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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A few thoughts on back-to-school*

While students in private schools have already started classes, public school students will be back in their respective schools Tuesday, a day after the federal holiday Labor Day (Sep.5).

A week or two ago, teachers reported to their schools, having meetings and working in their classrooms, making sure their classrooms are ready and conducive to teaching and learning.

Though it's still summer, I wonder if students are eager to go back to school. I imagine some of them are ready, while others wish their summer vacation were extended. Ready or not, though, Tuesday's back-to-school is the reality.

Both students and teachers have that mixture of feelings of anticipation and uncertainty. Especially for new students and teachers, there will be adjustments to a new environment.

Just as the returning students and teachers, new ones deal with many challenges and changes as they try to fit in with and get along with everybody in the school system. There are lots of things to learn from one another during the new school year.

New teachers, much like their senior counterparts, want to excel in their teaching, are eager to start the school year with energy and enthusiasm and are ready to apply what they have learned and observed during their student-teaching (or practice teaching) assignments.

But as newcomers in the educational field, they need the full support of school staff and personnel so they won't feel alone and helpless when problems arise in their classrooms.

Teacher mentoring is important and crucial to the success of new teachers. With mentoring, new teachers feel at ease and at home and have a sense of worth as an important member of the educational community. They know they can count on veteran teachers for moral guidance and support.

Moreover, teacher mentors and mentees can learn from one another, and their collaboration and cooperation can benefit students. Mentors and mentees work together to deal with classroom management issues and to solve problems that may arise in the classroom, things like truant student, students lagging behind, and students with issues concerning peers and family.

For returning students and teachers, I'd like to commend you for your desire to learn and to teach. I know you are goal-oriented and success-driven, like the new students and teachers. Focused and optimistic, you try your best to be the best role models for others in your school and the community.

Kudos to our students who are going back to school, to all of you in our community who tirelessly work for the success of our students. Thank you to Freny, my wife, who is a chemistry teacher; to daughter Christine, who just became a school counselor; and to son Andrew, an IT instructor (and theatre or stage actor).

They are dedicated to helping students succeed.

And kudos to the parents, volunteers and community leaders who are advocates of education. May you all have a rewarding school year.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in the Opinion Page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Wednesday, August 31, 2016. For more information, visit

Friday, June 17, 2016

God bless our fathers*

(Author's Note: Father's Day, this year, is observed/celebrated on Sunday, June 19, 2016. Father's Day dates back to June 19, 1910 in Spokane, Washington. When Sonora Dodd was born, her mother died leaving her dad, Mr. William Smart, a Civil War veteran, to take care of his six children. Honoring her father's sacrifices, love, and dedication to raising his family alone, Dodd spearheaded the campaign to create the first Father's Day. Because of its popularity, Father's Day is officially celebrated annually on the third Sunday in June, with President Lyndon B. Johnson's proclamation in 1966. However, in 1977, President Nixon made the celebration a permanent part of our country's annual festivities to show the fathers and grandfathers how much they're appreciated for all they have done for their family.)

Happy Father's Day! I humbly dedicate this poem of mine to all fathers and grandfathers everywhere.

Today is a special day
To honor and pay tribute to you
Father---our role model,
Who sets a good example
For us to follow and emulate.

When we're down and troubled,
You're there to lend a hand.
You cheer us up and brighten our day,
You comfort us and give us company,
And inspire us with your life story.

You guide us and strengthen us,
Protect us from worries and anxieties,
Teach us life's wonders and mysteries,
Life's uncertainties, changes and challenges.

Father, we thank you
For the life and love, joy and patience
You share with us each and every day
And the support you provide us
Into our home, our family...

From Psalm 103:13, we read, "A father has compassion on his children..."

From church bulletin, I remember these lines: "A father loves his children, just as they are. He cares enough to give the very best---himself. When they're in trouble, he's there to help. When they need wisdom, he offers counsel. When they have successes, he rejoices with them. When they make mistakes, he forgives. He recognizes his strength comes not from human sources, but from Heaven's grace."

A father is God's representative. "God bless father," we pray. Why? Because if we want something, "Ask Father!" He is the source, the supplier, the giver (or refuser) of everything we ask of or expect from a father: to smooth our path, to raise for us a mountain from which to hurl our dreams, to build us a shelter against the harms of life.

We need encouragement and enrichment that only a father can give or provide. He is the channel of both the necessities and the fun things in life, like sports and games, travel, road trips and other activities that are a source of fun and enjoyment.

These enrichments and encouragements we seek from Dad or Papa with love. God bless our fathers and grandfathers!

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Friday, June 17, 2016. For more information, visit

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A tribute to the red, white and blue*

Today is Flag Day (in the United States of America). I wonder how many of us remembered it. I wonder how many of us pay attention to our flag each time we see it. How many of us are aware of the importance of this symbol?

Yet there seems to be a mix of feelings about its significance. I have seen news reports and videos on You Tube showing our flag being taken for granted or disrespected, both here and abroad.

Of course, we have freedom of speech, but shouldn't we safeguard our flag if it represents our country?

On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the national flag of the United States of America  replacing the British Grand Union flag. Eventually, this date became Flag Day on modern American calendars.

