Category Archives: Alumni

Christian Dougherty ’18 National Geographic Semifinalist

Abington Junior High School seventh-grader Christian Dougherty has been notified by the National Geographic Society that he is one of the semifinalists eligible to compete in the 2019 National Geographic GeoBee Pennsylvania State Competition. The contest will be held at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg on Friday, March 29.

This is the second level of the National Geographic GeoBee competition, which is now in its 31st year. School GeoBees were held in schools with fourth- through eighth-grade students throughout the state to determine each school champion. Abington Junior High School’s school-level competition was held in the library on Jan. 23, with Dougherty placing first above peers Ethan Eienberg (second place) and Sam Erwine (third place).

Dougherty and other school champions throughout Pennsylvania then took an online qualifying test, which they submitted to the National Geographic Society. The National Geographic Society has invited up to 100 of the top-scoring students in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense Dependents Schools and U.S. territories to compete in the State GeoBees.

This year, National Geographic increased the prize money for all State GeoBees. State champions will receive a medal, $1,000 in cash, and other prizes, as well as a trip to Washington, D.C., to represent their state in the National Championship to be held at National Geographic Society headquarters, May 19-22, 2019. Students that come in second and third place will receive cash awards of $300 and $100, respectively.

Each State Champion will advance to the National Championship and compete for cash awards and college scholarships. In 2019, the national champion will receive a $25,000 college scholarship, $1,000 in cash, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, and an all-expenses-paid Lindblad expedition to the Galápagos Islands aboard the National Geographic Endeavour ll; second place will receive at $10,000 college scholarship and $1,000 in cash; third place will receive a $5,000 college scholarship and $1,000 in cash; and seven runners-up will receive $1,000 in cash each. Visit for more information on the National Geographic GeoBee.

Jaimie Abt Shmelzer ’90 & Drew Shmelzer ’19 Civil Rights Journey

From February 14th to 17th,  Drew and I traveled with our synagogue, Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, on a Civil Rights journey to Atlanta and Birmingham.   We went with 17 6th and 7th graders, the director of our religious school, Rabbi Stacy Rigler, and some other parents.   It was a powerful and emotional trip for all who attended. We went with a company called Etgar 36, and most of us learned while we were there that Etgar means “challenge” in Hebrew.   The trip itself was challenging; we were forced to look at our country’s shameful past regarding slavery, and the racism that still exists as a result of it.   We were also left with a challenge to try to make changes and be the generation that ends racism and achieves equal justice for all.

After arriving in Atlanta in the late afternoon, we met up with our incredible guide, Josh.   He took us to dinner and then told us a story about the lynching of a Jewish man.   Most of the kids, and some of the adults didn’t know what lynching is. While it wasn’t the best bedtime story, it really set the stage for the days to come.   Our first full day was spent in Montgomery, Alabama.   We started in the Rosa Parks Museum.   While everyone had heard of Rosa Parks and the bus boycotts, there was a lot we didn’t know, and we all found the museum to be interesting and worthwhile.   Then after a delicious lunch of southern fried chicken, we went to the Equal Rights Initiative.   They recently opened The Legacy Museum, which looks at racial inequality from enslavement through mass incarceration; and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which is a memorial to victims of lynching.   These places were eye-opening. Some of the students came out of the museum really upset that they didn’t learn about this in school.   To hear that one in three African-American boys born today will serve time in jail really shook people. To see the thousands of names listed in the memorial on stones the size of coffins of those lynched for things like, “writing a note to a white woman,” was shocking to us.   There were dates and locations of the lynchings too, and they didn’t all take place in the South.  Some were in Pennsylvania. The latest date I saw was 1949.

That evening we attended a local Shabbat service, which was a really nice ending to the day.   Then we enjoyed a pizza dinner, and the kids got to let out their energy with a swim party.

The next morning, we left for Selma.   We stopped outside the Edmund Pettus Bridge where Rabbi Rigler led a brief, interactive service.   She was amazing at having everyone share short reflections throughout the trip.   The students were impressive each time, saying really thoughtful things.   In Selma we met Joanne Bland.   She was 11 years old when she marched from Selma to Montgomery and was beaten on the second attempt.  Ms.  Bland gave us a tour of Selma and shared her story, which included being arrested multiple times before she was 13 years old.   Ms. Bland was unbelievable.   She never gave up.   She has spent her whole life fighting for civil rights. She told us how much better things are now, but knows there is still a long way to go.   She told each of us that we are the most important person, and, “You are standing where history was made, I know you must be a history maker too.”   The impact she left on us will be  everlasting.


