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Conradâ€™s Confectionery p. 18
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& THAT THIS Around Our Town
The Best of Times Hackensack Meridian Health Pascack Valley Medical Center CEO Emily Holliman loves being a part of a driving force in healthcare. BY
Lauren DePaul Schreiber
Charissa Yong DOWNTOWN WESTWOOD
Around Our Town
IN 2015, EMILY HOLLIMAN joined the Hackensack University Medical Center at Pascack Valley as its CEO. With over 16 years of healthcare experience, she was ready and excited for the new challenge. Here, Emily reflects on her first three years on the job. DOWNTOWN WESTWOOD: You became the CEO of HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley in 2015. Tell us how it’s going. EMILY: The last three years have been rewarding, and a pleasure in my career. Coming from hospitals in Massachusetts, Florida and Mississippi, I was unsure what New Jersey would bring. I’m a full-time working mom with two wonderful daughters, so you can imagine that moving to a new state can be somewhat intimidating for my husband and me. That said, I’ve had the pleasure of being supported by an outstanding board of directors comprised of local community members, community physicians and Hackensack Meridian Health representatives. Having 10
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Around Our Town
those individuals to guide me has made the last three years at Pascack Valley Medical Center a great experience for me. It has been a wonderful growing experience for me to be part of an amazing and flourishing health system in Hackensack Meridian Health (HMH). The HMH network is a driving force in healthcare and I’m fortunate to be part of it. In addition, our medical staff and outstanding group of employees have allowed us to build a strong team to serve the residents of the Pascack and Northern Valley region. Of the many things you have accomplished, what are you most proud of so far? Our team has had many notable accomplishments over the last three years. First and foremost, I’m proud of the tremendous growth we have experienced throughout the hospital. On a more granular level, we’re all very proud of our new emergency department. It’s a beautiful unit to complement the caring team members and physicians who provide the care. We’ve also expanded our physician group services throughout Bergen County through partnerships with high-quality physicians’ groups such as Old Hook Medical Associates and Bergen Medical Associates. Pascack Valley Medical Group is now proud to say we have over 11 offices, and we offer multiple specialty physician services in addition to primary care. 12
What goals have you set for yourself in the future? I’m constantly setting new goals for myself both personally and professionally. As an organization, we’re very focused on employee engagement and this being a great place to work. I believe development of our team members allows us to then achieve the highest patient experience, as well as the high-quality care we expect. What do you think makes Pascack Valley unique? What makes any organization unique is the people and the culture. You won’t walk down our hallways without someone greeting you or saying hello. Aside from the physical part with all the private rooms, valet parking, concierge services, etc., our team of healthcare providers are the best in the industry and I’m proud to work alongside all of them. What’s the relationship like between the hospital and the community? The hospital wouldn’t exist without the community. Every employee here is aware of the tireless efforts of the community to reopen the hospital in 2013. I mention it often in our employee orientation because I think it gives our team a good perspective on why we’re here each day. Each year, the hospital gives back through nearly $200,000 in local sponsorships of sports teams, school events, nonprofit partnerships and fundraisers. We have a great community health program and offer free screenings monthly to people in the area. The community gives back to the hospital by believing in the care that we provide and making us their healthcare provider of choice. f
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Around Our Town
A Passion for Business The enthusiastic members of Westwoodâ€™s burgeoning Chamber of Commerce are working together toward common goals. BY
Westwood Chamber of Commerce Board Members: TOP: Luke Farrley, Shawn P. Jeffas, Chamber Secretary Sandra Ewen & JJ Krachtus.
