Sports: Bartels Wins Battle of Aces as Belmont Takes Classic Over Wilmington

Photo: Cole Bartels before Wednesday game. 

The spectators came early to find good seats on a brisk sunny Wednesday morning game at Belmont’s Branden Grant Field, as nearly a dozen major league scouts turned up with radar guns and reporters for the daily newspapers were out in force.

The game was a rare meeting around these parts of a pair of top-ranked pitching prospects; Wilmington’s hard-throwing Jackson Gillis and Belmont’s talented Cole Bartels battling it out on the diamond.

And the two – each signed last season with Division 1 schools: Gillis to Vanderbilt and Penn State for Bartels – did not disappoint as they each threw a gem of a game in this classic pitcher’s duel, combining for a total of more than two dozen strikeouts while giving up a single hit each over five innings.

While the pro scouts had come out to see the 6’3″, 225 pound Gillis who is expected to be an early-round selection in the major league draft, the spring recess matinee was Bartels’ day in the spotlight as the senior dominated the Wildcats from start to finish as the Middlesex League all-star registering a 15 strikeout, 107 pitch masterpiece in the Marauders’ 2-0 victory. 

“All my pitches were working today,” said Bartels, who is coming off a 13 strikeout performance in the season’s opener against Concord-Carlisle.

While starting off most batters with fast balls, Bartels was getting them out with his breaking ball.

“My ‘out’ pitch was my slider,” said Bartels of the pitch that tails and drops away from right hand batters. 

A deeper look at the stats shows just how dominate Bartels was Wednesday: only seven times did Wilmington players hit the ball where a field player was called to make a play while three times – in the second, fourth and sixth innings – Bartels struck out the side. Of the 15 strikeouts, five times the batter took the pitch looking and only twice did he throw a strikeout on a full-count as his control and location was outstanding all game long.

While he was anticipating his third matchup with Gillis – he beat the Wildcat’s leading pitcher twice last season – “but it was no different than any other game for me,” said Bartels said. “I got a lot more confident as the game went on, I felt I got stronger,” Bartels said while praising his battery partner, catcher Cal Christofori, for being a rock behind the plate.

While Bartels will be remembered as having the top pitching day, Gillis was no slouch Wednesday. In his first pitch sequence against Trevor Kelly, Belmont’s leadoff hitter, Gillis threw three fastballs that hit 91 mph on the radar (the third pitch was fouled off) before throwing a curve ball recorded in the mid-80s for the strikeout.

Gillis struck out eight of the first nine outs in the game. But one of his victims, DH Ryan Noone, reached first on a third-strike passed ball in the second inning. Noone took second on a wild pitch and scored on second base Noah Riley’s shot up the middle to give Belmont an early 1-0 lead.

With a run in his pocket, Bartels nearly gave it back in the top of the fourth when second base Brian Cavanaugh hit an opposite-field double down the line. But Cavanaugh was stranded on second as Bartels struck out the side. 

Belmont put up some insurance on the board by scrapping together a run playing small ball against Gillis’ replacement, Chris Grecco, in the sixth. Bartels started the inning with a single and his batterymate Cal Christofori reached on an error.

After a Dennis Crowley sacrifice put the pair in scoring position, Noone attempted the squeeze with Bartel but the pitcher was caught at the plate. But in an attempt to gun down Noone at second, Christofori never stopped running and beat the return throw. 

Belmont now stands at 4-0 and is atop the Middlesex League’s Liberty Division.

“It’s our best start of a season for a while,” said Belmont’s long-time manager, Joe Brown. 

US News: Belmont High 8th Best in State, A Top STEM School in US

Photo: Belmont High School.

It something special when you’re in the top 100th of 1 percent.

And Belmont High School has some serious credentials when it comes to producing smart kids. For the umpteenth time, Belmont High was named a gold medal school by US News & World Report in its annual report of the best of the 21,000 public high schools in the United States. Only 2.5 percent of schools nationwide receives the gold standard. 

Belmont High was ranked 213th in the country and 8th in Massachusetts. The school has been slipping a few places each year; it reached its zenith in 2009 when Belmont was the 100th best high school. In 2014, the rank was 151st and last year, 200th.

