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Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 2:22 pm

First Batavia Players performance at new theater is a labor of 'love'

The Batavia Players present:

...an original play, written and directed by Patrick D. Burk. 

Starring:

Nikki Lanich as the Young Girl

Nick Russo as the Southern Preacher

Brittaney Lang as the Emily Bronte Girl

Friday, February 11, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Mancuso's hosts Holy Family School, of Le Roy, for Catholic Schools Week

Holy Family School of Le Roy celebrated Catholic Schools Week with a trip to Mancuso Bowling Center this week, following a Mass at Notre Dame High School.

Here is some footage of the students getting their games on -- and thank you to Lorie Longhany, who teaches art at the school, for indirectly providing the title of part four:

Catholic Schools Week -- which has been observed annually for many years (at least since 1889 at Holy Family) -- was actually last week, but the bowling outing and the Mass at Notre Dame were rescheduled due to bad weather. Pictures of the Holy Family crew at Mancuso's will be posted soon, along with photos of St. Joe's kids celebrating at the YMCA.

The purpose of Catholic Schools Week, according to Holy Family Principal Kevin Robertson (affectionately known as "Mr. Rob" to the students), is to give kids and staff the chance to celebrate their Catholic identity "in a way they don't get to the rest of the school year."

Kids, teachers and parents in Catholic education celebrate this annual, weeklong tradition with fun events at the schools and out in the community.

"A lot of these activities are geared toward teamwork," Robertson said. "It gives the kids a chance to work together and just have fun."

This is the third year in a row Mancuso's has welcomed Holy Family students in for Catholic Schools Week, according to physical education teacher Amy Drakes.

Drakes was in charge of coordinating this event, which she sees as a valuable opportunity to mix the different grade levels so that they can work together. She feels it's a great way to showcase the tight-knit bond between students for the community.

"The great thing about our school is that everyone knows each other," Drakes said. "Having all the (elementary and middle school) grades together is nice, too. You see a different side of the seventh- and eighth-graders when they're working with the little kids."

"There's a great sense of family and community (in the Catholic school setting)," Robertson said. "The kids get a strong foundation for morals and values, and they're conscious of the need to treat others with respect, and to be fair and productive."

Though most Holy Family students are Catholic, the school welcomes and includes students who are not Catholic as well.

"We have non-Catholic students, and we include them in everything we do," Robertson said, "but we also respect their beliefs. They can participate in the activities we have outside of school if they choose to do so -- but if they choose not to, that's understandable."

Education at Holy Family, as at other Catholic schools, goes beyond the classroom. Recently, the kids worked on fundraising efforts for Catholic Appeal's Week (see Feb. 7 announcement). Robertson said they will continue to have many activities through Catholic Appeal's Week, which is April 10 through 17.

Visit the Holy Family School website for more information.

SUPPLEMENTAL VIDEO:

St. Joseph School students enjoy the "bouncy house" at the YMCA:

Monday, February 7, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Elba's FIRST Lego League invites robot fans to a maze race at GCC

post by Daniel Crofts in announcements, GCC, lego league, tech wars

The following is a press release from Chantal Zambito, a resident of Elba and co-coach of Elba's FIRST Lego League (see Aug. 5 article):

Calling all NXT/RCX Robotic Clubs, Groups, Teams, and Enthusiasts!

If you are between the ages of 9 and 14, you are invited to come to Genesee Community College in Batavia to participate in a friendly maze race. Whether you are a novice or an experienced user of the NXT/RCX Robotic software, this is for you.

The event will take place on Thursday, March 17, 2011 in conjunction with Tech Wars. Registration will begin at 8:45 a.m. with the events from 9:30 – 12:30.

You may decide which level you would like to compete at, novice or advanced. The three teams with the fastest times making it in and out of a maze will receive a ribbon and certificate. The best time will be taken from the group’s three trips through the maze.

Novice groups will know the route of the maze prior to the competition. The advanced teams will navigate a route chosen at random. All routes will be on an 8’ X 4’ table.

A free style, noncompetitive exhibition will also be available for teams who would like to show off a creative robot.

Information on how to get a Robotics Club started at your school or in your community will be available at the event as well. Come and look at the 2010 FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Challenge Missions, projects and presentations from local teams.

For a map of the maze, registration form, or more information about the NXT Challenge at GCC contact Chantal Zambito at gcc.robotics2011@yahoo.com. For more information about Tech Wars go to www.techwarsgcc.org.

Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Husband and wife to be honored for work at St. Joseph School

post by Daniel Crofts in Catholic schools, st. joseph's school, teachers

It was the end of a very hectic day at St. Joseph School in Batavia. The building was nearly empty, and teachers John and Margaret Volpe were finally on their way home when Principal Karen Green approached them and said: "Oh by the way, you know that award (NBC newsman) Tim Russert started that they give out every year? You two won it this year."

Who and what

Russert, who died in 2008, was a former Catholic school student. He created the Making a Difference Award for the purpose of honoring former teachers who had an impact on his life. It is given annually to a Catholic school teacher in the diocese of Buffalo.

"We had no idea we were even being considred," John said.

Green's announcement that they had won this award was a surprise for another reason as well: It's only supposed to go to one person each year.

This is the first time two teachers are receiving the award together. Green nominated both John and Margaret, who teach sixth- through eighth-graders at the Summit Street school, after finding herself unable to choose between them.

"After working with John and Margaret as a teacher and then observing them as a principal," she said, "I can say that when it comes to making a difference in students' lives, that's exactly what they do. It's a daily occurrence, and you can see it in how the kids relate to them."

Monday, January 10, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Fast facts: Batavia Players' new theater

Some of our readers had questions after reading Thursday's, "Opening gala showcases Batavia players' new theater on Harvester."

Here's some more information:

  • Seating/Capacity: The new theater seats between 100-140 people.
  • Ticket prices: These will vary depending on the show. The first play to be performed in the Harvester location will be an Honesty Theatre performance (click here for more information on this group) on Jan. 22; admission will be $10 per adult, $8 for children and seniors.
  • Theater hours: At this time, according to Batavia Players' Board President Patrick Burk, the space is only open for rehearsals and performances. Burk hopes, eventually, to have people working there "around the clock" on various projects. 
  • To read more about the new theater space, visit www.bataviaplayers.org/new-theater-space.
Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Opening gala showcases Batavia Players' new theater on Harvester

(Please note additional information added on Jan. 10 below the story and pictures.)

Ever since he was a 10-year-old boy putting on plays with his friends in the basement of a church -- with no audience but themselves -- Patrick Burk dreamed of having his own theater.

"I asked my grandpa for $500 to set up a theater in Mumford," Burk said. "Because for some reason I thought that was how much it would cost."

Grandpa said no, so he had to wait 44 years.

Fast forward to the present day: Burk is board president for the Batavia Players, which are 95 percent finished establishing their new theater in the historic Batavia Industrial Center on Harvester Avenue (see last year's story for background information).

An opening gala was held at the new theater last night. Attendees got to tour the grounds, listen to some music, and enjoy some refreshments. 

Burk is pictured above, addressing those in attendance from the stage of the three-quarter round theater. He said that while there is still work to be done, "we did pass inspection (which is a big deal in Batavia)."

This met with laughter and applause.

The following are pictures of the new theater space, including the black-box stage, the costume storage room, meeting room (where actors can gather to rehearse) and refreshment room.

Friday, December 24, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Local historian invited to 'revisit' Batavia with new book

post by Daniel Crofts in batavia, larry barnes, local history

Representatives of Arcadia Publishing have been traveling to communities across the country for at least 10 years for their "Images of America" series, and last winter they approached Larry D. Barnes, Batavia's resident historian.

According to Barnes, the South Carolina-based publishing company, which published another book on Batavia -- simply titled "Batavia" -- about 10 years ago, wanted to "take another look" at the city and its history.

Barnes' book, "Batavia Revisited," will explore different topics and feature different photos -- of which there are about 220 in all -- from the first book. It covers many of the major events that reshaped the city's appearance, including:

  • The relocation of the railroad tracks to the outskirts of town;
  • The construction of the Oak Street Bridge; and
  • The Urban Renewal of the 1960s and early 1970s

As a book that relies heavily on the use of photographs, "Batavia Revisited" is mainly focused on the period from 1860 onward. However, Barnes includes an introduction dealing with Batavia's earlier history, which goes back to the early 1800s.

"I also try to straighten out some misinformation over the years (about Batavia's history)," Barnes said. "For example, I've found over and over again in my research, that the person most people think built the Old City Hall had been dead for two years (before it was built). It was his son who built it."

