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Gwyneth McLear '20 & Olivia D’Allessandro '20

Max Colognesi '21

Gwyneth McLear '20 & Olivia D’Allessandro '20 will collect water samples from all along the east coast and analyzing the levels of the microplastics to observe the effect they are having on the environment.


"Everyone can do a little good in the world – this is the perfect way to take our first steps."

Below is the announcement Josh Rilla – faculty co-chair of the Alex Cohn Grant – made to Upper School students:

This year, nine students applied for the Alex Cohn Grant.

The proposals were professional, impassioned, and downright inspiring.


We had some engineers in the mix this year. Two students applied to build solar-powered mountain bikes from the ground up. Another engineer had his sights set on the future of virtual reality: His proposal was to make a DIY haptic glove, which is a glove interface that allows the user to touch and feel objects in virtual reality.   


There also is an entrepreneur amongst you who pitched organizing an epic, off-campus music concert featuring Beaver students and other local musicians – the proceeds of which would go back into the concert fund creating an annual, self-sustaining concert model for those seeking the spotlight.


Other students wrote beautiful stories of their upbringings and family heritage. One student pitched an idea to travel back to the Philippines to experience the culture of her grandmother’s origins and turn her story into an animated book, along the lines of The Red Pencil.


And yet another student is sought to make a big impact on the educational system in the United State by doing large-scale research on traditional educational techniques and creating an artistic documentary of sorts aimed at improving the nation’s educational landscape.

The bottom line is the committee had a wealth of excellent ideas, & we couldn’t be more proud of the submissions we received.


After much deliberation, the Cohn Committee decided to split the award this year between two project ideas.


The first recipient is actually a duo. Gwyneth McLear '20 and Olivia D’Allessandro '20 have a passion for marine biology and the social power of art. They will be teaming up to make a dent in the microplastics problem that we have in our oceans. Their goal is rent boats off the eastern seaboard and collect important microplastics data that the scientific community currently lacks, specifically point-source ocean pollution. They hope to publish those results online and then create a piece of engineered art educating the populous on their discoveries. Let’s give them a big round of applause.


Our second recipient is a burgeoning carpenter with an eye on helping those in need. Max Colognesi '21 has discovered a passion for woodworking over the last few years while working as a counselor in the Beaver Summer Camp. Recently, in an Upper School meeting, you heard about his partnership with Second Step, a charitable program that helps provide and furnish living spaces for women and children who have left abusive living situations. Max will be building original pieces of furniture and donating many of them to folks in the Second Step program. Let’s give Max a round of applause.


Thanks again to all who applied and all who plan to apply in future years!



Max Colognesi ’21 will be building original pieces of furniture and donating many of them to the families in the Second Step program.


"I would like to receive requests from the families and make furniture for their current location as well as for them to use in their next housing arrangement."

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