The Chelsea Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) approved a new apartment building project at 25 Eleanor St. on what is currently an industrial building with parking lot.
The approval came during the Nov. 14 meeting and the project is championed by Eleanor Street Associates LLC – headed up by Michael Massamino.
Currently the building houses 12 offices and two conference rooms and a parking lot. The new project will be a three-story building with 20 units and 28 ground floor parking spaces – 14 of them covered spaces. The building will house 10 units on the second floor and 10 units on the third floor. There will be no open space.
It was approved with standard conditions.
In other matters before the board.
24 Tudor Street: A neighbor spoke in opposition to the conversion into three units. The Board will continue the hearing on December 12.
145 Cottage Street: continued discussion on December 12.
67 Jefferson Ave: Approved.
73 Broadway: The owner wants to keep it two units and maximize the space. A neighbor from 62 Beacon St. spoke in favor of the work as good for the neighborhood.
94 Fourth Street: Patricia Simboli spoke on the project, calling it “highly challenged” because it’s a direct abutter of Dunkin Donuts. She referenced parking issues, and suggested renting spaces elsewhere. It was continued.
For at least three years, Councillor Giovanni Recupero has been pleading for a pedestrian crossing light on Marginal Street so as to make getting to the new PORT Park safe.
With tractor trailers and vehicles of all types flying down the thoroughfare, reaching the new park is very dangerous, especially for a child or a mother with a stroller.
For all those three years, he was told to find the money and maybe he could get it.
Well, he did, and last Monday night, Sept. 25, the crossing area was voted in by the City Council.
“This is one of the best things I have done,” he said. “I worked very hard for this. It took me three years. There was no funding, they said. Well, I found the funding. Now we have it.”
With the money he found, and a significant amount of extra funds allocated due to cost overruns, the signal is now designed and ready to be installed in the spring, hopefully in time for next summer.
Recupero identified $145,000 in funds from the Eastern Salt mitigation fund that came in 2007 as a result of adding the second salt pile. Part of that money went to the Highland Park Field, and some was left over.
Recupero said that’s the money he found.
However, earlier this month, City Manager Tom Ambrosino reported that a major increase in the cost had occurred. The design and construction had gone from $145,000 to $402,000 due to the signal being far more expensive that estimated.
However, Ambrosino still supported it.
“Although this is a major change in scope, I still feel this signalization is a worthwhile effort,” he wrote. “If we want pedestrians to get safely to the park from the abutting neighborhoods, the new scope of work is essential.”
The additional funding of $257,000 was voted in by the Council Sept. 25 as well.
For Recupero, it’s a double celebration as on Monday his opponent, Kris Haight, withdrew from the Council race.
Haight, a public transportation advocate, said his work was too demanding to also give attention to a Council position.
“After great consideration, I have decided to bow out of the Chelsea City Councilor’s race,” he wrote in a statement. “I am dropping out for a number of reasons, but time and effort is the biggest one. My day job has become a bear, to the point where I am going non stop most of the day. I’m just exhausted when I get home, let alone have to get on my feet to canvass for a few hours to meet the voters.”
He said the demands of his job would not allow him to be an effective councillor, and if elected, that wouldn’t be fair to the residents.
He said he is no longer a candidate.
Recupero said he is running and hopes the voters notice the things he’s done, such as the pedestrian crossing signal, and believe he’s doing a good job for them at City Hall.
“It would be my honor and pleasure to continue representing the people of District 6 for another term,” he said. “I will try my hardest, and I hope they will help me get back to City Hall for another term.”
When Supt. Mary Bourque and administrator Gerry McHugh were working in a teaching exercise last year to help them to be able to sell their schools to a skeptical parent, they began listing off all the attributes of the Chelsea schools – one by one.
Their evaluator, Barry Bluestone, former executive and director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Planning, sat patiently as the two Chelsea chiefs rattled off the social emotional supports, the specialized instruction and the programs offered in the schools.
When they finished, he was mystified, as he thought Chelsea schools were only about catching kids up who were way behind.
