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In celebration of Nathan

Anna Charny has helped launch several science-focused schools. Anna Charny has helped launch several science-focused schools.
By Cindy Cantrell
September 13, 2009

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Although his life was cut short at age 15, Nathan Alden Robinson of Newton is remembered as an accomplished musician and voracious reader. A special program tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Newton Free Library will pay tribute to both passions, as a refurbished piano funded by Nathan’s family and other donors will be dedicated in his memory.

Nathan was a freshman at Newton North High School when he died in March 2008 of rare complications from the flu.

Nathan, who most enjoyed reading fantasy books, grew up attending children’s programs at the library and served on its Teen Advisory Board. He played the piano and clarinet, and participated in summer music camps, his school band, the Newton All-City Band and Northeastern District Band.

His piano playing was memorialized on NBC’s hit television show “The Office,’’ thanks to a local connection. During the closing credits of the episode that first aired on April 3, 2008, a short video clip shows Nathan performing the show’s theme song. Actors John Krasinski and B.J. Novak are graduates of Newton South High School.

“Musical Memories: Celebrating Nathan Alden Robinson’’ will include musical performances by his piano teacher, Rebecca Plummer; clarinet teacher Aline Benoit; his mother, violinist Stacey Alden; and family friends Kristina Nilsson on violin and Melissa Howe on viola. Artwork by his sister, Nellie, will be on display at the library, 330 Homer St. in Newton Centre.

Stacey Alden said of her son: “He made the world a better place.’’

For more information, call the library at 617-796-1360 or go to www.newtonfreelibrary.net.

EDUCATION FIRST: After waiting nine years for a visa, Anna Charny fled with her husband and their 3-month-old daughter from the religious discrimination and political repression of their native Soviet Union in 1988. More important than any of the material possessions in their three suitcases was the enduring respect for education they carried with them to Brookline.

“That’s what gave me a jump start and allowed me to contribute meaningfully to this country,’’ said Charny, who lives in Sudbury now. “That’s what I try to give to children.’’

In 2003, Charny cofounded the MetroWest School of Mathematics in Marlborough as an affiliate to the Russian School of Mathematics in Newton, which her daughter attended. A year later, the MetroWest School moved to Framingham and has grown from 40 students to more than 300 in kindergarten through Grade 12.

On Wednesday, a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the school’s relocation to an expanded facility at 5 Auburn St. in Framingham, where after-school and weekend classes include math, art, chess, language, and preparation for SAT math and English exams.

In addition to serving as director of the MetroWest School, Charny is a cofounder of the Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School in Marlborough, and an academic adviser to the Russian School. All the while, she has held a full-time job in algorithm development at Cisco Systems Inc.

“It’s very rewarding to see the kids succeed,’’ Charny said. “It wasn’t easy, but I’m very proud of where we are now.’’

LIVING YOUR LEGACY: Psychotherapist and life-transition coach Roberta Taylor of Waltham says that people shouldn’t wait for the end of life to consider how they want to be remembered by family, friends, and the community.

On Wednesday, she will lead a free workshop focused on living each day with enhanced meaning from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the Reading Public Library.

According to Taylor, who is in private practice at Pathmaking for Life in Wellesley, the discussion may be especially helpful for retirees who are experiencing a post-career loss of identity. Her goal is to inspire participants to think beyond family heirlooms to the value of sharing stories and wisdom from life experience.

“Everyone has something special to give,’’ she said.

To register, go online to www.readingpl.org, or call 781-944-0840.

EXPANDING HORIZONS: Children with visual and physical impairment need a variety of assistive devices to help them lead independent lives. Through its Assistive Device Center, the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown offers custom-made alternatives to expensive or inadequate commercial products.

According to occupational therapist Molly Campbell, the center’s coordinator, customized toys, seats, and other items for Perkins students are built without charge by volunteers. In addition, parents, caregivers, and professionals are invited to learn how to make adaptive devices through workshops and by appointment.

The next class, “Materials for Sensory Exploration and Stimulation Activities,’’ will take place Sept. 22, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the school, 175 North Beacon St. Projects will include building a tray filled with textured fabrics, sewing scented bean bags, attaching sound-emitting toys to a plastic tray, constructing a spinning or rolling toy, and building a frame to position textured materials close to an individual. The fee is $125.

Assistive devices “expand possibilities for kids to have access to equipment that perfectly matches their needs in terms of size, cost, and the activity they hope to be involved in,’’ said Campbell. “We’d love to see people start centers in their own communities to reach even more children.’’

For details, call 617-972-7712 or go to www.perkins.org/oncampus/adc.

WHO’S WHAT WHERE: Jack Nusan Porter of Newton was recently presented with the Robin Williams Award for Distinguished Contributions to Scholarship, Teaching, and Service from the American Sociological Association. Born in Ukraine to Holocaust survivors, Porter has written or edited more than 30 books and 600 articles and essays on genocide, the sociology of the Holocaust, and conflict resolution.

Send People items to Cindy Cantrell at cantrell@globe.com.

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