In an atmosphere of excited anticipation, teens and preteens, their parents and invited guests mingled in the hallway outside Trumbull High School's Senior Lounge on Monday evening, May 20, and filed into the reception hall before the ninth annual ACE (Academic Challenge for Excellence) celebration, the first such celebration held especially for elementary and middle school students.

Billed as a Make-Your-Own-Ice-Cream-Sundae Social, the event, sponsored by the Trumbull ACE Foundation, honored those Trumbull students in elementary and middle school who had participated on academic teams and in civic engagement and service clubs during the past school year.

Madison Middle School sixth grader Ian Connolly played introductory piano music on the baby grand for 30 minutes as guests arrived and found seats. His wide variety of popular and classical selections included “Yesterday,” “Rhapsody in Blue” and Chopin's “Etude #14.” Blue and white balloons floated from blue foil bases on the tables, and pots of bright pink impatiens, provided by the Trumbull Vocational Agricultural School, punctuated the arrangements with exclamations of color.

ACE Foundation secretary/treasurer Dan Neumann opened the program with brief congratulatory remarks. He said, “We are proud of our ability to include elementary school students and parents to the annual celebration for the first time, another sign of the ACE Foundation's growth.”

As Assistant School Superintendant and ACE Foundation President, Gary Cialfi thanked ACE for supporting learning by helping programs that stimulate students to think critically and creatively and by sponsoring nearly 60 groups at the elementary, middle and high school levels. He thanked the ACE Board of Directors-- Kate Hampford Donahue, Beth Llodra Gilman, Rita McDougald-Campbell, Neumann, Gene Stec, Monica Welch and Barbara Whetstone--for hundreds of hours of volunteer efforts, and he introduced Board of Education members Lisa LaBella and Loretta Chory, both in attendance at the event.

Then the students took charge. Crissy Catana, an eighth grader from Hillcrest, thanked the principals for their support and explained that the ACE Celebration could be viewed on Channel 17 and UVerse. Rudy Kurup, a seventh grader from Hillcrest, spoke about the focus and accomplishments of ACE-sponsored groups. Madison eighth graders Jack Stachura and Erin Welch introduced teams and welcomed the students and advisors to come forward for recognition.

These included SADD Club from Madison, advised by Lena Payne and Amy LaMaine. (Student members: Amy Balduci, Alysse Buzzeo, Matthew Corcoran, Valerie Eigenrauch, Kaylee Fasoli, Sarah Garcia, Sarah Giaquinto, Alison Hagani, Kristin Johnson, Megan Kubicko, Maggie Maloney, Miriam Marino, Katelyn Megale, Kristen Pagliaro, Chelsey Reynolds, Kaitlyn Schels, Elisabeth Stankevitz, Meghan Sullivan, Anna Vitols, Sabrina Yeung.)

Advised by Melissa Pytlak and Nancy Yarmosh, the Diversity Club from Madison promotes and celebrates uniqueness. (Student members: Gretchen D'Amato, Griffin D'Amato, Jorge Eckardt, Srishti Pithadia, Katie Ventresca, Henry Young). The KARE Club from Madison, advised by Jeanne Malgioglio and Liz Doherty, contributed monetarily to Rockaway victims of Hurricane Sandy, stars for Sandy Hook, and quilts for children injured in the Boston Massacre. (Student members: Yana Angell, Melissa Appiah-Pippin, Biancia Barreto, Lauren Bennett, Bridget Bill, Taylor Brown, Emily Clausi, Kristy Craddock, Claire Cunningham, Gretchen D'Amato, Bridget Fama, Ali Hagani, Margalit Hausman, Elizabeth Kramer, Erica Kushner, Laura LaMastra, Shannon Leslie, Nicolle Majette, Margaret O'Neill, Colleen Mocker, Carly Netting, Madeline Nigro, Jessica Parillo, Gabrielle Perez, Alyssa Principe, Rebbecca Socha, Rachel Starr, Brendan Walker, Christina Yacoub.)

