Wednesday, December 23, 2015

GD Gives Back This Holiday Season

GD Gives Back This Holiday Season
By Kathryn Preston

On December 16th, nearly forty Groton Dunstable high school students set out to put gifts under the trees of those in need this holiday season. With teacher and student cooperation, the Student Council team was able to raise over $3,300 dollars to put towards purchasing gifts for those families who were not able to provide them on their own. Student Council Vice President Abby Vervaeke stated, “We were able to accomplish so much more than our original goal. It felt good to give back during this holiday season.”

The fundraiser went as follows; every A-block classroom was given the challenge of raising the most money to ultimately win the right to go on a shopping field trip in Nashua, NH. Ms. Reynold’s and Mrs. Kostich's classes were the overall winners, raising $1032 between the two classes.  With this money, GD was able to provide for nine children and four parents, shopping at various stores in the area searching for every item on their wish lists. Presents purchased ranged from baby dolls and a pink bike to clothes and basic household items.  GD senior, John Langan, expressed that “it was nice seeing students from our school fill the stores.  The Spiderman bike we got was awesome; someone’s going to have a lot of fun with that!”

Not only were students and staff excited to raise money in their class in order to go on the trip, but the purpose of raising this money affected everyone. Growing up in an affluent town such as Groton, it is not common to hear of those who are struggling to meet ends meet and therefore we often don’t realize that there are people in need all around us. The high school participants needed no excessive advertising or motivation; knowing that they had the opportunity to help the Community Children’s Fund fulfill the wishes of fourteen families including 32 children this Christmas was enough. 

Student Council Advisor, Nicole Penchansky, summarized the event as “completely inspiring.”  Penchansky stated, “It was absolutely incredible and heart-warming to see all of the students be so enthusiastic and work together to put smiles on the faces of children and families in our community.  I could not be more proud of our students here at GD.” 

Principal Michael Mastrullo had this to say.  “It is not the first time I have been impressed by the student’s compassion and willingness to lend a hand to others in need; however, it is no less impressive.  I am so proud to be the principal of such a high performing school, but it is events like the recent “adopt-a-soldier” and this holiday fundraiser that make all of us proud to work at a great school surrounded by a great bunch of kids.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

SAT, ACT & AP Test Prep Software for Students

Naviance Test Prep

We are always seeking  creative ways to best prepare students for college.  It is with this in mind we have invested in a test prep software program for all students to enjoy.  After testing several software test prep programs we settled on a Naviance product that helps prepare students for the SAT, ACT, and AP classes.    

Some schools have de-emphasized standardize tests scores or moved to a test optional or opt-out policy.  Generally speaking, however, four year colleges place a lot of importance on SAT and ACT scores.  We understand the desire to be prepared on test day and some students choose to take test preparation courses.  We decided to make an investment to provide students with the resources to help prepare them for the exam.  We will survey students at the conclusion of the year to determine if this is an investment worth continuing.  Below I have included a few resources.

Test Prep Informational Video

Naviance Test Prep Student Guide

"Naviance Test Prep provides proven, game-based courses that help students to perform their best on test day.  Naviance Test Prep is also seamlessly integrated into Naviance to help students be college and career ready, all from one place. "

Link to Guide

Unified Basketball: Students of the Month


Unified Basketball
By Mary Desmond

Groton-Dunstable is excited to add Unified Basketball this season.  Unified Sports is an initiative that combines equal numbers of Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities (called partners).  

Groton-Dunstable has joined 9 other teams in the pilot season.  Special Olympics of Massachusetts Basketball Leagues are based upon successful Special Olympics programs using the principles and programs of Project Unify, Unified Sports, and Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) rules and guidelines. Unified Sports leagues strive to help promote climates of dignity, respect, and inclusion in schools for students with and without intellectual disabilities. 

Principal Michael Mastrullo had this to say about the program.  "We are really proud of several of the programs we have created at our school and I  count Unified Track and now Unified Basketball as two of the very best.  The coaches are just phenomenal.  Ann Valacer, Joyce Bennett, and Mary Desmond bring so much to the table each and every day working in the PAVE program.  They truly are all-star employees, and the school and the community are fortunate to have them and this wonderful program.  I am glad the community was able to witness a sliver of their efforts during the Unified Basketball season.  Lastly, I am so proud to see our athletes and partners work selflessly and compete together as a team should.  They are an example for us all."

