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NFA News: New head of school and honors all around

As we continue to adapt to the environment we are in, the new school year at Norwich Free Academy has already provided a number of highlights. Among them:

New Head of School

Dr. Brian M. Kelly began his tenure as Head of School in early July and immediately began guiding our efforts to provide the safest environment possible for our students, faculty and staff. Kelly joined NFA after an international search. He most recently served as the General Director of Colegio Granadino, a school of more than 900 students in Manizales, Colombia.

“Without a doubt, NFA is the ideal place for me and my family,” Kelly said. “I see this as much more than a job. It’s an opportunity to join a special community and truly make a difference.”

Scholarship winners

Three NFA seniors were recently awarded scholarships by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Trust Fund. Ann Barbot, Makayla Kelley and Valeria Yraita-Zevallos were each called to a special virtual meeting on campus to answer some follow-up questions from their original interview with the scholarship committee. Instead, they were pleasantly surprised to learn that each of them would receive a $20,000 award, paid out evenly over four years. While normally celebrated at a community-wide dinner, this year’s winners will be honored virtually later this month.

United Way recognition

The NFA faculty and staff are proud of the impact we make on our community, both in and out of the classroom. To that end, we were recently honored by the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut, who presented us with its Chairman’s Award for School Engagement of the Year during the 2019-20 United Way Campaign.

In addition to financial contributions, NFA runs a student food pantry to assist members of our own community each week. Our team also is very active in helping out with the mobile food pantry when it is running in our community. We take steps to help us all #LiveUnited.

Hispanic Heritage Month

A celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month is underway at NFA. Running through Oct. 15, this month pays tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.

To mark this month, members of our Successful Hispanic Alliance and Diversity Department have displayed the flags of 19 Hispanic countries on the lawn in front of our Slater Tower. Additionally, artifacts are on display for students to see in the Converse Building.

Teacher of the Year

Cranston House English Teacher Rebecca Holdridge has been named the 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year at NFA. Holdridge has been at NFA since 2015 and is part of the ninth grade literacy unit. She has also taught night school, Saturday Academy and a number of other summer step up and credit recovery programs. She’s also involved in a number of campus-wide committees.

Nominations for Teacher of the Year are accepted during the spring, and the winner is traditionally announced during the annual convocation at the beginning of the year.

That’s a quick look at the start of the year at Norwich Free Academy. We look forward to sharing more stories and pictures with you next month! Until then, you can keep up with the Wildcats online at or find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Michael O’Farrell is the director of communications at NFA and a parent of a two students, Class of 2022 and 2025. He can be reached at


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