“At the conclusion of our description of what Chelsea Public Schools offers, Mr. Bluestone sat back in his chair and was truly in awe,” Bourque told a gym full of teachers Monday at the Convocation Breakfast. “He was in awe because as he stated to us, ‘Chelsea schools have a reputation as being all about remediation.’ His statement just hung in the air between Gerry and me. Mr. Bluestone went on to challenge us to change the reputation, change the perception, and change our collective identity both internally and for the external world. We took the challenge to heart and we began the work of obtaining stakeholder feedback, yours included, and we began to craft our new five-year vision. In the next five years, we will build upon the work of the last five years and we will expand opportunities for all our students.”
Bourque is in her sixth year as superintendent and she told the gathering of teachers, staff and administrators that in 2011 she came out with a five-year plan. This year, that plan expired and many of its objectives, she said, were accomplished – such as building more family and community organization partners. On Monday, she unveiled the 2016-2021 Commitments to Our Students plan.
For the first year of that plan, this year, Bourque said they will focus on rigor, making lessons move faster and the work be more complex – while at the same time bringing every kid along and making sure they are ready to move on to the next grade and to be successful.
“All of the plans prioritize teaching and learning–the work for us this year is focused on rigor as defined by complex text, complex task, and accelerated pace of lessons,” she said. “Our goal is for each student to be ready to move onto the next grade and be successful. To achieve this goal we must accelerate our teaching and learning to include annual student growth as well as catch-up student growth. Just achieving annual growth for many of our students will not be enough to be successful in the next grade. We can’t water down our teaching nor slow down our pace of teaching and learning and expect catch-up growth. These plans reflect work that will be demanding, robust, relentless, more intentional, and laser focused than ever before. We are pushing students to the top and pulling students up from the bottom.”
One particularly interesting point she made in hammering home the point of moving faster and expecting more is that she said teachers and administrators should not pity the students, or give them special accommodation because they are from Chelsea and may be living in tough situations.
“Throughout all of our work, we want to avoid misplaced compassion for our students,” she said. “We want to hold our student performance expectations high. If you expect a suburban student to do the work, then expect a Chelsea student to do the same work. Don’t expect less of a Chelsea student because he or she is a student of poverty or a second language learner. Expect your students to do the heavy cognitive lift and learning in each class. There are resources both human and material at each school to help you do this.”
One of those tools is a new assessment system for internal testing that the schools will implement, a system called Mastery Connect. The system will be used in all grades, from kindergarten to 12th grade. That, along with other work connected to the system, is implemented with the hope that each student in Chelsea is on track to reach the ‘Proficient’ benchmark in state testing.
Some of the other initiatives in the five year plan include:
Build a tiered system of support to meet all diverse student needs (struggling students, English language learners, and Special Education students).
Deepen social and emotional supports and expand the use of the trauma sensitive classroom. The schools will pilot the trauma sensitive classroom work and the Mind-Up Curriculum in the Hooks and Kelly Elementary Schools with the goal of rolling it out in all nine schools in the next five years.
1:1 Technology (each student with a computer) in grades 1-12.
Expand College Board Advanced Placement (AP).
Offer an Associate’s degree pathway for students through dual enrollment.
Offer a local diploma credential for bi-literacy.
Build a middle and high school community service project continuum.
Expand the school day at all three middle schools, grades 5-8.
Expand dual language program at the Kelly School through grade 8.
A final piece of her plan called upon the City Council and the City Manager to assess the needs for, perhaps, building a new school. In a community like Chelsea, which has taken such building projects slowly, it was a big thing to say.
“As a community, we need to answer the question, do we need another school building in order to continue to offer the programming necessary to support a college and career 21st century education for all our students?” she asked.
Bourque concluded by saying it is an ambitious plan and will be very difficult, but rewarding, a she believes all students in Chelsea can succeed at a higher level.
“This is the Chelsea school system of today, this year, and the next five years,” she said. “This is the work, this is the vision we heard from you and from the community. It is both exciting and scary at the same time, yet the reassurance for all of us is that we are not alone and that we will do this work together. We believe it can be done.”
Chelsea residents Jay Paris and Anna Myer watch their art come to life in a recent performance of ‘Invisible: Imprints of Racism,’ at Ramsay Park in the South End near the Lenox Housing Development.
When audiences leave the most recent performance by the BeHeard.World dancers, they don’t usually leave with a smile on their faces, but rather, this summer, they typically leave thinking very hard about serious issues involving race.
Anna Myer and Jay Paris, who live in the Spencer Lofts in Chelsea, have been touring all over Boston this summer performing on lighted basketball courts their newest dance and poetry work called, ‘Invisible: Imprints of Racism,’ on basketball courts and next to gritty housing developments.
