Porcelli: The Other Side of Education (9/15)

CTE Shop Class: Now It’s High-Tech

By Mike Porcelli

Reactions to this column continue to pour in. All have been extremely supportive of increasing CTE opportunities for those students who can get the most benefit from them.

Why then are there not enough CTE openings for all students who would like them?

Another important question is: how do students know what they are best equipped to study?

As I have stated many times, schools do a good job of skills assessment in the athletic departments, but not other areas.

Fortunately there is a program that helps parents, students and educators determine what aptitudes and abilities young people possess.

For decades, the largest training organization in the country, the U.S. military, has used a series of aptitude tests to place recruits in the jobs they are best equipped to handle.

From those years of experience, they have developed a program to help young people find their best path in terms of schools and careers. The program is: https://www.march2success.com/

Through a series of assessment tests and tutorials, the program helps users know their natural abilities and aptitudes, thereby helping them determine their best career path.

March2Success is a FREE website providing users access to online study materials to help improve their scores on a variety of standardized tests, and self-paced study programs in math, English and science, as well as college readiness courses that include pre-assessment tests which help to generate a custom learning path for each student.

The learning path includes interactive lessons, quizzes and additional practice tests. Also included is information to help students navigate the college application process of admissions and financial aid, as well as college application and acceptance planning guides.

The benefits of March2Success for students cannot be overstated. It is the best tool available to match students with their ideal training programs.

At the Education Summit I attended last month, the local Army recruiting command gave presentations on how March2Success can help students and schools achieve their best educational matches.

I hope that the Department of Education leadership at that conference learned how beneficial the program can be, and will use it to help students determine their best educational paths.

That would be a huge win-win for students and schools. The next step needed is to make sure that there are enough CTE openings for all students who are best suited for them, based on their skills assessments.

For the sake of all students, let’s all do everything we can to ensure that the Department of Education can achieve this goal. Join the CTE Revolution!


Academic & Trade Education are Two Sides of a Coin. This column explores the impact of CTE programs on students, society, and the economy.

Mike Porcelli: life-long mechanic, adjunct professor, and host of Autolab Radio, is committed to restoring trade education in schools before it’s too late. https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-porcelli-master-mechanic-allasecerts/ 

Metro Village hosts 2nd Community Day

By Jessica Meditz

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Rachel Kellner and Mark Libertini, the husband and wife team behind Aigner Chocolates.

This past Saturday, community residents from all walks of life gathered on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills to celebrate Metro Village Forest Hills’ second annual Community Day.

Metro Village Forest Hills is a small business alliance founded by Rachel Kellner of Aigner Chocolates and Eileen Arabian of DEE’S Wood Fired Pizza + Kitchen, which was born out of high tensions amid the pandemic.

It was during this time where the businesses got the idea to host their first Community Day on the Avenue, and hope to continue the tradition for years to come.

“Aigner’s was robbed a few years ago during the pandemic, and the businesses really came out to support us. We decided to create an informal business alliance to provide support to each other and to preserve the richness of the community here,” Kellner said.

“We want to keep those businesses around, and so during the pandemic, obviously events had to be outdoors. So we had this idea to do a Community Day and we did it last year with 30 businesses participating,” she continued. “It went so well that we decided to keep it going. Now it’s going to be a tradition here.”

The Community Day spanned from Royal Collectibles to DEE’S, with businesses up and down the Avenue offering various treats, gifts and positive greetings to visitors.

In addition, 29 businesses participated in a scavenger hunt, where guests received a series of clues and had to guess which business corresponded with that clue, who would then mark it off.

The bingo board-like template was created by community member Samantha Weitzberg.

All guests who filled out their cards completely were entered into a drawing to win a $100 gift certificate to DEE’S and Aigner Chocolates. The winner will be announced by Metro Village this week.

Additionally, 150 prizes were given out at random throughout the day at all the scavenger hunt locations to participants.

Local elected officials took the time to soak up one of the final days of summer sun in Forest Hills, including Councilwoman Lynn Schulman.

Councilwoman Schulman and Alfred Vitsentzos of Nick’s Bistro

“It’s so important to have days like this with people coming out to see all the different kinds of stores, it’s very eclectic,” Schulman said.

“It’s so nice to have local owners and it’s really important to help them,” she continued. “It’s just such a community atmosphere here, and everybody’s just so nice and welcoming.”

Arabian is proud to celebrate the success and accomplishments of businesses on the Avenue, including DEE’S, which just relaunched its weekend lunch service since the start of the pandemic. She believes that this year’s Community Day had an even bigger turnout than last year’s, and hopes to see the event continue to grow.

She admires the diversity of the businesses and all that Metropolitan Avenue has to offer.

“This day brings a lot of exposure to Metropolitan Avenue, which is so important because everyone knows about Austin Street, and they don’t always know about Metropolitan,” she said.

“It really has everything to offer: retail, restaurants, barber shops and hair salons, nail salons, butcher shops, attorneys, everything. So it’s a great way to draw people in and open up the doors of opportunity for other businesses.”

Candlelight vigil at Juniper Valley Park: 21 years since 9/11

By Stephanie Meditz

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Deacon Paul Norman opened the vigil with a prayer.

Although they could not see the 9/11 Tribute in Light through the rain, Middle Village residents held the Twin Towers’ memory in their hearts on Sunday. 

The 9/11 Candlelight Vigil Committee of Queens held its annual vigil in Juniper Valley Park to honor all the lives that were lost 21 years ago. 

The vigil consisted of prayers, music, poems and the reading of the names of the men and women who died. 

“We come remembering those who lost their lives in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania,” Deacon Paul Norman said in his opening prayer. “We are mindful of the sacrifice of public servants who demonstrated the greatest love of all by laying down their lives for friends.” 

The speakers at the vigil recounted the fear and horror of Sept. 11th, the grief for all the people who died and the renewed strength and unity of New York City in the days that followed. 

“On this day 21 years ago, life as we knew it was forever changed,” said Frank DeBiase of the 9/11 Candlelight Vigil Committee. “The days that followed were filled with a sense of immense loss, grief and sadness. Yet, through the smoke, through the debris, through the unending agony of uncertainty, rose a spirit the likes of which many had never seen before and few ever thought possible.” 

“Many of us lost a friend, a relative, a neighbor or co-worker on Sept. 11, 2001,” he continued. “Many have perished and many continue to suffer from having been exposed to the toxic environment in and around the World Trade Center site. It is with this in mind that we gather in this special place each year to honor their memory and to pray for their families, our city and our great nation.” 

This is precisely why Al Haag and his family attend the vigil every year. 

“It’s important to come back every year to pay our respects,” he said. “One of my close friends passed away. He was a firefighter…so we come every year. I think we missed one so far.”

Leonora Norman recalled her own fear for her father and brother, both of whom were in the city that day. 

“My brother, now he’s a captain in the fire department, back then he was in 238, and his lieutenant died. And so he was called in afterwards, and we were worried about him,” she said. 

“My dad worked back in New York,” she continued. “They had all those people down in the basement of that building waiting to be cleared to go home, and he remembered covering his mouth, seeing the filaments and everything in the air.” 

Heather Arzberger, chairperson of the arts department at Christ the King Regional High School, accompanied the reading of the names with a beautiful flute melody, followed by the playing of “Taps” in honor of veterans. 

“If you have never visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., you should put it on your to-do list,” DeBiase said. “Walking past the wall and seeing over 52,000 names of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country is such a moving experience.” 

There is a Sept. 11th memorial garden at Juniper Valley Park that the 9/11 Candlelight Vigil Committee works with JC Landscaping and the NYC Parks Department to maintain. 

Several elected officials and community leaders attended the vigil, including Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar; Councilman Bob Holden; commanding officer of the 104th Precinct, Deputy Inspector Kevin Coleman; Community Board 5’s District Manager Gary Giordano; Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi and Congresswoman Grace Meng. 

Also in attendance were the Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, Vietnam Veterans Chapter 32, the Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club Chapter 16, the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corp, members of the NYPD and fire and Emergency Medical Services. 

“The torch is ours to carry,” DeBiase said in his closing remarks. “It is up to us to ensure that future generations never forget, and more importantly, always remember those who perished on and as a result of that horrific day and those of us who proudly honor their memory.”

Ice Cream Window: ‘Different, but still the same’

By Stephanie Meditz

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At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ice Cream Window served scoops of happiness to the community such that it became a permanent fixture. 

Intended as a three-week pop-up in Karlssonwilker design studio, the shop brought Ridgewood’s original immigrant populations together by experimenting with traditional cultural flavors in its ice cream. 

Karlssonwilker, originally headquartered in Manhattan, moved to Ridgewood when a developer bought out multiple neighboring properties. 

“We knew that our days were numbered as well, and that they would tear down these whole buildings and build a skyscraper,” said Elisabeth Smolarz, Karlssonwilker photographer and founder of Ice Cream Window. 

Born in Poland and raised in Germany, Smolarz knew of the large Polish and German-speaking communities in Ridgewood, as well as its overall population increase over the last few years. 

With the help of some friends in the area, she bought the new Karlssonwilker design studio space on Woodward Avenue, along with the apartment above it. 

While renovating the building’s facade, Smolarz recalled her time living in Gowanus and saw the need for some kind of outdoor component. 

“It had a bench outside. It was very dark inside, so I would oftentimes sit outside and work or read,” she said. “What was lovely about that, being outside, was that I met all the neighbors immediately. I knew everyone on my block within a few months.” 

