The class that dines together … ‘Small but mighty’ Westport Class of 2020 breaks bread

Posted 1/8/20

WESTPORT — Theirs hasn’t always been the smoothest route to senior year.

When members of Westport High School’s Class of 2020 were eighth graders, they were forced to flee their …

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The class that dines together … ‘Small but mighty’ Westport Class of 2020 breaks bread

Posted

WESTPORT — Theirs hasn’t always been the smoothest route to senior year.

When members of Westport High School’s Class of 2020 were eighth graders, they were forced to flee their PCB-ridden middle school and move into a suddenly crowded high school. They are spectators now to construction of a new school that won’t be finished until after they have left.

Later, their principal retired — two new principals (and assistants) followed in relatively short order.

Then came a change in superintendents.

Along the way they bid farewell to classmates and friends known, in many cases, since kindergarten. At its peak, this class had 110 in its ranks, but, as often happens, many left after eighth grade, moving on to other schools, other towns. The trickle continued through their high school years.

By now, the Class of 2020 is down to the stalwart 47, said Guidance Counselor Leslie Ruel who can remember much bigger graduating classes during her tenure — 88 members, even 102.

The resilience of this bunch seems something worth celebrating, she thought.

“This class has had to overcome some obstacles, but they have remained stoic,” Ms. Ruel said.

“When I thought about what we could do to build our culture and community, I thought about a dinner.  In my experience sitting and eating with friends opens up conversation.”

And to add another dimension to the dinner table conversation, each student was asked to invite a staff member, someone with whom they have felt a special connection over their Westport school years.

For their dinner guests they chose teachers, advisors, coaches, a school nurse, community members (one from the Westport Fire Explorers), teaching assistants and more.

Serving as chef for the evening was Westport High School grad Stacy Silva, proprietor of StacyCakes in Westport (and the Portuguese American  Mom blog).

She was assisted by school lunch staffers Rhonda Pereira and Laura Nascimento, Superintendent of Schools Gary Reese, and Assistant Principal Karen Archambault. Guidance department members helped with food prep (Marie Fallows, Sherry Michael). while others (Ms. Ruel, Mary Jo Medeiros, Jennifer Borelli and teacher’s assistant Natalia Silva) pitched in with set-up.

The menu consisted of vegetable ratatouille, grilled chicken, potatoes, and buttered noodles.  There was a first course of vegetable or chicken soup.  For dessert was a cupcake bar of chocolate, vanilla and red velvet cupcakes — guests helped designed their own cupcakes.

Lending a hand in with serving help for the sit-down dinner were staff guests including Principal Mitchel Aho.

“With music playing in the background, laughter and the wonderful sound of talking, the night passed by so quickly and it is now a beautiful memory for all,” Ms. Ruel said.

Organizers offered particular thanks to Lees Supermarket which donated most of the menu items, Blount Fine Foods, and, for financial assistance and gift cards that were raffled off, Bay Coast Bank, the Westport Jr/Sr High School's PTO and the Westport Education Foundation.

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Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.