CRLS Teachers Honored with 2023 Faculty Distinction Awards

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For the 17th consecutive year FOCRLS sponsored the Faculty Distinction Awards, with the 2023 recipients bringing the total since 2007 to 68 CRLS staff members honored by students. Members of the graduating class nominated the awardees for having remarkably positive influences over their high school years. FOCRLS produced framed certificates, which Principal Damon Smith presented at the graduation ceremony on June 8 to these beloved teachers:

Ms. Natasha Labaze, who has been an English teacher at CRLS since 2001, earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Tufts University. Students describe Ms. Labaze as “an extremely thorough, thoughtful and, most of all, caring person” who “brightens up my day every single time I walk into her classroom.” One student wrote, “Ms.Labaze helped me believe in myself. She helped me realize I was smart and I was capable of many things.”

Mr. Tony Porreca, who has taught at CRLS for 14 years, is a special education teacher within the English and history departments. He is known for being supportive, collaborative, and dedicated. He has a caring approach to working with and relating to his students as well as their families. By having compassion for all learners and developing authentic relationships with his students, he helps them rise to high expectations.

Mr. Drew Kreuser has been an English teacher at CRLS for nine years. He holds a graduate degree from
Lesley University in special education as well as three degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison: a graduate degree in curriculum & instruction/literacy and undergraduate degrees in history and secondary English education. He works closely with his teaching team to create an inclusive community where all students’ voices are heard and he works to provide relevant and engaging content to honor student voice and choice.

Ms. Rickteyzia Simmons has been an educator at CRLS for six years. In addition to teaching world history, she has created and taught her own course, History of Fashion, utilizing her bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising from Lasell University. Rickteyzia, who recognizes the transformative impact a good teacher can have on a student’s educational experience, devotes her time at CRLS to fostering meaningful connections with her students.

Congratulations and thank you to these educators for making substantial contributions to the personal growth, social development, and academic success of CRLS students!

FOCRLS Summer Update

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Friends of Cambridge Rindge & Latin School (FOCRLS) would like to share some recent highlights and feature a few of our 2023 awardees. (This is also a reminder that we’re busy year round.)

Thanks to your support and the generosity of all of our donors, sponsors, grantors, and volunteers, we’ve been able to present the following:

Forty-eight Scholarships totaling $86,250 to deeply deserving students pursuing education beyond CRLS. The awardees have impressed us not only academically with their A and A+ grades but also with their abilities, aspirations, and achievements across adversity. Thanks to our sponsors and donors, we’re able to support these determined students as they pursue their goals in the fields of medicine, science, computer science, education, engineering, and the arts, to name a few.

Awardees, please be sure to contact about claiming your scholarship checks!

See more about our 2023 scholarship awardees and sponsors>>

Nine Student Travel Fellowships totaling $19,940 for the CRLS trip in April to Puerto Rico. Thanks to our donors, we were able to provide resources to students who were earning, raising, and saving funds for their adventures. By being able to participate in this trip, they broadened their horizons, became immersed in culture, explored the environment, experienced the tropics, built their confidence, and created memories.

Four Faculty Distinction Awards, sponsored by Friends of CRLS and presented by Principal Smith during the graduation ceremony on June 8.We assisted the Class of 2023 in thanking four notable educators among the many who were positive influences during their years at CRLS. History teacher Ms. Rickteyzia Simmons was honored along with three teachers from the English Language Arts department: Ms. Natasha Labaze, Mr. Drew Kreuser, and Mr. Tony Porreca. Dedication, inspiration, kindness, communication, community building, and humor are but a few of these honorees’ qualities appreciated by their grateful students.

Thank you to all of our donors, sponsors, grantors, volunteers, and awardees!

Donate to FOCRLS

Congratulations to our 2023 Scholarship Awardees and Thank You to our Sponsors!

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Friends of Cambridge Rindge & Latin School (FOCRLS) is delighted and honored to be awarding a total of $86,250 in scholarships this year! Scholarship sponsors and reviewers pored over several hundred applications and after careful consideration selected the students who best met the various criteria for each scholarship. The deserving, determined, dynamic recipients include 40 college-bound members of the Class of 2023. Awardees were selected for their academic achievements, educational goals, professional aspirations, essays, and financial need. Reviewers also considered awardees’ extracurriculars, employment, internships, personal growth, and perseverance. Generous contributors made the 48 scholarships possible, with Bristol Myers Squibb being the newest addition to FOCRLS’s roster of sponsors. We are deeply grateful to our sponsors, donors, reviewers, and awardees.

