I’ve had lots of free time on my hands this month as my kids are all (I mean all three!) away at summer camp and my husband, well, he still has to work so we can eat and have a roof over our heads.
Me, I’ve had time to explore and actually wander around the outlying towns I cover instead of just “visit” the towns on the Internet through municipal webpages.
Sure, there is lots of information about events, festivals and programs online, but there is no substitute for hitting the pavement and asking around.
On such a visit to Fairport, I took a break, sat by the Erie Canal and called my brother in New Jersey.
He asked what I was up to.
“Oh, I need to write a profile story about a person from a town I really know very few people, so I’m walking around this cute little village called Fairport. I’m stopping into the library and local shops and saying hello and asking people for ideas.”
He paused. He chuckled. Then he began to speak. When my brother speaks, he has no filter. At least not with his sister.
“You’re going around ASKING random people if they have ideas for you? You know who does that? CRAZY PEOPLE!!”
Perhaps. Perhaps the unstructured time of summer has driven me mad. But just wandering around I gathered the following for story ideas:
- A beauty shop that carries only sustainable products and is one of the only salons in the country that has a state of the art ventilation system that is constantly bringing in fresh air to protect the health of clients and employees. They also collect food for the local food pantry and portions of their profits go to a well project in Uganda.
- An upcoming music festival
- An ice cream shop owned by a Xerox manager called the Moonlight Creamery that has special wine-food-ice cream pairing events and crazy flavors like oatmeal ice cream.
- Most of all, I found a golf fund-raiser to raise money for a Fairport football coach battling a degenerative neuro muscular disease. The minute I saw it, I said, THAT’s my story.
But, I can’t wander around all the time, people. I need your help.
I need for you to tell me about great little shops on the east side of Rochester that have great shop owners with interesting lives.
I need to know what organizations you’re giving your time to and what events that are coming up that go with your cause.
I need to know about the issues in your town you care about, how you are getting involved and how others can do the same.
Fall is coming. I’m nearing the end of my story idea rope and I can’t wander around the streets in the cold of February. Send me your best ideas NOW!
Every now and again, I get a story idea in my inbox that just cannot wait a week until it is published in my column. In our age of overtesting our children to the point of desparation where they even cheat on college entrance examinations, here is a story of Melissa Gertner.
Melissa is a mom who was inspired by her son’s curiosity to solve problems by tinkering with old machine parts in his basement to start an after school club called FIRST LEGO® League that lights the spark of science and technology in tween and teen-aged kids in Victor, NY.
She is competing for a scholarship to win $10,000 for the Victor school district to continue and grow the LEGO program for years to come in Victor.
Here is her story. Vote for her at this link
A Mom and a STEM Advocate
I never liked science. Or math. Technology scares me. So, you must wonder, how could I have helped connect others to science, technology, engineering and math? I am not a teacher. Or an engineer. I can barely balance my checkbook. Still you wonder…
The answer is simple. I am a mom and an advocate. My son is endlessly curious and creative. He is always inventing things in the basement, taking machines apart to see how they work, reading about the way our world works, drawing his plans, bringing them to life, making a mess, starting all over again. Every day. All day. And he inspires me. To provide opportunities for him and others like him to find their very special and immensely valuable place our world.
So, two and a half years ago, with the guidance of the Victor Intermediate School, another devoted mom and I started the Victor Intermediate School FIRST LEGO League (VIS FLL) Club, a 3 year after-school pilot program designed to capture students’ interest in science, technology and engineering. The program offers hands-on real–world learning experiences that reach beyond the traditional classroom.
In our first year, we served 26 4th graders in a non-competitive format. In 2010, we took six teams of 43 4th and 5th graders to qualifiers. Three of those teams advanced to the Regional Championship. This year we will serve 80 students, including six teams of 5th and 6th graders attending the qualifiers in November and six teams of 4th and 5th graders participating in a non-competitive season starting in January 2012.
How did I find my way to this program you ask. Well, three years ago, I had the privilege of coaching my son’s Jr. FIRST LEGO® League team. Little did I know, I had embarked upon the journey of a lifetime. Somewhere along the way, perhaps when I saw the pride in the faces of my son and his teammates at their show and share event or the incredible ideas they generated or the solutions these 8 year olds developed, I was hooked and committed to providing a continuum of science and engineering opportunities to as many students as I could possibly embrace.
Since that time, I have coached his FLL team for two more consecutive years, been a co-coordinator for the club in the off-season and am currently the coordinator of the VIS FLL Club. I have also actively helped other teams get started in our region by sharing information, resources and encouragement.
I continue to be inspired by the imagination, ideas, teamwork and passion these kids generate. Not only do our students participate in community events and competitions, they also mentor local students and others throughout our region, and spread the word about how exciting science and engineering can be. As much as I am helping to connect all these kids with science, technology and engineering experiences, they are the true connectors, connecting me with the best of myself and the best of themselves with our world.
This summer and hopefully for many months to follow, my editors have given me a new challenge – find interesting people to profile in the ROC East Towns of Pittsford, Victor, and Webster. Find people with a unique way of making a living or those who possess a hobby, craft, talent, or story in their past that sets them apart. And make the idea photogenic, and coordinate your source’s schedule with a staff photographer; because photographers have to make a living too.
Come on people, I know you’re out there.
How do I know this? Because within one walking block of my house, I have found interesting people that would make incredible subjects for profile stories. Artists. Gardeners. Mysterious Xylophone players. People who used to live in Nepal. But I only know these facts about my fabulous neighbors is because they are my neighbors.
And if all these people inhabit just one small block of Rochester’s eastern towns, then just imagine who else could be out there – other fabulous people with hobbies, businesses, causes, or talents that really make them stand out.
So, if you know of any such people and they are your Pittsford, Victor or Webster neighbors, won’t you please ask them if they might like to be possibly featured in the Our Towns section of the Democrat & Chronicle? If they are a budding entrepreneur, artist, musician, this could only be a win-win situation.
If not, I just might show up in a suburban development near you, walking the sidewalkless streets wearing a placard that says “Got Story?”