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Local Girl Scouts create a unique display of shadow boxes featuring memorabilia from past elementary school plays

Girl Scouts from Troop 1575 with guests at the opening of their gallery of shadow boxes.
Courtesy photo: Lynn McCaffery Stevens

On Sept. 18, Girl Scouts from Mattituck-Cutchogue’s Troop 1575 held a gallery opening at Cutchogue East Elementary School for their Silver Award project, “The Arts Matter.”

The show is a collection of nine shadow boxes created by ninth graders Sophia Kalish, Kylie Conroy, Cassidy Celic and Emma Reidy which display memorabilia from past Cutchogue Elementary school plays. The girls were required to create a proposal which they presented to the Board of Education and to elementary principal Kathleen Divine. Once the proposal was accepted, they got to work. 

The girls spent at total of 50 hours each on the project beginning last year, researching past plays, contacting former students for photos and artifacts and putting the boxes together. Once finished, they had fulfilled the requirements for the Girl Scout Silver Award, one of the highest achievements a Girl Scout can earn. The Bronze, Silver and Gold awards give Scouts an opportunity to work on causes or issues that are meaningful to them.

The shadow boxes hung on the walls of the elementary school. Courtesy photo: Lynn McCaffery Stevens

At the opening, which was attended by staff, faculty, family and friends, the girls thanked everyone who helped them achieve their goal and Sophia Kalish read a statement explaining why the plays meant so much to them.

“The plays allowed us to step out of our comfort zones and even find our voice,” she said. “They gave us the courage to speak and believe in ourselves and gave us the confidence to let us last through the shady years of junior high.”

She also talked about the many enduring friendships made while performing in the school plays.

As a way of creating a long-lasting tradition, the girls gifted the school with three empty shadow boxes which they hope will be used to create new shadow boxes for future elementary plays. They will visit the elementary school after this year’s play to help the younger students get started on creating new tribute shadow boxes.

Mattituck-Cutchogue Superintendent Anne Smith, who atteneded the opening, said that it was a wonderful experience to see former elementary students coming back to the school with a new understanding about how special the plays are.

“They really understand that things that start in the elementary school feed into their success in high school and they want their experience commemorated,” she said.

Smith pointed out that over the years there have been several projects led by Scouts that are still in use today, such as the Peace Garden at the elementary school that was started by an Eagle Scout.

Principal Kathleen Divine, a former Girl Scout, said how pleased she was that the girls thought of giving something back to Cutchogue East.

“The plays were a major part of their lives,” she said. “They want to make sure the younger children at Cutchogue East understand how important it is to participate in theater and the arts and hopefully seeing the shadow boxes in the cafeteria hallway will give them an opportunity to see what it was like participating in the plays.”

The shadow boxes will be on permanent display at Cutchogue East and if the Scouts get their wish, there will be many future additions to the gallery.

Katharine is a writer and photographer who has lived on the North Fork for nearly 40 years, except for three-plus years in Hong Kong a decade ago, working for the actor Jackie Chan. She lives in Cutchogue. Email Katharine