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The Best Night of the Year for THS Student/Athletes. The Torrington Varsity Alumni Club scholarship dinner.

POSTED August 15, 2014
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON: Celebrating excellence and celebrating tradition.

Two things we should all strive to keep alive.

On Wednesday night at P-Sam’s in Torrington, the Torrington Varsity Alumni Club did just that on the 40th anniversary of the club that looks to give back to the community they have been a part of the better part of 80 years.

Andy Pace and Frank Russo, two giants in whatever room they land in, started this effort back in 1945 with not a lot of money or support but a dream and determination.

History. It’s something a lot of us worry about not teaching our kids enough about it. Who came before them, who were the movers and shakers in the sports scene in Torrington more than half a century ago?

This is one club that looks to keep the legacy alive and with an infusion of newer members over the last few years who are taking over for the “Old Guard”, this group is in good stead.

Each year, the VAC hands out $1000.00 scholarships to six deserving student/athletes who are going on to further their education at the next level.

Because of a banner year of fundraising and some generous donations, the club was able to hand out eight this year to about as diverse a group of great kids as you will find out there.

My good friend, Peter Wallace and I look forward to this dinner each year because the kids that we eat dinner with not only represent some of the best and brightest future leaders coming out of Torrington, they write the story for us.

What a table!

Let’s start with a potential future Broadway Opera stand out in Micaela Bottari who will be attending Westminster Choir College in a matter of weeks (as most student will be) and has dreams of performing under the bright lights as her idol, Ella Fitzgerald.

Each dinner, the recipients are asked a series of questions from VAC member Paul Denza, a tradition started by Pace and Russo some years back.

Let me tell you, compared to how Pace used to grill the winners about their answers, it’s relatively softball questions at this point but it forces the students to practice a valuable future tool by speaking to a large group.

When asked who she would like to have dinner with, living or dead but not their parents, Bottari singled out the legendary blues singer with the smooth voice as someone she would like to share a meal with.

Her soccer coach, Mario Longonbucco, another VAC member and presenter said he had no doubt that he would be down on Broadway in seven years, knocking on her dressing room door after she has made her dream come true.

In the same question period, three sport standout Caroline Teti wished for a meal with former Beatle, Paul McCartney while football star Ernie Tracy wanted to sit down with a Middle-Eastern family to see how they might approach the problems in the Middle East without American involvement.

Tracy was leaving for college on Thursday morning, he will be attending West Virginia for criminal justice while attending ROTC.

One of the stalwarts on the Raiders football team in the trenches, Tracy has most certainly left his mark on THS. Toughness and Ernie Tracy go hand and hand.

Joann Duman, who will be attending the University of Connecticut this fall, wished to have lunch with her grandfather, whom she never met but was someone important in her mother’s live.

Nicholas LaMothe is an impressive young man with a huge resume that he looks to build even bigger as he looks to become a surgeon at some point. LaMothe spent time in a shadowing program at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital      

Sometimes I have to remind myself that these are just graduated seniors, they have led such busy lives at such a young age.

Take Paulina Koloda, a cross country and track and field star who will be attending the University of St Joseph but recently spent time in Poland, her native land that she left at the age of nine.

So at nine, Koloda comes to America, has to learn a new language and attempt to excel in high school.

Check and check. Both things accomplished with flying colors. She even got to salute her parents in her native language during the evening.’

Kiley Rosengrant will be attending Keene State (NH) and commented on her struggles in high school that she was able to get over because of her involvement in volleyball, diving and tennis.

Sports and teamwork can lift your spirits, especially during the challenging years that encompass high school.

Learning to work as a unit is something all of these young stars have excelled in during their four years at THS.

Mackenzie Welch commented on the value she took out of her team’s sportsmanship and how they Raider teams had won awards for just that. Welch will be going to school at Colby-Sawyer College.

I say it time and time again. If the brightest kids in our schools are given the tools and encouragement as they are from groups like the Varsity Alumni Club, the future looks brighter every day.

Catch them doing something good. This deserving group of eight more than fits into that category.

Best of luck in the future.

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