Pens and art supplies

Student Artist Spotlight: Alexis Chisom

Alexis Chisom’s piece “Mother Earth,” a black and white chalk pastel pencil drawing
Alexis Chisom’s piece “Mother Earth,” a black and white chalk pastel pencil drawing, will be on display until May 31, 2018

Open Door student Alexis Chisom, a home-schooled sophomore from Littleton, is April and May’s featured student artist in the Acton Office.

Alexis’s piece, “Mother Earth,” is on display in Acton until May 31, 2018. She says she was moved to create the piece, hoping to inspire people to re-establish a connection with nature. The black and white chalk pastel pencil drawing depicts a figure who, she says, is based on herself, but is also representative of any Mother Earth figure.

“I feel like there was a reverence for nature in the past that has slipped away,” says Alexis. “I wanted to create something to connect the viewer and nature, and an image of myself became the vehicle.”

Why a Mother Earth in black and white? “I felt that black and white is more striking and unusual for a piece about nature,” says Alexis. “Since most of us are accustomed to seeing nature drawings in color, seeing light drawn on dark makes the viewer pause and think.”

Alexis also works in pen and ink, graphite, and, occasionally, watercolor. She says that after taking a class in scientific illustration, which satisfied her combined interest in bio and art, she has enjoyed creating anatomical drawings.

Alexis indeed has a strong interest in the sciences. She recently applied for the prestigious Inspire Science Award for Collaborative Cancer Research, and as a recipient will be working this summer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in research on anaplastic thyroid cancer. She also trained as a certified yoga teacher at the age of 15 and teaches privately. Her blog, Young Adults Discovering Wellness + Health, covers topics that range from personal wellness to public health—the latter being the field she hopes to enter as an adult.

Alexis’s goal is to found a system of wellness centers that focus on youth, including services for underprivileged adolescents, and combining pediatrics with research. She imagines the first center being “in a big building, probably near an underserved area.”

Another of Alexis’s passions is writing. She penned her first book as a young child, a picture book called The Lion and the Elephant, and recently she received a Scholastic Silver Key in poetry. Fluent in Spanish, she has begun writing fiction in that language, as well. She hopes someday to be published in both fiction (she’s currently working on a fantasy adventure that also addresses family bonds) and nonfiction (with a particular interest in the beneficial aspects of intergenerational activities between adolescents and older adults).

If Alexis’s current energy and passion are any indication of how she will live her life, it is likely that her “big building” full of health and wellness services will come to fruition, and we are honored to be sharing this part of her journey!

Student Artist Spotlight: Emma Nedeau and Shani Kaffe

Artist Amy Zhu displays her art in our Concord and Acton tutoring offices.

Student Spotlight: Amy Zhu, November and December 2017 Student Artist

November’s Student Artist, whose pieces are featured in both our Concord and Acton offices through the holidays, is Amy Zhu, a junior at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School. We asked her some questions about her artwork on display, inspirations, techniques, and goals and aspirations. Here is what she shared.

My artwork is usually a combination of two separate ideas. For instance, if one day I’m in the mood to paint something you’d see underwater, and I’m also thinking about a pretty dress my friend might have worn, I put the two together and incorporate many elements into a painting. Often it’s something realistic, but with a slight quirk to make it more my style. Also, I tend to lean toward romantic colors and styles that complement one another.

I honestly take inspiration from everything around me: my friends, my school, my environment. All play a role in shaping my ideas and what I want to draw and paint.

The painting in the Acton Office of the woman in turquoise is in memory of my grandmother. She passed away not too long ago, and my family was of course very sad. I felt the best way to immortalize her was through a painting. The title is “Spring Will Come.” She is looking somberly down at a flower, but that flower is a representation of new life, meaning that life moves on, and as time passes, everyone will find happiness again. This painting also happened to be what I was working on when two seniors at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School passed away. I hope it serves not only as a message for my family, but also for my school community.