ACE honored members of the Continental Math League from Frenchtown, advised by Judy Atwood. (Student members : Brian Essing, Sean Francoeur, Saihari Kota, Marius Siscar.) Jane Ryan fifth grade teachers Jami Brown, Janelle Cunningham and Marianne Ferrari took students to Hartford for the state convention of the Connecticut Invention Convention. (Student members: Anthony Falco, Robert Goldstein, Olivia Grecco, Lucy Carlos, Micaela Korchinski, Joseph Strolin.)

Noetic National Math Contest involved a test for innate math and critical thinking ability that was taken by more than 20,000 students at 368 schools. The National Honor Roll title was awarded to those scoring in the top ten percent nationally. The following math teachers recognized the accomplished students: Kim Lombardi from Booth Hill (Student members: Calyn Carbone, Matthew Catuucio, Grace Xiong); Geri Proscino from Daniels Farm (Cyrus Asgari, John Bevilacqua, Alex Coley, Anna Farruggio, Neya Kidambi , Pranav Kodakara); Michele Sansone from Frenchtown (Ananya Koduru, Saihari Kota, Christine Li, Kiersten Nyquist, Siri Setty, Naveena Sivakumar); Laura Coughlin from Jane Ryan (Raymond Leonzi, Isabelle Musto, Brendan Phelan, Colin Walsh); Jennifer Neumeyer from Tashua (Tiernan Curley, Anthony D'Agosto, Tyler Forstrom, Val Hansen, Mansi Kabre, Param Pithadia, Collin Rydecki, Eleanor Wu).

Students from three elementary school Odyssey of the Mind teams were recognized for their ability to work together, collaborate and solve problems: the Tashua team, led by Odyssey Coordinator Debbie Zabin and parent coach Jamie Sullivan (Student members: Gabriella Biondi, Julia Hull, Isra Marcu, Catherine McLaughlin, Sean Sullivan, Derek Zielinski); the Middlebrook/Tashua team, led by Sara Jane Klingaman and Jason Marsh (Anna Klingman, Lily Klingman, Emma Marsh, Madeline Marsh, Grady Paulson, Matthew Reilly, Carly Russell); and the Booth Hill/Daniels Farm/Tashua team, led by Diana Louw (Cyrus Asgari, Matthew Agate, John Dima, Patrick McMenamey, Jonathan Louw, Erik Weisensee, Tej Yalamanchili). This talented, state championship group from three elementary schools traveled to Michigan for the World Finals on May 22.

No results have been reported as yet for the Frenchtown National Geography Challenge, led by Margaret Hull; the National Language Arts League, led by Carol St. John; and the National Science League, led by Brenda Windsor.

Middle School academic groups earned kudos from ACE, as well. Advisors Liz Giamportone and Gina Zuk named the Math Counts competitors from Madison Middle School. (Student members: Robert Foley, Lalith Gannavaram, Salena Hingorani, Sejal Kabre, Tejas Kulkarni, Ishan Negi, Thomas Nguyen, Saloni Shah, Shreyas Srinivasan, Ram Vegiraju, Kiki Yalamonochili, Alex Zhang.) At Madison, Zuk also coordinated the Noetic National Math Contest. Soumya Ganti, Dylan Plinkas and Carmen Phan were the top scoring students. Zuk also led the New England Math League. (Student members: Alexander Chopskie, Sarah Dawson, Luke Ferretti, Gregory Manz, Joseph Piccolo, Neha Rahalker, Michelle Seagull, Arnav Srivastava, Andrew Tividar, Nicholaos Xenakis). Answering 35 math questions in 30 minutes as a team, they finished second in Fairfield County.

Math Counts at Hillcrest drew many to the critical thinking competition, according to advisors Malathi Muralidharan and Petrina Gunsolley. (Student members: David Bian, Owen Borders, Isha Dalal, Anubhav Dhar, Viraj Dongaonkar, Julia Esposito, Jacob Fried, Meghan Goud, Eliza Khokhar, Manya Kidambi, Alyssa Kryzansky, Zhang Laurence, Eunji Lee, Nick Marchenko, Kevin Moccia, Anjeli Sambasivam, Ashwin Sambasivam, Harshpreet Singh, Anush SureshBabu, Adith Velavan, Dalton Yu.) “They came every week after school to solve problems,” said Muralidharan. As a team, the students finished third in competition. Fried qualified for States as an individual, and Khokhar, third in Connecticut, represented the state in Nationals.

