December 2020 News and Notes

Senior Class Collects Food for Community

On November 14, Chelsea School’s Class of 2021 hosted a food drive to support members of the school’s community as well as local foodbanks. Many families in the Chelsea learning community, as well as those in our local area, have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on the

support of Chelsea families, staff, and alumni, the senior class collected more than twenty boxes of nonperishable food items.

Several boxes of food were delivered directly to Chelsea families. The remainder was donated to Shepherd’s Table, a community-based nonprofit homeless shelter and food pantry in Silver Spring that has partnered with the school for many years.

In addition to collecting food items, the seniors also raised over $300 in grocery story food cards for community families.

“The most important part of any service learning project is for the students to get a better understanding of helping those in need within their own community,” said Debbie Lourie, senior class advisor and Director of Admissions. “I want our students to experience how gratifying it can be to help others.”

All Chelsea School students are required to earn service learning hours to meet the graduation requirements of their local education agencies.

Alumni Spotlight

Courtland Merkel, Chelsea School Class of 2009, having completed his degree in law from the University of Baltimore and passed the bar exam, was admitted to the Maryland State Bar Association on December 18, 2020.

After four years at Chelsea School, Courtland attended Bowie State University, where he graduated with honors from the pre-law program. Courtland speaks very highly of the support and accommodations that he received at BSU, which he used to his best advantage. After graduating, Courtland completed a graduate program in law at the University of Baltimore. He served as a legal intern in the Circuit Court of Baltimore City before passing the bar exam and being admitted to the Maryland State Bar Association. Courtland can now practice law in the state of Maryland!

Chelsea School is extraordinarily proud of Courtland, who through determination and hard work has proved that anything is possible for our students.

Morning Routines Build a Sense of Community in Virtual Learning Environment

As the holidays approach, Chelsea School students are keeping their noses to the grindstones as they prepare for midterm exams in January. For many students, adjusting to the “new normal” of virtual learning has been a challenging transition. Missing out on face-to-face interactions, time with friends, and opportunities for physical activity have been some of the things that students say they miss most. Still, the school has attempted to build a sense of community, even in the virtual world. This begins each morning when students attend Advisory and the Morning Assembly.

8:40 AM Advisory 

The day begins with Advisory, a small-group session led by a student’s advisor. At Chelsea School, the advisor has many roles: they’re the case manager, main point of contact with home, mentor, advocate, executive function coach, and sometimes, cheerleader. The advisor provides critical support to the student in the areas of organization, time management, and study skills, while helping them to navigate their academic programming. On any given day, an advisor may be working on a variety of tasks with their advisees, such as setting up their plan books for the week, checking their grades with them, helping them to write a letter to a teacher, or helping them arrange their calendars to prepare for an exam.

The advisor checks to make sure that each student is ready to start the school day. Sometimes this means assessing whether they’ve gotten enough sleep, had breakfast, or did their homework the night before. “Last spring when we first went virtual, our first job was just making sure that kids were showing up to school,” said Frank Mills, Chelsea’s Executive Director. “Now the focus is on the long haul – making sure that students are in the right mindset for school each day and are managing their responsibilities.”

9:00 AM Morning Assembly 

Chelsea School gathers as a whole community each morning to start the school day.  Mrs. Weems-Bradner, Chelsea’s Head of School, begins the day by welcoming all the students back for another day of learning. In November and December, Mrs. Weems-Bradner has been visiting advisories and assigning points if all students are present and if students can articulate and explain how to use one of Chelsea’s virtual learning platforms. This month has been focused on Google Read and Write, a program that provides text-to-speech and speech-to-text interaction to accommodate reading and writing. After revealing the results of her visit and awarding points, she “passes the ball” to Reuben Jackson, Chelsea’s Dean of Students.

After a series of “dad jokes” that may or may not be beneficial to student morale, Mr. Jackson shares words of wisdom with the students about navigating the virtual world. This may range from meeting expectations in the virtual classroom to speaking out about injustice and inequity in society.

More than just daily announcements, the morning assembly is a time for Chelsea students and staff members to take part in the richness of a school community that has flourished for over 44 years. The seasonal traditions, articulation of the mission of the school, and sharing of institutional memory is all part of gathering held each morning. Students and staff feel as if they are connected to something larger than themselves.

