The surf is up for Chelsea’s Deedee
Hernandez, who might be the first and only Chelsea High valedictorian that
doubles as a surfer, a trumpet player and Ivy League student.
Hernandez has been very active in the school and community over the last four years, but being at the top of her class wasn’t something she thought would happen.
Valedictorian Degree Hernandez with Salutatorian Jocelyn Poste after graduation on June 9
“Honestly, I wasn’t aspiring for the
valedictorian of the class,” she said. “My only goal was just to get into a
college. That was a goal since I entered middle school. My mother always told
us that we had to go to college. That was always a goal we were reaching for.”
And not only did she reach it, but she
grabbed onto a great school in the Ivy League Dartmouth College in New
Hernandez, 18, said she was drawn to the rural landscape – being interested in the outdoors and hiking – but was also impressed with the alumni network.
“I was really drawn to the alumni network
they have,” she said. “A lot of them come back to the college and have
relationships and share their experiences with students. I thought that was
very unique. The college is very small and it felt like a family and people
At Dartmouth, Hernandez hopes to major in
environmental science – something she was drawn to by her swim coach, Traverse
Robinette, at the Jordan Boys & Girls Club.
In addition to swimming twice at the
National Championships in Florida, Hernandez and several other Chelsea kids
joined Robinette’s surf club. When surfing in Connecticut and Rhode Island, the
students learned about the various animals in the ocean.
“My swim coach was passionate about the
environment and pointed out the animals we saw,” she said. “I did research on
it and was drawn to the idea of preserving these animals. I love nature and
being outside, so it’s something I’m very interested in.”
In addition to those pursuits, Hernandez is
well known for playing the trumpet in the band – having been the designated
performer of ‘Taps’ for the City and the Soldiers’ Home for four years.
She said she started playing in fifth grade
when her former band teacher, Mr. Thomas, picked up a trumpet and played
“I heard him play that and I knew I had to
play the trumpet,” she said.
She does plan to pursue the trumpet in
college and hopes to play in their orchestra.
Hernandez has gone to Chelsea schools her
entire life, starting at the Silber ELC, moving on to the Kelly School, then to
the Clark Avenue Middle.
Hernandez credits her mother, Ana Moscoso,
for always pushing her to reach higher.
“My mother was always the type of person to
asked me what I would do next after I had accomplished something,” she said.
“I’ve found that to be useful because you see what else you’re capable of doing
and don’t get satisfied with one thing.”
Hernandez has two
brothers, Mike, 16, at Chelsea High; and Akanni, 10.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino and members of the Chelsea Collaborative held a lottery on April 4 to pick the names of scores of young residents who will secure a summer youth employment job.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino picks names for the summer jobs lottery.
Director Gladys Vega said that while it was
a time to celebrate the employment of more than 100 youth in the community, the
need was far greater than the jobs.
“This year we received more than 300
applications, with more that came after the deadline,” she said. “Due to our
funding, we are able to offer only 150 spots this year. We are excited to pair
youth with more than 40 of our longstanding partners, including City of
Chelsea, Chelsea Police, Intergenerational Literacy Program, Jordan Boys &
Girls Club, North Suffolk Mental Health and others.”
At the lottery, 185 names in several
different age groups were selected.
Some were put on a waiting list, and a vast
majority of those applying were of a younger age.
Youth that were picked in the lottery are
now going through several interviews this week, during School Spring Break. If
they successfully pass those interviews, they will meet their employers in June
and receive more training.
The Summer Youth
Employment Initiative (SYEI) begins on July 1.
Johanna DiCarlo (right) presents the Massachusetts Women in Athletics Distinguished Service Award to JoAnne Lee-Nieves at the 2019 Girls and Women in Sports Day program Feb. 1 at Faneuil Hall, Boston.
When the Title IX law was first enacted, leading to increased athletic opportunities for females in the mid-to-late 1970s and setting the foundation for the explosion of high school girls’ sports that exists today, there was a Chelsea woman just getting started in coaching.
She was a pioneer in every sense,
introducing the joy of organized sports participation to Boston girls, teaching
them about teamwork and sportsmanship, instilling self-confidence in her
student-athletes, and providing lessons about life that they would carry beyond
the basketball court.