Susan Weinrich, Steven Naginsky, Chamber Treasurer January Bourke, Chamber Vice President Mary Ann Bassett & Chamber President Paul Karoyan. MIDDLE:
Around Our Town
MALL BUSINESS OWNERS all across America, who work in towns like Westwood, are essentially looking for the same thing—solutions. How do I get more business? How do I cut my costs? Is now the right time to expand? Do I need more employees? Where should my advertising dollars be going? The Westwood Chamber of Commerce is made up of a group of volunteer business owners who are interested in helping each other find solutions. By promoting Westwood, chamber members are increasing commerce, solving problems and giving back to the community. With over 200 members, the chamber continues to grow and become more active every year. “The Westwood Chamber is a growing organization with a very diverse group of businesses being represented from the local hair
salon to the pet shop in town,” says newly installed Westwood Chamber President Paul Karoyan, the owner of Olive Branch & Grape Vine. “Every town has its unique features and stands out on its own. My vision is to bring more notice to Westwood and the unique attributes of this great little downtown area, along with many services and small business owners who have been in town for decades.” All chambers of commerce aspire to bring the community at large together with their members. That connection creates the spark that brings about economic stability and business vitality. “Our location, our beautiful town, and our great downtown area are Westwood’s strengths,” says Chamber Secretary Sandra Ewen of Johl & Company. “The people who live here in town are devoted to it. I grew up in Westwood and work
here, and currently live only a few miles away, but still feel like Westwood is my forever home.” Local business owners are always encouraged to join the Westwood Chamber. Paul says there is much to gain from doing so. “As a local, small business owner, it’s a great opportunity to become a member of a group that has the same goal in promoting Westwood,” he says. “As small businesses, we’re continuously advertising and promoting ourselves. Helping increase foot traffic, which has dwindled quite a bit throughout the years, is important to us. The more people get involved, the better our ideas will be on how to promote the same agenda. The time is now to check us out and come to a meeting. This is certainly a very enthusiastic group of folks who care a great deal about Westwood and are passionate about their businesses.” f
The Scoop of the Century Delicious ice cream, shakes and chocolates never go out of style. Just ask the folks at
Conrad’s Confectionery. They’ve been at it for 90 years! BY
Serving up the ice cream at Conrad’s are Josephine Thanasides & Dani Monocky
w WHEN YOU WALK into Conrad’s Confectionery in Westwood, you can’t help but get the feeling of nostalgia for the days of yesteryear. The beloved ice cream, chocolate and candy shop still has an old-fashioned feel to it, despite a few modern advances the store has welcomed since it opened its doors 90 years ago. Conrad’s Confectionery is the oldest business in Westwood, and it continues to be cherished by both residents and those who travel from afar for their delicious desserts and treats. Originally opened in Oradell in 1928 by Fred Conrad, the shop’s stay there was short-lived as Fred quickly realized the train that passed through town traveled farther north to a place with a downtown shopping area, which he believed was a better location. The relocation to Westwood came soon after. Conrad then hired a local high school graduate named Jim Pouletsos to help out in the store as a “counter boy.” Jim later left to serve in World War II and, upon his return, became Fred’s partner. Conrad’s Confectionery has remained a family business ever since. “I’ve been here all my life,” says Corinne Krachtus, Jim’s daughter. “Conrad’s is a part of my growing up.” Corinne’s husband, John Krachtus, married into the ice cream family and took over the business with Corinne when Jim Pouletsos retired. “Corinne’s father taught me everything there is to know about the chocolate and ice 20
cream business,” he says. “And we just continued from there.” Ten years ago, John and Corinne’s son, JJ, became the owner of Conrad’s and brought many successful changes to the business. For many years, the store served a cold lunch menu with a variety of sandwich choices; it was the most popular location in town to eat. Over time, however, Conrad’s decided to serve lunch only during certain times of the year, and later, put an end to the lunch menu altogether, deciding to focus solely on Conrad’s specialties—ice cream, chocolate and seasonal candy. Another change facilitated by JJ was the establishment of a walkup window. “When I was working here in the 1960s,” says Corinne, “I never saw the end of a football game at the high school. I always had to leave the game early to get to the store to work. It was so busy at that point because all of the kids would come here after the game.” As the nighttime business slowed over the years, the family decided a walkup window would be more beneficial. And within a few years of opening the window, lines were routinely forming down the block.
Circa 1940s. Jim Pouletsos, Minah Conrad & “Cas.” THIS PAGE:
Circa 1940s. Old-fashioned, friendly service never goes out of style. Neither do fantastic ice cream sodas!
