WORCESTER – In the ninth grade, Nadia Eke told her basketball coach that one day she would be one of the best high-school triple jumpers in the country. He laughed, but she wasn’t joking.

After highly decorated high school and collegiate athletic careers, the Holy Name graduate is on her way to Athens, Georgia to train for the 2020 Olympics.

Nadia tried out for the track team at Holy Name Central Catholic High School in the spring of her seventh grade year, as a way to spend time after basketball season ended; before then, she hadn’t even known what the triple jump was. But Holy Name needed a triple jumper, Nadia volunteered, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“After my basketball season was done during spring of my 7th grade year at Holy Name my sister suggested that I join her on the track team since I had to stay with her after school until we got picked up,” Eke said. “When it was time to sign up for the meet I put my name down under triple jump because I thought it was the long jump and because all the other jumping events were full.”

Eke used Youtube videos to learn the fundamentals of the triple jump and saw immediate success. She honed her skills during her 6 years at Holy Name, earning three New England Championship titles, a third place finish in the New Balance Junior National Meet, and a full scholarship to compete at Columbia University.

At Columbia, Eke earned nine Ivy League titles, finished third in the 2015 Indoor National Championships, and was named an NCAA All-American four times.  She was inducted into the Columbia Athletics 4.0 club and was named Capital One Academic All-American and Ivy League Woman of the year.

Since graduating from Columbia in 2015, Eke has been competing globally for her native Ghana. She won the 2017 African Championship Triple Jump title, a first for the country in that event. Eke also qualified for the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London this past summer.

Eke in London at IAAF World Championships

“For the rest of the world, track and field only exists at the Olympics, but for us track athletes the World Championships is a very big deal. To qualify, athletes must be at least top 30 in the world in their event to make it on this stage. To be top 30 in the world in anything you do is amazing,” Eke said of the accomplishment.

At World Championships, Eke did not do as well as she had hoped, but she garnered enough attention from coaching legend Petros Kyprianou that he invited her to train in Athens, Georgia to prepare her for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Kyprianou, the Head Track and Field Coach at the University of Georgia, specializes in jump, decathlon and heptathlon training.

“[My training method] is based on doing simple things extraordinarily well and learning the small parts of the technique that will pay large dividends down the road,” Kyprianou said in a September 21 email.

Eke is excited to get started. She heads to Georgia on September 30 to begin her training.

“I have an amazing opportunity to finally train with an elite coach. In the past two years since college I have not had the training structure and focus necessary to get me to the next level,” said Eke. “I have been working fulltime, while training 40 hours a week mostly alone.”

Kyprianou’s plan is to throw Eke directly into the fire upon her arrival.

“I am looking forward to working with Nadia and take up on the challenge of getting her to the next level. She will be training alongside the American record holder and 4th place Olympian [Keturah Orji] so it will be a nice duo at training, for certain,” Kyprianou said. “I believe Nadia has an untapped potential and tons of ambition and desire to make it to the next level. It all depends on how she responds to my training.”

Eke plans to find employment while in Georgia to support herself while she trains. Meanwhile, Eke and her agent have started a Go Fund Me campaign to help her get started. The goal is to raise $10,000 for coaching, medical and re-locating costs until she gets settled.

“It will be an interesting challenge which we both accepted and will see where it takes us!” Kyprianou says of his new athlete.

“Most of us spend our lives preparing for our big moments, but until we ourselves can maximize the opportunities we have been given, we will never be able to fully unlock our potential,” Eke said of her commitment.

Traffic issues in Worcester have come to the forefront recently and now the city’s School Committee will take a swing at trying to alleviate some commuter frustrations at Thursday night’s School Committee meeting.

School Committee member Dianna Biancheria has filed an order asking the school administration to provide a report on the process of determining new bus routes to include a review of established ones.

“There are now more students, more buses and just more traffic” Biancheria said.  “Routes that were good 20 years ago, might not work now.”

Added to the order is a piece to include procedures for bus pickup and dropoff of students at school sites.

“It may not seem like a lot, but for 15-20 minutes in the morning and then again in the afternoon, we have congestion,” Biancheria said.

School Committee member Molly McCullough agrees that a more consistent review of transportation policy is very beneficial.

“Ensuring that current bus routes, pick up and drop off policies and placement of bus stops are the most efficient and safest for our students is an important action for us to take,” McCullough said.

Asked when was the last time the School Committee took up such an item Biancheria said, “it’s not a discussion we’ve had since I have been on the School Committee.”

Biancheria believes this will be an all out effort to correct the bus routes and it will need to include not just the school administration, but individual schools, parents, and the community as a whole, eventually bringing in the Department of Public Works.

“We need to look at the whole picture and review it, ”  Biancheria said.

CPR/AED Training

School Committee member John Monfredo is requesting an update from Superintendent Maureen Binienda on its plans for teaching CPR/AED and Heimlich training in Worcester Public Schools Physical Education Classes.

