey stick.

“Hey guys. How you doing? I’m Andrew.” Andrew Alberts, the 6-foot-5-inch tall athlete while donning his Bruins jersey held out his hand to two kids gathered around hole three of the makeshift golf course and introduced himself. “Did you see our game last night?” Awkward silence and nervous smiles from the kids followed.

“ No?” he asked surprised pretending to be offended when they shook their heads and laughed. “It’s okay the season doesn’t start until next Thursday anyway,” he smiled and signed their t-shirts to their delight.

United Way is a community impact organization which invests in various other partner agencies, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, to solve issues regarding youth opportunities to success as well as employment and housing options for adults.

As of December of last year 5,311 youth were matched with supportive adult mentors because of United Way investments; 115,126 youth served in quality programs, and more than 1,700 parents reported being better able to support their children according to Ms. Keaney.

The “inspire4life” ad campaign was started to raise awareness about the benefits of mentoring a child and inspiring a child for life.

Mentors can come in all different shapes, sizes and walks of life from teachers to recent college grads to professional hockey players.

“I think it’s great for a young kid to have an idol to look up too. When I was growing up back in Minnesota, the NorthStars (former NHL hockey team) used to practice at a local rink nearby and a bunch of us kids used to go watch them play. Sometimes they’d stop and sign autographs, which was great because we looked up to those guys,” said Alberts explaining his pull to attend the event.

Bob McDermott, a fifth grade teacher at St. Mary of the Hills School in Milton, said that volunteering with Big Brothers of Massachusetts Bay provided him “a meaningful and memorable experience.” McDermott and his “little brother” Dmitri have enjoyed everything from arcades and movies to pizza and sandwiches at the beach.

“Anything we do is fun. Today is probably the best ever. It’s exciting playing with the hockey players,” said the 11-year-old.

Erin Sunderland, now a marketing manager with United Way, began volunteering as a Big Sister a year and a half ago.

“There’s something about interacting with a ten-year-old that’s just fun,” said the 26-year-old while sitting at United Way information table set up.

“If both parents work full time, it’s nice if a child has a member they can bond with outside of the family.”

United Way advertises that children who meet regularly with mentors are 33% less likely to resort to violence, 52% less likely to skip school and 46% less likely to start using illegal drugs.

Sunderland said that although she’s more of the cozy up with a book type, while her Little Sister is more active and outdoorsy, there were tons of things for them to bond on. Going for long walks, baking cupcakes, playing cards and playing Monopoly were just a few of the things the two enjoy together.

“I think I've benefitted by being able to feel like I'm giving back even if it is only in a very small way. She (her Little Sister) also reminds me not to take things too seriously and that it's okay to be silly once in awhile,” said Sunderland.

Mentors can also make a difference by just having a ready pair of ears to listen when a child wants someone outside of the home to talk to.

“She might feel more comfortable talking with me about certain things like maybe problems in schools since I’m younger,” said Sunderland. “Inspire4life is reminding people in the city that there are so many ways to get involved.”

Chris Devlin attended the Puck-Putt event with children from the South Boston Boys and Girls Club for at risk youth, where he’s volunteered for the last eight months. The 23-year-old recent graduate of Suffolk University looked youthful in his baseball cap while keeping score for his group’s golf game.

Devlin, who realized he enjoyed working with kids after various summer jobs, said the South Boston Club is good for the children because “it keeps them off the streets and out of trouble” by organizing sports and activities for them to get involved in after school.

“Getting watched over is nice,” said Paul Goslin, a 13-year-old student with the group whose shirt was covered in autographs from the Bruins and their mascot. He said he enjoyed taking field trips with the club, especially the end of the year trip to the theme park, Six Flags Great Adventure and added that the group has even volunteered at elderly homes.

Peg Sprague, the vice president of community impact at United Way, stressed in her speech at the event that there are many ways that adults in the community can help inspire a child.