But according to an analysis of the report, it’s not that Belmont is slipping educationally but rather it is the surge of specialized charter schools that emphasize high-level study and test taking with a select base of pupils that are jumping passed the local high school. 

In the analysis of the US and state, Belmont is grouped with test schools such as Boston Latin and  charter school. Regarding “open enrollment” high schools – in which all students in the district attend – Belmont ranks third behind Medfield Senior High and Hopkinton High and just in front of Lexington High (which Belmont trailed last year) and Dover-Sherborn Regional High

According to the ranking, a little more than seven out of ten students takes at on average four Advanced Placement tests with nearly all of them passing at least one AP test. Nearly all the pupils at the High School have tested proficient or advanced in English and math. The school does lag behind nearly 80 percent of Massachusetts high schools in terms of student/teacher ratio at 17 to 1. 

For the second year running, Belmont stands out in a new category of the analysis. In STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and math) education, Belmont repeated its 103rd US ranking with students, outpacing some of the same test and charter schools ranked higher than the Concord Avenue school. 

Six Community Preservation Projects Heading to Town Meeting for OK

Photo: Clay Pit Pond and the location of the intergenerational path.

Projects encompassing a path for all ages, preserving the town’s history and sprucing up community play areas will seek Town Meeting approval as the Community Preservation Committee presents its list of recommended projects to the town’s legislative body next month.

Now in its fourth year, the Committee receives requests for grants that are funded by a 1.5 percent surcharge on property taxes (about $156 for an average household) which was approved by Belmont voters in November 2010. On average, Belmont generates approximately $1.2 million annually to fund CPC projects.

Funding is restricted for use in four categories: community housing, historic resources, open space and recreation. The committee is responsible for reviewing all submitted applications and send to Town Meeting its recommendations for funding.

For this coming fiscal year, the six projects seeking Town Meeting approval are:

  1. Construction of Intergenerational Walking Path at Clay Pit Pond: $228,350 
  2. Preserving Belmont’s Original Vital Records: $80,000 
  3. Digitizing Belmont’s Town Meeting Records: $85,000 
  4. Town Hall Exterior Railings Improvements: $75,000 
  5. PQ Park Playground Project: $25,000 
  6. Winn Brook Tennis Courts: $325,000 

TOTAL: $818,350

After discussions with Town Officials on Tuesday, April 18, the CPC recommendations vote will place on the first night of Town Meeting, Monday, May 2 at Belmont High School.

For more detailed information on each project, head to the Community Preservation Committee’s web page on the town’s website.

Sports: Boys’ Lacrosse Rely on Big Time Goalie, Attack Play to Win Home Opener

Photo: Belmont senior attack Trey Butler (in white) scored six times, including here surrounded by three defenders and connecting from a severe angle.

Goalie Peter Stoesser’s big stick and the offensive creativity of attackman Trey Butler propelled Belmont High School’s Boys’ Lacrosse team over a quick and chippy Wilmington High squad as the Marauders coming away with an 8-6 victory at the team’s home opener Friday afternoon, April 15 at Harris Field.

The win was the team’s second consecutive victory and lifts the Marauders to 2-3 after starting the season on the road for four straight games.

Part of Belmont’s one-two punch Friday came from senior Stoesser, who shut down the Wildcats from 10 yards and beyond. The call of “All day” was heard on the Marauder sideline as Stoesser pocketed each shot attempted from a distance.

On the other end of the pitch, senior captain Trey Butler proved to be the man of the match on the offensive side. One of the best lacrosse players in program history, Butler scored six times – including surrounded by three defenders and connecting from a severe angle – on ten shots while providing an assist on Tyler Reynolds’ goal. The only tally Butler was not involved in was Aleck Morin’s beautiful score (and final goal of the game) that bounced high off the turf into the net.

Next up for the squad is a home match with Dracut on Saturday, April 23.

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Trash/Recycling Delayed A Day by Patriots’ Day Holiday

Photo: Collection delayed a day.

The scheduled curb-side pickup of trash and recycling in Belmont will be pushed back a day due to the Patriots’ Day holiday, Monday, April 18.

As a result, those households, apartments and businesses who have their garbage cans and recycling bins emptied on Monday of this week will need to wait until tomorrow, Tuesday, to drag it to the street.

