Best of 2015

This year was easily the best in my so-far short career. In 2015, I covered murder plots, weight loss, racism, sexism, bees and much, much  more. Here are the stories I wrote this year that I’m most proud of:

Defeating obesity: This was likely my first story of 2015. I spoke with people who had or were considering gastric bypass surgery after MetroWest Medical Center expanded its bariatric surgery program due to growing need. This quickly transformed from a story about weight loss to one about personal loss. These patients grappled with the loss of a former self, of identity, and, often, of family and friends.

Struggling in suburbia: Poverty is sometimes obvious in the city. You see people begging on street corners, and lines outside the shelters. In the affluent towns in MetroWest Boston, though, poverty is very quiet, and sometimes sneaky. This poses a few challenges. People are less likely to donate to local charities in affluent towns because they don’t see the need. In the same vein, poor families struggle to find help in suburban towns because shelters and pantries are not as obvious as in the city. This is the story of one woman, but she tells the story of many.

Hudson native allegedly murdered abroad: Thanks to incessant Facebook trolling, I broke this story about a former Hudson, MA resident who was killed while working as a government contractor in Saudi Arabia. Chris Cramer’s death was originally called a suicide, but was later revealed to be something potentially more insidious.

Teacher remembered after suicide: Marc Levasseur, a teacher at Framingham’s Reed Academy, committed suicide in September. His family, shocked and grieving, remembered his dedication to his work and his love for his family. This was a hard story to write.

Shortage stretches foster families thin: After Ava Conway-Coxon died in foster care, the Department of Children and Families came under fire yet again. In this article, I took a look at the foster system, finding a shortage in families willing to take in children. The existing foster families are, in turn, asked to take on more children than they maybe should. Conway-Coxon’s foster mother had waivers in place to allow her to take care of more than the allowable number of young foster children.

Women absent from executive boards: Sen. Karen Spilka passed a resolution to get more women on corporate boards after finding dismal numbers on inclusion in the state’s largest firms. Here’s a look at why women are largely left out when it comes to corner offices.

Confederate flag sparks controversy: A Confederate flag sticker caused uproar on Framingham State’s campus in November, leading to larger discussions on race. I wrote a longer article about race on campus, but this one encapsulates the tension in Framingham.

I wrote countless more, and many that I’m definitely forgetting, but these are the ones I’d recommend if you missed them (or even if you didn’t!). Here’s to many more in 2016.

Bee deaths concerning, mysterious

This story was published in the MetroWest Daily News on May 30
http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/article/20150530/NEWS/150539670/?Start=1

Depending on who you ask, the honey bees are in various states of decline. Some say the bees are doing all right, but others say they’re dying quickly. Some local beekeepers saw total loss this winter, others made it through all right and their hives are looking strong. One thing everyone agrees on is honey bee health is somewhat of a mystery.

"Abeilles 01" by 0x010C - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abeilles_01.jpg#/media/File:Abeilles_01.jpg

“Abeilles 01” by 0x010C – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abeilles_01.jpg#/media/File:Abeilles_01.jpg

On May 19, President Barack Obama announced the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, a plan to study bee health and restore 7 million acres of pollinator habitat by planting wildflowers and other bee-friendly plants on federal land at an $82 million price tag. Though local beekeepers are dubious about the plan’s specifics, they hope the new federal focus on bees will help demystify the pollinators. Continue reading

Gastric bypass is a way of life

Published in the MetroWest Daily News on Jan. 3, 2015
http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/article/20150103/NEWS/150109033/?Start=1

Kimberly Choquette sometimes forgets she doesn’t weigh 400 pounds anymore. She catches herself shopping in the plus-size department, leaving the sales lady to redirect her to smaller sizes. When she had gastric bypass surgery five years ago, Choquette said she never imagined she’d weigh less than 200 pounds, but now she does and she said she will forever.

Choquette, 47, of Franklin, is one of what MetroWest Medical Center said is an increasing number of weight-loss surgery patients, according to MetroWest Medical Center. CEO Barbara Doyle said the medical center, with campuses in Framingham and Natick, will expand its bariatric surgery department this year to meet the steady demand from patients who have tried diet, exercise and countless New Year’s resolutions to no avail. Continue reading