That afternoon we went to Birmingham, Alabama. Our first stop was the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. This was a very impressive museum where we learned more about the history  of the civil rights movement. After that we met up with Bishop Calvin Woods. He has been a civil rights worker since the 1950’s and was a friend of Martin Luther King, Jr. He took us on a walking tour of Freedom Park and showed us the 16th St. Baptist Church, which was bombed and four young girls were killed. Bishop Woods told us incredible stories and sang with us. There is a plaque in the park dedicated to him, which is very unusual for someone still living.   Hearing stories from Bishop Woods and Ms. Bland left huge impacts on us.   It makes history come alive when you hear from people who lived it.

We drove back to Atlanta that night, and people were really tired.   It was a long few days. Rabbi Rigler said we were going to have a Havdalah service.   I thought the kids were going to complain and have nothing left.   They surprised me.   Rabbi Rigler asked each person to share one thing from the day that made the most impression on them. Each person said something that either the Bishop or Joanne said that was powerful and meaningful to them. It was beautiful.

Sunday morning, we went to the Names Project/ AIDS Quilt and learned how AIDS is a modern civil rights issue.   We then went to a church service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, which is where Dr. King was raised.   Finally we saw his burial site.


This trip was so impactful.   Everywhere we went, people were telling the kids that they are the generation that is going to change things  and end racism and bigotry.   They felt empowered.   We now know that it is our job to tell these stories to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.   Some of the kids are going to do more than that; they are going to become activists for equality and prison reform.   Some of the students left saying they want to go again, others left saying it was too short.   The adults left feeling exhausted!   Travelling with students this age can be challenging – these kids made it easy.   They exceeded our expectations in every way.

I LOVE Meadowbrook

Dear Old Meadowbrook still rings true in my heart – and as cheesy as that sounds, it’s true. And I bet it is true for a lot of other students who have gone through Meadowbrook. As a new mom to a sweet baby girl, Charlotte, I have begun to think about her education and how much importance I place on it. In these times I think of Meadowbrook and all it did for me because it is where I grew up. I would love for Charlotte to go to such an inspiring place to receive her education.

I owe Meadowbrook quite a bit. It is there that I learned to be independent, whether it was being a “waiter” for the younger kids when I was in fourth grade, or running a book fair or Apple Festival or the Post Office. It is where I learned to be confident in myself because I constantly had the opportunity to present and speak to audiences; queue the “Gods atop Mt. Olympus,” or running assembly in front of the whole school, or standing up tall and singing a solo in music class when I was a terrible singer. It is where I learned the importance of tradition and history as I treasured Field Day, and ice skating, and Red-Gray soccer year after year. My family and I still talk about these traditions to this day.

I went on from Meadowbrook, begrudgingly, to Penn Charter for high school and the University of Pennsylvania for college. After 17 years of schooling, I decided I wanted more so I attended law school at Temple University and even added another year on for my masters in tax. Throughout this insanely long educational run, my base was always the things I learned at Meadowbrook – the independence and the self-sufficiency, the “Meadowbrook Confidence,” (yes, that is a proper noun) and the undeniable rigorousness of the curriculum always seemed to keep me prepared for what was next.

I recently went back to Meadowbrook for a visit and it is nice to see that most things haven’t changed. There were still long lists of homophones in the first grade class, students playing in extended day, mailboxes set up for the post office, plaques with the names of color captains from years past, singers in the music room, and most poignantly and obviously, very happy students walking around with their teachers. All of these things helped shape me into the person I am today and I am proud to see that magic of Meadowbrook is still going strong.

From Competing Color Captains…

to collaborators in the arts!

It was a pleasure to hear from Elizabeth Yohlin Baill ’98 recently. As the Manager of Family Programs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Liz is in charge of  a wide range of interactive programs designed for families with children ages 3–12.  On Sunday, March 4, 2018, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is offering Bits & Pieces which is an interactive program that encourages children and families to deconstruct and remix their own art work based on cubist shards, shattered glass, mixed-up mosaics. Movemakers Philly will perform break dancing at this wonderful event.

This is where the Meadowbrook family gets involved. Movemakers Philly is  the premier hip hop dance education program for elementary, middle, and high school students in downtown Philadelphia and was founded by Meadowbrook alumnus, Vince Johnson ’98.

Imagine Liz’s surprise and delight when she and Vince reconnected! They were competitors at Meadowbrook as Color Captains (Liz for Red and Vince for Gray) and now they are professional collaborators in the arts.

All Meadowbrook families are welcome to attend this free event. Please support our alumni in their efforts and consider attending. And be sure to say hello to our fellow alumni.

The Impact of Meadowbroook

kathrynEven though it has been almost 10 years since I attended Meadowbrook, the impact this school had on me has not faded in the least. Over the past few years, I have come to realize just how important Meadowbrook has been to me. Two years ago, I applied to a job at a non-profit in Philadelphia that awards scholarships to elementary-aged kids for them to attend independent or parochial schools. In this process, I was asked about why I am interested in working in education. “Meadowbrook” was my immediate response.

