High: Westerly Middle School has brought back its student council — suspended at the school for at least six years before this fall — and it has quickly become a valuable organization for students. Take Hope Urbonas. The fifth-grade representative wanted to learn about what it takes to be a leader and is now experiencing it firsthand. “I want to make WMS better and safer for all of the students who will come after me,” the 10-year-old said. During their first term as student council officers and representatives, students are learning the democratic process, holding meetings and making subtle changes at Westerly Middle. Peter Fusaro, the student council adviser, said resurrecting the council and going through the process of an election has provided an important educational opportunity for all students. “Student council gives students a voice, ownership and a say in everyday decisions,” he said. “... They’re learning what it means to make decisions and run a meeting. It’s a good experience.”
Low: The Richmond Town Council has had enough. So frustrated by inaction at the annual Chariho School District omnibus meeting and having its initiatives rebuffed by Charlestown and Hopkinton, it voted Tuesday to draft its own amendments to the Chariho Act. Councilors asked Town Solicitors Michael Cozzolino and Karen Ellsworth to have the draft ready for the next council meeting in January. “We don’t need the three towns’ approval. It’s the legislature that controls the Chariho Act,” Town Council President B. Joseph Reddish said. “I find it insulting to the town of Richmond’s people at this point. I’m really fed up with the other two towns digging in their heels over crazy stuff and not even wanting to come to the table to discuss it. We’ve sat at the omnibus meeting for seven years in a row, and it’s the same thing.” Reddish added that making changes to the Act would be a long process, but the town need to “put a stake in the ground and move forward at this point.”
High: All Westerly public school students, from kindergartners to seniors at Westerly High, participated in the Hour of Code challenge — a worldwide movement that saw more than 12 million students in 170 countries exposed to computer programming and coincided with Computer Science Education week. “Students are learning the language behind making something happen on the computer screen,” said Bea Lukens, a teacher at Dunn’s Corners Elementary School. “These days, they don’t just need to know how to use a computer, but how it works. When they’re ready to go into a career, in 90 percent of their jobs they’re going to need to know computer programming.” Education leaders say teaching computer science in K-12 allows students to gain a deeper knowledge of the fundamentals of computing and it exposes them to a field that drives innovation and where job prospects are strong. “It’s so important that we introduce the computer language,” Lukens added. “We’re teaching future engineers.”
High: Five hundred families signed up for the Johnnycake Center’s adopt-a-family program this year, and all 500 were matched with gift givers. A couple weeks back, the center was short 26 donors with a deadline looming. But the community came through. “Somehow, it all comes together in the end,” Jonnycake Executive Director Liz Pasqualini said. “The community has always been tremendously generous, and this year was no exception. ... We’re very appreciative of the support the community continues to show us year after year.” The center’s annual tradition is a three-part program, including a turkey dinner for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the gift-giving drive. Gift givers receive information about each child they adopt, such as age, gender and clothing size, as well as a list of wants and needs. Each donor is asked to buy four or five presents per child, spending no more than $25 per gift. Adopted families can sign up for all three components of the program, or just one.