JoAnne Lee-Nieves was a woman ahead of her
time, recognizing right away the importance of athletics for girls as an
extension of the classroom. Her players at Jeremiah Burke would achieve
phenomenal success on the court. Long before ESPN started bringing attention to
women’s sports, Lee-Nieves was building a program and sending her athletes on
For four decades, Lee-Nieves earned multiple
championship and coach-of-the-year awards. No one did it better in Boston than
Last Friday, in an impressive ceremony at
historic Faneuil Hall in the city where Lee-Nieves became a high school
coaching giant, she received one of the MIAA’s most prestigious awards.
Before a capacity crowd of female high
school athletes, athletic directors and many of her former colleagues in the
profession, Lee-Nieves accepted the Massachusetts Women in Athletics
Distinguished Service Award.
One could only imagine how very proud her
parents, the late Charles Lee and Jeanette Weiner Lee, would have been to see
JoAnne’s amazing career recognized so deservedly in such an awesome setting as
Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson understands
the magnitude of his cousin JoAnne’s statewide award and the immense
contributions that she made to high school sports. His own daughter, Lucia
Robinson-Griggs, is a former high school athlete and now a women’s basketball
coach at MIT.
“JoAnne is a very outstanding individual who
has achieved a lot in teaching and coaching,” said Robinson. “This is very
special for me that she was recognized for all the hard work that she has done
throughout the years. She is a true pioneer in women’s high school sports in
Boston. It’s a tremendous honor and I congratulate Joanne. We in Chelsea are
all proud of her.”
In a tribute to JoAnne that appeared in the
Girls and Women In Sports Day souvenir booklet, Jeremiah Burke Guidance
Counselor Ron Innes said, “JoAnne was a very reliable and dedicated teacher who
was well respected by her students as well as faculty and staff. Her knowledge
about her chosen discipline (Physical Education) and ability to reach and
connect with students made her a truly exceptional teacher. These great
qualities carried over to the many sports she coached. Her teams always played the
game with great discipline and pride.”
Burke Athletic Coordinator Sean Ryan had
nominated Lee-Nieves for the award. Said Ryan, “Her ability to engage a veteran
or a newcomer to the sport make her special. We evaluate a coach by how their
team progresses during the year, and JoAnne’s team each year plays their best
toward the end of the season. She truly provides each student-athlete with a
In her acceptance speech, Lee-Nieves was
humble and gracious. She thanked the MIAA for the recognition, but focused her
remarks on encouraging the young ladies in the audience to work hard and pursue
As she left the stage and walked to the VIP
area where she and husband Juan Nieves were seated, you could sense that JoAnne
Lee-Nieves was touched by this lifetime-achievement recognition from the
state’s official governing organization for high school sports.
It was indeed a special day for a special
teacher, coach, and role model.
Johanna DiCarlo (right) presents the Massachusetts
Women in Athletics Distinguished Service Award to JoAnne Lee-Nieves at the 2019
Girls and Women in Sports Day program Feb. 1 at Faneuil Hall, Boston.
JoAnne Lee-Nieves and her husband, Juan Nieves,
are pictured following the presentation of the Distinguished Service Award.