The drawing of a school with glowing orange clouds, which is on display in the Concord office, represents Acton-Boxborough Regional … and more. It’s more of a whimsical piece, and doesn’t really have much meaning to it. I just thought it would be interesting if that was what our school looked like after hours when no one is there to witness it. What if school was more than a regular old building, and there was a side to it that no one knew? That’s what was going through my head at the time.

I am currently experimenting with textiles and design. I have been painting canvases and creating dresses out of my own patterns. The challenge I made for myself was to build a dress that was adjustable and could fit all body types. It’s been really fun seeing my ideas come to life on people.

I have been struggling with finding a career path that would suit me. On the one hand, I would love to major in the fine arts. On the other, I’m also very interested in biology. In addition, I’m scared of not having financial stability. It’s scary not knowing what might happen to you. However, I have come to realize recently that everything is not black and white. I would love to pursue a career in STEM where my knowledge of art would come in handy, or create statement artworks that target economic and environmental issues. Or maybe I’ll do both. Who knows?! That’s the beauty of life, though, you really can do anything you want if you put your mind to it. By no means should an artist ever feel they can’t work in another field. Art is such a useful tool in life–it can take you anywhere you want to go.


Artist Amy Zhu displays her art in our Concord and Acton tutoring offices.
Amy’s art on display in our Concord office

A forest with ferns

Tutor Spotlight: Ellen Neelands

Our series of interviews with our tutors helps our families get to know us on a bit more personal level. This month, we feature Senior Tutor Ellen Neelands.

Q: What were some of your most gratifying experiences as a classroom teacher and leader in public and private education?

A: I treasure the moment that a student (earlier convinced he was crocodile rather than human) sat in a chair and read his first sentence. There was the tearful five-year-old, fresh from a refugee camp, who blossomed into an insightful and capable honors student. I still love the occasional surprise hug. A recent one came in a crowded store with the information that a former third grader, once considered “unteachable,” had just been honored as a recipient of the prestigious Harvard Book Award. Seeing my students’ best efforts pay off for them is the ultimate reward.

Q: Everyone at Open Door believes that students learn in different ways, but you are an expert in this area. What are some of the methods you find most useful for nontraditional learners?

A: I always start by asking a student how they learn and what their goals are. Their answer is a snapshot of how they think about their learning, and begins our working relationship. I offer limitless sympathy for students who have felt misunderstood in school, and flexibly draw from a large “toolbox” of techniques to make concepts accessible. I encourage meta-thinking (thinking about thinking), which we know accelerates growth. I relentlessly check that my assumptions are not affecting how I understand a student. We laugh a lot, and celebrate learning strengths and differences.

Q: Your online bio shows that you are passionate about your outside interests. Will you say a little more about your current interests?

A: I’ve been enjoying New England Contra and Irish Set dancing and thinking about the history of social dance over the last century. I dip into historical research and treasure knowing my house was built as a one-room schoolhouse, was moved twice, and at one point housed a railroad roundhouse mule. Necessarily gluten free, I enjoy cooking, the science of cooking, and international cuisines.

Q: Many who have read your bio have to look up the word “mycology” to learn that it is the study of fungi. Are you interested in edible mushrooms?

A: I am an amateur mycologist, and past president of the Boston Mushroom Club. I first became involved with fungi as an excuse to be in the woods. It developed that people enjoy mushrooms for food, medicine, health, science, ecology, photography, drawing, and painting. My special interest is in dyeing with mushrooms: not a reference to poison, but to coloring silk and wool.

Q: Last but not least, you mention that you enjoy being a grandmother. What do you suggest to other grandparents eager to have enjoyable and educational experiences with their grandchildren? What’s your favorite activity with yours?

A: It’s a race to get through all of our wonderful ideas! We are a team, perfectly suited to causing just the right kind of trouble for her parents.

A photo of Open Door Senior Tutor Ellen Neelands. Ellen tutors in Acton and Concord Massachusetts for Open Door Education

A piece of art currently on display in the Acton tutoring office of Open Door Education. Hali also has art in our Concord tutoring space.

