Friday, October 9, 2009

Astronaut Cassidy Comes Home to York

By Devin Beliveau
Staff Columnist
In the history of the world, only 500 people have ever traveled in space. Included in that exclusive club is York High School graduate Chris Cassidy. Last Thursday Cassidy went back to his alma mater to share his recent space adventure with his hometown.
The YHS gymnasium buzzed with excitement as Cassidy, a member of the class of ’88, took the stage. Commander Cassidy, who was a Mission Specialist on NASA’s Space Shuttle Endeavor on a 16-day mission in July, began by describing the nerve-wracking days leading up to the launch. “It was like the 7 days leading up to the Marshwood game,” explained Cassidy, referencing the YHS sports rival.
Cassidy then played a 20-minute video of highlights from his space flight, and added his commentary to the striking images playing on the screen.
After 5 frustrating failed launch attempts, the Endeavor finally launched on July 15 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Endeavor’s mission was to install the Japanese “Kibo” Experiment Facility at the International Space Station (ISS). The ride into space felt “like a pick-up truck” on a dirt road, according to Cassidy.
Endeavor docked at the ISS while travelling at a rate 17,500 mph, or 5 miles per second. “ISS is huge,” Cassidy said of the internationally created space laboratory. “And it’s a testament to what international cooperation can do.”
Once inside ISS, Cassidy glanced out a window to get a glimpse of the earth. The image stunned him to the point that “I was at a loss for words for 10 seconds.” Similarly spectacular images prompted Cassidy to take over 8,000 pictures during his time in space.
During the 11 days spent at ISS, Cassidy spent a combined 5 hours outside the ISS in space during his 2 spacewalks. Most of that time was spent changing batteries. The biggest surprise on his spacewalk was the rapid setting of the sun. “It went from day to night in 18-25 seconds,” Cassidy said. “One of the most fun things, was at the end of the day, just sharing the time to have dinner. There were five nations up there, US astronauts, Russian cosmonauts, Japanese astronauts, a European astronaut from Belgium, and 2 Canadians. Different music, different cultures, different languages, just up there joking around for an hour of social time before bed. Couple that with looking out the window, seeing no borders on the earth, it just really was a great time.”
After the video segment, Cassidy took several questions from the audience.
Summarizing his overall experience, Cassidy said “I had a smile on my face the whole time.” Cassidy plans to stay at NASA for the foreseeable future. “I love my job,” he said simply.
Cassidy mingled with the audience before and after giving his remarks. “He seems like a really nice guy,” commented York resident and space enthusiast Bill Carpenter, who got the chance to meet the local astronaut.
To begin the evening, the audience heard the YHS Chamber Singers perform the Star Spangled Banner. Introductory speakers included York School Committee Chair Marilyn Zotos, YHS Principal Bob Stevens, York Town Manager Robert Yandow, and a representative from Senator Susan Collins’ office. Yandow read a town proclamation that announced Oct. 1st would now be Chris Cassidy Day in the town of York.
Reflecting on this evening full of hometown pride, Cassidy said that he is “truly humbled to get this much attention.”
Photo caption: Astronaut Chris Cassidy, a York native, returned to recount his space shuttle mission in July. (Devin Beliveau photo)

