21st Century Fund for HVRHS

    Is a catalyst for enriching education



Farm-to-Table       – Rene Boardman, HVRHS Agriscience Instructor

Thank you to the 21st Century Fund for giving me the opportunity to attend the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE) Institute in Lowville, NY from July 31-August 8, 2023. I had a fantastic time learning new methods to employ in my Farm to Table courses, and meeting Agriscience teachers from across the country. This training will allow me to implement an incredibly science-based, hands-on Food Science and Safety curriculum into our Farm to Table courses. Sample lessons we participated in included jelly-making, pH testing in relation to preservation, poultry processing, egg-grading using artificial intelligence, and more.

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The CASE training allowed me to earn my ServSafe Food Handler Certification, which is incredibly valuable to anyone in the food industry. It means, the students who take my Farm to Table class can earn their ServSafe certifications. The CASE curriculum is nationally recognized and is cross walked between Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS); Common Core; and Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (AFNR) standards which makes this curriculum incredibly valuable. I will have lifetime access to the curriculum and updates made to it. I am excited to share all that I’ve learned with the students and my colleagues!

While at the conference, we also toured agri-businesses such as the Tug Hill Estate Vineyard and the locally renowned Miller’s Meat Market. The connections I made with other agriscience teachers will last a lifetime, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I had to grow as an educator at this conference. Thank you again for your contribution toward my conference expenses.

My Internship at the Sharon Playhouse     – Alex Wilbur, Class of 2026

Working at the Sharon Playhouse as a general apprentice this past summer was really sort of a dream come true for me. I have been involved with the Playhouse for acting since 2019, and ever since then, I have slowly started to become involved in so many other aspects of theater. My first tech job was as the Assistant Stage Manager/Youth Counselor for a show in 2021, and I did that for two years as volunteer work. I learned so much from that experience, but also wanted to do more.  (2023 Playhouse Interns – Alex is on the left of the top step)

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When I learned about the 21st Century Fund and Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area (UHVNHA) summer internship program through my friend who did it last year, I could not wait to be old enough to apply. Mentors of mine encouraged me to submit my application once it was available, and I was so happy about how quickly they were able to get back to me and give me all the details of my job.

I was afraid at first, but everyone at the Sharon Playhouse was so welcoming and willing to teach me. I learned how to use power tools to build small set pieces and props, how to change the gels on CYC lights, plus more general knowledge about costuming and props. My first project was to create giant cardboard crayons for Sharon Playhouse Stars, which I think was the perfect project to start my job on, because the props work, only got more complex. One of my favorite parts about the job was being able to pull and make props for real shows that were going on, whether they were mainstage or youth shows. I loved walking in with a prop I had made and getting so much gratitude from all the other wonderful people working there. The people were what made the experience so enjoyable. Everyone I worked with came from different backgrounds and worked in different aspects of theater, some even being performers, too. I got a lot of knowledge about college and having a real career in the theater, which gave me a lot of insight for my future and the decisions I will have to make during and after high school.

There was not a single day that went by when I wished I worked somewhere else. I am extremely grateful to everyone at the 21st Century Fund, UHVNHA, and Sharon Playhouse for making this experience possible for me.

July 2023

Ireland & Scotland        – Daniela Brennan, Class of 2025

This past July, I was amongst a fortunate group of  HVRHS students able to connect local history with present day society through a two week tour through Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. Thank you so much to the 21st Century Fund who helped pay for the buses to and from the airport for this amazing trip!

Our Scottish tour guide, Stephen, made the trip unforgettable by taking us to a variety of farms, the Cliffs of Moher, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Blarney Castle, Doune Castle, the Burrell Collection, the Culloden Battlefield, the Titanic Museum, and Loch Ness in search of Nessie. Some students were disappointed that Nessie was not seen, maybe next time!