Barnes is a retired Genesee Community College professor and a volunteer with the Genesee County History Department. He taught psychology, but describes history as a "second career."

"It's a personal interest of mine," he said. "I do a lot of (historical) writing and research."

The book will be on sale starting Jan. 17, and will be available for purchase at Present Tense books on Wasington Avenue (and probably at the Holland Land Office Museum as well).

For more information on the book, please visit its page on Arcadia Publishing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Christmas in the schools, part 3

post by Daniel Crofts in christmas concerts, music, schools

The third and final "Christmas in the Schools" video features students from Holy Family School (Le Roy), Batavia Middle School and St. Joseph School (I was going to go to Oakfield Elementary, but the weather prevented me -- St. Joe's was having the official holiday concert at the same time that evening, so I figured this would give me the chance to film those St. Joe's students who weren't caroling at the City Centre).

I have to warn you, the video quality is not quite as good as the other two installments.  I was having some unexpected camera troubles -- some of this was my fault, some of it the fault of circumstances. But I hope that the quality of the students' performances will make up for this.

Finally, I just need to correct a quick error in the first video: "Santa's Playlist" was written by John Jacobson and Roger (not Robert) Emerson; you will notice that these two wrote one of the songs appearing in this video.

Thank you to all of the schools for allowing me to see and showcase the students' hard work and talent, and congratulations to the kids on a job well done.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Christmas in the Schools, part 2

post by Daniel Crofts in christmas concerts, music, schools

My second Christmas video features the talented students of John Kennedy, Robert Morris, Alexander elementary and Pembroke Intermediate schools.

Some quick background on Pembroke Intermediate: For several years, chorus teacher Andy Clark has made a yearly tradition of reserving a spot in Pembroke Choralier Christmas concerts for "Christmas Sing-alongs," during which former choraliers are invited to come up and sing with the group. You will be able to see them up on the stage, behind all of the current choraliers, during the sing-along segments.

Stay tuned for part 3!

If you missed part 1, click here.

Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 3:53 pm

United Way at 58 percent of 2011 campaign goal

post by Daniel Crofts in announcements, United Way

Genesee County United Way is more than halfway to its goal of $392,000 for the 2011 campaign. According to Regional Director Jamie Beedham-Rada, they are currently at 58 percent and "need your help to reach 100 percent."

Beedham-Rada says that United Way's mission is "to give back to our community, advocate for those in need, and receive funding to support local non-profit agencies."

Their five chief service categories are early childhood, school-age children, elderly, crisis and disability services.

"I believe by giving to United Way we are 'paying it forward,'" Beedham-Rada said, "because most of us have probably utilized services from one of the many agencies United Way supports at some point in our lives.

"Whether you had a child in Boy Scouts, an aging parent in need of assistance, no food for your family, or you just needed someone to talk to, one of the many amazing agencies in our county was there to assist you."

She also stressed that all money donated to United Way "stays right in our community to help the people we care about most."

For more information, contact Beedham-Rada at 343-8141. To donate, make checks payable to:

United Way

335 Ellicott St.

Batavia, NY 14020

Graphic submitted by Jamie Beedham-Rada

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 4:55 pm

BID invites shoppers to 'Shop in the Zone for the Holidays'

post by Daniel Crofts in BID, downtown batavia, shopping

Shoppers have until Dec. 24 to enter for a chance to win a $500 shopping spree in downtown Batavia.

The Business Improvement District -- better known as the BID -- Promotions Committee started "Shop in the Zone for the Holidays" on Dec. 1. Participating downtown businesses will be handing out shopper's cards to anyone who asks for them. No purchase is necessary.

Shoppers have to visit at least 12 of the 30 participating businesses, and then deposit their tickets at one of the following drop-box locations:

  • Adam Miller's Toys & Bicycle, 8 Center St.
  • Marchese Computer Products, 220 Ellicott St.
  • O'Lacy's Irish Pub, 5 School St.
  • The Daily Grind, 85 Main St.
  • Valle Jewelers, 21 Jackson St.

On Dec. 27, a lucky winner will get $500 to spend at the participating businesses.

BID officials see this as a two-way benefit. Executive Director Don Burkel said that it attracts business in the downtown area while familiarizing people with available services.

"I encourage people to participate," Burkel said. "500 dollars is a fair amount of money, and there are a lot of goods and services (at downtown Batavia businesses) that everyone can use."