The unique environment of Meadowbrook is where I learned the meaning of community, leadership, honesty, responsibility, self-confidence, and respect. The 2nd grade post-office taught me to take ownership and that communities relied on the combination of individual duties, the annual art show made me feel proud of myself (even if my project did not in any way resemble the Modigliani piece it was supposed to), and teachers kindly but firmly correcting me behaviorally and academically kept me honest. Special shout out to Mr. Gaines for moving my desk to the very back corner of the room by itself while I was at recess, after a particularly chatty morning. Reading buddies and waiters created a sense of family and gave me role models among my peers, and eventually taught me how to be a leader and role model, too. Mr. S’s annual reading of the book about Ruby Bridges bravely integrating a New Orleans school, as well as his story of the runner who helped his opponent across the finish line instilled in me the values of respect for others, especially those who are different from myself. I really could go on and on about the ways the time-honored traditions of Meadowbrook shaped my values and who I am today. These traditions and daily occurrences are meaningful retrospectively, but to my elementary-aged self, they were just a part of the normal life of a Meadowbrook student. Little by little, small wisdoms were imparted on me, but at the time I was only aware of how much I enjoyed being at school.

My best friend at Meadowbrook, Sara Trost ’08, is my best friend tosaltzman family this day. The way in which Meadowbrook nurtured our friendship is amazing, but I think it speaks even more to the culture of Meadowbrook that both Sara and I are passionate about pursuing careers related to education. Meadowbrook is a special place that fosters each student’s individuality while teaching them how to be good community members, and more than that, good people. I ended up getting that job at the non-profit in Philadelphia. Through my experience there, it became even more clear to me how important elementary-education is, and how lucky I am to have spent my childhood at Meadowbrook. It is rare to find a school that cares as much about its students and families as much as Meadowbrook does, and even more rare to find a school that genuinely cares about its alumni in the same way. I’m thankful that I’ll always be welcomed home at Meadowbrook.

Full Circle by Jillian Katona, Meadowbrook School Art Teacher

 From the time my son Roman, class of 2014,  started at Meadowbrook he would always get out of my car and run to the front door. When Mr. Weldon started working at Meadowbrook he would stand outside to greet the kids. Whenever Roman would come running by he would say “Way to go, Speedy!” Recently Roman told me that even on days he didn’t feel like running to the front doors, he would still sprint just to hear Mr. Weldon call him speedy!
Yesterday Roman had his final track meet which was the district championship including Central Bucks, Council Rock, and Centennial. He ended the season undefeated in the 4×1, the 200 and the 100. He also set a new district record for the 100.
Roman thinks of Mr. Weldon as his first track coach and Mr. Casey as his second. He was in colors from K-4 through 6th grade. Had it not been for colors he might not have known how fast he was or he may not have had the interest in track.
THANK YOU to Mr. Weldon and Mr. Casey for their encouragement!
THANK YOU to Mr. Gaines who raced Roman in 6th grade and lost. That was one of Romans’ most memorable moments at Dear Old Meadowbrook!

Nurturing Success

Hilary WallerAs a mom of two little girls, Molly (5) and Emily (8 weeks), I dream constantly about the adults they will become. What will they look like? What will they do professionally? Will they be happy? Self confident? Motivated? Brave? And then the scary question… HOW DO I HELP THEM? How can I make sure they become self assured and outspoken adults who care and contribute? As a psychotherapist, who works with parents of young children, I speak daily with eager moms and dads who ask these same questions. When my own parents asked these questions themselves, they found the answer at Meadowbrook. We recognize the gift and impact of Meadowbrook’s small size, which uniquely allows each teacher to nurture each student according to his or her individual learning style and character. But successful education and child development lies not in the mission statement itself, but in how the mission is brought to life by the teacher.

In the Fall of 1988 I was new to Meadowbrook, a student in Mrs. Leiby and Mrs. Prego’s K-5 class. One day in the beginning of the school year, my best friend Vicki Freedman and I decided that the school needed a fashion show. We shared our idea with our teachers, who not only encouraged us to move forward with it, but who helped us schedule a meeting with Mr. Sarkisian, the headmaster, to discuss an all-school event. “Spring Fashions” would be a year long project for the kindergarten, culminating in a fashion show before the entire school with parents invited. Almost 30 (WOW 30?) years later I still remember “pitching” our idea to Mr. S. I remember making posters with my classmates and directing the creation of a flyer/ invitation. I remember meeting with Madame, Sandi Packel, so that Vicki and I could describe each other’s fashions in French. To my parents, the show was adorable and the process hilarious. What struck them then and me now, however, is the brilliance of the Meadowbrook culture. Two five-year-olds were encouraged to be leaders not just of their class, but in their community, and the school absolutely embraced us. Empowering children to set big goals and assume great responsibility, gently guiding them along the journey- this is how we raise our kids to become competent, caring, motivated, industrial adults. Meadowbrook’s culture is second to none in this effort.