The first game was on November 10th against Fitchburg High School.  The final score was Fitchburg 33 Groton-Dunstable 28.  This score does not reflect how all our athletes and partners played. Every individual contributed offensively and defensively in the hard fought season comprised of 5 games.  

Brian Waters felt the season was very exciting. “I was giving high fives to my team mates after I scored my first high school basket.” Ben McEvoy felt the season was fun and intense. “It was nice to see how many students in the stands to support us throughout the entire season.”

Coach Ann Valacer felt the entire season was a great success. “ I think I smiled the whole season and loved watching all our athletes and partners compete against another team.” 

We fully intend to continue the Unified Basketball program next season and we are eager for the spring weather and the Unified Track program to commence in just a few months.  

Walter Campbell

My name is Walter Campbell and I am in the PAVE program here at GDRSD for students ages 18-22. I am on the Unified track and basketball teams and participate in the Best Buddies program, too. I live in Groton with my family. My older sister, Annie, is finishing college next spring, and my younger brother, Malcolm, goes to the Parker Charter School. In PAVE, I’m learning about different kinds of jobs and right now I work at Bliss Bakery in Groton and am taking cake decorating classes at Frederick’s pastries. I’m also an artist and I create and draw designs for greeting cards that we sell to raise money for Best Buddies. I’m inspired by trains – I love to draw them and study how they work and where they go. I also care very much about my family and my friends and hope to stay close to them for many years to come.

Peter McLaughlin

My name is Peter McLaughlin, and I am a senior here at Groton-Dunstable High School. I live in Groton with my parents and my brother, who is a junior at GD. I am currently serving as the Student Council president, and am a member of both the Unified Track and Unified Basketball teams. I am also president of the Best Buddies Chapter at GD, which I worked with Ms. Desmond, Ms. Bennett, and Ms. Valacer to start. I am currently going through the college-finding process, and am looking to major in finance.


Lizzy Dean

My name is Lizzy Dean and I am currently a junior here at GD. I have lived in Groton for seven years with my sister Hannah who is now a freshman, my mom, and my dad. I really enjoyed the Unified Basketball season and can’t wait to play again next year. I am also planning on participating in Unified Track this spring.

Hannah Ray Dean

My name is Hannah Ray Dean.  I live in Groton with my mom Sherri, my dad Dave, my sister Lizzie and my dog Bella.  I like to listen to music and hang out with my friends. I loved playing on the unified basketball team.  It was so much fun and I really liked my teammates and coaches. I am looking forward to the unified track season.

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Benjamin McEvoy

Hello! I am Benjamin McEvoy, currently a junior at GD. I am, and have always been a resident of Dunstable. I have an older brother named Brady and an older sister named Haley. I definitely plan on attending college after high school, hopefully a great business school such as The Wharton School at UPenn, Babson, or the University of California Berkeley. I am hoping to become something along the lines of what Warren Buffett does! 

I am very lucky to be able to participate in baseball and hockey. This year though, I participated in Unified Basketball. This opened my eyes to how important it is to include everyone in anything. I always thought that I understood the true impact of giving back, but it became very real for me during this years Unified Basketball season. Seeing the smiles and looks of excitement on the players faces during the game is one of the most rewarding moments I have ever experienced. Overall, throughout my life, I have been very lucky to experience many different opportunities that have greatly impacted my life in a positive way. Going along with that, I am very excited for what my future holds.

Emma Grondolsky
My name is Emma Grondolsky and I'm a junior at Groton-Dunstable.  Before coming to Groton I lived in Kentucky, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, and New Jersey. I live with my parents and my sister who is currently a senior.  I play softball, ski race, and play unified basketball.  I am also working on getting my pilot’s license, and participate in the Best Buddies program. I have only recently started looking at colleges but I hope to attend the University of Georgia.

Jessica Ready

Hi, My name is Jessica Ready. I am a senior at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School. I live in Dunstable with my dad. My interests are Japanese Anime, dancing, and hanging out with my friends. I am also interested in working with graphic designs. During my years in high school, I joined the Unified Track and Field, Unified Basketball and GD Best Buddies. My favorite sport is unified basketball because I enjoyed being with my team mates. I am excited to graduate from high school this year. My plans after graduation is to take some time off before going to college or work. 

