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( 7 Votes )

Middle school kidsRemember middle school?

Most of us would rather not.

What with the fluctuating hormones, the peer pressure, the growth spurts and the clumsiness, it’s hard to figure out who you are and where you’re going.

Social media thrown into the mix complicates things even further.

Fluvanna Middle School Principal Brad Stang and his administrative and guidance staff wanted to do something to help students navigate the often rocky road of adolescence. School Counselor Lynn Jenkins said it became obvious students needed help learning things other generations took for granted.

“We notice on a daily basis the changes that seem to be occurring in their ability to interact with kindness and compassion,” Jenkins said. “It appears that social media is attempting to replace the hard social work of dealing face-to-face with their peers, a skill that they will now need to practice in order to be successful in real life. It seems to be easier to be mean or cruel because they can do it either anonymously, or without provocation, and with no need to feel any empathy.”

Teacher Hillary Pleasant had her own concerns. Pleasant noticed students didn’t know how to greet each other or adults. She shared her observations with Jenkins.

As Jenkins, Pleasant and two other teachers and administrative staff spent hours over the summer researching packaged curriculums, Jenkins said they realized none fit. Either they didn’t cover the topics the FMS team felt were important or they were too expensive.

“I also didn’t want this to be a burden on teachers,” Jenkins said. “They already have so much to do. I knew we needed their buy-in. And we didn’t want just a video they’d put in and have students watch.”

Finally, Jenkins told Stang, “Let me take a stab at it.”

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( 7 Votes )

Scott and Joann MeinMention the words “film” or “movie” and Scott Mein’s face lights up.

Film is a passion of this ex-history teacher. Ask him anything on the subject and he will rattle off anything you want to know; his knowledge of films seems limitless.

He and his wife, JoAnn Mein, host a film club as part of the Newcomers and Old Friends at Lake Monticello.

“When I was a kid I was too hyperactive to sit and read for hours but my dad was a big storyteller and would tell us stories about when he was in the war [World War II] and basketball, which he loved,” said Mein. “I enjoyed these stories over and over again so that’s when I turned to movies for entertainment. I love the medium; they are my books.”

Mein reminisced about some of the old films. He recited the classic lines between Rod Steiger and Marlon Brando: “I could have had class. I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody,” from On the Waterfront, one of Mein’s favorite films. Mein agrees with Director Elia Kazan’s strong, gritty and dark vision, and credits stellar performances from not only Brando and Steiger but also Lee J. Cobb, Eva Marie Saint and Carl Malden. He called the film a true Hollywood classic that has withstood time by reflecting society and its struggles in a raw and enduring way.

When quizzed on Ronald Coleman’s famous line in A Tale of Two Cities, Mein nailed it: “It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.”

The Searchers with John Wayne is one of Mein’s favorites, and he said Kirk Douglas in Spartacus delivered a compelling performance. He also named the Academy Award-winning movie Best Years of Our Lives as another thought-provoking film.

There are so many films and so many memorable performances, so many directors with varied visions bringing to life the writer’s meaning. This is what attracts and excites Mein. Sitting alone or with one or two others in distant corners of the theater, he watches the flickering images across the screen with focused attention and later walks out with a better understanding of the writer’s message. Add a comment

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( 10 Votes )

Toys Happy FaceIn a world seemingly divided in every way, hundreds came together to spread good will Saturday (Dec. 2).

Fluvanna’s faith community continued its more than 40-year legacy of giving to the less fortunate with the Happy Face event at Central Elementary. The Fluvanna Christian Service Society coordinates toy, food, cash and coat donations from the community to provide holiday cheer to Fluvanna’s neediest residents.

More than 200 children from 100 families crowded into the auditorium to sing Christmas carols, hear the Christmas story, answer holiday trivia and wait to see if they won a new bike or video game.

Zonita Bell sat with her three children, LaTrell, Lyric and Lamark. Bell said she relocated to Fluvanna a few months ago because she inherited a house.

A single mom, Bell works part-time and said it’s hard to make ends meet. The Happy Face event helps out a lot. “It means a great deal to me. With three kids and doing it all yourself – having bills to pay and not being supported. This is a big help,” she said.

“It’s their Christmas,” she added, nodding toward her children.

Bell said she and Lyric even had their picture taken sitting on Santa’s lap.

Chrissy Blackwell is a photographer with her own business, Shuttered Dreams. She said four years ago she got a panicked call from her pastor asking if she could take pictures of children with Santa.  At the last minute, the person who had been taking them couldn’t do it.

“I’ve been doing it ever since,” said Blackwell, standing next to her 16-year-old daughter, Hannah. “We just love it. This starts our Christmas season.”
Families walk away with a printed copy of the photo.
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( 7 Votes )

Diana PickralDiana Pickral earned her degree in history from Roanoke College, though she was interested in English, but none of that mattered when her boss got one of the first PCs and together they figured out how it worked. Pickral volunteered to take on the task.

“I learned the computer from scratch and then I learned about graphics, databases and marketing. I got excited about computers,” she said. “It kept my mind alive and to keep those skills strong I applied them to my volunteer work.”

For Pickral, the ‘60s were still a struggle for women getting an education and pursuing a career other than teaching or nursing. Her father, a professor, was a shining example to Pickral of what education could do in life, and she admired that.

Pickral’s duties took her in a direction she never expected, yet enjoyed. She learned about computers and finance at a time when women didn’t have much involvement in those areas. Like her mother, Pickral was a maverick. She recalled her mother’s contributions as a volunteer.

Her mother raised funds for Rockbridge Mental Health and was conservation chair for the Garden Club of Virginia, but Pickral remembered her mother being an environmentalist before it was trendy. Her mother fought alongside others and with the Perry Foundation to stop the taking down of trees in Goshen Pass.

“For years many of us would go there to our favorite swimming hole,” she said. Her mother and the others were successful in defeating those who were bent on destroying a natural area special to those in nearby communities. To this day, Pickral still visits that area from time to time, remembering her mother sticking to her convictions and taking the time to make a difference and change lives. Add a comment

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( 6 Votes )

Disaster relief2017 has been an incredible year of seven disasters, simultaneously affecting both the United States and its neighbors in Mexico and Canada.

An area resident who has been on the scene for several disasters this year is Red Cross volunteer Kay Karstaedt. At 73 she confessed that helping out with disaster relief is exhausting but has its rewards and she is not ready to stay home when her skills are called upon. Karstaedt’s message is that everyone should be willing to be a volunteer in whatever way they are able.

Karstaedt retired as a Long and Foster Realtor at Lake Anna, and before that from the USDA Forest Service. She became involved with disaster relief 12 years ago when she watched televised reports of Hurricane Katrina and its devastation. “What can I do?” she wondered. “I just felt so bad and wondered what I could do to help those people.”

A friend told her that her daughter was going to New Orleans to help with relief efforts with the Red Cross. Karstaedt went to the Red Cross office in Fredericksburg to see what was needed. They suggested that she help by counting cash donations. She did that, then said to the director, “Now what?”

The director asked her to train volunteers, who were going to be sent into the disaster areas. Karstaedt’s response was, “Give me the materials.” She studied the manual, then trained more than 500 volunteers, many from local companies. Not long thereafter, she was deployed to Lafayette, La., where she served as logistics manager for a mega shelter that housed more than 7,000 people. Add a comment

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