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Alumni Take Part in Intersession

Alumni Take Part in Intersession

This January, Avon Old Farms faculty brought new and exciting courses for the fifth-annual Intersession, a week-long pause from the academic calendar during which faculty and students study a topic outside of the regular curriculum. Along for the journey were a few Avon alumni and other professionals to bring perspective to the experience.

Law Enforcement

In this intersession course, students not only discussed elements of constitutional law, laws of arrest, and search & seizure, but also learned practical skills such as building searches, crime scene processing, felony car stops, arrest/control, and lethal force scenarios. On call were alumni Jake Whitty ’16, officer with the Avon Police Department, and retired sergeant Geoff Anderson ’75 to lend a hand. As a full-time instructor with the Connecticut Police Officers and Standards Training Council, Anderson opened the police training academy to Avonians and gave them an insight into what training for the police takes. Officer Whitty not only was a guest-lecturer on use of force, but shared some real-world scenarios he’s encountered on the job. He also participated in training students how to clear a room and utilize SWAT tactics.

No Joke: Getting Serious about Comedy 

What is the world’s funniest joke? Is humor universal? Or is it specific to certain people, situations, or circumstances? In this course, Avonians explored these questions and more while watching, evaluating, and discussing different comedic genres and joke constructions including: physical slapstick of The Three Stooges, the surrealist satire of Monty Python, SNL and MADTV’s sketch work, and the character stand-up work of Kevin Hart. 

Alumnus Mike Lech ’88 made a cameo in the class to help students learn more about the context of their jokes and how to write jokes for an audience. 

“Being back in an Avon classroom with a bunch of young guys was an absolutely awesome experience, and they were really funny!” shared Lech. “We broke down a few jokes and talked about who the audience would be: what education would they have, what types of things would they be into, what car would they probably drive? Given that idea of context, I then challenged them to write some material around a proposed situation: a family trip in a station wagon where everything goes wrong. And when they performed, it was amazing.”

Some of the jokes produced could even end up in a professional act that Lech collaborates with. Not too bad for a bunch of amateurs!

Understanding Personal Finance and Investments

Economics teacher Mike Murphy and English teacher Joe Martinez, both with corporate finance experience, understand that the world of finance and investing can be extremely intimidating. But, they believe that the stock market and the greater financial world will not seem so complicated once you learn some of the lingo and major concepts.

In the course, students explored how to set priorities, the basics of banking, the basics of investing, understanding the stock market, how to control debt, how to hire financial help, how to buy a car, understanding taxes, and many more before they went on one of the highly-prized field trips intersession offers: a bus trip to New York City to spend a day with Board member Stratt Dennis ’00 at Goldman Sachs. Dennis has hosted an Intersession class each year, offering students an opportunity to see what it was like to work in the field of global investment banking, securities, and investment management.

“Of all the institutions I am affiliated with, Avon is the closest to my heart—I want to do everything I can to help the school and the young men at Avon,” said Strat Dennis, who has worked at Goldman Sachs since 2004 and has served on Avon’s Board of Directors since 2010. “Having them experience this industry first-hand is an opportunity for me to introduce future generations to a business that can be incredibly rewarding, challenging, and intellectually stimulating. And, we always let the students know that we are resources for their future.”

Skate Deck Design

Combining illustration with contemporary design techniques, this class created and applied art to functional skateboards, using a variety of mediums including spray paint, stencil work, oil markers, and acrylic paint. To kick the design process off, Mike Lech’s cousin Michael Montanaro came in to set the stage on day one.

Montanaro is into any sport with a board: surfing, snowboarding, skimboarding, and skateboarding, to mention a few. Fresh out of high school, he was sponsored by Burton and was made an official member of the team. Over the years, he developed his own design style and transitioned to becoming a gallery owner and fine art dealer specializing in modern and contemporary art.

On his visit to Avon Old Farms, he showcased some photos from his snowboarding career, some skateboards in his personal collection, and art on display in his gallery spaces. He inquired each student what he wanted to do on his board for intersession, and offered tips, tricks, and words of advice before the boys got going. He also gifted to each student a limited edition print of his own work. He plans to return on the last day to see the finished pieces of art, and plans to work with Art Director Cristina Pinton to set up a show of the boards this spring.

Working Dogs

While Chris Parry from Quinebaug Kennels (QK) and his dog Bennet, a German Shorthaired Pointer, are not alumni of the school, their display of partnership on Ryan field as they tracked down and captured a chukar partridge was too cool not to share.

Chris works to promote and pass along the fine tradition of upland hunting to the next generation, and excitedly shared his profession with 17 Avonians enrolled in the Working Dogs Intersession course. He spoke about the process of training a hunting dog, his approach to training, and the importance of maintaining a partnership with a dog on a daily basis.

“I believe that when you train a dog to do a job, the dog does not forget his training,” Chris said. “If you do not practice that job and enforce the training, the dog might get lax. But, if an owner brings me a dog I trained months ago and says that it forgot, I know the dog didn’t, because I can have him back to completing the task in a few minutes. It’s all about expectations and constant reinforcement.”

In addition to the hunting demonstration, students in this course also were exposed to dog training with Dogology, canines from the Explosive Detection Unit at Bradley Airport, Hartford Police K-9 units, therapy dogs, Fidelco guide dogs, and visited Yale’s Canine Cognition Center.

Blacksmithing 101

At Dragon’s Breath Forge in Wolcott, 11 Avonians had the opportunity to spend a week training with talented blacksmiths Matthew Parkinson and Jamie Lundell, both champions of the History Channel’s Forged in Fire. The students worked at the shop for the majority of the time before finishing their pieces with a wooden handle they fashioned inside Avon’s own campus woodshop.

While these are just a few of the 32 Intersession courses that were offered in 2020, photos from a wider selection are available in our Intersession 2020 photo gallery.