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We had the chance to fully immerse ourselves in the distinctive cultures of Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh, and Inverness by strolling the streets of these cities. Some of us even got to sample haggis! As we traveled from place to place, Stephen played Irish and Scottish music, and engaged us with trivia. We even had the chance to watch traditional Irish step dancing performed live. One student said that they enjoyed “how welcoming the people were to tourists and the happiness that surrounded them as they lived in that extraordinary county!” Embracing Irish culture is personally sentimental to me as my great great grandparents, of whom I bear their namesake “Brennan”, immigrated to the US from Thurles, Ireland in the late 1800’s. In preparation for this trip I discussed at length with my grandfather our family’s Irish history. I learned about how the names John and Joseph have been passed down through generations and even continue with my brother, Joseph Brennan. I was able to talk to my grandfather about what he knows and stories that he was told as a child.

While the sights had everyone’s full admiration and awe, many students were intrigued by the influence of religion in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Irish buildings adorned with crucifixes and blessings signed by priests reinforced the influence of religion on each country. This aspect of the trip was also of personal significance because my faith is an important foundation in my life. I was amazed to learn about the concept behind the Celtic Cross, and now I even have my own Celtic Cross necklace that was owned by my great grandparents. That necklace helps me to remember my religion but also part of my heritage. Driving through Western Belfast, our Irish bus driver, Jerry, helped Stephen to explain the meaning behind the Peace Wall in the middle of town, where on one side lived the Catholics while on the other lived the Protestants. We learned that they are separated in everything, including schools, and only work together in the same workplaces. This divide, we learned, is the result of “The Troubles”, a conflict in Northern Ireland that lasted nearly thirty years from the late 1960s to the late 1990s.

All of us had the opportunity to literally leave our mark, writing messages that expressed our hope for love and peace in Belfast. As seen in the accompanying picture, I wrote “He gave his one and only Son. that whoever believes in him shall not perish. John 3:16”. Ascribing to the Roman Catholic religion I, it was fascinating to see how Protestants and Catholics, two faiths with innumerable roots and threads in common, could be so viciously and violently at odds with each other, especially as such violence is intrinsically contrary to the core beliefs of both religions.

This trip to Ireland / Scotland has made a profound impact on my high school career and I, on behalf of all my fellow travelers, extend my most sincere gratitude to the 21st Century Fund for having made it possible.

French Immersion     – Jerome Maury, Class of 2024

To the members on the board of the 21st Century Fund, thank you for your immense generosity in helping me travel to Nice, France this summer. I cannot even begin to tell you about all the memories I made in this place I had literally, absolutely no idea about. Starting my journey to France, I distinctly remember telling myself, to take every moment as if it was your last and don’t look back.

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Beginning my 2-week trip, I was placed in a home with native French host parents who did not speak a word of English. This was a huge surprise to me because not only did it create an intense amount of confusion coordinating plans, but from the get-go there was a disconnect from the host parents and the host “children”. However, slowly moving past this roadblock, I was able to appreciate the importance of why they chose to place us with fully French speaking citizens; it was to immerse us in French home culture and be forced to speak French even if it wasn’t perfect. Towards the end of my stay, Dominique, my host mother, and I would converse for as long as I could keep up before not having much else to say, which really was exciting and gratifying.

Throughout this experience I shared beautiful moments with friends that I may never see again, and I have learned in my time back in the U.S., that that is okay. Every day was a new wonder whether we wanted to go sailing on the Mediterranean coast, take the train to Monte Carlo, or go bike to Le Negresco, we could and we did. It was pure bliss.

Experiencing Bastille Day was very interesting because it gave me insight on how much the French are proud of their nation. Struggling to communicate with the French was something that I have never dealt with before and it forced me to speak and learn constantly. My 17th summer in Nice was one to remember and will always be something truly special and memorable and could not thank you enough for making that. You gave me the resources, and I ran with them. 

April 2023

So, what do students gain from the robotics program?