Student Spotlight: Hali Moran, Fall 2017 Student Artist

Open Door is pleased to be exhibiting multiple pieces of Concord-Carlisle High School junior Hali Moran’s art through mid-October as part of our student art exhibit series. We asked Hali to comment on how often, as a busy high school student, she finds time to paint, as well as about her study and growth as an artist and her favorite art periods and museums.

“No one artist inspires me, but rather the Fauvism movement overall. Fauvism was a style of a group of French artists in the beginning of the 20th Century, the earliest examples being Cezanne, van Gogh, Gauguin, and Seurat. The group’s art focuses on fauna and flora with amped up colors. I’m also a big fan of Monet, even though I use acrylics, not watercolor, and I don’t paint in his style. To me, art is about being bold and chaotic, because usually, being that way is frowned upon. However, I am just starting out. Long term, I hope to be able to use watercolor and oil  in my work as well as acrylic.

“I always make it a point to paint at least once a week during the fall field hockey season, but once that ends in November, I paint two to three times a week. I’ve never taken any art classes so I don’t know much about brush strokes or any techniques–so for me walking through the Metropolitan or MOMA (my personal favorites) is more about trying to understand artists’ points of view.”

Hali’s art is on display at both Acton and Concord offices through mid-October.

Hali Moran's art as it is displayed in our Acton tutoring office. Open Door Education also tutors in Concord.
Hali’s art display in our Acton office

Goat painting by Kincaid DeBell, student artist from Nashoba Regional, on display at Open Door Education, a tutoring office in Acton MA and Concord MA

Student Spotlight: Kincaid DeBell, Summer 2017 Student Artist

First of all, Kincaid, thanks for sharing your art with Open Door! Everyone enjoyed viewing your pieces in the front office area. We had a few questions about your process and preferences, and we appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts with us.


Q: What is your favorite media, if you have one?

A: I love to try everything, but right now I’ve mainly been working with watercolors, as well as drawing individual people and faces using pen and marker. I enjoy drawing faces because I want the audience to connect with the subject the way I have. I hope that others can relate to the art and feel the emotion I attempt to convey.


Sometimes I make “DIY” crafts at home or school. Even though I mainly stick to my pens and pencils, I consider any creative project art, if it is something that provokes or creates an emotional, intellectual, or visceral response.


Q: Where do you get your inspiration?

A: I am NEVER without a pencil, pen, or marker in my bag or pocket, No matter where I am. I never know when inspiration will strike. Also, I’m always daydreaming about art! I usually have three or more ideas in my head at all times. That makes it hard to go to sleep some nights.


Q: You shared with your tutor that you have dabbled in fabric design. Can you tell our readers a little about a project that resulted?

A: Recently I was chosen to represent The North Face and create a design for their youth base. My entry started as a doodle, then a sketch, and then it evolved into a piece of artwork. The more I thought about it, the more I was able to add color and detail. And then it represented me.


By the way, my designs will be available for sale at The North Face Fall 2017 in hoodie sweatshirt and winter jacket form.


Q: We have heard you are interested in both science and art. Do you plan to focus on one or try to combine the two disciplines?

A: I am interested in combining art and science. For me, the two subjects mesh easily–both require skill and knowledge, and science requires more creativity than a lot of people assume, especially in solving problems and creating new technology. Also, I’d like to show the people who aren’t necessarily interested in both areas that these subjects can be combined and enjoyed.


Q: Speaking of combinations, you are also a creative writer. Do your writing and art projects overlap?

A: There is a connection between my art and my writing; both are whimsical and flowery. My whimsical art and writing represent my and others’ younger selves, as well as the inner child that survives into adulthood. In both writing and art, I’m working on the more serious side. I don’t usually share my more serious work, and I hope it will improve. I believe it will come with time and practice.


Q: Which art classes that you have taken have been your favorite?