School Committee: New Members Forecast Roles on Board

Photo: Murat Bicer being sworn in by Town Clerk Ellen Cushman.
The April 5 Town Election resulted in the selection of two new members of Belmont School Committee, Murat Bicer and Andrea Prestwich, who won three-year seats on the body that will decide the direction of the school district facing increasing enrollment pressure, the construction of a new high school, keeping the schools at a top level academically and facing future financial pressures.
The Belmontonian asked the pair questions on what they learned during their campaigns and the their future on the board.
[Some answers were shortened for length]
Belmontonian: What did you learn about Belmont and the residents perception of the schools during your campaign that may not have been on your radar?
Bicer: I was delighted by how engaged the residents were, even people who don’t currently have students in the system. About 25 people attended my campaign event; several sent me questions through my website, and one even sent me a letter in the mail. All totaled, I fielded dozens of thoughtful, difficult, and important questions.  As a first-time candidate for office, I didn’t know what to expect for direct engagement, and I learned that Belmont is a very politically active community.
Prestwich: I heard a lot about kids being stressed at school.  I was expecting this somewhat from the parents of high school kids but not so much from middle school or even elementary school parents. The main concerns were a lack of down time during the day and homework.
Belmontonian: What was the overriding concern of Belmont parents relating to the schools? What was your answer to those issues?
Bicer: The overriding concern kept boiling down to the same: How are we going to afford it all?  As many of our largest challenges are budgetary, it’s not a surprise that buried in peoples’ specific questions about class sizes, the shape of the new high school, and access to electives was a concern for monetary resources. So in answering resource questions about the schools, I emphasized that I’ll look over the budget, question assumptions, and work my hardest to stretch our dollars as far as they’ll go while thoughtfully reviewing options for additional revenues.

Andrea Prestwich.

Prestwich: Quality of the schools was the number one issue. People are worried about the impact of the enrollment, especially those with younger kids. I was also very pleased by the depth of support for starting school later. I share these concerns, and I will work very hard to maintain funding and transition to later start times.
Belmontonian: What subcommittee do you think you can contribute the most? Why?
Bicer: I hope to join the finance subcommittee. First, I’ve worked in finance for a decade and feel that this is a valuable experience that can add to the pool of talents already on the School Committee.  Second, Laurie Slap formerly chaired the finance subcommittee, and with her departure, I feel it’s important that the subcommittee is brought back up in number.
Prestwich: Probably the policy subcommittee, because I have the most experience in this area.
Belmontonian: What do you expect from yourself in the first six months on the “job”?
Bicer: In the first six months, I plan to review the budget in the context of enrollment challenges and come up to speed on discussions my colleagues have started about solutions. I’d also like to continue meeting and hearing from the community, and getting a sense of how to represent parents and non-parents in our decision-making processes.

Prestwich: A lot of learning! And I’d like to make significant progress to starting schools later.

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Sports: Bats Come Alive As Belmont Softball Wins Season Opener

Photo: Julia Rikin rounding the bases during her home run in the season opener vs. Waltham.

A six-run second highlighted by an inside-the-park-homerun from senior slugger Julia Rifkin and solid early season pitching from sophomore Christine MacLeod resulted in a successful opening day for Belmont High Softball as the Marauders defeated visiting Waltham High, 7-4, to start the 2016 campaign on the right foot.

Belmont’s bats took advantage of somewhat soft pitching from the Hawks’ in the second frame as Belmont batted through the line up on five hits and two walks including a team “cycle” – two singles Sofia Cellucci, Irini Nikolaidis), a double (Meghan Ferraro), triple (Lia Muckjian) and the Rifkin homer.

[Belmont split the next two games after the opening victory, losing to Stoneham 2-1 and a 6-2 win over Melrose to improve to 2-1 when they take on Wilmington at home Wednesday, April 20 at 10 a.m.]

“On the whole I think it was a great team win for our first game out,” said Stacie Marino, the team’s former head coach who was filling in for newly-installed manager (and one time Belmont High softball standout) Melissa O’Connor, who accepted the position just a few days before the start of the season but was out with an injury. 

Helping her own cause, MacLeod (1-2 with two runs) scored the final Belmont run on Ferraro’s second hit of the game (a single) in the bottom of the sixth. On the mound, MacLeod collected four strikeouts and was ahead on the count on most of the batters although a number of Waltham’s hits came with two strikes. 