Monfredo, who initiated the cause to bring CPR training to the schools, also raised money to purchase mannequins to aid in the instruction.  

He is asking that the program continues for the second straight year and that all students in grades 7 to 12 receive six years of training.

“My goal is to make Worcester a ‘Heart Safe City’,” Monfredo said

Thursday night’s meeting will start at 7:00 PM and will be held in the Esther Howland Chamber in Worcester’s City Hall.

WORCESTER – The War Memorial at Billings Square has still not been repaired and a Worcester City Councilor wants to know why.

District 3 City Councilor George Russell has filed an order at tonight’s city council meeting to ask that City Manager Edward M. Augustus provide a report on the timeline to replacing the monument that was leveled a couple months ago.

Courtesy of CWVSP

On the evening of June 5. the memorial was leveled when a woman driving a Jeep crashed into the structure, knocking it down, and breaking it into several large pieces.  At the time, Russell called for swift response in repairing the monument and now is questioning what is taking so long.

“[Worcester Department of Public Works] did a good job of picking it up right away and assessing the damage,”  Russell said in an email on Friday, Sept. 15.  “Even though when this happened early this summer, I asked on the Council floor for a speedy return, no timeline has been offered to me yet.”

The monument sits on the rotary at the intersection of Grafton, Hamilton and Orient Streets and is part of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation [MassDOT] restructuring, but according to Russell, the project is still in its design stage and has been delayed.

“There is a state plan to rebuild Route 122 [Grafton St.], including the rotary. This plan has already been delayed. We should not be waiting for the state rebuild to repair the monument,” Russell said.

“The Veterans deserve this to be a priority for all of us,” Russell added.

MassDOT’s plan for Grafton St. calls for resurfacing with minor areas of reconstruction and intersection improvements from Washington Square to Rice Square — a total of 1.4 miles. The work is scheduled to begin at the end of 2018 and will cost more than $7 million in federal and state funding.

Speed Limit Redux

It’s possible the speed limit being reduced to 25 miles per hour throughout the city may come up again as District 5 City Councilor Gary Rosen has filed a couple of orders regarding speed enforcement in his district.

At the July 18 City Council meeting Rosen filed similar orders and it sparked a broader discussion on lowering the citywide speed limit.  The discussion was spearheaded by Councilor-at-large Kate Toomey, who is also the chairperson of the council’s Public Safety Committee

Tonight’s meeting will start at 7:00 PM and will be held in the Esther Howland Chamber in Worcester’s City Hall.

The largest online shopping and internet retailer in the world is looking to open a new Northeast headquarters somewhere on the Atlantic coast.

One Worcester city councilor is asking, ‘Why not us?’

Councilor-at-Large Konstantina B. Lukes filed an order requesting the City Manager submit a response to the Request for Proposal to bring the Amazon second North American Headquarters [Amazon H2Q].

“It’s a good idea to look into,” Councilor Lukes said. “I’ve heard that Boston is the front runner, but there’s time for us to make something of this. It doesn’t make sense for us to not see if we can offer something. We’re all in on this baseball team that’s likely staying in Rhode Island, why wouldn’t we see what Amazon has to offer.”

“We expect HQ2 to be a full equal to our Seattle headquarters,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO said in the September 7 Press release. “Amazon HQ2 will bring billions of dollars in up-front and ongoing investments, and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. We’re excited to find a second home.”

Councilor Lukes is asking the City Manager to collaborate and include surrounding towns in order to get a greenfield site of 100 acres in responding to the RFP.

“The criteria are challenging, but we are looking at it to see if Worcester can put a credible application forward,” John Hill, spokesperson for the City Manager said in an e-mail on September 12.

The criteria includes a metropolitan areas with more than one million people, An urban or downtown campus, and a similar layout to Amazon’s Seattle campus, which is approximately eight city blocks in size

“I heard [Lt. Gov.] Karen Polito talking about it on WTAG. She said very clearly that she wants development across the state and that the administration is working on it, but there is no chance for Western Massachusetts to land it. ” Councilor-at-large Michael Gaffney said in a September 14 email.  

District 3 City Councilor George Russell said, “I would have major reservations about any new major shipping hub being located in Worcester unless directly on a major highway. Worcester’s neighborhoods don’t need more trucks. The CSX expansion is already over burdensome on the neighborhoods in Worcester’s East Side.”

Amazon recently announced plans to open  a second company headquarters in North America, Amazon HQ2. The project states that Amazon expects to invest over $5 billion in construction and grow this second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs over the initial 15-17 years of the project.

