Long-sought schooling change delivers results for Gino

All it took was a small pepperoni, onion and mushroom pizza to see how far Eugene “Gino” Berthiaume had come in a year.

As Gino was counting his own, hard-earned money to pay the Kelley Square Pizza delivery person, his mother, Kelly Rawson, opened the box to find the aforementioned toppings. Which would have been fine — a classic combination, indeed — except, Gino had asked for broccoli rather than mushrooms.

Ordering broccoli on a pizza is rare for most 16-year-olds. Even less likely for many teens would be a mature and rational response to the topping turmoil.

Gino instead shrugged his shoulders at his mom’s revelation, finished counting his money, and soon would be enjoying his lunch — mushrooms and all.

Using American Sign Language and beaming a wide smile, Gino pointed out to his mother that he didn’t get bothered by the mistake. “He’s remembering back when he didn’t cooperate. So he knows the difference and he’s proud of himself,” Rawson said.

Matthew Wright / mattwrightphoto.com

Gino, with his mom Kelly, home for school vacation.

Gino, indeed, isn’t like many 16-year-olds. He is deaf and suffers from developmental delays, epilepsy and cerebral palsy due to a virus contracted at birth.

Over the past year, with the benefit of a residential school program tailored to his needs, Gino has learned not to get angry over such minor details. (Last winter he would have refused to eat the pizza, or cooperate in general, Rawson said, for quite some time afterward.) Spending this past February school vacation with his mom, he didn’t seem to have a care in the world.

Scroll down for a photo gallery of Gino and his family from photographer Matthew Wright (mattwrightphoto.com)

John Dervishian, Worcester’s ‘Barstool Poet’ pours out his soul

Under the dim lights of a Shrewsbury Street bar John Dervishian, Worcester’s barroom poet, huddles over a draft beer penning words to cocktail napkins, lottery slips and crumpled receipt paper.

Sitting by himself on a Wednesday night, Dervishian tries to explain to a curious bartender why he has pen in hand and an escalating scrum of notes and napkins strewn in front of him.

“It gets lonely in my head sometimes, but it’s also crowded,” Dervishian says.

“When it’s in there, and I write it down on something, it’s almost like a weight being lifted off of me. It’s done. I can move on,” he said. “It’s only going to bother me if I don’t get it out. It’s a huge release to get it out of my mind.”

Dervishian, 45, is known by a variety of nicknames across Worcester’s bars and coffee shops, including “The Bearded Poet,” “The Angry Poet” and “The Barstool Poet.”

Most nights, Dervishian can be found on a barstool amid the Shrewsbury Street bustle where he’s no stranger to striking up conversations with other bar patrons and whoever the bartender is on duty.

No more pencils, no more books? Pen in a Box supplies needy schools

“It is so hard to do something nice when you are a teenager. You do not have money you can send to nonprofits, you do not have power to support the underprivileged. But Pen in a Box is an opportunity for us to stand up for those who need our support.”

For many, it can be seen as the end of a fulfilling journey. For others, it’s simply a necessary chore to put the past year in the rearview and move on.

No matter how high school students feel about the annual task of cleaning out their lockers, the undertaking is usually the first sign of a fresh start to come.

What’s left behind — notebooks, pens and pencils, binders, rulers, etc. — is usually thrown away and forgotten about.

But where most of his fellow students saw trash, David Byun saw a chance to help students in countries where kids are less lucky. His simple idea turned into a nonprofit that has branched out to more than two dozen schools around the world.

Byun, a senior at Holy Name Central Catholic High School, began thinking about all the school supplies being discarded.

“When I came [to America], I really noticed there was an apparent waste of school supplies in high schools in the United States. Just walking through the hallways you can see pens and pencils laying here and there on the ground,” Byun said.

Byun, an international student on a visa from Kazakhstan where his parents work as missionaries, was surprised by the volume of school supplies being tossed away when he witnessed his first locker cleanout at the end of his freshman year.

“During locker cleanout, especially, people throw nearly everything out of their lockers including pens, pencils, notebooks, loose-leaf paper and everything that can be used again next year,” Byun said. “I asked people, ‘Why would you throw this out?’ and most people said they want to have a fresh start to the next year with a fresh feeling.

Courtesy Pen in a Box / David Byun

Zimbabwe

“Well, a fresh start isn’t guaranteed in Third World countries.”

Edge at Union Station

Railers players’ first stop? Their new apartments at the Edge

Worcester Railers HC searched high and low, east and west, and all across the city to find a home for its incoming crop of mostly young up-and-coming hockey players.

Conveniently enough, what team officials were looking for was right around the corner the whole time.

The Railers have agreed to lease five four-bedroom apartments at Edge at Union Station, according to team and property officials, to accommodate 20 players in anticipation of the start of the club’s inaugural minor league hockey season in October.

“We’re looking forward to it,” said Michael Myers, Railers president. “It’s a perfect setup for us since they’re right there next to the [Worcester Ice Center].”

Worcester Sports Complex

Courtesy Worcester Railers

An artist’s rendering of the planned Canal District dual hockey rink complex.

The Worcester Ice Center, which broke ground this past October, is a 100,000 square-foot facility — anchored by two full-size ice rinks and a full-service restaurant to be run by Niche Hospitality — and has been slated to open in August 2017. At the corner of Winter and Harding streets, it’s a short walk from the Edge.

The team, Myers told the Sun, leased the apartments at the Edge for one year to “test the waters and see how it is for [the Railers players].”

More Railers coverage in the Sun:

Nick Duffy, Grafton Hill free spirit, self-published author, ‘real-world’ skeptic

“My theory is that we are all here in Worcester to achieve things that the city needs. There’s a lot of culture here, a lot of artists and a lot of fascinating people. We’re going to start doing great things.”