“It’s a challenging piece because no one wants to address it, it being race,” said Paris this week. “You find people leaving who are ashamed about it and some are angry about it. It comes down to confronting it and getting past the sense of being deprived or the sense of being privileged…As two middle-aged white people, Anna and I didn’t want to put this piece together alone.”
Added Myer, “The company is very mixed and we discussed this within the group for about a year. We all like each other a lot so it makes it a safe environment to talk about race…It’s really come full circle for me with this piece. I have always, always, always been interested in racial issues since I was a kid in Cambridge. It’s really come full circle in the sense that my work in the performing arts and social justice and equity have all come together.”
Paris and Myer moved to Chelsea about one year ago from Cambridge and continued their work in Boston, mostly at the housing developments in Franklin Field (Dorchester) and Lenox (South End). Most recently, last month, they performed the piece on the basketball court at Ramsay Park near the Lenox development, a park long in need of a makeover and, at times, quite dangerous for young people. It’s the kind of place they want to be, though.
“I’ve been working with the North American Family Institute for a number of years and I didn’t want to work with kids already in the court system, but rather to do prevention work with kids by developing programs for them before they get there,” Paris said. “Those programs were primarily in Franklin Field and Lenox. Prior to that, I had a career as a writer and photojournalist in the magazine world. I was always interested in the arts, though, and creating opportunities for kids in the arts. I kept hearing of this woman, Anna Myers, who had a renowned dance company. She had been going to the inner cities and getting rap and hip-hop performers and putting them into her company to perform. We finally met and began collaborating a lot. Then we fell in love and eventually got married.”
Myer has a dance and poetry company that performs the works like ‘Invisible,’ using nine dancers and four poets.
Meanwhile, Paris works another program that brings youth into the program and helps them to discover their voice in the arts. He has been filming that experience and expects to release a documentary on it in January. The film focuses on the first 19 kids that they took into the program and the changes that came about after they were immersed into the arts programming.
“It’s about using the arts to give these kids a voice so they can say what they want to say,” said Myers. “It’s very empowering. In 2014, we had 19 kids participating from the Lenox Housing Development and Jay filmed the whole program. The film is really about what art does for human beings and for kids. It changes them and gives them a voice. Those same kids were interviewed one year later and it’s incredible the changes that happened to them. Their confidence is up, they’re trying new things they wouldn’t have done like debate team. We need arts in the world.”
Myer came to meet Paris through a tragedy in her life that changed her direction totally.
After growing up trained as a ballet dancer and dancing at Boston Ballet and others for a time, she established several smaller and successful companies.
“I started everything over and part of that was choreography and I got into modern dance,” she said. “I had a company for a long time and I began including the inner city artists and dancers in my work. That opened up a whole new way of choreographing and working.”
That, of course, also led her to Paris, and the both of them to Chelsea one year ago this week.
“I feel like there’s great potential for arts here,” said Myers. “I love that it is it’s own city. It’s like stepping back in time and it’s diverse and has its own unique character.
Said Paris, “We love Chelsea and there is so much about it to love. We love the diversity of it. We know it’s challenging sometimes, but we like that. We love the interest in the arts here and the interest in community betterment. Ultimately, we’d like to bring BeHeard here with offices and studio space and keep going.”
The ‘going’ part could very well be sooner than later, as both said they feel the ‘Invisible’ piece could be something that tours the country on basketball courts and fields all over America – taking the temperature of the nation on race.
“We’d love to have an organization that gets people thinking and have a movement where change happens,” said Myer.
Added Paris, “Instead of putting out fires, we’d love to prevent the fires at some point.”
It was through the Chelsea Record newspaper that Ann Crotty and artist Joe Greene met – a combination that would eventually produce the Chelsea Art Walk and Charcoll Arts Group.
Crotty, who passed away last month, will bear the honorary name tagged onto this year’s 2016 Chelsea Art Walk, organizers said last week.