Krysia Mager, a member of the BID Promotion Committee, calls this " a chance to get people to shop and dine in downtown for the holiday season."

You can find all of the businesses taking part in "Shop in the Zone for the Holiday Season" at www.downtownbataviany.com.

Again, shoppers must visit at least 12 of them and collect a shopper's card from each one.

For more details, contact Burkel at 344-0900.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Christmas in the schools, part 1

post by Daniel Crofts in christmas concerts, music, schools

I'm on another trip around the county, this time for footage of school Christmas concerts.

I decided to do three or four shorter videos this time, instead of one big video with all the school concerts packed together (see Spring concerts article). This way, I can include more of the performances from each school.

The first video includes concert footage from Notre Dame High School, Dorothy B. Dunce Elementary (Pavilion), Jackson and St. Joseph schools. Jackson and St. Joe's performed at "Christmas in the City" on Friday.

My apologies to Jackson for only including a few songs. This was a shorter concert.

More to come!

Friday, December 3, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Robert Morris School seeks votes for $50,000 grant to improve playground

post by Daniel Crofts in batavia, playground, Robert Morris School

This story has been updated, see below.

Robert Morris Elementary School is among 1,000 competitors in the Pepsi Refresh Project this month -- and if all goes well, they'll be one of the grant recipients. They want you to cast votes for them -- that's how the winners are chosen.

The school, located at 80 Union St. in Batavia, submitted a project idea to build a better, environmentally friendly playground there.

Each month, Pepsi ponies up $1.2 million in grant funds for worthy projects in the United States. Thus, there are 12 submission periods. If a project doesn't win one month, it can be resubmitted, according to the website rules. And if it made the top 100, it will automatically be rolled into the next month's competition.

This month, there were 1,096 ideas submitted. But only the first 1,000 are considered and only 32 will win money. It breaks down like this: two get $250,000; 10 get $50,000; 10 get $25,000; and 10 get $5,000.

The grants fall into six categories: health and fitness; food and shelter, education; The Planet; neighborhoods; and arts and culture.

People can go online and vote up to 10 times a day per person, per IP address/account. Voting ends at the end of December. Potential winners will be notified within the first week of January. Actual winners will be posted online by mid-month.

UPDATE:

Robert Morris School Principal Diane Bonarigo said that playground improvements -- designed by Parkitects -- are based on surveys filled out by parents, teachers and students.

Some features of the new playground would include safer and more usable equipment for kids with disabilities, equipment that is more suited for younger children, solar lighting in the evening for safety, more trees and mulch, and more opportunities for kids to get active.

Teacher Jerry Sloan said that the Playground Committee, of which he is the faculty leader, wanted this project to extend "beyond the scope of our school."

"The playground is used by the community," said teacher Jerry Sloan of the Playground Committee. "And for a lot of kids, it's one of the few available means of recreation."

"We're not just doing this for us," Bonarigo said. "We're doing it for the community. We think it will benefit (Batavia) for years to come."

1. You can go to refresheverything.com/robertmorrisplagyround, where you can find more information -- including a video made by students, staff and parents -- and vote by clicking the "Vote for this idea" tab (upper right).

2. You can also vote via text messaging. Simply text to 73774 and enter 104607 in the message.

3. If you have a Facebook account, you can enter your Facebook username and password to cast your vote (and also share with friends).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Elba students build robots one Lego at a time

post by Daniel Crofts in announcements, elba, lego league, legos

Here's a news release submitted by Elba resident Chantal Zambito, co-coach of Elba's FIRST Lego team; please see the Aug. 5 article:

On Saturday, Nov. 20 the NXT Lancers Team from Elba competed in the Finger Lakes Regional Foundation for the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Qualifier Tournament.

It took place at Churchville-Chili High School.

Five students made up the Lancers' team: Christian Gerould, Garrett Sinemus, Evan Hare, Colin Hunt and Johnny Zambito.

They used LEGO kits to build robots programmed to perform specific tasks.

Over the course of eight weeks, they designed, researched, built, programmed, tested and refined a fully autonomous robot capable of completing various missions.

This year’s theme, "Body Forward Challenge," explored the cutting-edge world of biomedical engineering.

Participants learned about innovative ways this science is used to repair injuries, overcome genetic predispositions, and maximize the body’s potential -- with the goal of helping people lead healthier, happier lives.