Kyle Carbutt
My name is Kyle Carbutt, I am a senior here at GD. I participate in the Unified athletic programs as well as run cross country. During my down time I enjoy pig roasting, studying, and artisanal cheese sampling! I’m currently waiting on several college applications but I hope to attend the University of South Carolina. It’s been a privilege to work with everyone in the Unified program. If I could, I would recommend that everyone participate in unified sports as it has been a great experience and has been very fulfilling.

Ben Fischi
Howdy! I’m Ben Fischi and currently a senior at GD. I like sports, fine dining, and studying the motion of the planets. I loved having the opportunity to participate in Unified Basketball for the first time in GD history. It was fun and we all learned a lot. Right now I am awaiting to hear from a variety of colleges, but I really hope to attend Tufts University. I just recently recovered from an injury that prohibited me from participating in Cross-Country and nearly ended my Basketball season as well. I was only able to play in two games, but I loved every minute of it. Of course that doesn’t mean I haven’t been cheering on my team all the way! I now set my eyes on skiing season and then Unified Track in the spring. I hope more people begin participating in Unified sports because they are very fun and very rewarding!

Alex Phanord

My name is Alex Phanord and I am a freshmen at the High School. I like to make people laugh and do kind things for others. I play two sports basketball and golf. I enjoyed playing on the Unified Basketball team this past month. The kids on the team were so fun to be with.

My dad is a chef and makes the best food ever. My mom works at a Hotel in Boxborough. When I am older, I want to be a Scientist or golfer because I like Science and golf.

Mike McAuliffe
I am a senior at GD. I participate in the unified sports and play golf. I am looking at Universities and hope to go somewhere local. I am looking to study finance in school. I really love participating in the Unified sports and am excited for this years Unified Track season. Unified Basketball was a great experience and I hope it remains in the GD athletics for many years. All of the athletes have learned so much and played so well, I hope they can keep working a keep getting better. Overall this has been a great experience for me and I am sad to see it end.

Brian Waters

My name is Brian Waters. This is my last year at Groton-Dunstable. I live in Groton with my parents, my brother and my sister. I am a member of the Unified Basketball and Unified Track teams. I currently work part-time at Market Basket in Littleton. I enjoy working out at the gym and walking my dog.

Freddy Seizo Yuasa

Hi. Thank you for selecting me and my teammates on the Unified Basketball Team for Students of the Month. It means a lot to me and my family to receive this kind of recognition. I have known many of you since our days at Boutwell, Swallow Union, the middle school, and, for the last four years, the high school. My being able to grow up in this community with your support over the years has meant, well, just about everything to me! 

I don't know if many of you know this but I was born in Leominster and lived in Lunenburg until I was four before moving to Dunstable. I have a sister, Keiko, who is in 6th grade. I have been skiing since I was three. We got up to Sunday River on weekends during the winter. I like skiing in the woods when there is a ton of snow. I also like to go out to eat, ride my bike, go to the movies, and go bowling with my friends. I recently got a job working at the Groton School's cafeteria, so I am looking forward to that. My goal is to finish school, work, continue to love life, and be happy. I am at my happiest when I am surrounded by people I have known over the years. I look forward to making new friends, too. 

I want to thank my teacher, Mary Desmond and my para, Miss Bridget who have been with me since, gosh, forever. Please continue to say "hi" to me, tell me something funny, and ask how things are going when you see me at school and around town. These are the things that make my day!  If you need it, I give great big hugs. 

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Wreaths Across America: Aylin & Melissa Elmali

Wreaths Across America
By Aylin Elmali

This past weekend on December 13, 2015, my sister Melissa and I had the honor of attending the annual Wreaths Across America ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. We’ve been attending these ceremonies since 2010. Every year we drive down to the nation’s capital for the opportunity to lay wreaths at the graves of a deceased soldier. It may not seem like much, but combined with the efforts of all the volunteers we usually can cover almost the entire cemetery. It’s quite a sight to see rows and rows of graves with wreaths on them. It’s especially personal for us, since my mom has a friend whose father is buried there. Every year we go, we always make sure that his grave has a wreath.

Not every grave gets a wreath, however. Graves that have a star of David or some other religious symbol are left alone, since those soldiers have a different religious preference. But it’s an unwritten rule that we can put coins or stones on their graves instead. I always carry some spare change with me to make sure no soldier is forgotten. Most of the graves in Arlington National Cemetery have soldiers from older wars such as WWI, WWII, and the Vietnam War. But the saddest part is seeing the newer, cleaner graves. If you visit the more recent section, you may find graves of soldiers who died only a few months prior. Most of these graves don’t even have stones yet; they simply have temporary markers since the deaths was so recent. Some have extra decorations on them, put there by the family members of that soldier. Many veterans as well as active soldiers can be found at this ceremony, but anyone can attend.

