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About Town: Bon Jour, Buenos Dias, Hello! Summit, Meet Estelle Fournier

See what Summit Kids are working on at St. Rose of Lima School.

Estelle Fournier Brings "Joie de Vivre" to Summit, Giving of Her Time and Talents, Making Summit A Better Place to Live

Estelle Fournier came to the United States from France (via Spain) and brought her “can do” attitude with her. As a young woman, she didn’t think her parents would allow her to head off to America, so she enrolled in a Catholic school, the University of Navarra, in Pamplona, Spain, majoring in journalism, knowing they would support that endeavor. Purely by coincidence, she met her future (American) husband Alberto, in Spain while he was in medical school, and her desire to come to the United States became a reality. Incidentally, she enrolled in the Spanish University without knowing Spanish – which says a lot about her determination, intelligence, and perseverance. Estelle took an intense immersion course the summer before she started and she was good to go – a feat not many can accomplish in a lifetime, let alone a few weeks over the summer. 

While Alberto was finishing school in Spain, Estelle worked for a year in Paris for an economic newspaper. She then applied for graduate school and came to Washington DC to the American University for her Masters Degree in Journalism. There, affiliation with the School of Communications gave her great access to government buildings and the political scene in Washington D.C., terrific exposure for an eager journalism student.

After their wedding in 1993, Estelle and Alberto found their way to New Jersey, where Estelle worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s French network, as a TV news producer and radio columnist for the New York bureau. Working full time with two young daughters became too hard to juggle, so after the birth of their third daughter, Estelle decided to stay home for a few years. She thoroughly expected to head back to work after a short break, but decided to do some volunteer work where her passion lies – the arts. She began as President of the French Club of Central NJ, and then became a board member of the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey. She is in her eighth year on the board of the Visual Arts Center now, currently serving as Vice Chair. She is on the Nominating Committee, and heads the Communications Committee. She was instrumental in the campaign to rebrand the Art Center, making it more popular than ever, with a new logo and a new website. Additionally, Estelle is one of the two co-chairs of “For Art’s Sake” weekend. This event is one of the biggest fund raising events at the Arts Center, offering the public the chance to “See Art, Buy Art, and Make Art.”

In her free time, Estelle also manages to volunteer for various projects at her childrens’ schools, most notably co-chairing for two years Brayton’s Variety Show, “Friday Night Live,” which involved more than 200 children with 36 talent acts. She has also co-chaired Brayton’s Book Fair three times.

“It’s important for my children to see me giving back, working hard and engaging in the community," she said. She gets a lot back from her efforts and feels as a woman, she is setting a good example by being a good role model for her daughters. 

"Alberto and I found Summit to be a great community," she said. "I have really enjoyed my work with the Visual Arts Center. The people I have met there, the great friendships I have forged, and the art that I have been exposed to have all made it a very rewarding place to be. Being a Board Member has been very fulfilling."

Estelle enjoys spending time with her husband and four daughters, ages 14, 12, 9 and 5, and is an avid athlete. She is a three-time triathlete in the Mighty Hamptons Olympic Distance Triathlon, placing seventh in the 40-45 year old category last year. She also spends most winter weekends skiing at Windham Mountain, where her family has a second home. Estelle grew up swimming and wind surfing in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy, where she passed her summers as a child, and still spends time there every summer with her family. They also try to visit Northern Cataluña, Spain, where the kids enjoy the culture and learn a bit of Spanish. The children, like their parents, have a knack for languages, speaking English of course, French nearly fluently, and Spanish as a distant third. 

We, the people of Summit, have the benefit of Estelle’s work and motivation, along with the many others who share her philosophy of volunteerism. You’ll likely find her at the Visual Arts Center, the YMCA, or visiting her home away from home, the Summit Cheese Shop – she is French after all, and of course she can cook! 

5-8 Grade Students Write, Edit and Publish a Monthly Newspaper at St. Rose of Lima School in Short Hills

A new generation of potential journalists, writers and bloggers are honing their craft each month as they produce an eight-page color student newspaper called “The Blurb” at St. Rose of Lima Academy in Short Hills.

About 17 students attend the paper’s monthly meetings after the school day in the academy’s library to plot out the next issue or work on their story assignments.

Recent issues have featured stories on the annual Christmas concert and winter dance, a visit to campus from a toad, family New Year traditions, profiles on students volunteering in the community and the academy’s boy's and girl's basketball teams, nicknamed “The Ravens.”

Readers have also been entertained by some unusual details about their teachers and administrators – from the fact that teacher Karen Dilly likes riding her horse Monty in her free time to the photo of Principal Diane Pollak dressed as the witch from Snow White during the Maplewood Halloween Parade.

The paper is produced by fifth through eighth graders, and while two parent volunteers with journalism experience have guided the students through the first few issues of the school year, the students took the reins for the issue currently under production, due out in March. Eighth grader Emily Dufner, from Short Hills, has been filling the role of editor for the upcoming issue.

 “Our idea was to make The Blurb an extracurricular activity with real educational punch to complement the curriculum,” said parent Nicole Warganz of Maplewood, one of the parent volunteers who oversees the paper with volunteer Laura Rowley, a St. Rose parishioner from Maplewood. “Being a timely news source is one goal, but secondary to giving the students practice with interviewing, research, analysis, time management and writing.

“We want them to set high standards for themselves and become accustomed to revising their work, so Laura and I edit everything,” said Warganz, a former editor and copy editor at Mademoiselle. Her work there involved tracking and approving every bit of copy through all stages including page proofs  - “excellent training for running a school newspaper,” she said.

The March issue is completely in the hands of the students, aged 11 to 15. “The students have complete control and responsibility for all aspects of the issue,” Warganz said. “We wanted to give them the opportunity to show what they’ve learned.”

Students find their experience on The Blurb rewarding on multiple levels. “It’s rewarding to see your name in the paper and know that you wrote the story everybody is reading,” said seventh grader Caleigh Wozniak of Maplewood.

Working on The Blurb “has helped me become a better writer and contributed to my time management skills,” said sixth grader Blair Boyle of Springfield. “Time management and writing skills are a big part of high school and will help me with every step of my life.”

Sixth grader Xavier Warganz of Maplewood also saw the value working on the paper has for high school preparation. “I’ve learned to use more descriptive words,” he said, “and I think it will help me write my applications to high school and college.”

Though rewarding, the students have also found putting out a real newspaper challenging. “The hardest thing is editing the article because you have to make sure you don’t use repetitive phrases or spell someone’s name wrong,” said seventh grader Nina Profaci of Maplewood.

Xavier Warganz said that “interviewing people is the hardest because they usually don’t give good answers.”

Eighth grader Emily Dufner of Short Hills said “the hardest part for me has not been interviewing, writing or editing, but getting the story together.

“It takes a lot of work,” Dufner said. “You need to set up an interview, know when and where to get pictures for your story, know how long you can write the story, and research any information you need.”

Covering events has exposed the student-reporters to many experiences they might not otherwise have had. “My favorite story was the one on ‘Cookies for Charity,’” said Profaci. “St. Rose students made batches of cookies for people in a soup kitchen. I made a batch of sugar cookies and went to the soup kitchen and watched as the people took them with a smile on their faces. It made me feel really good.”

Dufner said she has had fun working with the other eighth grade student-editors on an advice column. “We get to collaborate and share our ideas,” she said.

Nicole Warganz has overseen the paper with Laura Rowley, a St. Rose parishoner who writes the weekly Money and Happiness column for Yahoo!Finance. Rowley is a former on air reporter and producer for CNN Business News in New York, and was the personal finance expert for Self magazine for five years. See photo for Summit kids working on the paper.

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