Neighbors helping Neighbors in North Berwick

By Barbara Leech
Staff Columnist
Last year the Neighborly Craft Fair, a fundraising effort started by three local women, raised $5,000 for North Berwick’s fuel assistance program and the town’s food pantry. That total was matched dollar for dollar, bringing in $10,000 for those in need. This year, the trio hopes they can match or surpass what they describe as an unexpected success.
“We had no idea this would bring in so much funding….we just wanted to do whatever we could. We were ecstatic with the result,” Rindy Hilton, one of the Neighborly Craft Fair organizers said, “For three friends who started this not knowing what we were doing, we were amazed at the generosity and how everyone we asked to help just said yes.”
Hilton says they will continue to hold the fair as long as the economy drags and people are in need.
“Unfortunately we are back by popular demand. There are many people who have lost their jobs in our community,” she says. “The need is there this year as much as last, so we are going to do our part.”
The craft fair is set for Nov. 28, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the North Berwick Primary School gymnasium. The fee for crafters to rent a table is $20 plus a donation of one of their craft items for the raffle table. All proceeds from the event including the sale of lunch, prepared by Nobel High’s culinary students and served by volunteers from the ladies auxiliary, raffles, a silent auction, and monetary donations will be split 50-50 between the North Berwick Fuel Assistance program and the town food pantry.
According to fellow organizer Katie Jacques, about 20 crafters have signed up so far, but they are hoping to get that number to 50 crafters by the Nov. 6 enrollment deadline.
“We would love to do it bigger and better, but last year was so successful we will have to work hard to top it,” she said. “It’s amazing to witness neighbors stepping up to help their neighbors. We had one woman come in and just give cash, saying she wasn’t sending holiday cards that year…instead she would help someone stay warm.”
Last year the grand total from the fair was matched by a $3,500 donation from the Cecil B. Day Fund and $1,500 from the town’s four church organizations. Donations of raffle items came not just from crafters but from local businesses such as Appledore Cove and Carpe Diem Coffee. Crafters ranged from traditional knitters, woodcrafters and artists to bakers of specialized doggy biscuits.
Though the town has a general assistance program set up by the state, there are many who may not meet state qualifications for assistance but still are in financial need. The Fuel Assistance Program is for those who fit that category of need.
Hilton, Jacques and fellow organizer Janet Belmain are currently looking at foundations that would pledge to provide matching dollars to the fair’s grand total. Regardless of the financial outcome the trio says they feel like the community has made this effort a success.
“I have never been involved in anything quite like this….to see everyone come together to help,” Hilton says. “It is an amazing thing. It makes you proud of North Berwick and the people who live here.”
Applications for the craft fair are available online at or contact Katie Jacques at 676-3353, Rindy Hilton at 676-4414 or Jan Belmain at 676-3368.

Program offers Traip Students
Career Exploration Choices

By Jim Kanak
Staff Columnist
For the past two years, students at Traip Academy have had an opportunity to explore a variety of career options while also pursuing their academic course work. Known as the Choices program, students can be placed for a few hours a day in one or more of several local businesses that have agreed to participate in the program, offering kids the chance to job shadow and serve internships.
“We match up students in the program with local businesses they may have an interest in,” said Michael Gardner, Traip’s Career Exploration Coordinator. “We look for a good fit that can turn into an internship and last longer with increasing responsibilities.”
Gardner said there are approximately 15 students - both boys and girls - currently in the program. Most students tend to come into the program as sophomores or higher. “It’s open to any student,” he said. “We’re trying to match up kids that really want to do this. If the traditional route in high school isn’t serving you, maybe this (program) serves you better.”
Under the program, students spend mornings in academic coursework, and then in the afternoon focus on career exploration. “The current (placements) are for two to three weeks,” Gardner said. “If the student and business are happy with it, we look to keep it going. If they don’t like it, we ask the students to do some reflection - what didn’t they like and why?”
Representatives of two of the businesses involved, Little Brook Farm of Kittery and the Hissong Group, said they thought the program was outstanding. “It’s a wonderful thing they’re doing so the kids can find out what they want to do in life,” said Holly Piche, owner of Little Brook Farm. “We have had four or five kids. They learn farming and how to care for the animals and do regular barn chores, feeding and cleaning. I would have loved this if they had it when I was in high school.”
Mike Polakewicz, the Human Resource and Safety Manager for Hissong, echoed Piche’s sentiment. “I love this program,” he said. “We have two young men at our site off Route 236 in Eliot where we’re building a concrete batch plant. There are carpenters, mason contractors, people putting up steel, plumbers - a large variety of opportunities for these young men to observe. I told my guys to be very careful. The boys will be doing a helper type arrangement but they’ll have a chance to learn.”
Gardner said the program was the brainchild of Jane Durgin, the Director of Special Services at Traip. “This is her baby,” he said. “She’d like to see it go beyond Traip to other southern Maine services.”
In addition to Little Brook Farm and Hissong, Gardner has recruited Seahill Alpaca Farm of Kittery, Kittery Animal Hospital, Kittery Family Practice, York Hospital, Kittery Estates, Portsmouth Auto Body, and Auto Works of Kittery to participate in the program, offering students a variety of job settings. “Most are glad to help,” said Gardner. “They’re super people. I tell them the kids are serious about learning.”
Polakewicz said he was convinced about the value of the program from the beginning. “When I was in high school, we had co-op, where kids went out and did work a few hours a day. That was a great program back in the 1960s. When I got the call (about this), that’s what I thought back to. I think it’s great.”