This year, the number of people who volunteered to be in the ceremony was quite unbelievable. The subway stations going to Arlington were very crowded, and the cemetery itself was mobbed. There were swarms of people waiting for the chance to receive a wreath to place. It seems strange, because the first time we went we were joined by only a few thousand other volunteers. But that number has quickly grown in a span of only a few years. It’s a joy to know that so many people are willing to travel from all over the country to honor the soldiers who paid the ultimate price to defend America.

The Wreaths Across America ceremony is growing in popularity, but it still needs help. Often times there aren’t enough funds to buy enough wreaths for all the soldiers in the cemetery, since their funding comes entirely from donations. Each wreath costs $15. Even if you can’t attend the ceremony, you can still help by sponsoring a wreath from home. With enough pitching in, we can all help to see that no soldier is forgotten and live by the WAA motto: Remember. Honor. Teach.

If you would like to learn more about Wreaths Across America or sponsor a wreath, please visit

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Tedx @ GD, Drama, Robotics, Winter Concert & Art Show

Winter Concert & Art Show
By Jon O’Conner
The 2016 GDRHS Winter Concert and Art Show was held on Wednesday Evening at the Middle School Performing Arts Center. 

This Annual tradition is a wonderful herald of the upcoming holidays. Hundreds of community members crowded into the event to enjoy a night of Art Music and food. Concessions were managed by the GD Arts Boosters who raise money for the High School Fine and Performing Arts Programs.

With special thanks to the Art and Music Honor Society students for their efforts in helping set up and to the Middle School Administration for hosting the event.

TEDx Coming to GD
By Leah Mitchell
As many may know, TED is an annual conference that brings together the world’s leading thinkers and doers to share ideas that matter in any discipline—technology, entertainment, design, science, humanities, business, development.  All talks are under 18 minutes and are generally engaging the audience to think differently and inspire changes that ultimately will make for a better world.

In that same spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a local, self-organized event that brings together people to share a TED-like experience.  

I am a member of the class of 2016, and a member of the TED-Ed Club. Currently I am working on an independent study to plan, organize and facilitate a TEDx event. Mrs. McManus, Librarian Media Specialist and advisor of the TED-Ed Club, has been a mentor and partner in the planning of the event.

The event, named TEDxYouth@GDRHS, is scheduled for Friday evening, March 25, 2016 and will be held in the Black Box at the High School. Our theme of the night is: "The Little Things."  We plan to combine videos of official TED talks and live local speakers who will share ideas worth spreading within this theme.  We are in the infant stages of planning, but our hope is that the evening will be engaging, inspiring and the beginning of many great ideas shared.

We are currently looking for volunteers to serve on our committee to help with all aspects of this event as well as recommendations for potential speakers.  Check out our website for the application for speakers and more information.

Drama Update
Four Grades. Four Plays. One Goal. By Renee Hampton After what can be agreed upon as the rousing success that was GD Players’ production of Harvey, the next event that can be expected to come is the traditional Festival of One Act Plays. This annual event divides each grade into their own micro-company of players, director, and technical crew. Each grade is expected to produce a play with very little interference from adults, apart from supervision from a Drama Guild advisor. All four plays will be presented together, and this presentation will be judged on one of the nights by a panel of locally-based theatre experts, who will award the plays with various accolades, such as “Best Play,” “Best Actor,” “Best Costumes” and other similar honors. 
But really there is more to the festival than awards. Junior class member and active participant in GD Players endeavors, Jill Carleton says, “The one acts have always been a great experience.” Carleton herself directed her class’ play in her freshman year. She was sure to add, “I love the friendly competition aspect, but in the end putting on a good show is the best part.” This is a widely held philosophy in the drama program. The belief that ultimately, the most important thing is for all of the classes to put in their best effort and for all the other classes to support them. That really is the goal of the title: to have fun and support each other. The 7th Annual Festival of One-Act Plays will be presented in the Black Box Theatre on February 5th and 6th.

