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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, June 8, 2006

Thomas on winning team in national hotel competition

By Holly Grosch

VOORHEESVILLE — A new program at the Capital Region Career and Technical School had a very successful first year with Voorheesville student Christopher Thomas as one of the stars.

Christine D’Alessandro, a certified chef who taught culinary art for 28 years, was the teacher this year for a new lodging program, which is essentially management training in hospitality.

"These are the GMs of hotels in the future," D’Alessandro said of her students, indicating they would be general managers.

Thomas was one of four students on a team from the local BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) vocational school which competed state-wide, winning first place, and then went on to win second at the national level in Hospitality Operations at the National Lodging Management competition in Orlando.

The competition included all-day skills testing: performing night auditing. meaning balancing out a simulated hotel book at the end of the day, by hand; room inspections for cleanliness; and food and beverage analysis, D’Alessandro said.

In the room inspections there were 10 items the students were supposed to find that had not been properly cleaned. "They found 15," D’Alessandro said proudly.

The students also had to create a sales and marketing analysis plan, write it up as a report, and present it to a panel of judges. Their paper was graded on ideas but also on grammatical correctness, she said.

What really helps the students learn how hotels operate are their internships at the Albany Merriott, which is part of the BOCES program, D’Alessandro said.

The students were coached by front-office managers, banquet managers, sales and marketing directors, and housekeeping administrators.

In order to be accepted into the lodging program at the Career and Technical School, students have to have an 80 average, letters of recommendations from their teachers and employers, and interview for a spot, D’Alessandro said.

As a prize for placing so well in competition, each of the four Capital Region students received either a $4,000 scholarship to Johnston and Wales University, which is one of the best schools in the country for business and hospitality degrees, D’Alessandro said, or the students could accept a scholarship to Kendall College in Chicago.

All four Capital Region students have chosen to attend Johnston and Wales in the fall, D’Alessandro said. One student will be attending at the Rhode Island campus and Thomas, along with the two others, will study at the North Carolina campus.

The university was started in the early 1900’s, but relocated to Charlotte after this city became a hub for Fortune 500 corporations and consequently became a center in need of convention management, D’Alessandro said. Thomas will be enrolled for a bachelor’s degree program in sports management , she said.

Hands-on outdoor learning makes reading real

By Holly Grosch

NEW SCOTLAND — Grace Ziamandanis strapped with safety goggles huddles over a small pile of string twine, frantically running a flint rock as fast as she can over a steel file. Other Fifth-graders are lined up in a row alongside the lean-to on patches of dirt, trying to start a fire — the old-fashioned way, before fake fire logs could be lit with a switch.

"Oooh, I got a spark!" a girl yells. While a boy calls out, "Where’s the marshmallows!"

A few seconds later students lean over their tinder, coaxing tiny sparks with breaths of air.

For 35 years, Voorheesville fifth-graders have gone to the Heldeberg Workshop at the base of the escarpement off of Picard Road in New Scotland. There, at the end of the school year, they enact scenes from a novel they read for class. Workshop instructor Bill Morrison said they started this field trip program in 1971, a decade after Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain was published. The book, still part of the students’ annual curriculum, is about a 12-year-old, Sam Gribley, who runs away from his family in New York City to live in the Catskills. It’s an adventure novel, where the boy learns how to survive in the woods, living in a hollowed-out tree.

The Voorheesville students said they saw a lot of parallels between the field trip activities and Sam’s life style. "We got to see how he lived," they said. Ziamandanis, Carly Myers, Amanda Gatt, and Michaela Muth, sat around during lunch talking about all the stuff they had done that morning in seminars. They got to touch beaver skin, tried to piece together the bones of a deer, and went on a nature hike where they saw salamanders and a centipede, they said. They also learned how to identify trees that had been hit by lightning.

Survival skills

Morrison taught a class on orienteering, showing the children how to read topographic maps, how to use the sun as a guide, and how a compass works. He said he thinks it’s important for children to learn basic survival skills, such as orienteering since it’s commonplace for people in the Capital Region to go hiking in the Adirondacks or Catskills.