The NXT Lancers designed a hockey helmet with a visual warning, airbag, and damping system to help a player avoid a concussion if they were body checked during a game.

The boys performed a newscast skit using themselves as "emergency medical technicians" and expert "doctors" to present their invention to a panel of judges. They were limited to five minutes.

The team was then asked questions about their project for another five minutes. The judges commented, “Great presentation and teamwork. We really like how you researched concussions and included an explanation of them in your skit.”

Next, the robot design judges interviewed the team. They talked about the construction of the robot and its programming. The judges were interested in what the team came up with to solve problems and what they considered to be the best parts of the robot.

The NXT Lancers demonstrated several of the robot's programs during their interview. The technical presentation judge commented: “Sturdy robot, nice consistency with the robot arm and good documentation.”

Then it was on to the robot performance rounds. Each team performed in three rounds, each lasting two-and-a-half minutes.

The team scored a total of 205 points, winning one of the three rounds -- an exceptional accomplishment for their first qualifier event.

In all, there were 21 teams, seven of which will go on to the RIT competition.

Saturday was a nonstop day of preparing and presenting. The team members worked hard and their determination was amazing, according to co-coach Evelyn Hunt.

Next, they will be preparing for an exhibition competition at Genesee Community College on March 17 during the GLOW region Tech Wars.

The Elba team is looking for more members, especially girls. Robotics are not just for boys! (In fact, there were two all-girl teams at the Nov. 20 competition and one of them earned the highest award. Both are going on to the next round.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 7:09 pm

GCASA hosts 'All That Glitters Dinner Dance' for seniors

post by Daniel Crofts in announcements, GCASA, Seniors

The Senior Spice Committee, a program of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism & Substance Abuse (GCASA), invites Genesee County senior citizens to the “All That Glitters Dinner Dance” on Saturday, Dec. 4. It will be at First Presbyterian Church, 300 E. Main St. in Batavia, from 5 until 8:30 p.m.

Registration must be received no later than Friday, Nov. 26.

Admission is $10 per person and includes dinner, dancing, and holiday and dance music from the Batavia Swing Band. Individuals and couples can also have photos taken by Bill Moon, free of charge.

The evening will follow this schedule: 5-5:30, social time with punch; 5:30-6:30, dinner; 6:30-8:30, dancing. Dinner will include salad, Swiss steak, potatoes, vegetable, dessert and beverage.

For more information about “All That Glitters” or the Senior Spice Committee – which will hold its next meeting at GCASA, 430 E. Main St. in Batavia, at 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 8 – call or e-mail Sue Hawley at 815-1872, shawley@gcasa.org.

Saturday, November 20, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Batavia Downs hosts Winter Wonderland of Arts, Crafts & Gifts

post by Daniel Crofts in Batavia Downs, Craft Show, Holidays, photos

Alicia Lurye of AK Entertainment is happy to be hosting the "Winter Wonderland of Arts, Crafts & Gifts" this weekend at Batavia Downs Casino. She said this is the first Christmas show at the Downs for many years.

"They just haven't found anyone willing to do it," she said. "And look at the turnout."

A lot of people came to browse and buy what 40 crafters and vendors had to offer:

Tami Burbules of East Pembroke offered free samples of her bread dips. She is selling them in addition to desserts, veggie dips and other treats from Gourmet Creations.

Monday, November 8, 2010 at 1:59 pm

'Peaceful Genesee' hosts St. Bonaventure professor's nonviolence workshops

post by Daniel Crofts in peaceful genesee, religion

Peaceful Genesee, a coalition dedicated to making Genesee County a nonviolent community, launched the first in a three-part series of workshops on nonviolence last week at the Office for the Aging.

Each workshop is taught by Barry Gan, Ph.D, above left. He's talking to Rev. James Renfrew of First Presbyterian Church of Byron, and Ed Minardo, center, of Genesee Justice.

Gan is a philosophy professor and the director of the Center for Nonviolence at St. Bonaventure University. He is also the co-editor -- with Robert L. Holmes -- of the book, "Nonviolence in Theory and Practice."

Outside of academia, Gan's experience includes taking part in a nonviolent protest in New York City about 10 years ago, after the police officers who shot and killed Amadou Diallo were acquitted of murder.

He also participates in conferences and interfaith dialogue groups, and has travelled around the world to places that are, for one reason or another, important in the history of nonviolent philosophy.

