Giving back to youth

Members of the Lexington Youth Summer Theatre rehearse for their production of 'Willy Wonka.' Members of the Lexington Youth Summer Theatre rehearse for their production of "Willy Wonka." (Jon chomitz photography)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Cindy Cantrell
July 13, 2008

When he was acting in the Lexington Youth Summer Theatre at age 10, Garrett Blair remembers how much fun it was to socialize with students in high school and kids from other towns. Now, as the program's director, he is helping other kids form extended friendships while exploring their own artistic abilities.

For Blair, a graduate of Lexington High School and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, the Lexington Youth Summer Theatre is a family affair. His father, Lewis, directed the program for 13 years, beginning in 1991. His mother, Dorene, has been musical director since that time. His younger sister, Haley, is a former actor and choreographer. And when he aged out of the program, Blair became assistant director before his father passed him the directorial reins four years ago.

According to Blair, young actors in the summer theater learn about the importance of giving back while making friends, building community, and showcasing their talents. Proceeds from ticket sales and parent-led fund-raisers are expected to raise $2,500 each for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Massachusetts, Heifer International, and Canine Companions for Independence.

"Children are remarkable artists," said Blair, who is living in Cambridge until he resumes studying theater direction and education at Columbia University this fall. "When you take the time to listen to their ideas and treat them as true artistic professionals, they will surprise, shock, and awe you with the level at which they can create. The excitement that beams from their faces at the first show, after weeks of rehearsing, tells the whole story."

The Lexington Youth Summer Theatre's production of "Willy Wonka" will take place at Grace Chapel in Lexington on July 17 and 18 at 7 p.m. and on July 19 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. For more information, e-mail Abbe Smerling at or visit

APPRECIATING THE MILITARY: As soon as he learned about his colleagues' efforts to provide one year of free chiropractic care to military personnel returning from a tour of duty, chiropractors Sandy Chapnick and his wife, Honi Kawut, decided to join the cause as an expression of appreciation.

Residents of Acton, Chapnick and Kawut own the Billerica Chiropractic Office, at 25 Bridge St. Their colleagues Jean-Marc and Linda Slak operate the Slak Chiropractic Group, at 23 Adams St. in Burlington.

While chiropractic care is commonly sought to care for a particular physical ailment, according to Chapnick, treatment may be appropriate for anyone who feels their body "isn't working as well as it should." After an initial evaluation, a care plan of treatments and maintenance is established. Length of care and number of treatments vary on a case-by-case basis.

"Our servicemen and women experience unimaginable stresses in order to defend our country," he said. "This is our way of saying thank you."

For more information, call the Billerica Chiropractic Office at 978-667-1932 or visit

LESSONS LEARNED: Before graduating from Lawrence High School last month, Alejandro Feliciano of Lawrence and five classmates met for dinner. Naturally, the conversation turned toward what they had learned and the lessons they would take with them.

Those discussions developed into a book, "Next Year's High School: Insights From Six High School Students," which Feliciano described as the students' legacy, from which they hope all teachers and administrators can learn. Co-authors are Jimmy Nguyen, Reuben Gutierrez, Bao Huynh, Robert Tavares, and Sang Luu, all of Lawrence.

The hope, Feliciano said, is for teachers to understand the myriad ways in which technologically savvy students learn most effectively, and why it's important to acknowledge and seriously consider students' feelings. The book also calls on teachers to consider changes large (incorporating more project-based learning into curriculum) and small (rearranging rows of chairs into a semicircle to encourage discussion).

According to Feliciano, the authors are hoping to raise $5,000 from book sales to develop a website to facilitate information-sharing among students, teachers, and experts in the community.

"Our teachers are great, and they do a lot very well, but we want our voices to be heard," Feliciano said. "We thought by publishing a book, they'd consider us their equals and listen to us."

"Next Year's High School: Insights From Six High School Students" costs $9.95. For more information, visit or e-mail

People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at

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