Other requirements in the Request for Proposal [RFP] are:

  • at least 30 miles proximity to population center (Airport Drive to Boston 52.2, according to Google Maps)
  • withing about 45 minutes of an international airport (53.6 miles, over an hour estimated by Google Maps)
  • not more than 1-2 miles from major highways and arterial roads (6.6 Miles)
  • access to mass transit, including rail, train, subway/metro, bus routes

In choosing the location for HQ2, Amazon has a preference for other requirements, such as:

  • Metropolitan areas with more than one million people
  • A stable and business-friendly environment 
  • Urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent
  • Communities that think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options 

HQ2 could be, but does not have to be:

  • An urban or downtown campus 
  • A similar layout to Amazon’s Seattle campus 
  • A development-prepped site. We want to encourage states/provinces and communities to think creatively for viable real estate options, while not negatively affecting our preferred timeline

Other key components to the RFP include:

Connectivity: Ensuring optimal fiber connectivity is paramount at our HQ2 location. Please demonstrate the fiber connectivity on all submitted sites. Also, demonstrate multiple cellular phone coverage maps to ensure optimal service. 

Logistics – Personnel travel and logistics needs, both from population centers to the Project site, as well as between company facilities, are critically important. As such, travel time to a major highway corridor and arterial roadway capacity potential are key factors. The highway corridors must provide direct access to significant population centers with eligible employment pools. Travel time to an international airport with daily direct flights to Seattle, New York, San Francisco/Bay Area, and Washington, D.C. is also an important consideration.

Community/Quality of Life – The Project requires a significant number of employees. We want to invest in a community where our employees will enjoy living, recreational opportunities, educational opportunities, and an overall high quality of life.

WORCESTER – When you ask Worcester Fitness Running Team coach Andy Sharry what he enjoys most about his team he says “I love creating an environment where people can form lifelong bonds of friendship”

Two years ago Sharry started the Worcester Fitness Running Team [WFRT], which is a group of runners of all levels and abilities. They meet twice a week to run various courses throughout the city.

The Worcester Fitness Running Team/Photo: Joe Santa Maria

“Yes,  running is the main activity we do together, but it’s the people and the connections we make together that is the real value of being part of our team.  It’s all about the journey, not just the destination.”  

Each member sets goals each year and Sharry works with them to achieve their personal goal as well as build team camaraderie “The miles logged in training, the weight lost, the medals earned from finishing races are truly awesome….but the connections we make are far, far more important in the whole grand scheme of things.” says Sharry

On Sunday, Oct. 22, Sharry and 26 members of the WFRT will be in Washington, D.C. to take part in the 42nd Marine Corp Marathon/10K [MCM].  More than half the team will be running the marathon, while the others will take part in the 10K, which goes through the nation’s capitol.

“I was looking for a destination running event, and Marine Corps Marathon is known as the people’s marathon, very friendly to all types of runners”

Along, with the training for this event,  WFRT will be raising money for Homes For Our Troops [HFOT], an organization that builds and donates specially adapted custom homes nationwide for severely injured post – 9/11 Veterans, to enable them to rebuild their lives.

“I watched a powerful series of episodes of This Old House in which the program built a home for a severely wounded veteran.  The show highlighted the veteran himself, and all of the incredible ways HFOT helps those who really need our help, the heroes who served and made devastatingly damaging sacrifices with their own bodies. ” Sharry said in a September 8th e-mail

The MCM is a lottery race, meaning that not all who enter the lottery will receive a bib for the race.  Committing to HFOT ensures that all who wanted to participate in this journey would receive a guaranteed bib for the race

“[MCM] will be my fourth [marathon] and my second with the team. Training with the team is a great experience” says WFRT team member Kate Pietrovito

WFRT has committed to raising $20,000 for HFOT through personal commitments of $600 per runner and team fundraisers.

“To partner with [HFOT], it seemed like a perfect match. It’s a local, well run charity, a tremendously honorable cause, and it tied in nicely to the race overall.” Pietrovito added

“When I’m out on a run, thinking how hard the long miles are or how awesome we are for running these long distances, I am reminded of our HFOT veterans – and I realize that what is really hard is what these veterans face every single day.” says team member Jen Caron

The team will be holding a Homes for Our Troops Auction Bash on Friday, Sept. 15 at 6:30 pm at MacDonald’s Tavern inside Worcester Fitness.  Tickets are $10 and can be purchase online or at the door.  Prizes include a One week Florida timeshare, Red Sox and Patriots tickets, an Autographed Bob Cousy basketball and many other items

To date the team has raised $14,651.60, with approximately 40 days to go.

“Seeing people who’ve accomplished something special by completing a 10 (10k) or Marathon and knowing that we raised over $20,000 will be powerful.”  Sharry added

You can get more information on Homes For Our Troops by visiting their website.  You can also visit the WFRT fundraising page.

It’s back to school for the Worcester school committee as they prepare to convene for the first full meeting of the 2017-2018 school year.