According to legend, Elizabeth "Betsy" Griscom Ross of Philadelphia designed and made the first U.S. flag in 1776 at the request of our first U.S. president, George Washington.

The official national flag consists of the 13 horizontal stripes, seven red alternating with six white, and in the upper corner near the staff, a blue field containing 50 five-pointed white stars.

The stripes symbolize the 13 states that originally composed of the United States of America---New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The stars represent the 50 current states of the Union.

White signifies purity and innocence; red, hardiness and valor; and blue, vigilance, perseverance and justice.

On Flag Day, I would like to pay tribute to this beautiful emblem that represents the virtues of liberty, independence, democracy, pride, power, strength, unity and ideals. Here's my humble, simple poem:

The Stars and Stripes

You're everywhere---
At home, in schools,
City halls and embassies,
On foreign shores;
In the White House,
In the U.S. Capitol,
Federal buildings and hospitals
Tall structures and historical landmarks,
National parks and museums,
At the United States headquarters...

In churches and cemeteries,
In counties, cities, and states;
Up in the air,
All over the seas,
On the Moon up above
You're everywhere.

Here and there,
Flying so free,
Feeling so proud,
Standing so firm,
The insignia of our country,
The emblem of democracy;
Stars and Stripes
In red, blue and white
A symbol of our pride,
A symbol of our freedom,
A symbol of our unity,
Power and beauty.

Because of you,
Thousands of lives were lost,
Hundreds of battles fought.
But, in the end
Our dream came true---
Our independence and liberty
Regained and enjoyed by all.

Today, we salute you,
We come together
To honor you,
To renew our pledge of allegiance
To only you,
The Stars and Stripes.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Tuesday, June 14, 2016. For more information, visit

Friday, June 3, 2016

The end and the beginning*

Congratulations, Class of 2016! Best wishes to all of you, especially to my daughter, Christine, who just graduated (May 22) from The University of Virginia's Curry School of Education degree in counseling education. We're so proud of you.

For the Class of 2016, the time has finally come to don that cap and grown and receive their diplomas and congratulatory handshakes from school officials, while the solemn, classical "Pomp and Circumstance" is being played.

You finally made it, graduates. It's worth all the efforts, struggles and the sacrifices. You deserve recognition, because you have overcome the rigors of school life. You've succeeded in overcoming challenges and pressures and stresses in academics, athletics and other extracurricular activities.

Dear graduates, you have reason to relax now, take it easy and celebrate your achievements with your family, friends, teachers, and those who inspired and helped you through the years while in school.

Seize the moment for it will become a nostalgic, happy memory to cherish. Take souvenir pictures. Capture those moments spent with your classmates, dear teachers, guests and visitors. Cherish their hugs and kisses and their simple presence.

Enjoy your day. You deserve to celebrate your achievement.

I appreciate and thank the parents and educators of the Class of 2016 for being there with our students---loving and caring for them, teaching and guiding them. Likewise, my sincere thanks to our school administrators, staff-personnel, and volunteers who shared their time and talents.

After having successfully completed the requirements for their degrees, graduates are now ready to embark on another chapter in their life. It is a time to rejoice with and be grateful for all the factors involved in their success.

Likewise, Graduation Day is the beginning  of a more complex, challenging life, whether the student is graduating from elementary, secondary, collegiate or post-graduate education.

What now? What's next? Gainful employment? Military service? The next rung on the ladder of higher education? A sabbatical from schoolwork? A paid apprenticeship or internship in a private or public establishment?

Whatever goals or plans you have, continue to work for them. Keep it up and let the momentum help you realize your dreams. No one can stop you from pursuing your dreams.

Your confidence and determination can help you beat the odds. Be optimistic. Look at the brighter side of life. And smile! You can always make your life and others' better. Your future is in your hands, graduates, because life is what you make it.

Once again, congratulations and best wishes, Class of 2016! Have a safe and wonderful summer, too.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Friday, June 3, 2016. For more information, visit

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mothers: the source of greatness*

To all mothers and grandmothers, Happy Mother's Day!

To my loving wife, Freny, thank you for being the mother of our two amazing young adult children, Andrew and Christine. Thank you for all that you do and have done for our family. Thank you for being a "mother" to your students in school.

May your undying love and sacrifice to your children and to us all be rewarded with contentment and satisfaction in life. May God bless you and protect you always as you continue to love and care for us unconditionally.

There's no doubt, you are our true friend, confidant, solace, cheerleader, morale booster, comforter, pacifier, entertainer and our very first teacher in life.

You mothers are everything to us, your children. Without you, we're not here, alive and well; we're not who and what we are in this wonderful world.

Thus, today and always, you deserve the best in life. You are, indeed, a godsend. We love you for whatever and whoever you are.

You risked your lives to bring us forth into this competitive, unpredictable world. You shielded us from harm and danger. You instilled in us good family values, which we carry on in life. And you helped us shape our attitudes toward life because of the moral guidance you provided us.

Your influence on us is truly remarkable. Hence, you are considered the "light" of our home. There's no greater love than yours, mothers.