“I feel that the umpire was squeezing the pitchers a little bit and it was getting into my head, but that’s all right,” said MacLeod who will be the lead arm for the Marauders this season.

“It’s the first game and I’m trying to get the kinks out. I felt good but I could have done a little bit better. But we won so that’s OK,” she said.

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Sold in Belmont: After Being Put On the Bench, A Colonial Sells With a Big Bow

Photo: On, off and then on big time with a Bow.

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94 Prospect St., Dutch Colonial (1923). Sold: $935,000.

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14 Bow Rd., Colonial (1928). Sold: $1,479,000.

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10-12 Ash St., Two-family Residence (1954). Sold: $680,000.

A weekly recap of residential properties sold in the past seven-plus days in the “Town of Homes”:

94 Prospect St., Dutch Colonial  (1923). Sold: $935,000. Listed at $995,000. Living area: 2,292 sq.-ft. 8 rooms, 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. On the market: 80 days.

14 Bow Rd., Colonial (1928). Sold: $1,479,000. Listed at $1,499,000. Living area: 3,181 sq.-ft. 10 rooms, 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. On the market: 70 days.

• 10-12 Ash St., Two-family Residence (1954). Sold: $680,000. Listed at $649,000. Living area: 1,932 sq.-ft. 10 rooms, 4 bedrooms, 2 baths. On the market: 41 days.

On a section of Bow Street awash in brick homes, the 88-year-old Colonial with the off-center entry stands out for several reasons. One is the exquisite interior renovations the last owner spent $30,000 in permitted changes. The other is a mind-numbing price someone with a nice-sized wallet who purchased the quintessential Belmont structure: just a hair under $1.5 million dollars. Wow. This for a place in which the basement is unfurnished, there’s no rec room (OK, there is an attic family room) and it’s oil heated. 

Not to say this place is a dump: the kitchen/mud room coming off porch is nice – but we will need to mark down the kitchen due to its use of granite counters – and the details in the living room (no great room in this 1920s abode) are charmers: the dual open shelf/cabinets on either side of the fireplace are attractive (but what is this annoying insistence of placing a television monitor above the fireplace? Stop it!) and the beautiful detail molding of the era in the other rooms. And the bathroom renovations are surprisingly right on, classic modern in white with a tile floor that is understated. While coming in at 3,000 square feet, the house does feel comfortable.

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But worth $100 more a square foot than the average home in Belmont ($465 vs. $363) even if it is within a short walk to the two elementary schools, a bit of a hike to the Chenery and a hop from the High School? Hot markets do lead to top dollars in sales. 

What the house has is an interesting sales history. It was sold in June 2005 for $904,000. 

It came back on the market on Oct. 8, 2013, listed at $1,100,098. But three days later, all traces of being on the market is gone. 

Four months later, the house is sold that former asking price, $1,100,050 in January 2014 without the benefit of being sold through the Multiple Listing Service in a private sale. The new owner puts $30,000 into remodeling the bathrooms and paint and spruce up the place. 

Two years later, in February 2016, it’s listed for $1,499,000 and sells only 70 days later for $1,479,000. 

Goes to show you what a little paint and time in a hot market can reap.

Becca Pizzi’s Big Year Just Got Better With A Fenway Surprise [VIDEO]

Photo: The happy moment at Fenway with Becca Pizzi and Joe Stilwell. (FOX25 WFXT)

Joe Stilwell was happy to be a supportive partner in the background while his girlfriend of five years, Belmont’s Becca Pizzi, became a running phenom this year by winning the World Marathon Challenge – seven marathons run on consecutive days in seven continents – in a time that is the gold standard for women to strive to match.

But on Sunday, Stilwell decided that it was his time to take center stage. And what a place to do so, but the pitcher’s mound at Boston’s Fenway Park where Pizzi was given the honor of throwing out the first pitch before the Red Sox/Toronto Blue Jays. 

But before she got that chance, Stilwell strode up to Pizzi, got down on one knee and asked for Pizzi’s hand in marriage. As can be seen in the video, the request was pretty much a surprise to Pizzi.

By the way, she accepted. Pizzi then threw the ball on the fly to the catcher. 

And on Monday, she’s looking to run the BAA Marathon in about three hours and a half. 