A: The best art classes I have taken are at Acton Art! I really recommend them!

Student artist and her work in Acton, MA tutoring office
Kincaid and her art

We have so enjoyed having you as a student this year! Good luck this fall as you move on from Nashoba Brooks and begin Concord Academy.


If your teen artist would be interested in exhibiting at Open Door, please contact Having now exhibited art by students from Acton-Boxborough Regional High School and Concord Academy, we are eager for more!

Open Door offers tutoring in Concord and Acton MA

Greater Boston Summer Programs: An interview with Blake Sims of Epiic Solutions

Has your middle or high schooler found something creatively and/or intellectually enriching for the summer? If not, don’t despair. Many summer programs and camps in the Boston area still have openings.

One outstanding summer opportunity that focuses on entrepreneurial skills still has spots open. To showcase a series of programs addressing 21st Century skills, we spoke with Blake Sims, the founder and CEO of Epiic Solutions. In Epiic’s one-week camps, students develop their own startup ideas, solving problems along the way, and creating prototypes of products and/or services. They attend presentations by Boston area entrepreneurs and visit startups–in both cases becoming active participants in feedback, problem solving, and creative solutions.


Q: Thanks for speaking with us, Blake! And congrats on your awesome organization, a startup itself. Could you briefly describe an example of just one day last year’s students experienced?

A: One of the most memorable days from our Summer 2016 programming occurred halfway into the group’s week.  We had about a dozen young women developing a variety of solution ideas. They had already conducted interviews to learn more about the problems they were exploring and were beginning to prototype options. We had two afternoon field trips, one at danger!Awesome, a fabrication lab in Central Square (Cambridge) that’s open to the community and has lots of amazing prototyping tools. Then, we walked down the street to IDEO Cambridge, where we learned more about the power of design and the different types of people who work together in their organization. On a tour of the office, the teens got to meet lots of diverse people and learn about the variety of projects going on, including testing out a new VR game! It was an awesome field trip that reinforced the value of prototyping and teamwork. Many of the students reflected that these two field trips were by far their favorite experiences of the week.

Epiic students visit Google. Blog post from Open Door, Concord and Acton tutoring company.
Epiic students visit Google

Q: What kinds of things do students learn from entrepreneurs’ presentations?

A: Entrepreneurs are really engaging and love to talk about their experiences and their startups! Their enthusiasm is often contagious and teens quickly get caught up in the energy. The best presenters are often the ones who reflect honestly on both the successes and challenges they’ve had. Many have dealt with failure in various ways: some weren’t the “typical” student that excelled in high school or college, and many have needed to do major pivots or iterations in their startups in order to better meet the needs of their customers. Students also love serving as a focus group for a presenter’s ideas, where they get to test out the startup’s product or service and provide feedback. No guest speaker or field trip is ever the same, which really helps teens learn about the various college and career pathways available in the startup world.


Q: We know that STEM stands for Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math.  Your website mentions STEAM skills. What does the A stand for?

A: It’s for art. Creativity is a key element when bringing an idea to life; developing innovative solutions requires imagination and the ability to think outside the box. Building something isn’t just about tactics. It’s also about whether you can build something unique and new that delights customers. Entrepreneurs and startup teams need to balance STEM-related knowledge with creativity and design. Startups are a blend of the arts and sciences, hence our STEAM summer programs.

Epiic students on a field trip. Blog post from Open Door, Concord and Acton tutoring company
Epiic students on a field trip

Q: Could you describe one or two of the outstanding team projects from last year?

A: The startup ideas teens present at the culminating pitch competition are always impressive. We invite local investors and funders to serve as judges at the event, and many comment that the teen pitches are more advanced and polished than many they’ve seen from experienced entrepreneurs! One project that stands out was from our Social Impact Startups 2016 program, called DIRT. The team wanted to find more efficient ways to handle food waste, especially at restaurants. They went through tons of iterations of their idea, and by the end of the week, they felt they were behind their peers because their startup was still very much in idea phase (versus having a more tangible prototype). However, rather than try to hide how far along their prototype was, they focused on how many different ideas they tried and the decisions they made based on customer feedback. The judges were so impressed by the process the teens experienced during the week and how they leveraged that work in their pitch!