Member All Stars and October Members of the Month: Congratulations to the following members who were great role models for their peers, who were helpful, kind, and friendly last month and were selected to be the Jordan Boys & Girls Club’s Members of the Month! 1st grade: Cristian Chicas; 2nd grade: Arwa Ait-Chaib; 3rd grade: Jainaba Kamara; 4th grade: Elmer Flores; Pre-Teen: Susana Garcia; Teen: Gino Gillis. And also a big congrats to all of the Area All Stars who are recognized for being outstanding members in their favorite areas at the Club. Week of Oct. 8-12, 2018: Game Room: Allison Quinonez (3rd), Computer Club House: Elvis Rodriguez, Gym: LJ Bland (4th), Music: Susana Garcia (4th), Teen Center: Cameron Bourgea (teen), Membership: Sophia Sostre (2nd), Pool: Kevin Martinez (4th), Pre-Teen Lounge: Alison Lopez (5th), Life Skills: David Garcia Meza (3rd), Cadet Room: Aura Hernandez (1st). Week of Oct. 1-5, 2018: Education: Jesus Santiago (3rd grade), Game Room: Elmer Flores (4th), Art: Emely (2nd), Computer Club House: Thania Simon (4th), Gym: William Diaz (4th), Music: Laney Vargas (4th), Membership: Cristian Chicas, Pool: Kevin Martinez (4th), Pre-Teen Lounge: Luis Ajtum (“Danny”) (preteen), Life Skills: Valeria Ortiz (4th), Cadet Room: Alexi Rios (1st). Week of Sept 24-28, 2018: Education: Miguel Ramirez, grade 3, Game Room: Wilbur Chicas, Art: Sebastian, Computer Club House: Susana Garcia (preteen), Teen Center: Angel Del Valle Cardenas (teen), Membership: Arwa, Pool: Izabella, Wilbur Chicas, Pre-Teen Lounge: Troy Arnold (preteen), Life Skills: Santo Rivera (preteen), Cadet Room: Jyzelle Artica (1st grade)
Schedule Changes: This Friday, October 26th, the CLUB IS CLOSED! We will only be open for Haunted House- more info below under Special Events! (The Boys & Girls Club does not provide transportation on Friday, Oct. 26th either.)
On November 12th, the Club will be open from 9am-4pm (no school day due to Veteran’s Day); on Nov. 13th, the Club will be opening at 12noon, as it is a half day of school for CPS. On Wednesday, Nov. 21st, the Club is open 9am-4pm (no school day- day before Thanksgiving). And the Club will be closed on Thanksgiving, Nov. 22nd, as well as Friday, Nov. 23rd. And for those planning ahead, we want to remind Club members and families that we close during the winter holiday break, closed Dec. 24th- Jan 1st. The Club will re-open on Wednesday, Jan. 2nd.
Special Events: This Friday, Oct. 26th is Haunted House! Tickets are available now until 6pm on Oct. 26th. If you purchase tickets in advance, please be sure to arrive by 6pm that night, as doors close at 6pm with or without tickets. In order to attend the Haunted House, you have to be a Club member and attend with an adult. Thanks to those who joined us this past week at the annual Breast Cancer Awareness event, Popping in Pink Party! Lots of pink-filled games and activities, with music, food, and a celebration of survivors and families members who have experienced breast cancer. And earlier this month, we also celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month with the Club’s annual Celebrando Latino, sharing our stories of our families, flags for our countries, and lots of the food, games, and music of so many different cultures. Thank you Chili’s for once again provided chips and salsa for everyone!
CLUB FUNDRAISERS: The Club’s Annual Online Auction opens on Black Friday! If you or someone you know is interested in donating an item, it is greatly appreciated! We are seeking all kinds of gifts, such as sports memorabilia; unique items, such as dinner with a politician, ball boy/girl at Celtics; adventures, such as ski packages, timeshare weeks, or airline tickets; services provided- legal, such as a will; accounting, such as taxes; dinner prepared in the home; birthday party/event planning; music lessons; cleaning services; gift cards to stores, restaurants, online buying, movies, theater tickets. And once we are ready to launch the Auction, you can help by forwarding a link to anyone and everyone…you never know what someone may be looking for! Lastly, we will be selling raffle tickets as part of this event, which will be available next month at the Club. Every dollar and hour given helps the Club. If you would like to add your email to the mailing list, send to Lisa at LGillis@bgcb.org
The 3rd annual Chelsea Free Back-to-School Haircut day took place at the Jordan Boys & Girls Club on Monday, Aug. 27. Six area barbers cut the hair of boys and girls in preparation for the first day of school Aug. 29. Here, event founder Luis Rodriguez and Councillor Yamir Rodriguez with William Arvarbo, who has a fresh trim.
Role model Umemba steps up for the kids of Chelsea
By Cary Shuman
Kyle Umemba has modeled on runways around the world, but his real work as a [role] model is here in Chelsea.
Umemba is one half of the co-founding team with Cesar Castro of the Let It Fly Basketball Tournament that will be held on Saturday, Aug. 11 at the Jordan Boys and Girls Boys Club on Willow Street. The fourth annual basketball extravaganza brings to Chelsea some of the best talent in the area.