On Aug. 29, an executive session of the committee was held to sign the new three-year collective bargaining agreement with the city teachers’ union, the Educational Association of Worcester.

With the signing of the agreement now in the rear view, this week’s agenda has very few items

One item, however, worth noting is the Report of the Superintendent where Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Maureen Binienda will introduce the implementation of “Collaborative Learning.” 

Collaborative learning is a program put together by Peter DeWitt, Ed.D, in which he unveils six factors through the guidelines of John Hattie’s “Visible Learning” that all school leaders should integrate

  1. Instructional Leadership
  2. Collective Teacher Efficacy
  3. Professional Development
  4. Feedback
  5. Assessment Capable Learners
  6. Family Engagement

Superintendent  Binienda will discuss her plan on implementing this program throughout the Worcester Public Schools.

Tonight’s meeting will start at 7:00 PM and will be held in the Esther Howland Chamber in Worcester’s City Hall.

WORCESTER – Worcester’s City Council comes back to work after a light summer schedule and will meet tonight for the first time in three weeks in what should be an eventful post-Labor Day council meeting — with the November municipal election just months away.

There are 195 items on this week’s meeting agenda  — including items from the City Council, City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr and the city’s Economic Development office.

One item worth watching is an order filed by Councilor-at-Large Konstantina B. Lukes regarding the potential Pawtucket Red Sox move to Worcester.

Councilor Lukes is requesting an order from August 15 to be reconsidered to not include a commitment to build a stadium.

The original order from last month read: “That the City Council does hereby support in principle the re-location of the Red Sox Triple A baseball team to Worcester including building a stadium to accommodate this team and further, request the City Manager do all that is reasonably in his power to facilitate this move.”

Proposed design of stadium in Worcester – courtesy of Canal District Association

“I haven’t spoken to anyone that doesn’t support [bringing the Pawtucket Red Sox to Worcester],” Lukes said in a phone interview on Friday, Sept. 1.  “[The commitment of the stadium] means we are negotiating in public without public discussion.  We need to know what this thing will cost.”

The stadium plan that the Rhode Island Legislature originally rejected was for $83 million, with the State of Rhode Island paying $23 million and the City of Pawtucket paying $15 million.

In an email to ThisWeekinWorcester.com on Saturday, Sept. 2, District 5 City Councilor Gary Rosen Rosen said that Rhode Island will do whatever it takes to keep the PawSox, but if they can’t strike a deal “…then Worcester would be the next logical choice.”

We are prepared to hold in-depth discussions with the team. However, every step of the way, we must put the interests of our local taxpayers first,” Rosen added.

“What a shock,” Lukes said, in reference to Rhode Island lawmakers scheduling public hearings throughout the state from Sept. 14-19 to discuss a new bill proposed.  Lawmakers are working to address this in their special session on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

Possible area for clean up and redesign at Wyman Gordon property

City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr.  was unavailable for comment.

Whatever happens, the city will continue to try and “woo” the Red Sox.

Unattractive Walls

A second item on the agenda from Councilor Lukes is asking the City Administration if an Urban Design Review was part of the ongoing construction in the downtown area.

“How can we do that to the city?,” Lukes asked in regards to the current facade of the 145 Front St at City Square Apartments and the AC Hotel at City Square by Marriott.

Lukes’ order states that the current construction “(has created) an unwelcoming combination of unattractive walls of windows…”

Facade of City Square Apartments /photo: Nick D’Andrea

Lukes is also calling for a process of design review for future development. “This is not new,” Lukes said. “I have been asking for an Urban Design Review process for a long time.”

Lukes believes that city architecture should be a magnet to attract new people and businesses to the city, and stated that the downtown construction is “not a magnet.”

Councilor Rosen doesn’t completely agree with Lukes’ viewpoint on the attractiveness of the downtown area saying, “Worcester residents, college students and visitors notice and often comment on this long-awaited renaissance.”

However, Rosen does believe a review process may be in the best interest of the city

As progress continues, an Urban Design Review might prove to be worthwhile to the city. In any case, I think it’s time for better planning and more action to make some of our neighborhoods well beyond the limits of downtown more welcoming and vibrant,” Rosen said.

Where’s the Money?

District 3 City Councilor George J. Russell is calling on the city administration to provide a report of exactly where the money from the CSX deal – a $120 million expansion agreement – has been spent.

The CSX account is just one example that Councilors and the public need to have a clear understanding of what is spent and how.” Russell said regarding his order.

“[The agenda item] focuses on CSX, but this has been an ongoing issue with me looking for easier access to information — especially the capital expenditures. The CSX fund is a prime example,” Russell said when asked whether this order was more about transparency from the city as a whole or only in regard to CSX expenditures.

“You should not have to be a CPA to understand where and on what capital funds are spent,” Russell added.

Tonight’s meeting will start at 7:00 PM and will be held in the Esther Howland Chamber in Worcester’s City Hall.