(Video from FOX25 WFXT)

Q&A: Daniel Vernick, Town Meeting’s 18-Year-Old Top Vote Getter

Photo: Daniel Vernick, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 1.

When the annual Belmont Town Meeting convenes on Monday, May 2, sitting with his Precinct 1 colleagues will be an 18-year-old who won his seat in the town’s legislative branch by topping all the candidates in the eight precincts by running on bringing “new energy and a fresh perspective” to Town Meeting.

Daniel Vernick of Fairmont Street and New Haven, Conn (he is a member of Yale’s Class of 2019) ran a campaign – with door-to-door appeals, social media, professional brochures and organizing a group of friend from high school to cover Precinct 1 with material and stand with his signs on election day – that one longtime resident and Town Meeting member called “better than most seasoned candidates, and this from a teenager.” 

But for anyone who knows Vernick would not be surprised by his enthusiasm for the political process; he has been active in town Democrat politics since he was 12 years old, taking an active role in passing progressive measures – supporting the Prop. 2 1/2 overrides of 2010 and 2015 – and being an active member of groups such as the Belmont Human Rights Commission and the Belmont Democratic Town Committee. 

In his run, Vernick decried the lack of representation of college and high school students on Town Meeting.

“That’s unacceptable. Leading the high school override effort made me realize that many in town just don’t understand where we’re coming from. There are so many issues that young people are uniquely impacted by and have an important perspective on, from social justice to a new high school to the latest technology and its integration into education,” said Vernick in a letter to the Belmontonian.

The Belmontonian asked Vernick a few questions on how he became one of the youngest Town Meeting Members in town (and state) history. (Some of Vernick’s answers were edited for length.)

Belmontonian: What was your feeling hearing that you won on Election night? What were you doing when you learned of the results?

Vernick: I was in my dorm room and had just finished talking to two friends that had been holding signs for me outside the library. One of them texted a picture of the results from Precinct 1, and I felt overwhelmed with an intense combination of excitement, humility, empowerment, and gratitude.

I felt deeply humbled by everyone that put their faith and their trust in an 18-year-old as their representative. It was a surreal moment, and I vowed to do my utmost to live up to the incredible support.

This victory happened because of the people who put time and effort into supporting my campaign; holding signs, sending emails, posting on Facebook, talking to friends, and spreading the word on social media. For instance, friends designed graphics and spread hashtags such as #FeeltheVern to engage BHS students and grads. Class of 2015 President Sophie Kurz-Cosgrove has been particularly integral to the campaign. I truly couldn’t have done this without such incredible friends and supporters, and I’ll be forever grateful.

Belmont, you’ve inspired me to stand up and fight harder, and I’ll do everything I can to return your incredible support. I can assure you that the student perspective will be heard and that town leaders will know our priorities. Feel free to contact me anytime at 781-697-9732 or if you ever have any questions, ideas, or concerns about town government. You got me here, and I plan to work for you. I want to be your advocate, and the fight has only just begun.

Belmontonian: How difficult was it to run in Belmont when you’re down in New Haven studying?

Vernick: When I decided to run, I wanted to do it right. Since I’m a college student, I wanted to make sure that Belmontians understood my commitment and dedication to Belmont and that I am serious about devoting effort to Town Meeting. I spent my spring break knocking on hundreds of doors. From Myrtle Street to Baker Street to Adams Street to Mannix Circle to Chenery Terrace, it was an honor to talk to residents in every corner of Precinct 1. I made sure that I didn’t leave any part of the Precinct behind, and I was inspired by so many people who took the time to talk to me about their concerns and ideas for our community.

I organized the bulk of my campaign during spring break, though I still ended up spending a fair amount of time on it in New Haven. Election Day and the couple days leading up to it were the most intense, and it was certainly chaotic and at times stressful to run the campaign from afar. I was on the phone calling, texting, and emailing during class throughout Election Day and it was probably my first time waking up before 7 a.m. on a weekday since high school. Campaigning from New Haven was obviously not easy but certainly worth the effort.

Belmontonian: How old were you the first time you thought about running for office?