He put the kids out on a short bushwhacking course to have them get from point A to point B on map by using compasses. A number of children had used compasses before in physical-education classes and Scouts, Morrison said.

Lennox started his seminar on fire-building by telling the children to always have water ready nearby by for safety, and not to start a fire on dry grassy ground. He said that matches don’t work when they get wet so hikers often purchase waterproof matches and keep them in water-proof containers.

"But Sam didn’t have matches, did he"" Lennox asked. "Flint and steel!" the children responded in chorus.

"Flint is a very hard rock, " Lennox said, holding it up. He then went through all the fire-building materials — tinder or wood shavings, cedar bark, kindling. He warned that people should never strip the bark off of a live birch tree because then that part of the tree will turn black and in a few years die. "It’s like taking a piece of skin off your body," he told the kids.

At another station a few 100 meters away across a small stream, Joe Okoniewski was peeling and cooking wild plants for the students to try. The kids tasted lamb’s quarter boiled with nettle. Some quickly ran over to the side of the woods to spit it out and others sampled slowly and then in handfuls. Okoniewski said if the kids like spinach, then they’ll like lambs quarter.

Next, he took a large cattail. "You have to take the stalk from above the roots," he said. He then pulled back the outer lays of the stalk and chopped up the white strand into crescents. It has the same nutritional value as lettuce or cucumber, he said.

The students got to try cattail raw, boiled, and pickled. The biggest hit were biscuits made of wheat flour and yellow pollen. "Cattail pollen is 35-percent protein," Okoniewski said.

Okoniewski said he doesn’t expect the students to remember the names of all the plants after his 45 minute workshop but he hopes he started "an interest in the common wild plants."

The kids will now keep their eyes open when they’re walking in the woods or might recognize a plant in their parent’s garden, he said. "There’s something about eating, you remember it...It makes an association," Okoniewski told The Enterprise.

"I spent a lot of time in the woods when I was a kid," Okoniewski said. And, when he was a teenager, he picked up a book, Stalking the Wild Asparagus, written by Euell Gibbons, which talks about the ways to use and eat wild pants. When he first read it, he said to himself, "We’ve got milkweeds." This is when his interest in wild foods began.

Okoniewski has not integrated wild foods into his regular daily diet, but he does have more of an appreciation for nature, he said.

The amount of time it takes to forage for your own food, collecting enough sustainable nutrients, and then preparing them, is unrealistic for today’s modern America lifestyle, he said.

The workshop in the center of the Heldeberg property was one where students were making their own nature journals — a place for them to write and draw. My Side of the Mountain is written as if from Sam’s own personal journal.

"It’s a sketchbook because Sam drew in his notebook," fifth-grader Carolina Weiss said. He kept track of what he ate whenever he tried a new food, she said. "So in a way we’re doing it in honor of Sam," Weiss said as she strung together yarn, binding the colored paper.

"I hope they can go home and make their own journal," said Heldeberg Workshop instructor John Vandenburg. He’s an artist himself, and was excited to see kids already attempting their own nature sketches, doing close-ups of caterpillars, or rubbings on rocks.

Okoniewski said the goal of the Heldeberg Workshops is "developing some type of interest in the outdoors."

For some students on Monday that meant art; for others it involved eating, mammal identification, tracking, or wilderness survival skills. For Grace Ziamandanis, her favorite thing was the nature hike because she got to see a waterfall.

Backyard bust, pair pinched

By Holly Grosch

VOORHEESVILLE — Two residents here were arrested after police discovered 28 marijuana plants growing in their backyard.

Matthew Flint and Daniel Bushey, both 33, and of 7 West Street in Voorheesville are charged with second-degree criminal possession of marijuana, a felony, and unlawful growing of cannabis without a license, says the Albany County Sheriff’s Department.

They were arrested on May 31, arraigned by New Scotland Judge Margaret Adkins, and then each was remanded to Albany County’s jail on $10,000 bail.