Led by English teacher Roberta Weiner, Knowledge Masters at Madison focused on questions about math, geography, world history and science. (Student members: Dan Belilinson, Peter Brunone, William Defusco, Lalith Gannavaram, Sheryl John, Stefano Mancini, Ishan Negi, Shreyas Srinivasan, Elisabeth Stankevitz, Ram Vegiraju, Michael Vojvodich, Daejah Woolery, Nikos Xenakis, Kiki Yalamonchili.) They finished second in Connecticut and ranked 45th in the U.S., the top nine percent nationally.

Advised by Gene Stec and Robert Reda, the Model United Nations competitors from Madison participated in the invitational debate at Trumbull High School in mid-May. (Student members: Jen Hance, Sejal Kabre, Logan Meyer, Olivia Okoroafor, Jared Platt, Arthur Reggiano, Elise Rimkunas, Jack Sommer, Jack Stachura, Steve To, Erin Welch, Carl Worth, Kiki Yalamanchili, Ajshe Zulfi .)

Confident critical thinkers with the Constitution as the base and coached by Roberta Weiner and Jeff Vance, the Madison We the People competitors will showcase their expertise in competition on June 11. (Student members: Brian Amone, Katherine Boback, Jake Cappello, Chris Cerulli, Griffin D'Amato, Katherine D'Amato, Kathryn Fitzsimmons, Michael Fleischner, Craig Haber, Jen Hance, John Lynch, Kayley McPartland, Logan Meyer, Tatiana Niebuhr, Sean O'Hagen, Natalia Paskevicz, Liam Pierce, Emma Roca, Rachel Roca, Katelynn Romanchick, Rebbecca Socha, John Stachura, Steve VanZyl, Erin Welch, Ajshe Zulifi.)

Students from Hillcrest in We the People competed in small groups on April 4 to answer six questions concerning Constitutional law. Led by Laura Alford and Carolyn Collins, each one of the six units brought home a first-place finish on the state level. (Student members: David Bian, Kara Bowen, Cristina Catana, Isha Dalal, Anubhav Dhar, Amanda DeLucia, Victoria Estacio, Emily Fox, Jacob Fried, Alex Greco, Matthew Kerr, Eliza Khokhar, Colby Laracuente, Nicholas Marchenko, Dominic Martire, Liam McNeece, Bridget Nusom, William O' Brian,Gabriella Schaab, Millena Sivakumar, Anush Sureshbabu, Owen Werner, Sammantha Werner.) They will also participate in the Trumbull competition in June.

The middle school Odyssey of the Mind team, led by Odyssey Coordinator Debbie Zabin and Parent Coach Diana Louw, traveled to Michigan on May 22 for the World Finals. The talented team members claimed first place in Connecticut this year. “It's really fun,” said Crissy Catana. “It helps you think faster and find new ways to tackle problems and solve them.” (Student members from Hillcrest: Alexia Asgari, Cristina Catana, Alexandra Dima, Cory Lionett. From Madison: Julia Louw, Lauren Louw, Keerthi Yalamanchili.)

With recognitions complete, Cialfi reached into the bucket to pull the winning raffle ticket. Alexia Asgari, Hillcrest Middle School Odyssey of the Mind team, won the Kindle Fire and claimed her prize.

After an ACE salute to teams and advisors, to fifth graders who are moving on to middle school and to eighth graders who are advancing to high school, Board of Education Chairman Steve Wright concluded the program.

“You are between them and the ice cream,” parents joked good naturedly as he took the podium.

Wright said, “I watched my youngest graduate from college this past week. And it was a treat. My children were all products of the Trumbull Public Schools, and we are very proud of the education they received.”