As the phenomenon of binge-watching television series becomes more like a national pastime, particularly for millennials, a Worcester-bred author of that maligned and melancholy generation wants to encourage a healthy obsession with reading.

“I plan to change the perception of books,” said Nicholas Kurt Duffy, who self-published his first novel, “Linda and the Real World,” on Jan. 9. The book, says Duffy, has “something for everyone” and with only 156 pages could be read in less than three hours.

“One excuse people use is ‘books are boring,’ which is a conditioned response. The other is ‘I don’t have time,’ ” Duffy said. “We have time to stare aimlessly at social networks and binge watch shows on Netflix for 70 hours, but not to read books? Why?”

While the writing took Duffy about one year to complete, he said he spent more than five years in the “real world” collecting material.

“It’s about a girl who falls through her television and enters the ‘real world.’ She meets four friends, and the book is about their experiences in the ‘real world,’ he said.

As Duffy describes it on his website, The Author of Gen, “Linda” “is a work of fiction. I call it a fairy tale. …  [it] is written for people, regardless of their age, and for you yourself.”

Far from an open book himself, Duffy, 24, is reluctant to share too much about the novel and prefers to avoid comparisons. Similarly, in very un-millennial style, the Holy Name Central Catholic High School alum asked not to be photographed for this story. He’d rather “keep to himself,” he says, but did offer that his website moniker and the definition of “Gen” would “make sense in about five years.”

So, there’s that.

ABA basketball hopes to drop Anchors in Worcester

They’re broke, they have no home-court advantage, and their original owner abandoned them just days before the season started.

But that’s not stopping the New England Anchors — a fledgling professional basketball team in an historic and once preeminent league — from settling in, finding success and keeping their eyes on a playoff spot.

Now, if only they can find a permanent home, and a few fans, maybe even here in Worcester. First, though, the team must finish its inaugural season.

The Anchors, who have played home games at South High Community School and Worcester State University, found themselves with a 7-2 record and ranked 20th in the Jan. 29 power rankings of the approximately 84-team American Basketball Association[Editor’s note: the volatility of the league makes an exact count mostly a guessing game.]

Under the new ownership of Worcester State alum Tom Marino, and led by head coach Anthony Leonelli, the Anchors are outscoring their opponents by an average of 33 points in their seven victories.

“[Leonelli] put together a ridiculous team. We’re 7-2 and we haven’t won by less than 16. Basketball-wise, things are wonderful. We score a ton of points,” Marino said.

The Anchors are averaging more than 126 points per game.

“We’ve got a great group of guys with great basketball backgrounds. These guys have bought into our plan and as a result we’ve won a lot of games. It’s been fun to watch,” Leonelli said.

Q&A: Sam James, the Worcester guy from ‘The Voice’

His latest album hit big on iTunes earlier this month, and for reality show veteran Sam James, the momentum only grows from there. “I’ll tell you what it says a lot about. It says a lot about Worcester. I have such a strong fanbase here and in New England. … I had all my friends and others from this city sharing my tracks on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. You really can’t say enough about the support that I get from this city.” The city-bred singer-songwriter sits down with Patrick Sargent to tell the Sun what’s happening next.

Local Business Spotlight: Shrewsbury Street orders up The Usual

With a little help from Niche Hospitality, a husband-and-wife duo plan to put down roots in the heart of Restaurant Row with what they consider a fresh concept largely missing from Worcester’s already eclectic and wide-ranging food scene. What could be missing from the city’s seemingly endless bounty of culinary choices, and how will The Usual fill that void? Only one way to find out.

Q&A: Sam James, the Worcester guy from ‘The Voice’

Sam James walked away from a major record label for one reason: to bet on himself.

The gamble has begun to pay off.

James’ independent five-track EP “It Never Happens” quickly reached near the top of the iTunes Charts and in the weeks since has gained traction starting in Worcester, extending across New England and — thanks in large part to his reality show following — the country.

“It Never Happens” was released Oct. 6, and peaked at No. 5 on the U.S. iTunes Singer/Songwriter chart that day.

As if Oct. 6 couldn’t get any better, James’ song “Hand Me the Crown” was featured during the CBS Thursday Night Football game between the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals.

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The first single off the EP, “Love Hangover,” was released Sept. 30.

James, originally from Worcester, is a graduate of Saint John’s High School in Shrewsbury, and now lives in Sturbridge with his girlfriend, Noelle Merle, and their 6-month-old son, Crosby.

He gained national attention in 2012 when he performed on NBC’s singing competition “The Voice”. James recently finished touring with rock band Boyce Avenue on the East Coast and in Canada.

On Thursday, Oct. 20, James joined a group from Worcester’s Hangover Pub on The Way of Life Tour, a charity event featuring live music from James and Doug Woolverton from Roomful of Blues, a comedy performance by Paul Virzi, tattoo artist Opie Ortiz, and an exclusive meal from the Hangover Pub’s executive chef Michael Arrastia.

James took time away from his busy tour schedule to speak with Worcester Sun to explain why he felt he had to bet on himself, and the role the city of Worcester plays in his success. He shares his experience with the ups and downs of the recording industry, and tells us how soon we can expect the release of his full album and a concert in Worcester.

Local Business Spotlight: Shrewsbury Street orders up The Usual

The newest addition to Shrewsbury Street’s Restaurant Row plans to arrive this fall with a distinct spin on the sandwich.

oct-5-usual-4

The Usual expects to become the new not-so-usual eatery along the famous foodie thoroughfare with a tentative November opening at 166 Shrewsbury St., where Niche Hospitality Group has incubated Mezcal Tequila Cantina, now downtown, and The Fix Burger Bar, now on Grove Street.