Umemba, 25, was once one of those aspiring players who carved out an impressive basketball career at prestigious Buckingham Browne and Nichols in Cambridge. A product of the Chelsea Youth Basketball League (CYBL) and an AAU standout, the 6-foot-3-inch guard/forward caught the attention of college coaches.
He thought of walking on at Division 1 George Washington but chose to focus on academics. He graduated with a degree in finance and currently works as a consultant for Price Waterhouse Coopers – in addition to his celebrity appearances as a fashion model in New York, London and Milan for major designers.
“It’s a good balance,” said Kyle.
This month, Kyle is busy working with Cesar on the finishing touches for what has become the most anticipated summer youth tournament in the area.
What was the inspiration for Let It Fly?
“We saw that there was a lack of basketball leagues for the kids,” said Umemba. “We wanted to help out the players and also Chelsea graduates.”
And Umemba and Castro have done that in a big way, presenting $500 scholarships to 11 graduates of Chelsea High School and the Phoenix Charter School.
The unsung hero of the Let It Fly Basketball Tournament is none other than Joan Cromwell, Kyle’s mother and the president of the Chelsea Black Community (CBC).
“Without CBC and Joan Cromwell, this tournament would not be possible,” credited Castro.
Joan’s company, Brown Sugar Catering, is the official
caterer for the tournament.
Kyle Umemba was asked whether he considers himself a role model for Chelsea kids.
“I don’t really look for that – if my actions determine that, so be it, but I’d rather just have some type of positive effect on people,” said Umemba.
Former hoop star Castro mentors players as a coach at CHS
By Cary Shuman
Cesar Castro could dribble, drive, shoot, and pass – but what he did best in his four years on the basketball court for Chelsea High School was: score.
Twelve-hundred-and-fifty-two-points worth, which makes him the second-leading scorer for boys in school history behind the legendary Craig Walker. He was the Commonwealth Athletic Conference MVP and led Chelsea to the conference title in his senior year (2010).
The 6-foot-guard is still very much active in the game. He is an assistant coach on Judah Jackson’s staff at Chelsea High School. Interestingly, the Red Devils won the CAC championship this season.
“It feels good to win a championship as a coach and a player,” said Castro, who went on to become an All-Region player at Bunker Hill Community College.
He is a paraprofessional aide at the Wright Middle School in Chelsea and is close to receiving his bachelor’s degree from Salem State University.
Because of daily interaction with Chelsea students in the schools and in the CHS basketball program, Castro, 27, saw the need for a summer tournament that could unite the community and bring some excitement to young players.
And he’s not resting on the past success of the Let It Fly Tournament that filled the gym to capacity last year with a succession of exciting games. There are free refreshments, musical entertainment by DJ Max Max, and Raffles.
“We’re going to start something new this year with a middle school division with four teams,” said Castro. “And we still have an eight-team high school division. It should be another great tournament.”
Teams from Lynn, Boston, Cambridge, and Chelsea will compete in the older division. Some of the top prep school players in New England will be playing in the tournament.
“It’s a one-and-one format so they have to come ready to play,” said Castro. “There’s no time for feeling it out. The players were talking about this tournament on social media back in December so they’ll be ready to compete.”
Castro said he and Umemba were members of the Jordan Boys and Girls Club in Chelsea while growing up in the city.
“We want to thank [Executive Director] Gina Centrella, Jonathan Perez, and John Perez for all their cooperation and allowing us to hold our tournament there,” said Castro. “That’s our home and we thank them a lot.”
Castro also thanked Chelsea Police officers Sammy Mojica, David Batchelor Jr., and Keith Sweeney, and Chelsea firefighter Jonathan Morilli for their assistance at the event, along with City Councillors Damali Vidot and Jamir Rodriguez, who have been big supporters of Let It Fly.
The question of being a role model for Chelsea youths was posed to Castro.
“It’s not my intention to be a role model,” said Castro. “I just try to be genuine. And when I grew up, I truly appreciated someone pointing me in the right direction and that’s what I try to do in the schools and in the basketball program.”
After six years of hosting diners from Chelsea and the surrounding areas, the Dockside location in the Mystic Mall announced this week that it would close as of this Saturday, April 7.
Jack Urbaczewski and his daughter, Lisa Urbaczewski McKenna, made the announcement on Wednesday.
