DENVILLE, NJ -- Students of Valleyview Middle School decided to have a little fun to reach put to entertain people in their community while giving back to a great cause on Fri., April 24.

Since the stay-at-home order due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Denville public schools have been closed since mid-March (with current plans to reopen in mid-May). Students continue their education via Google Classroom, Google Meet and other methods.

“Life during quarantine has given me certainly a different perspective of life,” said 14-year-old eighth grader Michael Cali.

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“It has been so long now that I don’t remember what it’s like to get up early to go to school and on the bus! I have to say that this experience has been genuine, and I have developed a routine that I do EVERY single day. It is the new normal thing and I have gotten used to just getting up and signing into Google Classroom for class. Overall, it has been a historic experience and will give me a story to tell people in the future. All I have seen is my dad’s face and I have not talked to any of my friends. I wonder how they are doing.”

Valleyview students also continue to try and have fun. They even continue to rehearse for their spring musical of Legally Blonde, which has been put on hold until further notice. This made the 84-student cast and crew unhappy (including Cali, who plays the role of Emmett Forrest). Their director, Faliveno Boyle, feels their frustration but encourages them to be positive.

“Although I know the situation is not ideal and realize that it is going to be difficult to pull off, I have reassured the students and administration that the production staff is willing to do anything possible within the confines of the protective measures put in place by the state and local governments, to produce the show in some format at some point in time,” said Boyle, who teaches social studies at Valleyview in addition to directing and choreographing the musicals.

“As Elle Woods would say, we need to ‘keep it positive’ and hope for the best in these most unprecedented times. We hope that everyone in the community is managing to stay healthy and positive and we hope to be able to perform for you live at some point down the road, when this madness is all behind us.”

Twelve-year-old seventh grader Sara Tavares, who plays the role of Paulette Bonafonte, also strives to be positive during the pandemic, even if she is mostly at home.

“It feels so amazing to be a part of such an incredible production! I love Legally Blonde and especially the songs in the show,” said Tavares.

“I love playing the role of Paulette because she is a person that everyone can relate to. She is the type of person who is in everyone's neighborhood who just wants to help others. I am so glad that I get to play her and show people who she is and why she is an important part of the show. Although we are in quarantine, I try to think positive because that is the only way that I can help myself, family, and friends get through this tough time. I am also trying to stay active with friends and family by doing FaceTime every single day! Overall, I am just so proud of the Denville community and how we are dealing with this pandemic.”

Valleyview students, while still confined to their homes, started rehearsing and recorded songs that became part of a video blog post on the website of Denville Radio on Fri., April 24. The blog became part of an event known as Virtual Open Mic Night, which also helped to encourage viewers to donate to a great cause.

“Everyone in this town supports the men and women who are on the forefront of combatting this pandemic,” said DJ LeFave, owner of Denville Radio.

“The students at Valleyview are no different. The Valleyview Performing Arts Booster Club (PABC) reached out to Denville Radio to see if we’d be able to host a virtual open mic night. Normally, the PABC hosts one at the school to help offset the costs associated with putting on the production. This year, they had the idea to perform to help raise funds for the Denville Strong campaign.”

Denville Strong is a GoFundMe campaign launched on March 26 to help raise monies for healthcare workers at Saint Clare’s Hospital, and for local first responders by providing them meals and services from local stores and restaurants. DJ LeFave hosted the virtual open mic night and was happy to showcase the young talent during such troubling times.

“Having a resource like Denville Radio to be able to share and entertain gives me such a great feeling, especially during the current isolated times we find ourselves in,” said DJ LeFave.

“Anyone who knows me knows that I am as extroverted as they come, so it’s been fun finding new ways to interact with people over digital mediums. Over the past 45 days or so, I’ve made so many new friends all over the world, and just last week was able to deejay a virtual dance party with another deejay in Toronto over Zoom. I am currently planning to host a Denville Virtual Dance Party soon, so keep an eye out for more information on that.”

As township residents await the virtual dance party, they open their wallets and donate to Denville Strong. Following the open mic night, during which about 260 people tuned in to watch, more than $600 were collected. This may seem like a small amount of cash, but according to the GoFundMe website, Denville Strong currently has received $29,600, just a few hundred short of its $30,000 goal!

The Valleyview students were proud to contribute while moving forward with their school activities and combating the harsh times during the COVID-19 crisis. This included 13-year-old eighth grader Anna Staltari, who will play lead character Elle Woods in Legally Blonde.

“Since the virus quarantine, life certainly has been different,” said Staltari.

“I have enjoyed spending time with my family and virtually connecting with my friends. This time has served as a good way to reflect upon myself and truly appreciate the people and things in my life that make me who I am. Knowing that my performance will benefit and help raise money for Denville Strong means so much to me. Being able to help out, even in a little way, reassures me that we will get through this. I am so happy to be a part of this wonderful organization, #DenvilleStrong.”

To learn more about Denville Strong, visit the GoFundMe website at https://www.gofundme.com/f/denville-strong, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DenvilleStrong/.

To view the video blog of the Valleyview Virtual Open Mic Night, visit https://denvilleradio.com/.

 

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