See the list of our 2023 scholarships, sponsors, and awardees here.>>

All photos by Janis Navikas

Learn more about our scholarships, donate, or inquire about sponsoring a scholarship on our Scholarships and Awards Program page here>>

Alumni Awardees’ Achievements

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Friends of Cambridge Rindge & Latin School (FOCRLS) recently reached out to some of our alumni scholarship awardees asking them for college and career updates. We also asked them how the scholarships we presented them were meaningful and helpful. We are impressed with their achievements and happy we have been able to support their goals, thanks to our sponsors and donors.

Congratulations to all of our awardees who have already or are about to graduate from college!

Katya, the 2019 awardee of the Mary Frances Monti Scholarship, is working on her master of social work at the Columbia School of Social Work online advanced standing program on a clinical track with a focus on children, adolescents, and families.

A 2023 graduate of Simmons University, Katya is already a Case Manager at Reimagine Counseling. “This started as an internship for one of my classes, but I stayed on as an employee. They are a counseling clinic based in Quincy, Massachusetts, and specialise in individual, couples, family, and group therapy. I have been with Reimagine for almost a year and a half,” she told us.

“The scholarship I received via FOCRLS has made it so I am able to pursue my master’s and work towards licensure in my field. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to further my education and am excited to continue to work with and serve those in need.”

Photo courtesy of Katya.

Gassendina, the 2019 awardee of the Elaine Schear “Voice of the First Generation” Creative Writing Scholarship, is about to graduate from UMass Amherst with a degree in political science & journalism with plans to pursue a career in journalism now and a law degree in the future. 

 “The FOCRLS scholarship helped me pay for school. Coming from a low-income household, I knew that it would be hard for me and my family to pay for college. Since I had the scholarship support, I was able to have more time for my studies and other career-related opportunities. The scholarship essentially enabled me to obtain and afford higher education.”

Photo courtesy of Gassendina.

Sagyan, the 2019 awardee of the CambridgeSeven STEAM Award, is a 2023 UMass Amherst graduate with a degree in computer science. “After graduation, I am working as a full-time Software Engineer at TD Securities, the investment banking side of TD bank. I had initially interned there last summer and have taken the return offer.” 

“The financial support provided by the FOCRLS scholarship has relieved the burden of tuition fees, textbooks, and other expenses. Moreover, it has given me the flexibility to focus on my studies and explore opportunities such as internships, which have been very meaningful in giving me hands-on experience in my field of computer science.”

The annual CambridgeSeven STEAM award is sponsored by CambridgeSeven, the world-renowned architecture and design firm headquartered in Cambridge.

Photo courtesy of Sagyan.

Nellisha, a 2019 awardee of a CRLS Core Values Scholarship, is a 2023 graduate of Howard University. She has accepted a job at CBRE, a global leader in commercial real estate services and investments.

“My FOCRLS scholarship contributed heavily to my freshman year funds. Because of the scholarship, I was able to minimize my debt as a first-year student at Howard and not burden my parents with taking additional loans during my freshman year. I’m very grateful for FOCRLS, and I hope the next scholarship recipient(s) are able to similarly benefit.”

Photo courtesy of Nellisha.

Alex, a 2018 recipient of the CRLS Core Values Scholarship, graduated from Wellesley College in 2022 and is a 2023 Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Graduate Fellow at Johns Hopkins University, studying for a career with the U.S. Foreign Service.

“The Core Values scholarship helped me with my first year of tuition at Wellesley College but it also had an impact on me intrapersonally. I transitioned from high school to college with greater confidence in myself because I knew that someone believed in me by awarding me the scholarship. That little bit of hope goes a long way when making a major life change into uncharted territory.”

Photo courtesy of Alex.

We’d love to hear from more of our scholarship awardees! Please send your updates and photos to


Join FOCRLS in rising to the challenge

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Dear Friends of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School,

This year, in our current COVID reality, as we feel challenged to remember our blessings and look for hope, we can seek comfort and connection through community and find meaning by helping CRLS parents and children whose struggles are greater than ours.In the face of the COVID crisis, FOCRLS has worked to rise to the challenge.