Vernick: The 2008 Obama presidential campaign inspired me to get involved in politics while in 5th grade. I’ve cared deeply about politics and government ever since (for instance, I realized that you wrote an article in 2012 about my involvement in politics–seems so long ago! Since at least 6th grade, I’ve thought about running for office with varying degrees of knowledge and certainty.

My first run was for Chenery’s Lower School Student Council in 6th grade. I stayed involved in Chenery and then Belmont High School, working to take action through various elected offices such as Student Senate, Student Representative to the School Committee, and Class Vice President.

This campaign was unique because it was run and operated by students; thank you to all the high school and college students that volunteered, spread the word, and voted! Like with the override and Save Sully efforts, we again showed Belmont that students have power and that we are not the politically apathetic generation that many in the media claim us to be. I believe that it is extremely important to expand student representation and hope to encourage more young people to become involved in town government and to run for office.

Belmontonian: What are some important issues you’d like to bring up/promote at this coming Town Meeting?

Vernick: I envision a Belmont with per-pupil spending above the state average, strengthened solar net metering, responsible Airbnb policies that embrace innovation, justice for Mr. Sullivan, and an equal rights bylaw that includes transgender equal accommodations. I refuse to be constrained by political boundaries, and I will stand up to the status quo.

There are so many areas that Belmont can improve and really become a leader on, and I am more energized than ever to fight for them. The fight has only just begun. For instance, the Zoning Board’s recent decision to deny a permit to the Pleasant Street hotel project reinforces Belmont’s image as an anti-business community. To maintain the quality of our schools, it is essential to expand the corporate tax base by eliminating the complex bureaucratic regulations that are discouraging businesses from establishing themselves in Belmont. I’ll work to support an amendment to the bylaw that the Zoning Board used to prevent viable and important Pleasant Street developments.

I was inspired to run by beloved 15-year Belmont teacher Mr. John Sullivan, who was unjustly fired last June. Mr. Sullivan was a mentor, a leader, and the definition of a 21st-century educator. His philosophy for learning is exactly what Belmont needs more of. Students led the effort to #SaveSully and although we ended up making a difference, few in town government or the school administration would even acknowledge us. The way to change that is to run for office and force them to listen. I ran to bring attention to the issues that people ignore and try to forget, to give voice to those who aren’t able to speak out. I’ll never forget Sullivan, and I’ll never stop fighting for the respect and dignity that my teachers deserve.

I envision a bold Belmont at the forefront of progressive change. A few priorities:

  • Schools. Build on the progress of the override. Our schools remain underfunded and often improperly managed. Belmont schools have done an enormous amount for me, and I’ll do everything in my power to preserve and improve them for future generations.
  • Environment. Belmont should be a leader in sustainability and clean energy. I’ll work to preserve conservation land, advocate for solar net metering, improve public transportation, and support the Community Path and other new recreation areas. I’ll also push for Belmont to follow the lead of cities from Cambridge to Framingham in divesting from fossil fuel corporations.
  • Teachers. I’ll voice the concerns of teachers and elevate their influence in the school administration. Mr. John Sullivan should not have been victimized by the BHS administration.
  • Innovation. Make Belmont business-friendly, and attract businesses to build the tax base. Improve town infrastructure and technological capabilities; Belmont’s restrictions on social media make its web presence lacking and archaic. Resist town regulation of Airbnb and other new technologies.
  • Equality. Belmont doesn’t have an equal rights bylaw that officially states racial and LGBT equality. I’ll advocate for a comprehensive bylaw that includes transgender equal accommodations. We must do more to combat prejudice and create an inclusive community.
  • Responsive government. Stand up for greater transparency and hold town leaders accountable.

Belmontonian: What’s next for you? Run for Elizabeth Warren’s seat in a few years?

Vernick: I’ll be focused on working hard to return the incredible support I received, fighting to empower young people and to make Belmont a leader.

Politics should not be about perpetually aiming for a higher office; it should be about creating meaningful change and making sure that the truth – even if it’s unpopular – is heard. Political office should be about fighting for those without a voice and creating meaningful change, not obtaining a title, padding a resume, or ascending the political ladder. I ran because I care deeply about Belmont and want to give voice to my generation, and that’s what I plan to do.

In terms of Belmont elections, I have already heard from a few students that are now interested in running for Town Meeting. My goal is to make sure that they succeed. To any students reading this: let me know if you’re interested in running and I can help you get started!