Monday afternoon at , three Waterford students were named the sixth graders of the year and one boy was named Waterford Country School’s student of the year by the .
“This is a big accomplishment, and you should all be very proud,” Superintendent Jerome Belair told the foursome.
Marissa Walker of Jade Team, Emma Stilphen of Garnet Team and Stacey Tasoulas of Aquamarine Team were all named Clark Lane Middle School’s sixth graders of the year. Also, Aiden Teel was named Waterford Country School’s student of the year.
For each student, one of their teachers gave a brief speech about what separates them from the rest of the grade. The Waterford Rotary is currently handing out awards to students of the year at all levels.
In third grade, Walker was diagnosed with bone cancer. Ever since, she has had to deal with the pain and intense treatments of the disease.
“Did this break her spirit or change who she is?” Clark Lane Science Teacher Traci Bosco said. “Not even close. She handled it with dignity and honor, teaching others about the illness along the way. She rose to become a role model along the way.”
Walker made high honors in her first two trimesters at Clark Lane Middle School. She has also volunteered for Relay of Life, Toys for Tots and set up a fundraising booth for pediatrics research at the Mohegan Sun.
But most impressively, she has advocated for herself and others. She has a brace on her leg as she waits for the Federal Food and Drug Administration to approve a surgery that will help her shed the brace. Tired of waiting, she sent a letter to the state government, the FDA and President Barack Obama on the consequences such long delays can have.
Clark Lane Science Teacher Margreet Beason gave a speech about Stilphen, saying the sixth grade girl was often quiet and unassuming. But the 65-pounder “packs an enormous punch” and volunteers for several organizations, Beason said.
Stilphen is an animal lover, and along with her mom helps foster up to 200 kittens per year. The family takes in animals that are doing poorly and helps get them back into full health.
Stilphen also volunteers at the Waterford Country School during the summer, where she helps train a horse named Hot Wheel. Stilphen wants to be a professional horse trainer when she grows up, according to Beason.
Tasoulas plays the piano, the violin, soccer, lacrosse, is an active member of the girl scouts and her church and is part of a dance team. Once a year, Tasoulas and her dance team put on a performance at the Garde Arts Center in New London to raise money for breast cancer, according to Clark Lane Language Arts Teacher Nicole Kennedy.
Tasoulas, with her girl scout troop, also helped rebuild the Mago Point Community Garden in town and donates her time and money at the Connecticut Humane Society.
At the , Teel saw a presentation by a girl with CDKL5, a rare disorder that stunts development. Motivated, Teel wanted to spread awareness and raise money to find a cure for the disease, so he and his family held a bake sale that raised more than $200 for CDKL5 research.
Teel also is in-charge of classroom recycling at the Waterford Country School and puts up the American flag every day at the school.