Favoring the Fab Four factors into Geneva student's win - Catholic Courier

Favoring the Fab Four factors into Geneva student’s win

Reinaldo Gentile-Rondon is now known across the universe — or at least in the Geneva area — as both a devoted fan of the Beatles and a good writer. He recently blended his writing skills with his passion for the Beatles’ music, and the results brought recognition to Geneva’s St. Francis-St. Stephen School

In May Reinaldo — who at the time was an eighth-grader at St. Francis-St. Stephen — learned he was the regional winner in the Finger Lakes division of an essay contest sponsored by the New York Newspaper Publishers Association’s Newspapers in Education Program. Twelve other St. Francis-St. Stephen students also excelled in a related quiz contest offered through the Newspapers in Education Program, said Cathy Caster, fifth- through eighth-grade English language arts teacher at St. Francis-St. Stephen.

The centerpiece of the Newspapers in Education Program’s springtime project was “All in Good Time,” a nine-part serial that ran in 16 newspapers in New York state, including the Finger Lakes Times.

“It was a story about this kid, and he got tokens and used them on the subway and he went back in time to the Great Depression. It was a pretty good story,” Reinaldo recalled.

Through his time-travel experience, the main character, Eddie, learned to appreciate history and see it as people’s stories, rather than simply facts and dates in books he considered boring. Caster’s students eagerly looked forward to each new installment of the series and to the discussions stirred up by each week’s fresh installment, she said.

“We talked about that story every week faithfully,” Caster said. “It’s a serial. It’s fun to see what happens and discuss it.”

Caster and her students made weekly predictions about what would happen next and delighted in reading the next installment to see whether those predictions came true, and whether the questions they’d wondered about the previous week had been answered. Once they’d read the last installment and discussed the story as a whole, the students took a multiple-choice quiz about the story and wrote an essay inspired by “All in Good Time.” The quiz and essay contest have always been part of this project, Caster said, but this past school year marked the first time both were done completely over the Internet.

“We went down to the computer lab and we all did it,” Caster said.

Students’ short essays had to answer the question, “If you could travel back in time, when would it be and why?” Reinaldo wrote about his desire to travel back in time and experience the Beatles’ heyday in the 1960s.

“I would go back to the 1960s and become a roadie of the Beatles,” he wrote. “I would observe Paul McCartney and John Lennon writing their music and get a first-person view of the Beatles’ revolutionary music and their lives. I would warn John Lennon about his assassination and hopefully he would believe me. I would then go home with more knowledge of the Beatles.”

Reinaldo told the Catholic Courier his love for the Beatles’ music was ignited when he watched the 2007 movie, “Across the Universe,” which was based on the lyrics of dozens of the Beatles’ songs.

“I watched the movie … then I got into all the Beatles songs,” he said. “I like pretty much all their music. I like the sound and the lyrics.”

It was easy for Reinaldo, then, to decide to write about going back to the days when the Beatles ruled the airwaves.

“That was the first thing that came to my mind,” he said.

When they returned to St. Francis-St. Stephen School after Memorial Day, Caster and Reinaldo learned he’d been named the essay-contest winner for the Finger Lakes region. Not only did Reinaldo earning $100 in prize money for himself, but the St. Francis-St. Stephen School library also received $100 to help promote literacy, Caster said.

Caster’s students have entered the program’s essay and quiz contests each year they’ve been offered, and this is the fourth year the school has had the Finger Lakes regional winner in the essay contest, she noted. That’s not the only reason she’s extremely proud of her students, however.

While 400 students across the Empire State took the multiple-choice quiz after finishing “All in Good Time,” only 14 of those students answered every question correctly, Caster said. What’s more, 13 of those 14 students are from St. Francis-St. Stephen, she added.

Reinaldo is one of the 13 St. Francis-St. Stephen students who answered every question correctly. The other 12 students are fifth-grader Alexandra Augustine; sixth-graders Thomas Poitras and Victoria Sullivan; seventh-graders Nicholas Daino, Alex DiDuro and Eliana Sindoni; and eighth-graders Jessica Benedicks, Shane Collins, Hannah Dean, Valerie LeGuyader and Lucy Mantell.

Caster said she was extremely proud of her students’ performance.

“It’s very exciting,” she said. “They were not easy questions.”

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