“I think we are very grateful to have had the opportunity,” said Lisa. “It’s bittersweet in a sense. We’ve had some really great employees and customers there. The business can be very demanding. Where we are a family business, it makes sense to consolidate. As this chapter is closing, my dad is just really enjoying more family time and being a grandfather…Chelsea is very special to our family.”
Jack had operated a restaurant in the old Mystic Mall many years ago, and he also served on the Chelsea Police Department for 20 years. When he created Dockside Restaurants in Malden and Wakefield, then City Manager Jay Ash recruited Jack to be part of the new Mystic Mall shortly after the new Market Basket opened.
“Having grown up across the street from this spot and serving 20 years on the police force, our time here in Chelsea will always have special meaning to me,” said Jack. “I, along with our entire Dockside family would like to sincerely thank our regular guests for their patronage, our hardworking staff for their dedication and the entire Chelsea community for their loyalty and support over the years. We are very grateful to Market Basket and former City Manager Jay Ash for this opportunity.”
The business will not become vacant, though, as Lisa said they have sold it to a Mexican restaurant from Malden that they are familiar with.
The El Potro Mexican Grille will open in the spot soon after Dockside leaves.
Lisa said they will continue to support efforts in Chelsea like the Boys & Girls Club road race, and the Salvation Army on Chestnut Street.
A farewell get-together for the Dockside location is planned for Saturday, April 7, from 1-3 p.m.
The Chelsea High Volleyball team takes a knee during the National Anthem on Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 3, in a game at home against Notre Dame, who chose to stand and salute the flag. The girls, including (L-R) Arianna Pryor, Xiana Herasme, Masireh Ceesay and Guidairys Castro, plan to continue taking the knee all season to highlight inequities the lives of minority youth and immigrants. One school in Methuen has asked that they do not come and take a knee at their venue, choosing to forfeit the game instead.
The Chelsea High School girls’ volleyball team – a team loaded with seven seniors – has been together for several years and so it is that they’ve developed a family-like bond and a chemistry that sometimes helps them to act in unison.
It’s almost telepathic, they say.
In fact, when they first decided to take a knee during the National Anthem to make a statement on Tuesday, Sept. 19, at Whittier Tech, it was something they didn’t rehearse or plan in advance.
It just happened, and now it has happened two other times and – like other National Anthem protests – is sparking a robust conversation in Chelsea High, outside in Chelsea and even into the other cities and towns where they play.
All 11 players on the team are now taking the knee and did so as recently as this past Tuesday afternoon at Chelsea High.
“When it happened first, it wasn’t planned and it was just spontaneous and we all went down,” said Arianna Pryor, who pointed out that they took the knee before it became something much greater with the NFL protest on Sept. 24. “We gave each other the look and then it happened. It was just a natural thing. We had talked about it, but never planned on doing it. It was almost like mental telepathy.”
Leaders of the team say they are all taking the knee for several different reasons – whether it be for immigration issues, discrimination, economic opportunity, or better resources – but in general they seem to want to draw attention to the fact that they don’t see the country as being “free” or all of created “equal.”
“For me, a majority of us have immigrant parents and they came to the country to provide a better future for us,” said Rym El Mahid, a first-year player. “. What kind of American Dream is there if things are working against our parents all the time?”
Ruchellie Jimenez said she also takes the knee because she has seen how others are treated, how people treat her. She wants that to change, and this was one way to draw attention to her cause.
“I don’t think it’s fair how we have systematic forces against us and are always in the backseat of America,” she said. “We struggle and get the scraps of everyone else. My parents were immigrants and I see the way they are treated and the way I am treated. That’s why I take the knee. It isn’t fair.”
She added, as an example, that she recently wanted to improve her SAT score and went to a counselor outside Chelsea for help.
“I was sitting with the counselor and they looked at my score and said I was a minority and from a low-income area, so I was all set; there was not need for me to try to get better,” she said. “That’s not how I want to be treated. I just want to do better on my SAT.”
Pryor said others have been taking a knee to make a difference, and she saw that and brought it up to the rest of her team. They had talked about it, but made no plans. As time went on, she said she wanted to be one to make things known, to let people know that things are not right.
