HARTFORD – Catholic schools received a nod at the state capitol May 2 as Senator Len Suzio (R-Cheshire) and three other members of the General Assembly presented a legislative citation to Kavin Kathir, an eighth-grade student at St. Bridget School in Cheshire.
Kavin, 13, was recognized for winning 10 awards at the 70th annual Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair in March, and was honored for being named the 2018 Cheshire Town Scholar — which earned him a full four-year scholarship to Cheshire Academy.
“This is a wonderful achievement for Kavin, but the school and parents deserve credit, too,” said Senator Suzio. “It’s wonderful that St. Bridget’s has such a strong academic program that encourages and rewards academic excellence … and that we have great Catholic schools where young scholars can grow.
“You can have all that potential, but if it isn’t tickled out of the child by parents and a good academic environment like St. Bridget’s, then the talent goes to waste,” he continued. Clearly the academic environment at St. Bridget’s has helped to bring out his talent. So there’s a lot to be proud of for the school, the family and the town.”
Kavin came up with the idea for his project, "Transforming Trash to Treasure: A Sustainable Approach to Oil Spill Cleanup," after hearing news reports about two recent oil spills on the Naugatuck River. Internet research led him to compare clean-up materials, and he honed in on milkweed, a biomass that is an effective absorbent.
“When I was looking for a science fair project, I really wanted to find a project that could impact our world positively, and environmental science really caught my eye and interest, said Kavin. “So I decided to do my project on cleaning up a toxic oil spill.”
He entered his project in the school’s annual science fair for sixth- through eighth-grade students, won first place and went on to compete in the state fair.
“I feel very honored to receive this recognition,” said Kavin. “It was a project that I really worked hard on. I couldn’t have done it without the help, nurturing and fostering of St. Bridget School, my teachers and my family and my friends. I really give them a lot of credit.”
Michelle Carroll, middle school science teacher, who teaches earth science, life science, chemistry and physics, said she has watched Kavin grow from a quiet, shy sixth grader to a confident, capable young man “who is excited to stand up and talk about his project.”
Noting that St. Bridget’s is one of the few middle schools to sponsor a science fair, she explained that students begin learning the science fair process in the sixth grade.
“I showed him the path and the how; and he’s just taken off with it,” said Carroll.
Kavin’s Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair awards this year included a third-place prize from Pfizer, Inc.; second-place from Eversource Energy; a certificate and medallion from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and a certificate from Ricoh Americas Corp.
Last year, Kavin picked a bioplastics project that won four awards at the science fair. And currently in an after school science club, he is building a robotic race car, powered by lithium, out of plastic water bottles and caps to explore the three laws of motion.
“We’re very excited and incredibly proud of Kavin,” said Jennifer Furlong, principal of St. Bridget School, which has an enrollment of 372 students.
“This demonstrates the high caliber of our talented teachers and Catholic education,” she added. “We very often out-test public schools,” said Mrs. Furlong, noting that parents often enroll their children in Catholic schools because of the academic excellence, structure and organization offered.
“He’s a highly intelligent young man, but you would never know it … he’s one of those quiet leaders,” said Mrs. Furlong. “I don’t think this is the last we’re going to be hearing from him, whether it’s 30 years from now curing diseases or coming up with the next greatest invention. This is just the beginning for him.”
Valerie Mara, archdiocesan assistant superintendent of academics, agreed. “I am in awe of not just his critical thinking and his ability to use the scientific method, but his use of his imagination and creativity to think outside of the box at such a young age,” she said.
His parents, who hold doctorates in biochemistry and are scientists with biotechnology companies in Connecticut and New York, also expressed their pride.
“We’re just happy and very grateful for this opportunity,” said his mother, Leena.
She explained that when her younger son, Nilan, began attending kindergarten at St. Bridget, she was so impressed by the many opportunities and advanced teaching levels she saw at the school that she decided to transfer Kavin from his public school to St. Bridget.
“It’s so exciting,” said Kavin’s father Muthusamy about the recognition for his son. “I don’t know where he gets his motivation and focus from,” he said.
He also commented on their decision to enroll Kavin at St. Bridget School.
“It made a tremendous difference, the nurturing, the culture, his peers. It feels like a family,” he said. “It’s a small school, yet everyone is growing together as a family,” he added. “It is a great feeling to be part of that, and it made a huge difference in our lives for sure.”
Looking ahead, Kavin already is debating between becoming a scientist or cardiologist. “Either way, I really want to help people through my profession,” he said.