To respond to the increased need for food assistance, FOCRLS was able to expand an existing partnership with the CRLS Family Liaison through a city grant to provide $100 Market Basket vouchers to 100 struggling families. In spite of having to cancel our Spring Bash because of the pandemic, we were still able to provide $55,000 in scholarships to 36 members of the CRLS Class of 2020; this was possible because of the incredible generosity of so many of you and our local corporate sponsors, particularly Google, Philips North America LLC, and CambridgeSeven. To help CRLS parents find a way to meet each other and connect, FOCRLS held a virtual get together in early November.

In the coming months, FOCRLS will seek new ways to support our faculty challenged by remote learning; provide opportunities for parents to connect; and continue to support CRLS families who are struggling because of the economic devastation that the pandemic has created. Above all, we must support our graduating seniors who will need financial assistance ─ and there will be more than ever before ─ to pursue their academic goals.

“As I pursue my degree I know that it will not be easy financially or academically, but with the help of this scholarship I was able to eliminate some of my financial struggles, which allows me to focus more on my school work.” ─ Ralph (pictured), our Class of 2020 Mary Frances Monti Memorial Scholarship awardee, now studying software engineering at George Washington University

To make all of this possible, we ask for your support. One of the best things that has emerged from this COVID crisis is the countless examples of acts of generosity. And we know that you will be providing one more example.

Donate online at (automatic recurring monthly gifts are especially appreciated) or mail a check payable to Friends of CRLS, along with your contact information, to Friends of CRLS, P.O. Box 391541, Cambridge MA 02139.

Because of your past generosity, we know, with the need so VERY great this year, that we can count on you to provide more generously than ever!


Jamie Sabino
President, FOCRLS Board of Directors

Your donation is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. FOCRLS is a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

To learn about our programs or find out more about donating, establishing a scholarship, involving your business, or volunteering, please visit

Join FOCRLS for our CRLS Parents Welcome Party on Tuesday, 11/10/2020

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FOCRLS CRLS Parents Welcome Party
Tuesday, November 10th
7:00-8:00 PM
Please R.S.V.P. with your name and your child’s grade to
Zoom info to follow

Dear CRLS Parents and Caregivers,

In these times when it is so hard to connect, this will be your chance to meet other CRLS parents and share experiences, joys, and concerns.

We’ll open with a Welcome Session and then have class-by-class Breakout Rooms, giving you an opportunity to connect with others.

We look forward to seeing you (on our computer screens)!

FOCRLS Presents Our New Annual Report!

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We hope you’ll read, enjoy, and be inspired by the content that we’ve collected in our new annual report to remind you that by donating to Friends of CRLS you’re investing in the future – not just these students’ futures, but in the future for all of us.


  • Photos and quotations from many of our Class of 2020 scholarship awardees who are now starting their first year in college.  See their rosy faces and read their own words about their plans, how scholarships bring their goals closer, and their thanks for your support. 
  • Our appreciation of Dr. Christopher Saheed
  • Photos and bios from the 2020 Faculty Distinction Awardees
  • Gratitude to our Bash sponsors
  • Recognition of our scholarship sponsors, donors, and givers to CRLS
  • Acknowledgment of volunteers and helpful colleagues
  • Cameos by our mascot Friendly the Falcon and colorful graphics we assembled specifically for this report

Thank You to These Community Businesses

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Thank you again to all of the local businesses that provided
prizes for Friends of CRLS’s 2019 Spring Raffle.

We wish you all the best during these times and
look forward to continuing our partnerships

Artist & Craftsman Supply

Atlantis Sports Club

B Cummings Hair Salon

Bonny’s Garden Center

Boston Burger Company

Broadway Marketplace

Cambridge Common Restaurant

Cambridge Naturals

Cambridge Family YMCA

Club Passim

Courthouse Seafood

Curio Spice Co.

Dave’s Fresh Pasta

Flatbread Company

Formaggio Kitchen

Harvard Book Store

Harvard Museums of Science & Culture

Healthworks Cambridge

Henry Bear’s Park

Hyatt Regency Cambridge

Inman Square Hardware

Irving House at Harvard

The Mad Monkfish

Made by Me

Marathon Sports

McKinnon’s Meat Market


Mike’s Food & Spirits



Orleans Restaurant

Paper Source

Passage to India

Porter Square Books

The Porter Square Hotel & Colette Bistro

Somerville Theatre

Spindler Confections

Seven Stars

Veggie Galaxy

When Pigs Fly

Whole Heart Provisions

The Williams Agency / Boston JerkFest

The WRITE Coach

To learn more about Friends of CRLS’s College Scholarships, Faculty Innovation Grants, and other programs, as well as our Bash to be scheduled this fall, get in touch with us: