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By Denise Woodin

Laura A. Laura has one piece of advice for those who want to be stronger and healthier: get a move on. “If you find yourself idle or standing still, just move more,” she remarked during a recent conversation at the Rye YMCA. “Three times a week at a gym is never going to be enough.”

She should know. For the past ten years, this Rye resident has gently, but firmly pushed hundreds of teens and adults to become their strongest, healthiest selves. As a floor trainer in the Y’s Fitness Center and, later a sought-after personal trainer, Laura has coached Y members of various fitness levels, from triathletes to seniors with dementia, to adults who are struggling with injuries. In 2011, she was promoted to Member Wellness Coordinator, a position that has broadened the scope of her work, allowing her to engage with members in a more holistic way.

Before Laura landed a part-time job at the Rye YMCA, before she married Pete Laura, becoming — well — Laura Laura, she was an animal-loving young athlete growing up in New Rochelle and Mamaroneck. She played hockey — not well, she confessed —and soccer, and, with her older sister, rode horses. For her 14th birthday, her family adopted a dilapidated hack horse. Laura laughingly agreed that the horse, along with a disabled dog adopted from a shelter, became her first personal training projects.

In 2007, Laura was a recent graduate of the University of Hartford where she studied criminal justice and sociology. Her then-boyfriend Pete suggested that she apply for a job at the Rye Y while she considered applying to the Police Academy.

“I was very intrigued by community policing and worked with juvenile delinquents for about a year,” she recalled. While she found the work very rewarding, she decided not to pursue a career in criminal justice. “I continue to do a lot of community outreach by working at the Rye Y, and it’s a safer setting!”

As Laura took on more responsibility, moving from part-time to full time, her family life became increasingly intertwined with the Rye Y. Pete has been a Fitness Center floor trainer for over 15 years and teaches an indoor cycling class. In 2014, Laura gave birth to the couple’s first child, Gracyn, who is growing up a Y kid. “She loves it here so much,” Laura remarked. And Laura’s mother Gale met her second husband at the Y. In 2012, she married Bill Guyre, formerly a Rye Y Member Services staff person and currently president of Wainwright House. 

In 2015, Laura noticed a programming gap for members who were not ready for high-intensity workouts, but were motivated to push themselves beyond gentle classes like Enhance Fitness, for adults with arthritis, or LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, for cancer survivors. At the same time, Laura was leading a weight-loss challenge group, whose members wanted to continue working out together. Working with Yvonne Bibas, a fellow trainer and instructor, Laura created Basic Training, a small, moderate intensity class that focuses on strength, flexibility, balance, and cardiovascular health. It was an instant hit. Laura and Yvonne started with two classes a week. When those “maxed out,” they added more and now offer seven classes per week.

For the women in the weight-loss group, Basic Training offered a change of focus. “I geared it more to strength,” Laura said. “Instead of their clothes fitting better, could they do everything easier? Could they increase their weights? Could they go longer on a cardio piece? Could they keep up in a class? So it became more about overall health and wellness than just fitting in your clothes. After we changed that, I could see the energy in the class increase. And I always encourage people not to be thin, but strong.”

Last spring, the Y at its Annual Dinner honored Laura with the Excellence in Innovation Award. Executive Director Gregg Howells praised Laura’s commitment to members, “which shows in everything she does, from her one-on-one interactions to the classes she leads. She knows how to push those in her care, but always with a smile.”

And the feeling is mutual. “It’s very nice to work in a place where you feel supported and loved by the community and the members. I always say ‘you’re not here for the wealth,’ you’re here for people that you get to be with every day.’”

Reflecting on a decade well spent at the Rye Y, Laura said, “I’ve had so many incredible experiences. “I’ve had wheelchair-bound people walking again. I’ve worked with a few clients with dementia, which has taught me patience.” She added, “Personal training involves a lot more than just pushing clients a little more in their workout routines. It’s about embracing and helping them in many aspects of their lives.”

Laura Laura and her daughter Gracyn

 

When the first frost arrived, photographer Jay Mahoney headed out to see how the avian population was handling the long overdue drop in temperature. He was excited to report the ducks that winter in Rye and environs have started to arrive, and there are still Great blue herons around and swans in a lot of locations.

Mahoney is both lucky and good. “The Mourning dove landed right in front of me while I was photographing the ducks,” he said.

 

Mourning Dove

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#8095 Mute swan

#8336 Great blue heron

 

 

 

By Janice Llanes Fabry

At 16, Nicole Pereira, is a driven, resourceful teenager determined to make a difference. With a paintbrush in one hand and her own website in the other, she is raising funds to find a cure for a brain disorder that affects 2 million Americans.

“I want to make an impact on the world,” she remarked. “I know that sounds ambitious, but through a Science Research course at school, I started focusing on epilepsy and autism.”

The Rye Neck High School junior is enrolled in a three-year elective under the District’s Independent Learner Program and in cooperation with SUNY Albany. She is required to work on a single project and build upon it every year.

Pereira chose epilepsy and autism because she has always been fascinated by the medical field, not surprising with a nurse for a mother and an orthopedic surgeon for a father.

“I especially love neuroscience and hope to major in that or in pre-med in college,” she said. “Last year for the Science Research course, I researched the connections between autism and epilepsy and found that a common cause of both was Valporic Acid (VPA). This year, I’m studying the effects of VPA on the neurodevelopment of different species.”

Despite the fact that Pereira has a full course load, has begun studying for the SAT’s, goes on college visits, and picks up babysitting jobs, she is committed to supporting the efforts of medical advancements in the field. During her research, she stumbled upon an organization for which she’d like to raise funds.

That’s where her painting comes in. Does a left-brain, scientific teenager also have a creative side? “As a kid, I always liked making things and messing around with painting,” she said. “When I was in the eighth grade, my parents gave me a watercolor set for Christmas. I started painting animals.”

After accumulating an impressive collection of these original watercolor works, Pereira created sets of notecards with her artwork to sell and donate the proceeds to FACES (Finding a Cure for Epilepsy and Seizures) at NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. FACES needs funding for cutting-edge research and clinical care. In addition, it offers various programs and support networks for patients and their families.

Pereira’s Wildlife with Watercolors, a catchy name “my dad helped me come up with,” is divided into separate sets. “Swiss Alps” has red moose and bears; “Rio” offers alligators and flamencos; “Cairo” has elephants and giraffes; “Great Barrier Reef” has dolphins and shark, the drawing that started it all. A new baby card set includes pink elephants, green ducks, and blue octopus.

“I use a thin, long brush and I like lines, splatters, and drips, so each painting is loose, as if it just formed on the paper,” she explained. “The process takes a while because I have to wait for parts to dry before continuing. The packaging is minimalistic, too."

This fall, she has expanded her line. “I ventured out and started painting Christmas trees for the holidays and sports players. They were actually a request from my two younger brothers, who needed thank you notes appropriate for young boys,” she said about her brothers Matt, 12, and Luke, 9.

No matter the theme, Pereira positions a tiny heart at each card’s corner as a result of a mother-daughter ritual. “Every time my mom and I see hearts, we like to point them out to one another,” said the teen, whose logo is a heart surrounded by three W’s for Wildlife with Watercolors.

The notecards sell for $19.50 per set of 21 cards. Visit www.WildlifeWithWatercolors.com for more information.

Nicole Pereira

And sample of Wildlife with Watercolors notecards

 

 

 

An unseasonably cold day caused a large Veterans Day audience to gather inside City Hall to commemorate the 11th hour on the 11th day in the 11th month and the end of World War I, 99 years ago. American Legion Post 128 Commander Fred de Barros officiated and Rev. Dr. John Miller gave the invocation.

Principal Speaker Michael P. Fix enlisted in the Army in 1966, and after O.C.S. was assigned to load ships bound for Vietnam. A thirty-nine-year veteran of Merrill Lynch, he and his wife of 47 years reside in Easchester, where he serves as Adjutant of the LeRoy Gregory American Legion Post. He has written extensively on the men and women of Eastchester who died in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

Fix focused part of his address on two citizen-soldiers from Rye, Curtis S. Read and Brigadier General James G. Harbord. Read, whose name appears on the World War I Memorial across from the Square House helped to create the Boy Scouts of America camp near Lake George in Adirondack State Park where Fix has spent many happy hours. Harbord rose to become General Pershing’s Chief of Staff, and commanded the 4th Marine Brigade at the Battle of Château-Thierry.

Fix exhorted the audience to “Educate your children in patriotism.”

City Councilman Terry McCartney’s remarks resonated with those in attendance. A United States Marine veteran and the son of two veterans, he sounded an alarm about polarization and divisiveness in the country; and noted that service members are so focused on doing their jobs that there is no time or place for prejudice.

“…It is somewhat rare for our young people here in Rye to enter military service, and, while I understand it, I wish it were different. The reason why I say that is because I learned the most valuable lessons of my life serving alongside my fellow Marines…I learned to judge a person by their character, ability, and conduct and not by their race, religion, or gender. I learned the importance of being honest and treating people fairly…I learned to be accountable for my actions. I learned when duty calls, you answer the call.”

“…It is intellectually dishonest and lazy to label someone by their race just as it is to label them as a racist…Instead, let’s have a respectful conversation to try to work it out. That’s what a veteran would do…We thank you for being an example for all of us to follow. We thank you for reminding us that “service above self” is a way of life, not a slogan.”

  • <Photos by Tom McDermott>

 

Calling all screenwriters. RyeTV is soliciting scripts. Now’s your chance to submit a two-character piece that is five to 10 minutes long and takes place on a park bench or at a restaurant. No special effects and limited props.

The judges are John Cunningham, a renowned actor, Michael Limone, who teaches and directs Performing Arts at Rye High School, a representative of RyeTV, and a member of the community-at-large. They will select four scripts, which will be performed and recorded by participants in the Acting and Directing for Film/TV class at RyeTV, run on RyeTV, and premiere in Rye in May.

Submit your script to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by December 15. Chosen scripts will be announced January 15 on RyeTV.