The strong family atmosphere at Conrad’s is evident, as is the collaboration by all to make the store run so well. “The ideas come from everybody,” says JJ. “We have a great crew here and we create a great atmosphere. My parents taught me how important it is to create a good environment and that being generous to the employees will benefit everyone. I see business as such a great opportunity for the relationship between three parties: ownership, employees and customers. And, if done correctly, everybody wins.” In fact, several employees have been with Conrad’s through the years. One of the current managers started working there while in high school, continued through college, and came back to work years later
when her children were all in school. And now, that manager’s daughter is an employee as well. Not only does Conrad’s have loyal employees, but they have their fair share of devoted customers as well. Some families, in fact, have been coming back for generations. “That’s really what it’s all about,” says JJ. “It’s amazing that we’ve had this relationship with other families, in a small, but significant way. It’s a nice legacy to carry on.” Conrad’s has long played an active role in the town of Westwood, donating to many schools, groups and organizations, and generally helping out whenever they could. JJ is an active member of the Westwood Chamber of Commerce as well. He feels strongly that “Conrad’s is a part
of a big picture, and you have to give wherever you can. If everybody does that, hopefully, everything will go well.” So what’s the secret to Conrad’s near-century of success? After all, how many businesses last nine years, let alone 90? Says Corinne: “Highquality products!” “We’ve been getting our chocolate from the same company since 1930,” John proudly tells us. “Merckens is dedicated to dealing with small chocolatiers.” When he was a youngster, JJ fondly recalls watching his grandfather working with the chocolate in the basement at Conrad’s. Says JJ: “He used to tell me, ‘If you take care of the quality, this business will take care of you.’ And it’s absolutely true.” f DOWNTOWN WESTWOOD
White Oak Home 135 Westwood Avenue
A BRAND NEW addition to Westwood’s downtown area, White Oak Home, is a familyowed home, furniture and gift store that opened last May. Owners Tegan Ashman and Mike Gilhooly are excited to offer a local shopping experience destined to inspire you to make your home a wonderfully inviting and comfortable place. Tegan and Mike strive daily to make their unique shop a place where their customers are encouraged to express individuality through decoration and design. DOWNTOWN WESTWOOD: Tell us about White Oak Home. TEGAN: We offer a local shopping experience where we strive to inspire people to make their own spaces beautiful. We provide an environment where people can see, smell, touch and interact with everything before taking things home. We love getting to know everyone who comes to our store. We want the shopping experience to feel personalized and special for all. You’ve been open now for a few months. What’s the response been like? TEGAN: The response has been beyond our expectations! 22
Photography By Charissa Yong
Our following grows by the day and we couldn’t be happier. Westwood has been terrific to us thus far and it’s great to receive such positive feedback on our store, our unique items and our shopping experience. We are also doing our best to listen to our customers, so we can ensure that we offer the types of products and experiences they are ultimately looking for. Talk about some of the best and/or most unique items you have to offer. MIKE: Tegan hand picks items that she loves, so it’s tough to choose favorites! We’re very proud to carry Westwood-based brands including 109 Design House, Expedition Roasters and Elixir Kitchens. We’re extremely excited about the wide array of unique gifts coming in for the holiday season. We also love our furniture
supplier, The Bramble Company, which carries handcrafted, ecologically-sourced, sustainable furniture. What was the inspiration to make White Oak Home a reality? MIKE: After spending 12 years in corporate America, Tegan felt it was time to dedicate her career to building a homegrown brand that resonated with our values of home, family and positivity. TEGAN: We wanted to create a brand that made people happy, and where others would want to shop and work. Over the past decade, Mike and I have proven to each other that when we work together, we can do great things. We felt this was the perfect time to build something great that we could share with others.