Some days, students take center stage to share their thoughts, inspirations, and accomplishments. In the last few weeks, two students talked about how they turned their hobby of making electronic music (beats) into a possible career path. Another shared how she started her own line of beauty products. One middle schooler talked about his battle with cancer and why he now raises money and awareness for children who are forced to stay in hospitals for long-term care. Just this week, one of our students talked about how the movie “Pay it Forward” inspired him to try to make the world a better place by doing things for others.

Local Businesses Support Chelsea Through In-Kind Donations

Chelsea School has always relied on the kindness and generosity of local businesses to help us serve our community, but 2020 has been extraordinary in the help we have received from our partners. Through in-kind donations, direct financial support, and other means, our business partners have helped us to meet our mission of serving students with learning disabilities. We’d like to take a moment to highlight these businesses and thank them for their support.

Printing and Promotional Unlimited

Kevin Bowlin, President of Gambrills, Maryland-based Printing and Promotional Unlimited, is a business owner whose client-focused approach, as well as his generous spirit, has endeared him to the Chelsea School family. This December, Kevin donated hundreds of dollars worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the school. He also donated hundreds of dollars worth of brand new clothing items for our families in need.

Printing & Promotional Unlimited, Inc is a leading distributor of embroidery, printing, and promotional products in the Gambrills area. They provide products and services to businesses, large and small, across all of the United States.

Three Brothers Italian Restaurant

The year 2020 was one we’d like to forget for many reasons, but for the Chelsea family it also marked the passing of a great friend of our school, one of the founding brothers of “Three Brothers”, Mario Repole. Mario lost his long battle with pancreatic cancer in April of this year. He was an amazing man whose personal commitment to making sure that a quality lunch was available for our students every day will never be forgotten. He was incredibly generous, with both his time and his resources.

The story of Three Brothers Restaurants is a first rate American success story. In 1976, three sons of a hard-working Italian family moved the family business from Brooklyn, New York to Greenbelt, Maryland to make good on their father’s dreams of success. After over 35 years of hard work, one family restaurant has grown into a thriving Multi-unit Corporation . Originally from Rapone, Italy, Michael, Mario and Peter Repole have participated in every part of the business – from using family recipes for making their famous sauce and entrees to developing both in-center and free standing Three Brothers Restaurants.

Staples (Hyattsville)

One of the most convenient aspects of our campus location on Belcrest Center Drive is that we are located in the same complex as Staples Store 1561. Managers Deejay and Joey have been helping Chelsea out since we arrived at this campus, offering us discounts on school supplies and items we need for students. This fall, during our Fall Fundraiser for Virtual Learning, Deejay was able to provide us with supplies at cost for our learning kits. He also gave us a large quantity of free school supplies to give to our students.

Nonprofit Partner: Leveling the Playing Field

Leveling the Playing Field gives underprivileged children the opportunity to enjoy the mental and physical benefits of youth sports participation. They do this through the donation of used and excess sporting equipment to programs and schools serving low-income communities. Max Levitt, founder of LPF, has been a great friend of Chelsea School for the last eight years. His organization has donated thousands of dollars worth of sports equipment to our physical education and athletics programs.

This Fall, as part of our Fall Fundraiser for Virtual Learning, LPF donated individual sports kits for each student in our middle school. Each kit came with cones, a jump rope, a frisbee, and either a soccer ball, football, or basketball. These materials allowed our students to stay active while safe at home.

Nonprofit Partner: The Brewer Foundation

The Brewer Foundation’s main goal is to become an educational repository for students and parents in the Washington, DC area in support of their academic goals. Their vision is to provide content that supports diverse academic opportunities to students regardless of social or economic status and means. Darryl Brewer is the parent of a Chelsea School alumnus and has served as a member of the school’s Board of Governors in the past. Darryl is a tireless champion for educational equity, and a great friend of Chelsea. 

This Fall, when he heard that we were raising money to support virtual learning, Darryl rallied his resources and contacts to provide the school with several thousand dollars worth of computer hardware including some brand new chromebooks.

Other Partners Who Have Supported Us in the Past

Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care 

Giant Supermarket (Store 0334 Hyattsville)

H&W Printing, Inc. (Mount Rainier)

Jason’s Deli (College Park)
Art Works Now (Hyattsville) 

Franklin’s (Hyattsville)