“After reading the December 2004 front page story about my relaunch of the Pearl Street Gallery and that I was ‘hopeful that some day Chelsea will host an Open Studios event,’ she picked up the phone and called,” said Joe Greene of the Pearl Street Gallery. “She said, ‘Hello, my name is Ann Crotty and I would like to stop by and tell you all about a Chelsea artists group I was a part of.’ How could I refuse? Ann hopped on a bus and came by Pearl Street with a stack of papers, flyers and literature from a lively group of artists in the 1990s she was a part of. As rents increased, those artists had to move out and the group disintegrated. Ann convinced me that this time we could make it work.”
From there, Crotty teamed up with Greene and they reached out to the Chelsea City Cafe and the Spencer Lofts. In November 2007, with the addition of John Kennard to the team of Crotty and Greene, the first group show took form – called ‘Made in Chelsea’ – and showed at two different venues at one time.
“The show was such a success, that as a group we decided to continue as Charcoll (Chelsea Artists Collaborative ) and to have our next event in the spring of 2009, the Chelsea Art Walk,” said Greene. “It’s safe to say there might not be a Charcoll without Ms. Crotty. This first Chelsea Art Walk was ambitious and included nine or so venues all over town. Ann found us volunteers and bus greeters to guide our visitors around the city. As the years went by, Ann was an active Charcoll member and attended nearly every Art Walk meeting with a smile and a story. We will miss her.”
With that spirit, Charcoll has dedicated this year’s Walk – which takes place on June 11 and 12 – to the memory of Ann Crotty.
Long-time contributing playwright Bob Boulrice said he came to annually present his work at the Art Walk via being a bus driver.
“Ann recruited me as a bus driver,” he said. “That’s what brought me to Art Walk. It wasn’t the artists or the fact that it’s the second best day in Chelsea every year, but it was really hearing the people on the buses talk about the positive things they had experienced that drew me in. There were so many people who hadn’t been here in many years. It was cool.”
He said with the encouragement of Crotty, he began to toy with the idea of writing a play to be acted out at Apollinaire Theatre every year. Now, he’s been doing that for seven years.
“This year’s Art Walk is dedicated in appreciation of Ann Crotty and it’s so fitting,” said Boulrice. “She was just a regular, vibrant presence who was consistently positive and was dedicated. She really was the best of the Old Chelsea and the New Chelsea.”
Chelsea Police arrested three men, one from Philadelphia, last week for serious charges of trafficking in heroin.
On Feb. 2 at approximately 10:22 p.m., detective were on routine patrol in the area of Broadway and Fourth Street. Detectives were in an unmarked cruiser and wearing plain clothes at the time. Detectives observed a dark Malibu traveling at a high rate of speed down Broadway and then, without regard, turned abruptly on to Cross Street. Upon stopping vehicle near the Meridian Street Bridge, detectives observed passengers attempting to discard and hide plastic baggies.
The detectives then uncovered several more bags containing a substance believed to be heroin. All three were placed into custody.
Javier Rosario, 35, of Philadelphia; Delmi Mejia, 27, of 76 Addison St.; and Mariano De La Cruz, 50, of East Boston; were all charged with trafficking in heroin.
RESIDENTS APPREHEND ALLEGED ROBBERS
Chelsea Police apprehended two alleged robbers on Chester Avenue last week, but not without a good assist from residents of the home that was allegedly broken into.
On Feb. 3 at 3:21 a.m., officers responded to a reported house break at 29 Chester Ave. Officers observed two men attempting to leave the front hall of that address, but both were being held back by the victims. Victims yelled to police that the men had broken into the basement and they were attempting to escape. Officers immediately placed the two suspects into custody.
Victims told offices they heard people in the basement rummaging thorough their belongings and immediately called police.
Steven Hescock, 39, of Revere, and Michael Kane, 29, of Revere, were both charged with breaking and entering in the night for a felony.
HEADS-UP POLICE WORK RECOVERS LOADED FIREARM ON CARY AVE
Criminals always return to the scene of the crime, and this time it was allegedly to retrieve a loaded firearm.
On Wednesday, Jan. 27, at about 1:39 p.m., Chelsea plain clothes officers were on patrol in the area of Cary Avenue and Tudor Street operating an unmarked unit. As one officer approached the intersection on Cary and Tudor, the officer observed a heavy-set male on Tudor walking in the direction of the unmarked cruiser. The officer immediately recognized the male from a recent video and still photos put out by the department related to a shooting that occurred on Sunday, Jan. 24.