Why did you choose Westwood to set up shop? TEGAN: We truly identify with the comradery and hometown pride that exists within Westwood. Westwood is a local shopping staple of Bergen County and we were so fortunate to find a space in the heart of Westwood Avenue! It was only after opening our doors did the people of Westwood tell us that a longtime favorite home store, Perennials, occupied our current location for many years prior. Knowing this now, it feels as though this was all meant to be. What do you want people who have yet to shop at White Oak Home to know about the store? What can they expect when they walk through your doors? TEGAN: Above all else, as a home store, we want you to enjoy the shopping experience, and to feel like this is the best store to live in! Weâ€™re so excited for people to check us out! f WWW.STAMPONEPUBLISHING.COM
Westwood Pets 15 Westwood Avenue
Rocha, Jen Greiner, Susan Weinrich & Alix Boudrot
WESTWOOD PETS HAS been Northern New Jersey’s leading independent pet shop for nearly 40 years! With her father’s support, owner Susan Weinrich opened the doors to Westwood Pets just before her 21st birthday in 1979. During high school, Susan had worked at a pet shop in Bergenfield before moving on to manage the pet department at Valley Fair in Hillsdale. When Valley Fair announced it was closing, Susan realized there were no other pet stores in the area. That’s when she decided it was time to open her own place. “At Westwood Pets, we provide one-on-one attention whether you
have questions about your pet, or you’re looking for a new pet for your home,” says Susan. “We ensure that you’re comfortable and that you’re equipped with all the knowledge you’ll need to make the best life for your animal. We offer a variety of hand-picked small animals, reptiles, birds and fish. We offer bird care, which includes wing and nail clipping, as well as bird boarding in our store. We offer small animal nail clipping, and fresh water aquarium testing. We also offer full-service grooming by appointment for your dog or cat in a relaxed and caring environment. Our groomers are professionally trained and have years
of experience with all types of breeds. Our aisles are stocked full of only the best supplies and food, providing holistic options, USAmade products, and an amazing assortment of toys for all pets.” Westwood Pets strives to complement the joy that pets bring into a home, while making the lives of pet owners easier. “The addition of a pet to your home not only brings unconditional love and happiness, but also teaches a sense of responsibility to the younger members of the family,” says Susan. “Providing you with a healthy pet that brings joy into your life makes us feel complete. Our passion is pets!” f
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Threads 149 Westwood Avenue
THREADS GIRLS, REJOICE! When you shop for a wide variety of trendy fashion items such as shoes, dresses, jeans and jewelry at Threads of Westwood, you know you’re getting them all at affordable prices. That’s been owner Heidi Skelton’s promise to her customers since she opened her doors in 2013. At Threads, the fashionable women Heidi calls the “Threads girls” can always expect guilt-free shopping! Many Westwood residents will remember that Threads now occupies a space on Westwood Avenue where the old Arts & Ends high-fashion clothing boutique stood for 40 years. That store was owned by Heidi’s mother. Heidi worked as a buyer for various department and chain stores before starting her own decorating business. But when her mother retired, Heidi was sufficiently inspired to open her own clothing store. “I grew up working at Arts & Ends,” says Heidi, “which is in the same location as Threads is now. I wanted to open a clothing store that catered to all age groups, from tweens on up. I wanted to create a fun and trendy place to shop with great prices that won’t break the bank.” If that was Heidi’s intent, then it’s mission accomplished! “We’ve got everything from basic denim to the hottest and newest trends,” says Heidi. “We offer the casual to dressy, and funky to business-casual. We have dresses for junior proms, bat mitzvahs. sweet sixteens and sorority rush. There’s cozy activewear, including joggers and sweatshirts. We have denim shorts, skirts, jeans, jackets, shoes, 26
Photography By Charissa Yong
boots and sneakers. In the store, there’s a college corner where we specialize in dressing you for tailgate, and where we have gifts for college students. Don’t forget the jewelry, handbags, belts and many more great gifts.” With all the online shopping options these days, Heidi says the successful clothing brickand-mortar store is one that creates a personalized shopping experience for consumers. “Threads is a fun place to shop,” she says. “We make sure each customer leaves here looking and feeling great. We’re here to help with headto-toe dressing. Mothers, daughters and grandmothers can all shop together! Our main goal is that everyone leaves here with a smile on their face and that they can’t wait to come back and shop our new arrivals. I always say, a happy customer is a Threads customer!” f
The Threads crewâ€”Nikki Yellin, Barbara Laga, owner Heidi Skelton, Jill Gilbert & Shawn Campanella.