Q: What is the average number of students in a class?

A: We typically have between 10-15 students in our summer programs. It’s a balance between having a variety of perspectives in the room and forming diverse teams of 2-4 students, and the challenge with managing that many students, as we use public transit for afternoon field trips. When we run workshops that don’t involve travel, we often have between 25-30 participants.


Q: What cities/towns does the program pull from?

A: One of the reasons we love running summer programs is that we bring together students from all over Greater Boston. We often have students from other cities–and even international teens–who are in Boston for the summer or just for our program! We run our programs out of Impact Hub Boston which is right in the center of the city and easily accessible. Last year we had teens join us on the Commuter Rail from Lawrence, a teen who took a ferry from Hingham, teens who came into town with their parents from Lincoln and Lexington, and some who walked or biked from Boston and Brookline. Our programs are a great way for teens to engage with peers from all over, exposing them to different perspectives and backgrounds.  


Q: What programs still have openings for this summer?

A: One in July and two in August:

STEAM Startups Option 1, July 17-21: A great way for 78th-10th graders to explore how startups use science,m technology, engineering, art, and math to build innovative products and services.

Social Impact Startups, August 7-11: Perfect for 9th-12th graders who are passionate about making positive change in their communities. We’ll explore issues like access to food, clean transportation and energy, education, and many more!

Free-Style Startups, August 14-18: An open-ended program that’s great for 9th-12th graders who are interested in all kinds of creative ideas (STEM Social Impact, Creative Arts, more).

Just as students learn to do at Epiic, you might wish to explore new and different ideas that enrich your students’ learning! Here are some listing and programs still accepting students.


General listings


Speaking and Debate

Local Private School Offerings

Colleges and Universities

Record player, close-up

Tutor Spotlight: Don Lippincott

Don Lippincott, who joined Open Door in Fall of 2016, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Classics major, and then went on to earn a Master’s from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts and an MBA from Boston University. He has a wide variety of experience teaching (including Latin in inner city Philadelphia and English in Greece) and mentoring (including advising students at Harvard). He also ran educational programs at Harvard Business School. Like all tutors at Open Door, he has an unquenchable thirst for lifelong learning that he shares with his students, and a busy life rich with passions and hobbies. We hope you enjoy learning more about him as much as we have!


Q: First of all, it’s so great to be able to collaborate with you here at Open Door! We all appreciate that you have had experiences that have required using a variety of coaching, mentoring, and teaching skills. What are some common threads?


I’ve always enjoyed working with young people, whether it was as a 20-something teacher in inner city Philadelphia or as a tutor in Athens, Greece, teaching English and helping Greek students apply to U.S. colleges. In addition, much of my career entailed advising university students in course selection as it related to both exciting learning opportunities or career options. It’s incredibly gratifying to work with students and to watch their thinking and “aha” moments happening right in front of you.


Q: All of us know students who avoided a college major in an area they loved, worried that it might not translate to value on the job market. Are you still glad you chose Classics, and how has your Classics major served you over the years? Would you encourage other students to choose a major not directly associated with career opportunities?


Respectively: yes, significantly, and yes!


My Classics major has enabled me to see patterns across languages and has greatly enhanced my facility for writing. In addition, it has helped me understand how systems work. The complexities of, say, the Greek language have taught me to analyze more deeply. Finally, it has helped me develop an appreciation for arts of all kinds.


I would definitely encourage most students to study something other than their professional school/grad focus. Moreover, if they can swing it, study abroad! It opens your mind to so many things. I spent my junior year in Greece, and as a Classics major, I was completely invigorated by everything around me. Even if you don’t get the chance to study overseas, however, taking a wide variety of courses will expose you to ideas and knowledge you might never get the opportunity to study again, or more optimistically,  inspire you to revisit things later in your career, in retirement, or even in lifelong hobbies.