Upon being recognized, the male quickly went between houses on Tudor Street in an alley. The officers lost sight of the subject for approximately 30 seconds. The subject was brought back to the street and detained. That party was identified and allowed to leave, though, as the officer found no violations. A second group of officers responded to do a thorough check of the area to see if any contraband was discarded by the individual.
While in adjacent yard, they observed a second male on a cell phone being directed in the backyard where the officer originally lost sight of the first subject earlier. Officers continued to watch as the second individual was directed by cell phone to a plastic container. That individual then removed a loaded firearm from the container and placed it in his waist band. The two officers immediately made themselves known and placed the subject under arrest.
Andre Cheek, 18, of 63 Washington Ave., was charged with carrying a loaded firearm without a license and possessing ammo without a permit.
Additionally, a warrant was issued for the individual originally stopped by police for illegal carrying a firearm.
It was early in the morning on Sunday, around 2:40 a.m., and Officer Ed Marchese was at the front desk when a resident came into the station and requested help.
Quick to the ready, Marchese came out into the lobby to speak with the individual.
As Marchese stood only a few feet from him, the despondent man suddenly took out a serrated knife and began to brandish it threateningly.
“This is for you,” he yelled and came at Marchese.
Marchese immediately drew his weapon, but restrained from shooting. Before the individual could reach him with the knife, he was able to retreat into the locked desk area.
Marchese and Officer Rafael Rijos alerted the station of the attack and secured two tasers for their safety. They entered the lobby to talk with the man and hopefully de-escalate the situation, and were joined by Sgt. Mike Nee.
The individual told them he wanted them to shoot him and planned to attack them so they would kill him – what has become known as ‘Suicide by Cop.’
“During about five minutes of conversation the subject repeatedly stated that he wanted the police to shoot him and that he did not want to live any longer,” read the police report. “He stated that he was a drug abuser and wanted to quit but he could not get any help. Sergeant Nee observed that most of the time he had the knife at his side pointed in a downward position. As he became more adamant and demanding that Officers shoot him, he suddenly repositioned the knife so he was holding it so as to be able to strike downward with it.”
When another attack seemed imminent, Sgt. Nee deployed his taser and hit the individual in the upper torso area, causing him to fall to the ground. When ordered to drop the knife and comply, Jaulin still refused and Nee activated the taser once again, but didn’t need to deploy it.
He finally complied and was handcuffed.
Paramedics from Cataldo Ambulance were summoned to treat him and noted that there were rope marks on his neck.
“He then told the paramedics that he had tried to hang himself earlier that day but the ‘rope broke,’” read the report.
He was issued a Section 12 mental illness examination and will be summoned to Chelsea District Court for Assault by Means of a Deadly Weapon on a Person Over 60.
Chief Brian Kyes praised the work of the officers in de-escalating the situation and not reacting with deadly force. He said officers have to be ready for anything in today’s world, even people who want police to kill them in the dead of night inside the Police Station.
“I want to personally acknowledge the extraordinary efforts and exceptional calm and restraint exhibited by officers Ed Marchese, Rafael Rijos and Sergeant Mike Nee in de-escalating an extremely volatile situation that could have easily resulted in grievous bodily injury or had deadly consequences to either the officers involved or the Emotionally Disturbed Subject had it not been for the actions and the measured response of these brave officers,” said Kyes. “Continuous training for what seems like an endless stream of dangerous scenarios is at the core of our department mission which serves to both keep our community and Officers safe while controlling every critical encounter by utilizing the least amount of force necessary depending on the circumstances that are present. Three of our brother officers and one misguided and extremely troubled individual will go home to their families because of the heroic actions of these fine Chelsea officers.”
Chelsea’s Juan Vega has left the Broadway headquarters of Centro Latino for the last time this week, but he’s begun a new commute to the State House at the same time – agreeing this week to join Jay Ash, state secretary for Housing and Economic Development, as a specialist in developing local leadership and community organizations statewide.
Vega will be the assistant secretary for communities and programs, and his first day on the job was yesterday, July 1.
“Last week we talked and he asked me to join his team and I accepted,” said Vega. “I’ll be joining Jay as assistant secretary for communities and programs. He has this grand vision for getting more cities and towns to plan collaboratively on economic development, especially Gateway Cities. I think Jay recognized my experience working here and my coalition and collaborative building here could help to get folks talking to each other statewide. We hope to get people talking more about developing downtowns, infrastructure and even roads.”