Hilary Yolin Waller ’94

Meadowbrook Memories

Carolyn Trost, Ken Garson & Jillian Katona
Carolyn Trost, Ken Garson & Jillian Katona

After attending the all school reunion on Friday, October 2nd, Ken Garson, 8th Grade Master and 5-8 English & Language Arts teacher at Meadowbrook from 1969 to 1973 shared with us the following:

“I was reluctant to step in front of the camera the other night, but being back at Meadowbrook brought back some memories that I had long forgotten. (I also am loath to sound like one of those old geezers who spout a tiresome “Back in my day …”)

While talking to some of my old students, I thought of some Hal Parachini anecdotes.

An important back story is that Hal had a large slob of a dog, a Great Dane named Sam.

In the winter of 71-72 there was a snow storm. Back then there was a phone tree for the faculty and staff, as well as the KYW number system. (I think the school’s was 363?) That morning I awoke, looked out at the white, icy landscape,  and turned on the radio to hear that many schools closing. I expected to get a phone call from someone and then to pass it along that Hal had cancelled school. KYW failed to list the school closing number for Meadowbrook. I received no calls, and so girded myself for winter.

I got into my school bus (#4), picked up the kids on my route, with some difficulty, since though it wasn’t exactly a blizzard, it was treacherous. Everyone arrived late—except those who decided to either turn back or just not even attempt it. The school day was ragtag, a shambles, of course, with few teachers, few students and more than a few disgruntled—some might say angry—parents. Hal Parachini was shamefaced and apologetic for his ‘missed call’. (Hal was a basketball player at Dartmouth and a local referee of some esteem; he was often called to work games at the Palestra.)

At the next chapel meeting of the entire school he admitted the mistake to the entire school body. One lower classman raised his hand and asked Hal how he made the decision to close school. Hal said that he let his dog Sam out into the snow. If Sam balked, he called school off. This particular day, Sam had taken off into the white, so school was on.

Another student raised his hand and asked: “Mr. Parachini, can you get a smaller dog?”

Hal Parachini story number two.

The school always book fairs that benefitted the library and, on occasion, opportunities to acquire things that spur some interests in kids. Exhibitors brought stamps, coins, science-related stuff, baseball cards et al. One of the exhibitors reported that some coins were stolen. Since this was for Meadowbrook students only, it was an embarrassment for Hal and the school. He held a special chapel meeting early the next day, a Thursday, usually the day when the teams played soccer or football or other practices.

Hal said that all games and practices that day were cancelled until the perpetrator confessed or was turned in by fellow students. We would stay in the classrooms until the guilty person was unearthed. Throughout the day everyone was grousing about missing their game or activity, groaning over the unfairness of punishing everyone for one person’s moral turpitude, and wishing to pummel the thief.

At 2:30 Hal announced that the game day would progress in its customary manner: all games to be played, activities to resume, etc. I met Hal in the locker room on the way to field.

“So did you find out who took the coins?” I asked.

“No. No one came forward,” Parachini replied.

“So why did you relent on your threat?” I thought it would be natural to follow through so as to appear resolute.

Hal shrugged his shoulders. “Something like this happened at Chestnut Hill Academy. Sometimes that tactic works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

I learned Hal did eventually find out who took the coins and everyone got to play their games.

Two lessons I learned from Hal Parachini: always admit when you’re wrong and sometimes it’s best to punt.

I wrote to Hal’s son recently to say that I was grateful his father gave me an opportunity to teach there, as unexperienced as I was. I did not come either from private school stock or from an Ivy League school.  I can say that I learned as much about myself from the students as they from me during those four years I was there.”

2015 Alumni Reunion

Welcome HomeOh What a Night! Meadowbrook alumni from 1948 through 2005 gathered in Shuttleworth Gymnasium last Friday night to reminisce with old friends. Torrential downpours could not stop the crew from gathering at dear old Meadowbrook.  Many alumni shared stories of their time at Meadowbrook that sound very similar to our current days and we are proud that we maintain many of the traditions that make our school so unique.

For more pictures, please visit the alumni gallery.

“One of my favorite Meadowbrook past times was going ice skating every Friday in the winter time! I also looked forward to Field Day every single year. It was a great time with friends and family. My last greatest memory was the 3rd grade sleepover”
Domonique Wilson ’01