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Nonnewaug High School's Chief News Source

NHS Chief Advocate

Nonnewaug High School's Chief News Source

NHS Chief Advocate

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Walsh a Working Force in the Community and Classroom

Tragedy struck Chloe Walsh’s childhood, but the resilience she learned has proven to be something she now sees as an asset. (Courtesy of Chloe Walsh)

WOODBURY — When you’re 5 years old and at your grandfather’s birthday party, life seems normal. A family gathering playing with cousins is a childhood memory almost every person can attest to, but for Chloe Walsh, this became one of the most memorable days of her life.

“It’s one of those things looking back at it, there were definitely signs that something was wrong, but as a 5-year-old, you don’t realize it,” said Walsh, a junior at Nonnewaug High School who lives in Seymour.

Walsh remembered her mother getting a phone call before suddenly leaving the party. 

“Obviously we had no idea what was going on, and I knew that my uncle left after her,” said Walsh. ¨I kept hanging out with my cousins the whole time, playing around, then two or three hours later they came back. The party had died down, but something was clearly wrong.”

Her parents came back, holding a cat carrier, and went into her sister’s room at her grandmother’s house. They closed the door with the cat inside before going to get Chloe and her older sister, Sarah. Their parents sat them down on the bed and then told them the news.

“Everything we had was gone,” said Chloe. “The house fire started in my closet that I shared with my parents. It was a lightbulb that had exploded. It was dead, and when it came back on, no one would have thought anything would happen. I had lost all of my clothing; my sister had only about three pairs of clothes. We lost a cat and pretty much the whole house. The top floor where the fire started had mostly fire damage. Smoke and water [damage] were [on] the bottom two floors.”

Walsh spent the next year living in an apartment in a different area of Seymour or living at her grandmother’s house. For Walsh, this experience taught her more than just resilience. 

“Oftentimes I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m able to do a whole bunch of tasks at one time,” said Walsh. “When you’re 5 years old and all of the sudden your house burns down, you have this huge catastrophe, you’re juggling all sorts of different issues. What am I going to wear tomorrow? What’s going to happen?

With college and career decisions now on the horizon, Walsh now understands how such a formative event puts the future in perspective. 

“You learn to grow up, really quickly,” she said with a laugh. “Because again, you’re now dealing with problems that 20-year-olds have when they are fresh out of college or they have absolutely nothing, and they don’t write a book [of instructions]. They don’t say, ‘Here’s what to do.’ That would be a great book for me to write, but they don’t have that out there; there is no manual.”

Tragedy forced Walsh to grow up quickly and understand that adaptability is a skill that would transcend childhood.

“I grew up quickly and I was able to juggle large problems so when things would come at me I would be able to respond really quickly,” said Walsh. “I think that’s one of the reasons I’m able to juggle 50 things at a time now. Even today, my life has never gotten easier.”

At the age of 7, Walsh’s focus shifted and her life goals began to take shape: She wanted to be governor. Enveloped in the thought of law and order, she has been invested in politics because of a car crash, making her question the legal system along with criminal justice. 

“It was this big deal but no one got hurt — only barely a nick — but the other guy totaled his car. I got invested in all the different policies on why he didn’t get a ticket and what happened, which was an odd thing,” Walsh stated, noting that she became frustrated with the lack of accountability in the legal system. “Before the crash, I had been going to Republican Town Committee meetings, but that got me really invested in town politics.” 

At the ages of 8 and 9, Walsh worked on different campaigns with numerous people on both town politics and district. To date, Walsh has done work with Seymour’s state representative, Nicole Klarides-Ditria, as well on several campaigns, and she has been invited to most of her town’s campaign parties.

Going into middle school with politics still in mind, Walsh took interest in debate and loved it. 

“I started on the middle school team as a sixth grader, and after middle school, I knew Nonnewaug and the FFA had the public speaking opportunities that would take me to nationals,” said Walsh. “I knew that was something I could do. That was one of the main reasons I applied. Public speaking is a huge part of my life and has opened more doors to me than I can count. The American Legion down in Derby, I do a lot of speeches for them, and a lot of speeches here as an officer.”

At the age of 10, when the American Legion ran out of help at a meeting to recite a poem, Walsh was more than willing to help out. By just starting with introducing people and presenting a speech on women during war, she would find herself completely involved in the American Legion.

“To be experiencing these things and talking to these people, [it] helped me build my skills when talking to politicians,” said Walsh. “My sister and I both have taken part in the American Legion; I kind of forced her into it a little. But we got accredited by the state for our work with them. My grandfather at the time was the post commander for Derby Post 24; he and state representative Nicole Klarides-Ditria presented us with these awards for our services. Still to this day I actively help with campaigns wherever I can, but less now since all my time is focused on the school.”