This goal is what prompted the installment of a window, and for a while, Smolarz wondered what to do with it. 

In 2019, she visited Lady Moo Moo in Bedford-Stuyvesant, an ice cream shop that serves its ice cream out of a window for customers to eat outside. 

“I tasted the ice cream and said, ‘Wow. This ice cream is amazing. I think this is the best ice cream I’ve ever had,’” Smolarz said. 

Smolarz’s daughter was born in January 2020, followed by the start of the pandemic. 

“Motherhood just became extremely lonely,” she said. “There were no mom groups. We had a digital one and it was nice, but you just couldn’t really connect with anybody.” 

During her many walks with her new baby that summer, she thought to follow Lady Moo Moo’s business model and temporarily use Karlssonwilker’s window to serve ice cream at a social distance. 

In August 2020, Ice Cream Window was born as a pop-up, with the ice cream delivered by Lady Moo Moo. 

Smolarz met many of her new neighbors in Ridgewood, and after the pop-up ended, they approached her on the street and asked when she would sell ice cream again. 

By popular demand, she agreed to reopen the shop for at least another year. 

Smolarz solicited the help of other local businesses such as Topos Bookstore Cafe, Millers and Makers, Porcelain and Plein Air to turn Ice Cream Window into a permanent shop. 

This past summer, Ice Cream Window collaborated with the longtime Ridgewood staple, Rudy’s Pastry Shop to sell ice cream sandwiches made with chocolate chip cookies. 

“That’s what’s beautiful about Ridgewood, that it is a community,” she said. “You can ask anyone for help, and people will help you.” 

Smolarz gives back to the community in various ways, such as cooking traditional Polish dishes at Woodbine’s free Sunday dinners. 

Most notably, though, she works to ensure that Ice Cream Window brings something new to Ridgewood without alienating its longtime residents, rather making them feel at home. 

“The flavors relate to the community, and to us personally,” she said, referencing her husband and the Karlssonwilker team. “We kind of channel our childhoods here.” 

Waldmeister, a traditional German flavor, has been well loved in Ridgewood for a long time.

For instance, one of Ice Cream Window’s specials is waldmeister, or sweet woodruff, a popular German flavor that was served in Ridgewood a long time ago. 

Ridgewood’s older Gottschee population can easily recognize the pumpkin seed oil that distinguishes Ice Cream Window’s styrian ice cream. 

“We have family in Vienna…so we first found out about it in Vienna when we were cooking dinner and then they served us vanilla ice cream with roasted pine nuts and a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil,” Smolarz said. 

Whenever she goes to visit them, she brings back authentic pumpkin seed oil for the ice cream. 

Ice Cream Window serves huge amounts of joy through one small window.

Hris, a flavor based on an Icelandic malt chocolate candy, is a nod to Hjalti Karlsson’s Icelandic heritage. 

Smolarz’s favorite flavor, “mak,” is based on a Polish poppy seed roll with a sugary lemon glaze called makowiec. 

Ice Cream Window also offers linden-flavored ice cream reminiscent of Smolarz’s childhood, but only during certain months in the spring.

“There was this moment, like end of May, early June, when all the linden trees were blooming in Ridgewood,” Smolarz said. “And I just love the smell so much. So during that time, we always make linden ice cream just to celebrate the season.” 

Other flavors in the rotation include dulce de leche, lucuma, lychee, matcha and red bean along with the typical vanilla and chocolate. 

Because Ice Cream Window uses such a small space within Karlssonwilker, its flavors are on rotation. 

“We’re trying to have flavors that kind of go beyond what’s familiar to us,” Smolarz said. “We kind of think, what else would the community like? And it’s very easy, Queens is the most diverse place on this planet, I think.” 

Ice Cream Window’s Instagram account, @icecreamwindow, has been an important tool to learn more about community members and foster a fun atmosphere. 

As a photographer for Karlssonwilker and photography instructor at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Smolarz loves to see customers post pictures of their ice cream. 

The star of the account, however, is a bright orange puppet, lovingly called “the window puppet,” that makes an appearance in every post announcing the flavors of the week. 

“Maybe next year when we get really good at puppetry, we’ll have a puppet theater for the kids,” Smolarz said. 

Because of her own daughter, Smolarz always works to include children in the fun of Ice Cream Window. 

She especially loves to see them try new, unknown flavors when vanilla or chocolate are not offered. 

“It’s always very sweet how, next time they come, they say, ‘I want a scoop of lucuma,’ or ‘I want a scoop of waldmeister,’” she said. “This is what’s amazing about ice cream. It just brings you a lot of joy.” 

Ice Cream Window will continue to serve joy to the Ridgewood community on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. until the temperature drops.

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