“I take a knee because I want to be there with the others that are trying to make a difference,” she said. “I take a knee because things need to change.”
All agreed that they don’t mean disrespect to any soldiers, and are grateful for the service of veterans – those who have died and who have returned injured. They said, however, they picked the National Anthem because it was a non-violent and because it was one of the few outlets they had as high school athletes.
“Our team is very ethnically diverse and culturally diverse,” said Capt. Jessica Martinez. “We feel strongly about how our country has been going, and we wanted to make our point in a way that wouldn’t seem violent or aggressive, but rather intelligent. We wanted to do something that showed we took a lot of time thinking out our actions.”
She added that if they had made their protest at City Hall or another public venue, it could have taken a violent course – which they didn’t want.
Added Jimenez, “We’re very grateful for what the veterans have done and they have given us freedom of speech to take the knee. I don’t think there is any other way for us to do this publicly. Everyone knows what taking a knee is.”
At school, it’s been a mixed reaction.
A lot of students don’t agree with it, they said, while others are wholeheartedly behind them.
Already, last Friday, the Chelsea High cheerleaders took a knee before the home football game.
Coach Serena Wadsworth said when it became obvious how her girls felt about taking the knee, and that they planned to do so the rest of the year, she sent out a letter to other schools. Most, she said, understood, but one school in Methuen preferred that the girls not come to their school and take a knee. The school indicated it didn’t feel it respected its school values. They were willing to forfeit the game, and also were willing to play at Chelsea.
Interestingly, the girls said their message isn’t really for those in Chelsea as much as it is for the other schools they play, many of which aren’t as diverse or understand the life that they lead.
“Our message isn’t really to be taken to only those who are doing the discrimination,” said El Mahid. “People who aren’t minority – the white and well off – don’t know the discrimination we face. It’s a way to get the discrimination out there.”
When the 2017 Chelsea High volleyball team is remembered, all of them agreed that it will probably be for their stand. They hope that it helps people think about what they did, and perhaps is something that’s continued.
“There are other teams and other seasons,” said Masireh Ceesay. “They will see what we did and see it as an example, I hope, and carry it on and find ways to go forward with our statement.”
Damali Vidot, popular councillor-at-large, knows from first hand experience the trouble that Chelsea youths can encounter in their formative years
“As someone who used to get in to trouble and who lost a friend a few days ago that I met when I used to get in to trouble, I know the importance of being there for these young people – just to have someone that they can count on to lead them in the right direction.”
That’s one of the reasons that the 39-year-old Vidot, along with City Councillor Yamir Rodriguez, Danny Mojica, and Isidra Quinones, founded The Movement, a summertime youth basketball league. The league held its playoffs and season-ending pizza party Saturday at Highland Park.
“The Movement was born out of some shootings that were happening in the community and we wanted to provide an outlet for kids 13-20 because I feel that’s an age that really doesn’t have enough supportive services that we wanted to engage them in during the summer,” said Vidot.
The Movement has grown to close to 100 youths who participate in the outdoor basketball league Wednesdays and Saturdays at Highland Park across from the Jordan Boys and Girls Club.
The mood was festive as the basketball players were united in spirit and celebrating the league’s second successful season. Police officers Keith Sweeney and David Batchelor Jr. were on hand to coach a team and affirm the support of Chelsea’s finest.
Vidot understands The Movement is only in touch with its players a few hours a week on the basketball court and that the players must take responsibility for their actions beyond the court.
“Even though we’re with them a limited number of hours during the week, I’m hoping it sets the tone for the rest of the week and they remember that there are grown-ups out there that actually care,” said Vidot.
Betsy Vicente, mother of 14-year-old, 6-foot-2-inch aspiring basketball player Christian Rios, said her son likes the competition and atmosphere of The Movement.
“He loves it. My son absolutely adores coming here. He looks forward to playing here every weekend and hanging out with his friends.”
Vicente said The Movement is like “a second family.”
“This is his neighborhood family,” said Vicente. The kids feel safe and the league is bringing them together in a good environment.”
As for rising community leaders Damali Vidot, Jamir Rodriguez, Vicente said what many at the Highland Park basketball courts were thinking, “The leaders of The Movement are doing a phenomenal job. I like the new Chelsea.”