John Burke, the head Inspector for the Sheriff’s Department’s Drug Interdiction Unit, said this week, that the department received tips from neighbors about the growing plants and then police watched the two suspects for about a week, "following them around"to see where they were selling," he said.

Investigators came to the conclusion that they weren’t selling, but just growing the marijuana for personal use, Burke said.

The plants "weren’t high grade quality," Burke said.

Marijuana is planted in early spring and can grow eight to 12 feet tall, he said. At this Voorheesville residence, Flint and Bushey had plants of different sizes, Burke said, but collectively the 28 plants was "not really" that much, he said.

One fully grown plant produces one pound of smokeable drug, Burke said. The two men had 16 ounces of plant which could yield four or five pounds of drug, he said. Five pounds or more is the felony level, Burke said.

These guys "are pretty stupid," Burke said.

"You shouldn’t grow pot on your property," he said. "Well, you shouldn’t grow it all," he added, but, if someone is going to grow pot, he should not place it on his own property. He went on to concur that it makes it easy to pin the illegal activity.

People who grow pot professionally do so in the woods or on somebody else’s property but never on their own property, Burke said.

In this case, a concerned resident made a call to the police, and the plants were easily visible, Burke said. The sheriff’s drug tip line is 233-7599.

All of the marijuana was planted outside, and no additional plants were found inside the home, he said.

The men chose not to speak to police when they were arrested, Burke said.

Relay for Life has a second run

By Holly Grosch

VOORHEESVILLE — "Rain will not wash cancer away!" Sherry Burgoon shouted into the crowd of soggy supporters at Saturday’s Relay for Life fund-raiser to fight cancer. She stood on a tarp-covered podium as people cheered. The turnout at Voorheesville’s high school was not as large as last year’s first relay event, but spirits were high.

The ceremonial second walk around the track, where every participant walks a lap together with cancer survivors in the lead, carried the same awe-inspiring intensity as last year. A swarm of umbrellas floated gracefully along the curves of the track.

This second lap is the most important to cancer survivor Greg Burgoon. The first lap was reserved just for cancer survivors. They took the first treck around the football field with the crowd clapping. Gloria Gaynor’s, "I Will Survive" blasted over loudspeakers.

"The first walk to me says I’m a survivor," Burgoon told The Enterprise. "Everybody has problems, ours happens to be cancer." But it is the "second walk that’s most important to me," he said.

Relay for Life is "awesome," he said, because there are two major components to beating cancer — support and research — which is what the walk is all about.

Burgoon who was diagnosed with oral cancer, was one of the guests of honors on Saturday. After 12 surgeries, his face and jaw have been completely reconstructed and he now lives to tell about it.

"I wasn’t ready to die," he said.

He motioned with his hand, making a line through the middle of his cheek, "From here down, it was all completely gone," he said. He’s been called "a walking cadaver," and it’s kind of true, he said, because parts from his shoulder, legs, abdomen, and elsewhere were removed to reconstruct his face. The only part of his body that grafts were not taken from, was his left arm because that’s where the IV’s were during surgery, he said.

Burgoon is happy to share his story but, since it would be difficult for a crowd to understand his speech as he talks through swollen tissue, he had his brother, Dan, read a message to the community during the opening ceremony. The two stood by each other.

"For many people, it’s a silent disease," Dan Burgoon read; the cancer can attack any part of your body and grow for years without your knowing about it.

Greg Burgoon wrote about his 11-hour surgeries, his weeks in the hospital, and "the support that is so necessary" including from his son and siblings. He also mentioned the magical "chemo-cocktail," given to him by his doctor.

As Dan Burgoon read about his brother’s struggles he had to stop to compose himself as he became choked up. "You can do it, Dan," Greg Burgoon said in a role reversal, now encouraging his brother while wrapping his arm around him.

Cancer, said Sherry Burgoon, the relay chair, "is a personal problem for me"; Greg is her brother.

"He truly is my hero," she said.