As a major bonus, I met my wife in that study abroad program in Greece – and she was a French major! She enjoyed the program there, too.


Q: You noted the connection between systems of language and better analytical skills. What about a connection between strategic planning and test prep?


Good question. Assuming that most of our students have been exposed to similarly excellent school systems, I really believe that a good test-taking strategy can be a key differentiating factor. Each student has different strengths and gaps, so I try to tailor strategies to each student. Sometimes hybrid approaches can help play to a student’s strengths.


Q: About those lifelong hobbies, you’ve always played tennis. Do you play to play, or to win?


I play to win, because I’m pretty competitive – in attitude, if not in skill level. And now I’m mostly relegated to doubles, where I spend far too much time trying to win on drop shots and lobs instead of hitting it hard like I know I can. I try to play twice a week throughout the year.


Our family has always been addicted to sports: one of my grandfathers was an Olympic medal winning sprinter and the other was a strong college catcher. My dad was a college soccer player and sports writer, and I have many athletically talented cousins. Tough acts to follow!


Tennis aside, for me, my favorite thing in life between age 6 and 16 was all things baseball, mostly playing it. Since then, I most love watching tennis and ice hockey.


Q: I heard that you also collect vinyl! Who are your favorite bands from back-in-the-day, and do you listen to any current vocalists or bands?


Favorites: The Kinks and Bob Marley. The best concert I ever saw by far (and I have been to many) was Marley and the Wailers at Philly’s Tower Theater way back in 1976. The Kinks in London at the Royal Albert was also a great show! I find that I – and many other guys – underappreciate female stars, so I’d like to mention just a few for today’s students to check out:

  • Janis Joplin, an amazing and charismatic live performer
  • Grace Slick, the voice behind Jefferson Airplane
  • Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention, who had a magnificent voice and emotive style
  • Eva Cassidy, another great voice
  • Maria Muldaur


In terms of current music, I gravitate toward lefty folk, country, and rock, like Steve Earle, Luka Bloom (an excellent Irish folkie) and Dwight Yoakam (who actually isn’t so lefty). I also like The Konks. I could go on.


Q: Finally, every tutor at Open Door seems to love pets, and some occasionally even bring one to the office. Can you share about your current pet?


Compared to his half brother, who used to attack pickup trucks, Leo, our Cairn Terrier, is an angel. He’s 16-years-young and still likes to roll in the mud!


Don Lippincott holds his Cairn terrier, Leo
                  Don Lippincott and Leo

abstract horse painting

Student Spotlight: Elise Jandl, May 2017 Student Artist

We are happy to introduce our first featured student artist, whose work was on display at Open Door for the month of May 2017: Elise Jandl, a sophomore from Acton-Boxborough Regional High School.


We asked her some questions about her process and inspiration.


Q: What inspires you? Do you have a favorite artist?

A: I’m inspired by the artist Vik Muniz. He uses unique materials – things like sugar, thread, and other random objects – to create art that makes a statement, which I have always thought was cool.


Q: What’s your process like? Do you have a vision for your piece before starting?

A: I’ve kind of given up on having a picture in my mind beforehand of what I’m going to do, because I hardly ever stick to the path and always end up changing things! I’m definitely the most productive when I don’t think about it and just start drawing/painting whatever comes to mind.


Q: When you are creating an abstract piece, what are you thinking about? Color? Shape?

A: Actually, when I’m creating abstract art I usually like to choose a theme or some kind of mood, like peacefulness or sadness or something, and then build off of that with colors or shapes or objects that I feel portray that mood.


Q: When did you start making art? And how have your subjects changed over time?

A: I started making art all the way back in preschool! I loved drawing horses, cats, and dogs. I’ve definitely expanded my interest to other things besides animals, but I do still really like to draw horses!


Q: Have you taken any courses that stand out?