From tutoring, to playing a game of monopoly, “getting involved could mean something as simple as smiling and saying ‘Hi,’ when you see a young person walking down the street,” she said.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Legal Scholar Promotes Book on the Invisible Constitution

BOSTON--(Sept.25,2008) Professor Laurence Tribe delivers his lecture on “The Invisible Constitution” as part of the Ford Hall Forum held at Suffolk University Law School.

By Margaret DeJesus (

Renowned legal scholar Laurence Tribe made the case on Thursday night that there is an “Invisible Constitution” also at work in America at Suffolk University Law School as part of the Ford Hall Forum lecture series.

About 120 people attended the lecture which was free and open to the public, continuing with the tradition of the Ford Forums.

Tribe, who is currently a professor of constitutional law at Harvard University, stressed during his speech that “the Constitution is a living framework and not simply an artifact preserved in pristine conditions under glass.”

He also pointed out that some of the most widely held beliefs, such as the right over our own bodies or a provision forbidding states to secede from the union, are not even included in the written document.

“The text is merely a skeleton or a shadow. The reason we are not governed by the dead hand of the past is because it (the Constitution) has moved over time,” he said in his speech.

He began his talk by giving a brief history of the document explaining that the one on display in Washington D.C. is the handwritten draft and not the actual document eventually ratified by the states.

Following the talk was a question and answer session. It got heated at times as some people posed politically charged questions about Barack Obama, who was his research assistant at Harvard, and President Bush rather than staying on the topic of the Constitution.

“I strongly believe in the first amendment and am delighted that you disagree with me,” Tribe calmly countered to Susan Allen, a candidate for Congress. Ms. Allen was unsatisfied with his answer to her question regarding the constitutionality of appointing a Federal Reserve Board.

Suffolk University Law Professor Valerie Epps who moderated the lecture said in an interview after Tribe’s talk that he was “graceful in handling the lively questions” and did “a wonderful job of explaining how it (the Constitution) stood the test of time” not merely by its words but through the interpretation of what they say.

“He (Tribe) did a great job of driving home the point that the Constitution is lively and keeps changing. It’s not just a rigid old, document of historical record,” said Rich Minier, guest of the event. “I underestimated how continuous it is.”

“I thought it (his speech) was interesting in that we assume a lot of our rights our written down somewhere when in fact you have to imply a lot,” said Jane Lee, who recently took a tour of James Madison’s house in Virginia with her husband Mike to ring in the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.

Those who attended the lecture were given free copies of the Constitution within a mini booklet containing other historical facts and documents such as the Articles of Confederation.

Tribe signed copies of his new book, The Invisible Constitution after the lecture.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Berklee Students Play More Than Just Music