Groton Dunstable Robotics Team Gears Up For 2016 Season
Ginger Vollmar, Publicity for the GDRHS Robotics Team

The Groton Dunstable High School Robotics team, fondly known as "The Robotomies", is gearing up for the 2016 FIRST Robotics “FIRST Stronghold” competitions for 2016. The team has been meeting since September to get new members acclimated to the team culture and to work on a demo bot. Last year’s robot was on display at GrotonFest this September where the team did some fundraising.

The kickoff date for this year’s competition is Jan. 9th, 2016. At this time, the team will be given the details of the challenge for this year and their kit of parts (the same challenge is given to 3000 other high schools internationally who participate in the FIRST Robotics tournaments). The team then has 6 weeks to build, program and test the robot. The Stop Build Day is Feb. 23rd, 2016.

The first competition will be held at WPI on March 11th – 13th. The 2nd competition will be held in Providence, RI on March 24th – 26th. The competitions are very exciting events and we hope to get more spectators to come out and cheer on the team this year. More details will be provided as the time gets closer. You can visit our web site at for more information about the Robotomies or like us on Facebook at “GD Team 1277”.

The Robotics team depends on team mentors who are volunteers from the community and Mr. Mark Rocheleau, the Engineering and Technology teacher at the High School. The team is always looking for more mentors who have experience in machining, engineering, programming, marketing or project management.

All funding for the Robotics team is privately raised as no money from the school budget is allocated for this team. The Robotomies would like to thank our current sponsors who provide funding for the entrance fees for the FIRST competitions and for materials. Thank you to: Justin J. Maynard Memorial STEM Innovation Scholarship; The National Defense Education Program; The Society for American Military Engineers; Raytheon; Ted & Connie Lapres Fund; Mercury Systems; Groton Board of Trade; IBM Northeast Community Grant Program; GE Oil & Gas; Solidworks; and the Webber Restaurant Group. Additional sponsorships are always welcomed and appreciated.

If you have questions or would like to help support the Robotics team, please contact the High School who can put you in touch with our current mentors or students. Mr. Rocheleau may be reached at

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Adopt-A-Local Veteran

Adopt-A-Local Veteran
By Kelly McManus

Students and staff felt the excitement on December 3rd as we concluded the last of a three-part series dedicated to honoring our nation’s Veterans.

The first Advisory, on November 10th included an assembly that featured local members of the armed forces including Lt. Col John Giger and Major General Bruce Zukauskas who gave heartfelt speeches to the staff and the student body. 

During the 2nd Advisory, each class “adopted” an active service member, brainstormed ideas, and put a plan into action for filling a large USPS flat rate box with donated items.  On December 3rd, students came prepared with their thoughtfully chosen donations and worked together to decorate and fill their care-package.  They wrote heart-felt thank you notes on over-sized cards designed by Mr O’Connor’s design class and even contributed money to help defray the cost of shipping the boxes. 

In addition to the items personally selected, each care package included a GDRHS lanyard and a limited edition camouflage GD baseball hat.  Overall, we shipped out 35 boxes to active members of the armed services with an affiliation to Groton Dunstable, most of whom were former graduates.

Principal Michael Mastrullo was impressed by the effort.  "The students and staff have rallied around some worthwhile causes this year, but I can think of none better than this one. The students and staff are truly grateful for the service provided by members of the armed forces, and to send a thoughtful care package during the holiday season is the least we can do to demonstrate our gratitude."

The Advisory Program was re-designed this year to promote school spirit and enable students and staff to develop meaningful relationships and make a positive difference inside and out of the GD community.  The theme this year has centered around community service.  English teacher, Ms. Danielle Patenaude-Dumont added, “this year’s advisory program is more meaningful.”  

We have something really special here.  Teachers and students alike have reason to feel proud. No matter where those boxes end up, each participant will no doubt feel remembered and appreciated this holiday season.  Spanish teacher Nicole Penchansky excitedly reported  “Our class has enough stuff to fill a whole extra box!”  The students really came through again with their enthusiasm and generosity.  “It was great!  The kids were amazing.”  said, Social Studies teacher Sam McLellan. He and another Social Studies teacher, Colin Murphy combined their classes and experienced 100% participation.  “The one student who actually forgot, went home and brought his item back before the end of the day. We could have easily filled 3 boxes with the items that were donated.”  said McLellan.  

If you have a Twitter account you can view more pictures of our advisory programs by using the hashtag: #gdadvisory2015.