It has been said that the greatness of our heroes could be traced back to their homes and the care and nurturing of loving mothers. That's why motherhood is much more than a career or profession. It involves love and life, duty and devotion, sacrifice and suffering.

Allow me to share with you this simple poem of mine, dedicated to all mothers who are married or single, separated or widowed, and those who are not here with us. Thank you so much to them all.


Mother dear, I love you so
Only you can love me true
Teach me life in all you do
Help me to live and to grow
Ever faithful, ever true
Rose of my life, that is you!

Dearest mother, I love you
Eternal God loves you, too
Always there when I need you
Rose of my life, that is you!

-CHRIS A. QUILPA, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Sunday, May 8, 2016. For more information, visit

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Contemplating bridges and walls*

A hot topic recently has been the building of walls and bridges. Many Americans, including some Republican presidential candidates, want to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border as one of the solutions to illegal immigration.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, believes America's current immigration system is broken and requires comprehensive reform. He says border security is important to the country, but doesn't believe a fence is the way to achieve that security. Former Secretary of State (and another Democratic presidential contender) Hillary Clinton say she supports a secure border and a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants currently residing in the country.

Walls and bridges are everywhere, and they will be around for as long as we live. They exist to help us maintain our economic, religious and socio-political standards.

We build walls to protect our privacy, to discourage trespassing, to set ourselves apart from others, to establish a space for ourselves where we'll be left alone.

We build walls to exclude others from our lives. We build walls to contain something that threatens or endangers our well being. We build walls to counteract our inadequacies, vulnerabilities and insecurities.

On the other hand, we build bridges to facilitate or maintain a steady flow of life. We have bridges, because we want to connect or interconnect with the outside world. We have bridges to maintain the steady flow of goods and services others can depend on.

We have bridges to communicate with others, to help us explore and learn more about others. We have bridges to reach out to others.

I view walls or borders as impediments to growth and development of the totality of men and women. They contribute nothing but isolation, indifference, ignorance and selfishness.

They deter progress and learning. They contribute to fear and doubt, suspicion and mistrust. Secrecy is prevalent with walls and borders.

There's freedom in building bridges. There's openness and communication, cooperation and coordination. With walls, there's apathy and indifference.

Building bridges can make a big difference. Bridges are a means to help build one big community better. We need each other for our survival, because we're one human family. Despite our differences of viewpoints and backgrounds, we all belong to the human race.

Pope Francis, on his way back to Rome from his recent trip to Mexico, said a person who thinks only about building walls and not building bridges is not Christian.

GOP frontrunner Donald Trump reacted to the pontiff's remarks and said, "For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful. No leader, especially a religious leader, has the right to question another man's faith or religion."

Evangelist Franklin Graham agrees that as Christians we should try to build bridges with others whenever we can, but that doesn't mean we should compromise our national security. He suggests to the pope "to reach out and build a bridge to Donald Trump. Who knows where he may be this time next year?"

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appears in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Thursday, February 25, 2016. For mnore information, visit

Sunday, February 14, 2016

What it means to observe Lent*

Lent has begun for Christians around the world. It started on Ash Wednesday, when many of us went to church to receive ashes on the forehead to signify "we are dust and to dust we return."

The practice of receiving ashes dates back to the fifth century and became a widespread Christian practice by the 11th century.

Lent is the season to observe and commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who, we believe, is the Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer.

It is the time to reflect on what it means to be a follower of Christ, an opportune time to repent for our misdeeds and misgivings and to increase awareness and intensity of our prayer, fasting and alms-giving.

It is the time to grow in and strengthen the faith that binds us together and makes all things possible because of our love and devotion to our Lord.

What does it mean to be a Christian? As sinners, we have the ability and capability to be holy. That is, if we allow Christ into our lives.

If we obey His teachings, we become responsible, law-abiding citizens and peace-loving people. We become selfless, mindful of others, our neighbors who benefit from our good deeds, kindness, charity and generosity. We become more aware of and concerned about others, especially the underrepresented, underserved, marginalized, disables, elderly, helpless and hopeless in our midst.

Practicing our faith, we are able to see Christ in them. We try our best to love and care for them the way we want to be loved and cared for.

On the other hand, let's not underestimate the power of prayer in our lives. One thing we can do to counteract negativity, fear and hopelessness in our lives is to pray for ourselves and for others. Prayer can save us from a lot of troubles. Also, prayer leads us to a life of holiness towards God.

When we pray together---when we pray for others who need our prayer---things and people change for the better. We become interconnected and we get closer to God.

As followers of Christ, we also practice alms-giving and fasting. We give of our time, talents and treasures. We share what we have, because we believe that giving is caring.

We give up something or deprive ourselves of something at Lent so that others can have it. That's a sacrifice for others, for God. We just let others have it, instead of ourselves. That is giving. That's an act of love for others and for God because we see Christ in them.

We believe in giving because it is in giving that we receive more blessings and graces from our Almighty God. To share is to give, and to give is to love, and to let others experience our faith.

Praying, fasting, alms-giving, observing the Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments can help us grow in faith, especially during this Lenten season.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Sunday, February 14, 2016. For more information, visit