Recently, the whole violence/nonviolence issue hit somewhat close to home. One of Gan's students -- interestingly, a student in his course on the peaceful philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi -- was beaten up recently by a group of thugs.

"I was talking to him (in the last week)," Gan said, "and I asked him, 'Do Gandhi's words still ring true for you after what you experienced?' He said: 'Yes, because I would have made it worse by resisting them.'"

Questions not only of how to end community violence, but also of how to deal with violence when it occurs are very important to Peaceful Genesee (see April 29 article).

William Privett, a Peaceful Genesee member and regional coordinator for Pax Christi, talked about his hopes for Gan's workshops this way:

"I hope we have a movement expand, over time, where the primary way of thinking (in Genesee County) is to be peaceful and nonviolent. In other words, it wouldn't be just a secondhand thought -- we would like people to look to nonviolence, instead of dominating other people, as a way of transforming society."

How people do this is not an easy question to answer. Gan told everyone, in so many words, right at the outset that he did not intend to oversimplify such a complex matter. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 2:43 pm

School program helps kids think critically about media and persuasion

post by Daniel Crofts in announcements, GCASA, Media Literacy Program

“If media creates reality, what is your truth?”

That’s the question that Prevention Educator Laura Ricci of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism & Substance Abuse (GCASA) wants to get young people thinking about.

Ricci teaches Media Literacy, an ongoing prevention program, to Genesee County students along with other GCASA staff. GCASA started implementing these presentations in the schools two years ago, and they are still going strong.

Holy Family School in Le Roy included the program in its Red Ribbon Week activities last week. Ricci came to teach two Media Literacy sessions – one to fourth- through sixth-graders, one for seventh- and eighth-graders.

Students were excited about the presentation and contributed by sharing stories about their own experiences.

“Laura did an excellent job presenting the information and getting students involved,” said Principal Kevin Robertson. “The presentation educated our students on the many types of media messages that so greatly affect them on a daily basis.”

Today’s youth are exposed to greater volumes of media input than any other generation, from television to radio, iPods, billboards, store advertisements, video games, magazines and the internet, and more.

The goal of the Media Literacy Program is to inform them about how they are being influenced by the media without realizing it, and to get them thinking independently and critically about the messages being conveyed by commercials, television shows, advertisements, etc.

Each presentation is age-appropriate, but all of them raise the same points and questions about media influence, with particular focus on how companies have used it to market alcohol and tobacco products.

The questions Ricci wants students to think about when watching a commercial or reading an advertisement are:

    •    Who created the message, and why?
    •    Who is the target audience? What suggests this?
    •    What is the text of the message (the actual words and pictures portrayed)?
    •    What tools of persuasion are used?
    •    What healthy/unhealthy messages are being communicated
    •    What part of the story is not being told?

She showed the students commercials and print advertisements that exemplified persuasive techniques such as beauty, humor, and fame/status.

Once she moved onto the cigarette ads, she talked about the target audience.

“People who smoke almost never switch brands,” Ricci said. “So when tobacco manufacturers (of any brand) advertise their products, they’re trying to get non-smokers to start smoking.”

“Media Literacy is a very important part of our activities during Red Ribbon Week,” Robertson said. “This is the first year we’ve done it, but it will continue each year from now on.”

For more information or to request a Media Literacy session at your school, call Shannon Ford at 815-1876.

Disclosure: Dan Crofts is employed by GCASA.

Sunday, October 31, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Batavia man writes novel based on William Morgan's disappearance

post by Daniel Crofts in books, local history, William Morgan

Tom Talbot loves local history.

And he loves to write.

And he loves fiction.

Over a 30-year period, he worked hard to bring these interests together in a project that would ultimately become the historical fiction novel, "The Craft: Freemasons, Secret Agents, and William Morgan."

Originally from Elba, Talbot has lived in Batavia for more than 40 years. While some people may say that Batavia is a boring place to live, he has always been fascinated by the stories it has to tell.

"We live in an area with a rich history," he said.

His book, which was published in August, is set in 1826 and follows two government agents who are assigned by President John Quincy Adams to investigate the disappearance of William Morgan.

Morgan, as area history buffs know, was a Batavia resident famous for having mysteriously vanished after threatening to write a book exposing the secrets of Freemasonry.

