Fly me to the moon

Alta student Mario Castorino watches his patriotic rocket take off during a school demonstration on Monday.



Students at Alta at the Pyne Center, Southington’s alternative high school, launched a campaign to raise money for Tops Marketplace and Southington’s local soup kitchen, Bread for Life.

Students built mini-rockets and fired them into the sky with the help of retired teacher George Pulley, who returned as a substitute. Individual rockets were sponsored by individuals and local organizations, raising about $300.

“Ever since the Tops Marketplace fire, we got involved in this fundraiser,” said Pulley. “Our principal Jess Levin thought it would be a cool idea if kids built model rockets, then make the fundraiser public, and raise money for Tops to rebuild, which helps out BFL along with our breakfast program.”


School counselor Mark Hill said Tops had a strong connection with BFL and regularly donated food products to the kitchen. BFL’s donations have been impacted since the devastating fire at the locally owned grocery store.

Twenty-five rockets were built by students, and ten were sponsored. Rockets varied in size and power. Each were uniquely decorated, and equipped with a parachute.

“These could go up to 1,200 feet in the air,” said Pulley. “We know how the wind is down here on the ground, but we have no idea what it’s like up that high. These rockets could travel quite far.”

Luckily the rockets remained within sight.

Superintendent of Schools Tim Connellan shot off the first rocket, nicknamed “News Flash” and decorated with newspaper clippings by Alta student Carissa Cayer.

“This is really amazing. The students are so engaged,” said Connellan. “This project allowed them to learn by working hands-on. That’s what science is these days—it’s less about the textbook.”

Cayer said she was shocked at how high the rocket soared. Another student, Edell Bevans, was excited to see her rocket shoot off.

“The whole thing was pretty cool,” she said. She had painted her rocket with several solid colors and splashes of neon paint, and got her inspiration from music festivals. “It was cool to see other people’s themes and ideas, too.”

Tops Marketplace experienced a fire that wiped out the entire building in March. Tops was no stranger to community service, regularly donating products to nonprofit organizations and events all over town. When news of the fire spread throughout the state, the community held a candlelit vigil and pledged to help Tops reopen.

Owners remained optimistic, and recently announced that they anticipate reopening in February 2020.

To help contribute via check, mail to “Tops Marketplace Community Rebuild Fund, c/o United Bank. 158 N. Main St., Southington, CT 06489.”

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