THE HUSBAND AND wife team of practitioners at Westwood Family Chiropractic, Drs. Jett and Cathy Gurman, have been married for 35 years and working side-by-side for nearly as long (33 years). Talk about a successful partnership! In 1985, together they opened their own chiropractic office right here in Westwood, thus establishing a practice that cares for all members of the family—children, adults and seniors. Drs. Jett and 28
Photography By Charissa Yong
Cathy are family, and they treat all of their patients as members of their extended family. “Every day, many people choose care in our office,” says Dr. Cathy Gurman. “Our 33 years in practice, all of it in the same town of Westwood, speaks for itself. We are highly-trained clinicians, we get excellent results with our patients, and we attract new patients constantly. Community interaction, community lectures and commu-
nity health screenings allow us to be highly visible in Westwood, which is a health-conscious community where people are looking to be responsible for their own health, and the health of their families. As an added benefit, the business owners of Westwood are very welcoming and connected. We’ve been a big part of this town over the years that we’ve been here. We’ve participated in the Chamber of Commerce, and many
Westwood Family Chiropractic 99 Kinderkamack Road, #112 3 Westwood www.wfcnj.com 3 201-664-4488
school and town events. As a matter of fact, Dr. Jett has been the chiropractor for the Westwood Fire Department for over 20 years!” Education and being proactive in your own health care are things the Gurmans strongly advocate. They’re especially committed to educating others in caring for their spines. “The number one cause of death in our country is lack of knowledge,” says Dr. Jett. “People don’t purposely get sick,
they simply don’t know that there is a better way to care for themselves. We tell everyone to come in and get checked to see if they can be healthier. We don’t know if we can help someone until they come in for a thorough screening and evaluation. We encourage people to get their spines checked even if they don’t have any symptoms. People don’t always understand that their spine is the connection to their health.”
The entire Westwood Family Chiropractic team is well-trained, and their office is an uplifting, loving and family-friendly place. “Family is the main focus in all of our lives, so we always make sure that’s the same feeling people get in our office,” says Dr. Cathy. “Our patients feel welcomed and uplifted during every one of their visits. Westwood Family Chiropractic is truly a family affair and a healing environment.” f WWW.STAMPONEPUBLISHING.COM
r o F e m i T
n o i t c A You donâ€™t always require all the answers or the resources to help those in need. But you must have the desire to be a difference maker.
Lauren DePaul Schreiber With Jeanne Martin are her Meals on Wheels teammates Lisa Bontemps, Amanda Leggett, Lisa MacClements & Olivia Chrinian.
JEANNE MARTIN is known around the community for turning her passion into action. As director of Meals on Wheels North Jersey, Jeanne is a changemaker who is committed to making lives better and fighting for what she believes in. She and her team are doing important work every day, but there is certainly more to do.
You’re very well known around town, but please tell our readers who don’t know you a little about yourself. I’m a lifelong resident of Bergen County with family roots going back to the 1600s. My husband Cliff and I both grew up in Closter and were residents of Haworth
DOWNTOWN WESTWOOD: You’re the director of Meals on Wheels North Jersey, which boasts hundreds of volunteers who deliver meals in 30 towns throughout Bergen County. That’s impressive. Tell us all about it. JEANNE: I have the best job in the world. I work with 550 wonderful and dedicated volunteers who deliver more than a meal to our clients. We currently serve 30 towns in Northern Bergen County with the goal of helping seniors remain in their homes by either providing them with the services they need, or by referring them to the organizations that do. Many of us don’t think of our clients as clients. We consider them our friends, if not our family.