Beyond Walsh’s role in her community, focusing on academics is also something she’s passionate about.

Being recognized on the national FFA stage in Indianapolis alongside agriscience faculty Eric Birkenberger serves as a culmination of Chloe Walsh’s work at NHS. (Courtesy of Chloe Walsh)

“Chloe is a great student and has obvious passion when working,” said Leanne Golembeski, the aquaculture instructor at Nonnewaug. “During class, Chloe likes to learn how to develop new skills and then be able to utilize them. For example, when we were working on the re-creation of our large system, Chloe was the first one to volunteer and begin cutting. Chloe made it a point to learn from those more experienced than her and then implement it or help others do similar tasks.”

Regardless of assignment, Walsh is known among NHS faculty as someone who brings maximum effort to all of her classes. 

“Chloe has a high confidence level, and it shows each day I am with her in one way or another,” said Golembeski. “At the same time, she is not afraid to admit when she is wrong or needs help in different areas. Chloe brings an excitement to the class each day.”

Walsh has also applied her leadership outside of her courses, qualifying for state and national competitions with FFA Creed speaking, a competitive performance to showcase and preserve the heritage of the FFA.

“When I first started speaking the creed, it was about the memorization and the techniques used when saying [the creed]; it wasn’t about believing in it or the words, just a fake-it-’til-you-make-it kind of thing for the competitions,” Walsh stated. “In our heads we knew these words had weight, but [it was] less about interpretation more about memorization.” 

Within this competition, contestants are judged based upon voice control, making sure their voice is upbeat, keeping their cadence impassioned and under control, ensuring that they are emitting a clear voice for the audience, maintaining consistent eye contact with the audience, and portraying confidence and composure through appropriate body language. On top of that, only one contestant per state can qualify for nationals. Walsh served as Connecticut’s representative this fall.  

“Once I was able to say the creed and got it down, it was so weird to me,” said Walsh. “There was this point when speaking where you have an out-of-body experience. I would go and say the creed to these audiences, and we had a running joke where if you remember speaking the words and saying the creed, then you did it badly, but if you had that out-of-body experience, then you did a good job. [When] saying the creed for the 102nd-year celebration for the [Woodbury FFA], I was able to stand up there and I was reciting the creed, but at that moment I was able to see what it meant.”

Walsh’s commitment to memorizing the creed served as a testament to her perseverance and her dedication to Woodbury’s FFA. 

“That’s when I had the, ‘Oh my God, this is not just an organization in high school,’” Walsh remembers. “As I was standing there and looking out to these people who most know the creed by heart and have already spoken it, officers, leaders, people who have worked inside the school system, these are alumni who are coming back 50 years later.” 

Despite the national stage, Walsh was undaunted by the prospect of national recognition in Indianapolis. 

“When you see the people in the audience listening to you and having a physical response to the words you’re saying, that’s when you see it isn’t just words on a page written in 1930,” Walsh said. 

She also attended the Coolidge Cup, a debate competition in Plymouth, Vermont. For Walsh, reciting the FFA Creed allowed her belief in agriculture to come to life. 

“These are words on a page that described the belief system of so many people, no matter what their situation was across the country,” Walsh said. “It was about brotherhood and honesty. It’s about being able to put on that blue jacket and have it become a second layer of skin. It was so wild to me and that is now what sticks with me when saying the creed.”

Walsh’s dedication to the FFA and her studies is admired by fellow students and teachers.

“Chloe is an asset as an officer for the FFA. If you give her something to do, she completes it,“ said Eric Birkenberger, one of the FFA advisors. “She’s a very eager, ambitious student. She works extremely hard for the events committee to plan events for the chapter members. She also does work really well for the alumni association. Chloe has an ability to balance being an officer, event planning and working with the alumni. She’s one of the few students that she will work so hard, you have to tell her to not do something.”

Being a good classmate is also a value which Walsh strives to achieve each day.

“Chloe is a good student and a good classmate. She never causes interruptions and is always there to help if you need it,” said Shelby Jones, a Nonnewaug senior. “She never fails to put a smile on other people’s faces, making the room fill up with energy.”

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About the Contributor
Kylie Healey '24, Reporter
Kylie Healey is a senior and first-year reporter for the NHS Chief Advocate. From Woodbury, Kylie enjoys work outside of school and fishing. Kylie is part of the FFA program and hopes to cover more agricultural stories in the community.
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