BOSTON--(Sept.23,2008) Jimmy Gately, captain, coach, and center for the Berklee Ice Cats, draws up the next drill during their practice at the Simoni Ice Rink in Cambridge.
By Margaret DeJesus (
BOSTON--(Sept. 24, 2008) Drumsticks, guitar picks and hockey sticks? It may sound like an odd combination but not to the members of the Ice Cats, Berklee College of Music’s hockey team.
Yes, Berklee has a hockey team and its players find time to balance their passion for music with their love of the game.“I’ve played it (hockey) my whole entire life. Why would I stop playing now?” said Charles (Charlie) Silva, a 22-year-old music education major at Berklee.
The prestigious music school located in the heart of Boston along Massachusetts and Boylston Avenue isn’t known for its sports and doesn’t even have an athletic department but that didn’t stop John Kingsley from posting flyers around campus and online that expressed interest in starting a hockey team in 2006. A bunch of students, including Silva, showed up for the first meeting and “the rest is history,” according to Kingsley who graduated from Berklee with a guitar performance degree.
“We start getting questions as early as just after acceptances go out about how to try out, how to get involved, and does it really exist,” said Director of Student Activities Emily Page in an email.
Come Together
The team initially had their share of hurdles to overcome from figuring out the school’s colors to paying for ice time and jerseys.
“The things that are pushed into college sports like the mascot, the school colors, the logo, no one knew that. Now we had a hockey team and we had to find out all that stuff,” said team captain Jimmy Gately in an interview with fellow teammates last Friday in a Berklee study lounge.
They learned Berklee had a mascot named Mingus the Cat and red and grey school colors, which they adapted to maroon and silver on their jerseys.The hockey hungry musicians had to front hundreds of dollars of their own cash the first season for ice time at rinks for practice, for referee fees, and for jerseys and equipment. But as time went on, Berklee found ways to help support them.
“The more and more we showed the school what we could do, the more they helped out,” said Kingsley, the brainchild of the club, in a phone interview. “For a school that had basically no athletics, they responded really well.”
Today, the Berklee bookstore sells jerseys, baseball hats and other hockey merchandise with part of the proceeds going to the hockey team according to the director of student activities.
Battle of the Art Schools
The Ice Cats played their first season in the NESHL, New England Senior Hockey League where they posted an 8-15-1 record. Their opponents were usually older men, sometimes former athletes, of varying skill levels and no checking was allowed. John “Pie” McKenzie, a two time Stanley Cup winner with the Boston Bruins in the 1970s, volunteered to coach the team for their first season after learning about them from a Boston Globe article.
According to defenseman Brian Mullen, one of the highlights of that year was “getting to practice in TD Banknorth Garden and suiting up in the away team’s locker rooms the day after my 21st birthday.”
The Garden is home to the Boston Bruins NHL hockey team.The team now plays in the more aggressive and competitive ACHA, American Collegiate Hockey Association where they were 9-3 last season. They played against club teams from schools like Tufts University, Middlesex Community College, Suffolk University and Bentley College.
The annual Boylston Cup game, initially organized by Kingsley and Gately in 2006, against Emerson College is when the students of Berklee come to cheer on their team as it’s the most advertised game of their season. Money is also raised for the Ice Cats through ticket sales at the Boylston game.
“An idea we've been tossing around is to one day make it like a mini Beanpot with a couple of other schools involved,” said Gately. “For now it’s just a Boylston street battle of the two art schools.”
Berklee won their self made trophy two years in a row after defeating Emerson.
“It’s fun to play against all the teams but the rivalry against Berklee is definitely more energetic than any other,” said Alan Gwizdowski, captain of the Emerson Lions, in a phone interview.
“We started our club teams at around the same time, played in the same leagues and we both funded it ourselves, so we were kind of in the same boat as them.”The Boylston Cup is also fun, according to Gwizdowski because it pits the “filmmakers against the music guys.”
Musicians by Day, Hockey Players by Night
After a day’s work of recording, practicing scales or hammering out drum solos, the students get together on Tuesday nights at the Simoni Ice Rink in Cambridge to take a step back from music.
“To be at a music college and to have an outlet where I don’t have to talk about music all the time is a nice release,” said Gately.“It’s always going to be about the music. This is ultimately just a fun thing on the side for Tuesday and Saturday nights,” said 22-year-old Mullen, a professional music major in drums, adding that some of the guys can’t always show because they have gigs scheduled.
During their 90 minute practices the players may work on basic passing drills, conditioning and skating exercises as well as offensive strategies. When asked how they stay in shape, Mullen, Gately and Silva burst out laughing.
“We tried doing off-ice practices but people weren’t really into it. There are some kids who do, but in the month before the season starts we run a lot of conditioning drills at practice,” said Gately.
The players who for the most part rely on their hands for their musical craft are careful but not overly concerned about getting injured.“It’s a risk we take, not because we are really competitive hockey players or anything, but because we love playing hockey and we want to have fun playing it,” said Zachary (Zac) Zinger, the team’s 19-year-old goalie.
Gately, who will also act as coach for the team again this season, warns students before trying out that it may not be the best idea to get involved if they haven’t played in a few years or aren’t comfortable on skates. Most of the now 18 player squad, which at one time had a couple of female players as well, has had some experience in high school.
Zinger, who averaged only two goals against per game, and top scoring forward Breton McNamara won the state championship together when they played for the Quaker Valley Quakers in high school in Pittsburgh, Pa.
The Ice Cats are also composed of players with different musical backgrounds, which they say is another added benefit of being on the team.
“You actually come to respect more different types of music. Since I respect Zac, I’m more likely to open myself up more to his style of music (jazz composition),” said drummer and left winger Charlie Silva.
“We may never have met had it not been for the team,” said Zinger, who said he gets a taste of heavy metal and Dave Matthews Band among other things when he hangs out with fellow players.
There’s not much music to be heard out of the Ice Cats locker room before games, although Zinger suggested “playing the Oscar Meyer Weiner song from the commercial might be funny to psych out the other team one day.”
There is always the possibility of an air guitar or air drum solo however, according to Silva.
John Kingsley said he had no idea what would happen when he posted up those flyers and never would have dreamed that the team would get so much recognition so fast, let alone a mini spot on a NESN show and a Boston Globe article during the winter of their 2006-2007 season.
“I know we won’t be the fifth Beanpot team or anything but to give Berklee even just a little outlet like this for its students to share in is great, and I feel privileged to have been part of that,” said Kingsley, who now lives in Nashville and just got off the road playing guitar with ZZ Top.The Ice Cats kick off their third season this October against Middlesex Community College.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Dinner Table Brings Community Together