for nearly 40 years. Both of us, and our children, graduated from the Northern Valley Regional High School in Demarest. I’m active in my church community, having served as moderator and deacon in the Department of Missions and Christian Education for the Haworth Congregational Church. You recently became an official “Westwoodian.” Congratulations! What do you like most about the community? I moved to Westwood last year, and as much as I loved living in Haworth and raising my children there, Westwood is perfect for my husband and I at this stage of our lives. I have worked in Westwood for almost 15 years, and my mother-in-law lived here for over 30 years before she passed away, so I knew about the great restaurants, stores and activities long before we moved here. I’m so impressed with every aspect of the town and would love for my son Cliff, his wife Marisa, and their son Matthew to consider Westwood if they decide to leave Hoboken for the suburbs. WWW.STAMPONEPUBLISHING.COM
Are there any other local organizations that you enjoy working with? I’m a founding member of the Rotary Club of Greater Westwood, and currently serve as the club’s president. The club has connected me with some wonderful people who have a passion for community service. Over the past several years the club has focused on several areas including environmental issues, hands only CPR, music therapy, and addiction and recovery. You have a personal connection to addiction. Would you share your story with us? My connection to addiction and recovery began in 2011 with my daughter’s heroin use. Katie will be celebrating six years of sobriety on Dec. 1; she has helped hundreds find and maintain sobriety. I’m also an active advocate in the recovery field. I’m a founding board member of New Jersey Recovery Advocates, a grassroots organization whose mission is to engage, collaborate, educate and advocate for prevention, treatment and recovery from substance use disorders. In 2015, you were named Citizen of the Year by the Greater Pascack Valley Chamber of Commerce. That must’ve been exciting! It was really a lovely honor, and a little embarrassing! [Laughs] I know so many people in the Pascack Valley who do so much more than I do for the community, but it was a wonderful way to publicize issues I’m passionate about, such as helping our seniors and advocating for those in recovery from addiction. 34
What other important work is Meals on Wheels involved in? A few years ago, we received a multiple-year grant from the Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation, along with four other Bergen County towns, to help Westwood become an Age Friendly Community, which is an initiative started by the World Health Organization and championed by AARP, and many other organizations worldwide. Westwood for All Ages concentrates on three areas—transportation, housing and information. This initiative is a partnership of Meals on Wheels North Jersey, the Mayor and Council of Westwood, municipal departments, local businesses and health and social service providers.
What drives you? I realize I sound like Pollyanna, but I really like being able to help people if I can. I don’t always have the answers or all of the resources to do that, but many times I know who does have the answers and the resources. Over the past few years I’ve lost some friends and, more painfully, the children of friends, to addiction. We can’t solve a problem if we don’t talk about what that problem is. We need to start talking about addiction and I want to be part of the solution. Do you have goals that you have set for yourself for the near future? Personally, I want to enjoy every moment I can with my grandson Matthew, but I also want to continue some of the work I’m already involved in supporting seniors and those in recovery. A few years ago, I was part of a new coalition of senior service providers. That coalition is still meeting on a fairly regular basis, and I would like to see it expand and attain a stronger structure. I’m also looking to resurrect an antihunger coalition. Specifically for Westwood, I’m hoping that the work of Age Friendly Westwood will result in some meaningful programs and support for all of our town agencies. That includes recreation, the library, the department of health, the fire and ambulance corps, the police department, social service, the board of education, public works and zoning. This will ensure that Westwood is prepared to support our residents of all ages for decades to come. f
For more information on Meals on Wheel North Jersey, visit their website: www.mealsonwheelsnorthjersey.org
Charissa Yong 36/Downtown Westwood + Fall + 2018
Spirit! Westwood hoops star
loves the crowds, the excitement and the intensity of high school varsity basketball!
Lauren DePaul Schreiber
DOWNTOWN WESTWOOD: How long have you been playing basketball? We hear you’re pretty good at it! RACHEL: I started playing when I attended clinics in
RACHEL BUSSANICH is a star both on and off the basketball court. The captain of the Westwood High School varsity girls basketball squad, this talented and dedicated athlete has been a varsity player since her freshman year. Last year, Rachel was inducted into the National Honor Society with a 3.9 GPA. As she embarks on her final high school year, and her final season with the Cardinals, she’s ready to make it her best one yet.
the first grade. When I was younger, I played a bunch of sports including soccer, softball, cheerleading, dance and volleyball. Not all at once of course, but throughout my childhood years! [Laughs] Since I’m the oldest child in my family, I had no direction when it came to sports, so I tried all different ones. My parents didn’t pressure me to play any specific sport, but they did encourage me to stay active. By middle school, I knew I was passionate about basketball. I love everything about it—the speed, the intensity and the competition are like nothing in any other sport, in my eyes. Do you remember your first team? My first experience playing on a team was for St. John’s CYO in Hillsdale in third grade. This was the foundation of my love for the game. It was a
What is high school basketball like? The season is really like no other. The crowds, the atmosphere, the excitement and the school spirit drive me to work hard and be an asset to my team. Tell us about your team. What can we expect this season from them? I’m so grateful to be a part of the Westwood High School girls basketball team. Every girl on the squad makes an impact in our program and I think that’s something that is hard to find. I have all the confidence that we’ll be great this year! Although we did really well last year, I know we’ll be even better. We have more experience, skill, and speed than ever before. Since April, we’ve been working out, having open gyms, and playing in various leagues. Our goal is to win the State Championship! There’s a lot to do this school year, and it has only just begun, but take a quick look into the future and tell us what your plan is for next year. I plan to play college basketball! This has always been my ultimate goal, so I’m very excited about the opportunity to play at the collegiate level. I’m planning to study architecture, so I’m looking for a school that offers both a good academic program and a competitive basketball team. I haven’t committed to any college yet because I want to
great experience and it pushed me to play Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), and become a more competitive player. My AAU program, Hoop Dreamz, really prepared me for high school basketball.