Another community member, Dorothy "Dot" Herzog, stepped up to the microphone after the Burgoon brothers. "Look at me: I’m a cancer survivor!" she shouted, raising both of her hands in the air, shaking her fist in victory. She is now completely cancer-free, she said.

The Relay for Life walk helps survivors, Greg Burgoon said, but most importantly it’s about the research; research made it possible for his straight leg bone to be curved into a jaw bone, he said.

Grassroots support

After 12th-grader Ali Glacier sang the national anthem, the track ribbon was cut, and the long journey of an all-night relay walk began. Each team was to have at least one member walking at all times.

Tents were pitched beside the track and signs of the various relay teams were hung. National Honor Society had a team as did Key Club and individual families. Children had created their own teams. One was called Happy Campers; their banner and matching T-shirts depicted a marshmallow man on a S’more.

One RV displayed inspirational signs — saying "believers" and "faith." Baked-goods sale tables where piled high with brownies and cupcakes; there was even a fruit stand for those who preferred more healthy snacks.

Nine hundred walkers signed up to participate, with $63,800 raised by Saturday morning. More proceeds would flow through the night, with food sales, and raffles. Smith’s Tavern (Smitty’s) donated over 100 pizzas.

"I’m thrilled," Sherry Burgoon said on Saturday evening. The weather didn’t deter people and everyone is making the best of it, she said. Burgoon is a teacher in the school district. The relay, which has become a community event, has been organized for the past two years by the school, with students and faculty leadership.

The message that Burgoon hopes is sent through town as a ripple effect from the event is that success can be achieved "if we all continue to be positive and supportive."

Last year alone, the local chapter of the American Cancer Society was able to fully fund the employment of three new cancer specialist doctors at Albany Medical Center, she said.

"That excites me," Burgoon said. What’s great about the relay program is that walkers find out where the money is going, she said, "You see the result"and Relay for Life is the grassroots."

Resident irked by speeding in village

By Michelle O’Riley

VOORHEESVILLE — A village resident of 72 years has noticed an increase in the number of vehicles speeding in and out of Voorheesville.

In a letter to the Enterprise editor this week, Harold Flansburg described his concerns of speeding vehicles along North Main Street. Flansburg’s home is located on the northern tip of the village where the posted speed limit is 30 miles per hour. However, according to Flansburg, cars regularly enter the village at speeds in excess of 60 to 70 miles per hour.

"There should be two signs to control the speed limit," said Flansburg.

Albany County Traffic Engineer Jim Mearkle said that a second sign posting a speed zone ahead is only required if an obstruction, like a curve in the road, would decrease a driver’s ability to see an upcoming speed-limit sign. The stretch of road on North Main Street leading into the village is straight and does not obstruct the visibility of the current speed limit sign.

"Speed limits on local roads outside of villages and cities is kind of complicated," said Mearkle.

Any requests for additional signs would have to be submitted to the state’s Department of Transportation by the village and county since the street is in the village but considered a county road. The Department of Transportation would then complete a study based on the request and would determine if there were a need for new signage.

According to Flansburg, he and his wife have made several calls to the village and sheriff’s department over the past three years with little or no response.

"I would like to ride bicycles with my wife but do not want to get hit by a speeding car," said Flansburg.

The village office had no record of complaints of speeding and stated that the sheriff’s department is in charge of enforcing the traffic law on that road. The village does not have its own police department.

Captain William Riley of the Albany County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that any vehicle or traffic complaints should be directed to the Voorheesville patrol station since the sheriff’s department is responsible for enforcing the traffic law in the area.

The Voorheesville patrol station covers about 175 square miles and is staffed by 28 uniformed members, five investigators, and two civilians.

Riley did not recall any recent calls about speeding on that stretch of road. According to station records, the last official complaint for the area was in September of 2005 for vehicles parked along the roadway.

Flansburg said he was going to put together a petition but does not feel like anyone cares.

"The neighbors don’t like it but won’t do anything about it," he said. "As long as they don’t get hit by the cars, they don’t care."

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