Ash said he was glad to have Vega working with him after many years of collaborating with him in Chelsea. He said he hopes to create the same community-based organization structure statewide that was built in Chelsea.
“I am very excited Juan said ‘yes,’” said Ash. “I have known him for many years and greatly admired his work, many times being the beneficiary of his work and many times being the target of his work. He did things thoughtfully and the right way. I’ve tapped Juan for this because I have a great deal of respect for him, both politically and as a community-based organization leader. One thing we’re really focused on here is creating leadership – producing it where it doesn’t exist and enhancing it where it does exist. Juan has been central to that effort in Chelsea. The spirit of leadership we had in Chelsea can be duplicated across the state and Juan was a big part of creating that in Chelsea.”
Ash said the position is a statewide position and will mean that Vega will be traveling the state to create a replica of Chelsea’s success model.
Vega said he has been interested in doing work for the state for some time, and considered joining former Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration a few years ago. However, when Ash was chosen as secretary, Vega said he was keenly interested in joining the team if it worked out.
“I do a ton of state contracts here at Centro Latino,” he said. “It always caught my attention and I needed a break from the non-profit scene after 17 years here and to change up the scenery a bit…It is hard. This organization is 25 years old and I am have been the head of it for 17 years. I”m the fourth executive director. When I got here, I did help build the organization and the brand and helped Centro look beyond Chelsea’s boundaries…I’m confident the organization will be fine without me. There’s a lot of work being done on education and housing. It has been bittersweet. As the final day got closer, it began to get surreal because it’s been so much a part of my life. I am able to walk to the office from my house many times and now I’ll have a regular commute into town.”
Centro Latino has put an inte
Juan Vega, formerly the executive director of Centro Latino, has started a new position as assistant secretary of communities and programs in the state Executive Officer of Housing and Community Development – which is directed by former Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash. Vega led Centro Latino for 17 years until leaving the post on Tuesday, June 30.
rim director in place for the time being.
They’ve also engaged the consultant Third Sector New England to assist the Board of Directors in searching for a permanent director to lead them onward.
Vega, who is also a commissioner at the Chelsea Housing Authority, said he was unsure if he would be able to maintain his seat on that board. He said the question has been posed and he will address that situation when he gets an answer.
While the twists and turns on the awarding of the casino license to Wynn Resorts continue with new lawsuits and allegations being leveled against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC), one constant in this almost year-long saga has been Steve Wynn being a good neighbor.
It is a testament to the character of Steve Wynn rather than just say Massachusetts politics is a basket case and leave or hedge his bet by waiting for litigation to end, he continues to not only uphold his agreement — such as immediately giving the City of Boston a $1 million dollar check for the Charlestown community which by the way is just sitting in a bank rather than helping the community because Boston officials are playing politics — but voluntarily he goes beyond in helping organizations in surrounding communities.
In the last week, Wynn has donated money to both the Charlestown Bunker Hill Parade Committee and the Mystic River Watershed Association. These donations are not done in an ostentatious way but with little or no fanfare.
These donations make the difference for these two organizations to continue the work that make their communities a better place to live .
We agree with Mayor Carlo DeMaria when he says that all these new charges against the MGC are just Massachusetts politics at its worst.
Unfortunately, some of the elected Massachusetts leaders are not following the example of Steve Wynn to help organizations in our communities that improve people’s lives but continue to play politics and really not very skillfully.
Browne Middle School (BMS) 5th grader Toni-Chanelle Suncar, 10, travelled to Washington, D.C. on Monday to participate in the White House Science Fair, one of only a handful of children nationwide to be invited to the event. Suncar left Monday morning from Boston, participated in a roundtable discussion on women in the sciences, showed her work at the science fair, met President Obama and then jetted back to Chelsea on Monday night. Suncar got the invite for her noteworthy project of writing computer code to create a computer game called ‘Slap the Unicorn.’ Through the BMS’s partnership with Citizens Schools and Digitas Corp., Suncar worked on making the game. After it was completed, the two entities entered her in the running to participate at the White House, and she ended up being invited. BMS Principal David Leibowitz said not only was it Suncar’s first trip to Washington, D.C., it was the first time she’s been on an airplane since she was at toddler. He said that even though Suncar was nervous to meet President Obama, she was able to get out a few sentences that she had practiced at home