  • STEM skills: FIRST Robotics exposes students to a wide range of STEM concepts and skills, including engineering, physics, and computer science.
  • Teamwork and leadership: It’s a team sport, teaching students how to collaborate and lead effectively.
  • Confidence and self-esteem: Success in FIRST Robotics boosts students’ confidence and self-esteem, demonstrating their potential for greatness.
  • Career inspiration: Many FIRST Robotics alumni pursue STEM careers, inspired by their experiences.

by Michael Ellington, HVRHS IT Administrator, First Robotics Mentor and Parent

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Mentoring Team 716 has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me. It has allowed me to assist students in acquiring new skills, honing their talents, and pursuing their dreams. I am consistently impressed by the capabilities our students exhibit when faced with challenges. The ability to design, prototype, and construct a 120-pound robot in just six weeks, then compete with other teams who have done the same, is truly remarkable.

Observing our students step onto the playing field for the first time, their eyes reflecting a mix of fear and awe, brings a smile to my face. I know that after a match or two, that initial trepidation transforms into the confident determination of a tiger ready to compete.

FIRST Robotics shapes students’ lives in other significant ways:

  • Friendships and community: Teams consist of students from diverse backgrounds who often form lifelong friendships.
  • Discovering passions: Exposure to various STEM activities helps students find their passions and interests.
  • Problem-solving skills: Real-world challenges in FIRST Robotics develop critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.
  • Self-confidence: As students learn and succeed, their self-confidence grows.

As a parent of a robotics student, I can attest to the incredible impact of the FIRST Robotics program. My son joined the program in 8th grade and continued through high school, eventually becoming the lead programmer for the team.  The skills he acquired were matched by the self-confidence he developed. This confidence and skills were demonstrated quite clearly when he designed an alert system for the high school, which he built, programmed, and installed. The cost was just $3,500, compared to over $10,000 for a commercial system, and it remains in use today.

Because of this program he received a scholarship to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and recently completed an internship with Aurora Aerospace and DARPA on the X-65 CRANE experimental aircraft. I firmly believe this would not have been possible without the robotics program.

Thank you 21st Century Fund for making robotics at HVRHS possible,

Another HVRHS Alum Joins Our Board 

When asked why she wanted to join the 21st Century Fund Board of Directors, Marlene didn’t hesitate, “I had a really good experience at Housy; my childhood friends are still friends,” she recalled, “and I want today’s kids to have great experiences in high school, too. I believe that good schools provide the stability students need to do well in life.”

During her career, Marlene worked for the Mayor of New Haven, Representative Rosa DeLauro and the Deputy Treasurer of the State of CT. As a lobbyist for Charter Oak State College, Marlene worked with her high school friend, State Representative Roberta Willis, a founding member of the 21st Century Fund.  Currently, Marlene is the Asst. Town Clerk of Sharon.

As a new member of the 21st Century Board, Marlene would like to see us encourage even more students and faculty to apply for grants, so that the 21st Century Fund can contribute more and more to the HVRHS Community.


21st Century Fund Mural

 When the 21st Century Fund’s Board of Directors voted on the application for the BIPOC Mural, it was unanimous. This was idea that was developed by the student body was something we wanted to facilitate.

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On the grant application, Warren Prindle had written: “HVRHS is a small rural high school. The student body, though heterogeneous in economic backgrounds, is largely homogeneous in ethnic make-up. Due to the latter, a grassroots sentiment arose among the students to have a broader, more diverse, more inclusive representation in the school. To address this, our students conceived of a BIPOC-themed mural on the school campus. Students also enthusiastically embraced the idea of working with a professional muralist whom they would engage with throughout the process.”   The mural was paid for by grants from the 21st Century Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts and is in the school cafeteria.

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Contact us at

21st Century Fund for HVRHS

PO Box 132, Falls Village, CT 06031

The 21st Century Fund is an independent 501(C)3. We receive no state or federal funding.

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