BOSTON--(Sept.12,2008) Families wait to enjoy dinner at the Boston Children’s Museum on the half size “Longest Table” moved inside from the pier after it started to rain. By 7 p.m. the once empty table is full, seating about 200.

By Margaret DeJesus (

When eight dinner bells rang out on Friday night, a diverse crowd of about 200 people dug into their food and enjoyed a meal together at the Boston Children’s Museum.

Bowls of blueberries, baskets of apples and rows of giant turkey sandwiches along with a variety of dishes brought by the guests completed the dinner party thrown by the museum to bring people together for a meal.

Boston’s Longest Dinner Table: A Giant Potluck for Boston was originally to take place along the museum’s waterfront boardwalk from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. with a range of outdoor activities for children. Once the rain started to come down, the staff remained optimistic and adapted quickly by moving the many chairs and tables inside the museum.

Although no records were broken as hoped, the goal of gathering people together from all walks of life to share a meal was achieved as families still attended and stragglers joined in on the fun from the museum.

“I like the concept of a bunch of people sitting down in the community to eat together with everyone contributing something,” said Steve Holt of East Boston who brought salad, quesadillas and brownies for dinner.

“People sitting down together at the dinner table to talk, you don’t really see that anymore,” he said. Holt and his wife Chrissy managed to convince two friends to come after forwarding an email out about the details of the event.

Megan Dickerson, manager of community programs and partnerships, came up with the idea and modeled it after a series of dinners hosted by another community outreach program she had worked with.

“Here we sit like frogs on a lily pad, frogs on a lily pad, waiting to be fed,” sang Dickerson during the event while standing atop a chair. The children and adults echoed the song in unison while clapping. She then struck the cowbells with a smile signaling the time for everyone to take a bite of food together.

Families were asked to bring their own meals to enjoy while sandwiches and fruits were donated by Boston Organics, Whole Foods and KidFresh.

Jamell Hankins, the co-event producer was pleased with the turnout even though the table was half of what it would have been had it not rained.

“Getting all these people to mingle and sit down together is amazing,” he said.

“Boston is really diverse and some neighborhoods seem to be divided up by race. This is great because it brings communities together,” said Mena Lam, one of the Teen Ambassadors who worked at the event.

The BNY Mellon CityACCESS Teen Ambassadors are fluent in various languages and work with the museum and volunteer in Boston communities like Washington Beach.

They spread the word about the dinner at six cultural festivals throughout Boston during the summer.

“This is the most successful indoor museum activity I’ve been too,” said Karl Geneus, a fourth year Teen Ambassador and freshman in Bunker Hill Community College.

“A place like this makes people more accepting of each other,” he said.

Face painting, games and a dance party in the outdoor tent were some of the activities also offered to families.

“This is the first time we’ve tried something like this. People seem pretty happy. Who knows? Maybe we’ll try it again,” said Ginny Zanger, the Vice President of the Children’s Museum.