"[The Morgan incident] put Batavia on the map for a while," Talbot said. "In a bad way, but still..."

The book's plot goes beyond William Morgan, placing his disappearance in the context of a larger web of intrigue that involves "rogue British Masons" (as the back cover synopsis puts it) and a presidential assassination plot.

"I didn't want the book to be just about Morgan himself," Talbot said. "That's been done by a lot of people. I wanted to include him, but also have a broader scope."

Agents Matthew Prescott and Zeb Cardwell are the story's protagonists. In Talbot's fast-paced thriller, they travel all over the Eastern Seaboard searching for the truth behind Morgan's disappearance, going from Washington, D.C., to New York City, Albany, Canada, Rochester and, you guessed it, Batavia.

Locals may recognize certain locations mentioned in the Batavia segment, including the Holland Land Office Museum, the Eagle Tavern, and the Mix Mansion (which is over on Mix Place).

Research into what life was like in 18th Century New York State -- including the difficulties of travelling in the pre-railroad days, bedbug infestations at inns, and the dangerous malfunctions of primitive steamboats -- helped Talbot craft some very interesting dramatic situations for his characters.

"A lot of it you have to imagine (as an author), but you do need some basis (in period details)."

"The Craft" is Talbot's first novel and second book. His first book, "Illustrated Black History," was a curriculum guide for social studies teachers (he himself taught history at Batavia Middle School for three years). It is available as a reference text in the Richmond Memorial Library's local history section.

He started working on "The Craft" while attending graduate school at SUNY Brockport and raising a family in Batavia. The busyness of his life required him to set the book aside for long periods of time; but over the years, his wife, Vicki, kept pestering him to finish it.

He credits the completion and publication of the novel to her persistence.

Looking back on this 30-year endeavor, Talbot likes to joke about how he started writing the book on yellow legal pads before graduating to the use of a typewriter, then transferring it onto his Apple computer, eventually putting it on his IBM computer, and, finally, finishing it on his laptop.

Writing is something in which he "dabbled" quite a bit before starting on "The Craft."

"Writing was always one of my major interests," he said. "I played around with poetry and short stories in college. I also did curricular writing for the Batavia City School District and for the Buffalo schools."

Since retiring from his position as an administrator at GCC in 2000, he has worked part-time as a grant writer and data evaluator for the Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (GCASA).

"I like to kid people by saying that I've written a lot of grants, but that's not all I do -- I've also written a book."

His jobs in the Buffalo schools, GCC and GCASA have involved extensive research and data evaluation as well as writing. Between this and a history degree from Georgetown University, his credentials for a research-intensive project like "The Craft" aren't too shabby.

As for whether other Tom Talbot novels are on the horizon, he definitely hopes that "The Craft" is "not a one-shot deal."

"I have some ideas for other books, including a sequel to 'The Craft.' Possibly something in a different genre, too."

Talbot himself is an avid reader and enjoys authors as diverse as John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Daniel Silva, J.R.R. Tolkien and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He has a blog, Tom's Book Pages, where he writes book reviews.

As for "The Craft," you can purchase it locally at Present Tense or at the Holland Land Office Museum; you can also order it online.

For more information or to order a copy, visit www.thecraftthebook.com. Talbot says he encourages people to comment on the book on the site as well.

"I would appreciate any feedback," he said.

Photo courtesy of Jen Zambito

Saturday, October 30, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Attica couple strives to set up teen center in village

post by Daniel Crofts in Attica, after-school programs, teens

"What's YOUR alternative?"

That's the question Wittnes Smith, of Attica, poses to young people in grades six through 12.

Since moving to the Village of Attica in 2006, Smith and his wife, Tressa, have noticed a couple things: there's not much for young people to do in Attica, and with too much free time on their hands, youths sometimes get involved in things they shouldn't.

So they are working to establish the Club ALT Teen Center in one of the three storefronts of Attica's historic Opera House, which is located at 16 Exchange St. in the village. The aim is to provide teens with alternatives to using alcohol and drugs, and to help them develop a "different outlook on life."

He says there is wide consensus that having a teen center here would be good.

The couple has been actively working on getting the club started for about a year. It would be open during after-school hours to sixth- through 12th-graders in Attica and surrounding areas, including Genesee County.

Village of Attica representatives, while unable to contribute to the project in an official capacity, have said that there are no legal or zoning issues that would prevent a teen center from operating.

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