39 make sure I make the right decision for myself and my family. Besides hoops, what are your other interests and hobbies? I have many hobbies outside of basketball. I enjoy drawing and working on interior design projects. I also love spending time with friends and family, going on beach vacations, listening to music, and attending sporting events at Westwood High School. I’m a member of Peer Pals— a club where the goal is to improve our school and community through volunteerism. And for the past three years, I’ve been a teacher in the faith formation program for my church, Our Lady Mother of the Church in Woodcliff Lake. What’s your Westwood story? My family and I have lived in Westwood for five years. I’m part of a big family. I’m the oldest of five children! I have three brothers—Michael, Tommy and Luke— and a little sister named Veronica. My favorite thing about Westwood is the sense of community that there is here. I especially love going to Westwood High School because everyone supports each other by attending games, musicals and art shows. Our girls basketball team has so many fans who come watch us play and cheer us on. We’re so appreciative of the community support for our athletics. We all support each other in everything we do and everyone is so involved. We do things such as holding fundraisers like Cardinals for Cancer to support those in our community who are suffering from the disease. This caring and supportive community makes me proud to say that I live in Westwood! f
Our girls basketball team has so many fans who come watch us play and cheer us on. We’re so appreciative of the community support.”
40/Downtown Westwood + Fall + 2018
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HEN I WAS three years old, I was diagnosed with a “lazy eye.” The problem would eventually be corrected, but I would need to wear glasses all of the time, or for what they said was the foreseeable future. My parents were upset—they could see a future filled with tantrums and broken lenses. On the other hand, I was thrilled! I thought my new glasses were spectacular! They had big red frames and took up the majority of my face but I was as proud as punch. I never lost them, never broke them, and my parents never ever had to remind me to wear them. When I was in 3rd grade, we moved and I had to start at a new school halfway through the year. On the first day in my new class, I overheard someone call me “four eyes” and laugh. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I quickly figured it out as others asked me why I needed glasses and why they were so big. I still wore my glasses every day without fail until I didn’t need them anymore. But after that day, I wasn’t as excited to look at myself in the mirror when I put them on each morning. Over the years, my “look” changed with the trends of the time. I embraced the late ’80s bodysuits, rolled up socks and Z. Cavaricci jeans. When I wasn’t wearing my Catholic high school uniform, you could find me dressed
in head-to-toe flannel and my beloved Dr. Martens. Massachusetts preppiness merged with cold weather gear in my college closet, which was packed with LL Bean heavy wool sweaters, Holy Cross sweatshirts and duck boots. Life in the city was a mixed blessing—a huge rent on a tiny paycheck, but also help from the editors at the magazines where I worked. These days my style is defined by finding which jeans aren’t the dirtiest and which shoes are the easiest to throw on as I’m running out the door. Every stage of my life brought changes with it, but there remained one constant: me. I wish I could go back and talk to the young girl who couldn’t muster up a smile in front the mirror. I would tell her that even though her look would change over the years, her true style would not be defined by fashion sense, but by a good old fashioned sense of one’s self. I’d make sure she knew that one day she would realize that the items in her closet that bring her the most happiness wouldn’t be the ones that are the trendiest, they would be the ones that have the memories attached to them. I’d tell her to be proud of those big red glasses, that frizzy hair and that challenging Catholic school uniform. Because as long as you love yourself, your true beauty will bubble up from within and shine for the whole world to see. f
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The inaugural issue of Downtown Westwood magazine. Fall 2018.