A: I have been loving the art class I am taking in school right now. My teacher, So Hyun Kong, is really great and provides us with a lot of both materials and good ideas. Right now we are doing a project based on societal issues like poverty and homelessness, and how personal challenges like depression are also important to and affected by society as a whole.


Q: What are your favorite materials?

A: I found out that I love drawing with charcoal, which I started doing in my art class this year. I also really like oil pastel. I love how bright the colors are.


Q: Are you thinking about a career in the arts?

A: I have no idea if I want a career involving art, but I do know that it’s going to continue to be a hobby and something I spend my free time doing!


Cardinals oil pastel drawing
Untitled by Elise Jandl (2017)   Colored pencil on paper


Get on Tap

Student Spotlight: Chantal Raguin, Anna Rychlik, and Get on Tap

Student Project Leads to Ban on Plastic Water Bottles at AB Schools

Did you know that producing the plastic, single-use water bottles that Americans consume takes 17 million barrels of oil per year? That in 2015 Americans used about 50 billion water bottles, of which only 23 percent were recycled? That 38 billion water bottles ended up in our nation’s trash?

Massachusetts has long had progressive recycling regulations, and local communities have been even more proactive. Five years ago, Concord residents voted to ban the sale of single-serving bottled water, and this year, two seniors at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School (AB)–best friends Chantal Raguin and Anna Rychlik–joined together to make similar change.

“Anna and I feel extremely lucky to be part of such an incredible school system,” Raguin said,
“and we wanted to give something back. We are both concerned about climate change and the future of our environment, so we thought it would be meaningful to help our district kickstart education in sustainable living. Bottled water seemed like the place to start: the product is unnecessary and wasteful, yet at the same time quite easy to replace. Our town water is clean, safe, and quite accessible.” They decided to find a way to reduce plastic bottle use.

Last fall, Raguin and Rychlik discovered the program Get On Tap, which helped them set goals and identify action steps. First, they contacted the District’s manager of energy, Kate Crosby, who they say “was immediately excited” about their ideas to reduce reliance on plastic water bottles.  They then met with Superintendent Glenn Brand and Facilities Director JD Head, who helped them organize group meetings with faculty. With unanimous support, Raguin and Rychlik designed their senior project around encouraging the Acton-Boxborough School District to ban plastic water bottles and educating the wider community about the environmental benefits of substituting reusable bottles for plastic. They have accomplished both goals: last month, the AB School Committee voted to ban single-use plastic water bottles.

In April, they hosted a “Get On Tap Week,” featuring a movie screening and an informational night with guest speakers Jill Appel, who led the Concord movement, and Matt Mostoller, from the Acton Department of Environmental Management. They closed the week with a pledge to “get on tap” (drink from local sources out of reusable water bottles) until Earth Day.

“It was a huge success,” said Raguin. “Our signature board was completely filled!” They also held presentations at other district schools to educate younger students.

“As we close our work at AB, we hope we empowered students to take action against climate change in any way they can,” said Rychlik, “whether that be directly in local government or in their daily habits. The latter is in some ways more important than the former for now. Greater top-down changes will take time, and smaller changes will be important in reducing the district’s carbon footprint.”

While Raguin and Rychlik won’t see the results of their advocacy first hand (they’ll be in college), they urge continuing AB students to keep the ball rolling.

Open Door has been inspired by Raguin and Rychlik to reduce our own carbon footprint, and we’ve made reusable coffee mugs, flatware, and cups available to our staff. We’re excited to see how this small change affects the amount of single use plastics we buy and throw out.

We hope you will take Raquin and Rychlik’s activism to heart, and seek opportunities in your own life to ‘Get on Tap’!


Anna Rychlik and Chantal Raguin hold reusuable Open Door cups at our office
Anna Rychlik and Chantal Raguin inspired Open Door to get our own reusable cups for our team.


For more information on how to begin a similar project in your school, workplace, or community, check out Take Back the Tap and Ban the Bottle