The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 28, 2007



Host families needed for METCO students at CCHS

Recently, I was interested to read Ginny Lamere's article about the new interim CCHS METCO Coordinator Kim Bovell (Mosquito, September 14). Bovell has taken over for long time METCO coordinator Norma Dinnall, who retired in June.

It has been many years since someone from my family has been involved with the METCO program — 21 years, to be exact. Reading Lamere's article got me to reminiscing about our former METCO students and their families. However, there was one line in the article that surprised me — "Each METCO student is paired with a host family in Concord." But, what about Carlisle, I wondered?

To learn more about the present-day METCO program at CCHS, I decided to call the new coordinator. Bovell reports that there are 74 METCO students overall at the high school this year, with 14 coming up from the Concord Middle School and 11 new students coming from Boston to join this year's freshman class. The 14 METCO students who have been attending the Concord public schools already have host families, while the 11 new students will need to be paired up with new host families. In October, there will be a "Welcome Back" picnic for K-12 METCO students and their families. Host families will be invited to the picnic, as well.

I highly recommend that Carlisle families with freshmen at the high school consider signing up to be a host family for a METCO student. Many of these students take part in extracurricular activities after school and on weekends — sports teams, musicals, plays, chorus, band — to name a few, which means, from time to time, they will need a place to stay overnight, when they can not make the late bus back home to Boston, which leaves the school at 5:15 p.m.

Lately, when I have spoken with CCHS parents, they appeared to have little knowledge of the host family program and how it works. However, in the late '70s and early '80s, Carlisle families did take part in the METCO host family program. This was at a time when there were more METCO students at the high school and the host family program was in full gear.

At the beginning of each son's freshman year, we would sign up to be a host family. In the fall, we invited our METCO student and his family out to Carlisle to meet all of us, to see where we lived and where their son could stay if he needed a place for overnight. It was quite an experience for the METCO family to travel out from Boston to Carlisle to meet "that family who lives in the woods," as they laughingly referred to us. Later, during the year, the host families and their students would be invited into Boston to attend a gathering put on by METCO for both sets of students and their families.

One of our METCO students, Alex Gonzales, as I recall, spent four or five evenings with us here in Carlisle throughout the school year. Alex played on the CCHS football team, which most often had games at night.

One of my fondest memories of those years was of a CCHS graduation day in early June, when Alex and his family came out from Boston for a picnic which we had organized with our neighbors, the Schweppes, and their METCO student and his family, before heading into Concord for the graduation ceremonies in the afternoon.

Recently, when I asked my son Will what he thought about participating in the METCO program, he responded, "It was more like being in the real world."

For more information on the host family program, METCO Coordinator Kim Bovell can be reached by phone at 978-341-2490, extension 7118 or e-mail at

My creeping incompetence

My first car was a 1970 Ford LTD. I learned to perform most required routine maintenance on it. I needed very little specialized knowledge, or even tools — a screwdriver, pliers and crescent wrench seemed to be enough for most purposes, with a hammer held in reserve for sticky bolts. But for years now, I've not attempted so much as an oil change. It's true that I have more demands on my time. But a more significant deterrent is the fact that, every time I've ventured under the hood, I've discovered that the engine compartment in my newer cars is far too complex for my limited understanding.

My first stereo system was a simple affair. It included a record changer, a cassette player (not an 8-track — I managed to avoid that fiasco), a radio tuner, and an amplifier in one component, and two speakers with plug-in jacks. Plug the speakers into the main unit, and the main unit into the wall, and you were good to go. My first television was even simpler; it needed only to be plugged into the wall. Over the years, the addition of cable television, VCRs, DVDs and CDs, the proliferation of components and remote controls, and the associated tangle of wires risked turning our family room into an electronic jungle. Our new home theater system hides all the components and wires behind cabinet doors, and requires only a single remote. But I seem to be the only member of our household who understands how to turn it on or off. I watched the installation, and know that I will need either an advanced engineering degree or, more likely, a trained technician if anything ever goes wrong.

I have three relatively miniature devices that have no antecedent from my simpler days. I have a mobile telephone that fits in my pocket, stores my frequently called telephone numbers and takes pictures. I know it is capable of doing much more, but I haven't figured out what. I have a portable music player that also stores audio books, pictures and even movies. And I have a pocket organizer that keeps my calendar and my address book, and synchronizes both with my computer at work. It also provides GPS navigation whether I am walking or driving. Like many consumers, I long for the elusive "one device" that will play music; synchronize my e-mail, calendar, and contacts; make telephone calls; and give me directions when I am lost. Intuitively, though, I dread the prospect of trying to set the darn thing up should I ever find one I think will work.

Despite the convenience and efficiency that technology has brought, too many gadgets seem unnecessarily complex. In simpler times, I enjoyed a certain satisfaction in taking care of things myself. Now most devices do not even include an instruction manual, and the online instructions are daunting. Even when I believe I am capable of learning how to configure or maintain a system, I question whether the investment of time is worth it; experience counsels that the knowledge will become obsolete in a relatively short time. As a result, I've largely given up the effort.

I appreciate and enjoy the advances of technology. But would it really be so hard for products that say they are designed to "plug and play" to deliver on that simple promise? Is it too much to ask that engineers who design new products display some recognition that many end users will not have advanced technical training? I just don't know.


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2007 The Carlisle Mosquito