Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Grillo’s jewelry makes a statement

Aria Grillo ’05“I knew I loved jewelry making and charity work, but I never thought I would create a career joining the two. It takes experience—and some bumps in the road—to get to that ‘aha!’ moment,” says Aria B. Grillo ’05. For her, that moment occurred when friends and coworkers started to request her custom-made jewelry. She decided to combine her creativity and her generous nature by creating her own company, Ciao Aria, which specializes in what she likes to call “gemerosity.” Ten percent of each purchase made is donated to a charity chosen by the customer. Her unique flair and charitable cause recently caught the attention of Marie Claire magazine, which spotlighted Ciao Aria bracelets in its December issue. Her bracelets were also voted one of the best 100 gifts of 2011 by popsugar.com. By day, Grillo, who graduated from Wheaton with a major in psychology and a minor in studio art, works at the NYU Langone Medical Center in the office of development and corporate fundraising, specializing in pediatrics, oncology and child life. Nights and weekends, she is busy beading and dreaming up new designs from her New York City apartment. Charity work is important to Grillo. In addition to donating profits from Ciao Aria, she also volunteers as a board member for Tuesday’s Children, a charity supporting children who have lost a parent to 9/11. Starting a small business was a challenge. As an artist, she found that “the hardest part was realizing I really needed to create a brand for myself, market the brand, and promote it. It can be very hard at first to promote a product when the product is really personal for you, or the product is you.” But Grillo has found the adventure to be deeply rewarding, saying, “Yes, it is possible to really do what you love to do as a career. It took me some time to figure out what I truly wanted to do, but if you have a passion, pursue it. We need more art and creativity in the world.” She says she is grateful for her Wheaton friends and professors, mentors whom she still calls for advice. To Wheaton students interested in selling their own fashions, she advises, “Wear what you make! I was approached by one of the editors at Marie Claire because she saw my bracelets and loved them.”


To see her jewelry and list of charities, visit ciaoaria.com.

Carissa Hanagriff starts her own school

Carissa Hanagriff ’06Carissa Hanagriff ’06 has helped to develop a preschool in East Boston from the ground up. Along with the parent-run board, she designed and remodeled the space and developed the school’s curriculum for 2- to 5-year-olds. She is the director of the Harbor City School, which now has 13 families enrolled. Here, she talks about the experience:

A school grows in Boston. “A friend of mine had been dreaming of starting her own school, and last summer she and a group of parents in her East Boston community started what became the board of directors of Harbor City School. When I heard they were seeking a director for the project, I couldn’t resist. I had just finished my master’s in elementary education at UMass-Boston and was looking for a way to make an impact on the educational landscape in Boston. The prospect of helping to shape a school into what I believe to be an ideal setting for early education was totally exhilarating.”

Finding focus. “During my senior year, I participated in a program through the Filene Center that helped me narrow down my interests and ideals until I had a clear picture of what I wanted after college. I recall saying, ‘But I don’t want a real job. ...’ Kay Gruder of the Filene Center helped me clarify what I meant, which was: I didn’t want a corporate job. I was seeking nonprofit positions without even knowing it. Through the Filene Center, I secured a position on the ’06–’07 AmeriCorps Team at Providence Children’s Museum.”

A discovery. “Wheaton was where I learned how much I cared about education. I thought I didn’t like working with children, but when I said as much to Professor Andy Howard, he laughed at me, pointing out that I had been working with children my entire career at Wheaton. I was a founding member of Norton Youth Theater, I taught art at the Pinecroft School and I was a preceptor. ...The patient advising of people like Professor Howard and Kay Gruder helped me understand what I had been ignoring inside myself.”

Life lessons. “I also learned firsthand that access to education is one of the biggest hurdles facing many kids in this country. I was fortunate enough to receive an enormous amount of financial aid, which is the only way I could attend Wheaton. It was a pivotal point in my life, and providing access to high-quality education is now one of my most important career goals. By our second year, I hope to be able to provide sliding-scale tuition as well as scholarships at Harbor City School.”

Emily Baldwin ’14 puts cyber intelligence to work

Emily Baldwin '14International arms control.

Nuclear nonproliferation.


Sounds like the makings of a great summer blockbuster movie. But these issues were Emily Baldwin’s reality last summer.

Using her New Global Security Fellowship award, the sophomore worked part-time in a mentorship program that she designed, combining her interest in both computer science and international relations. She assisted staff at Sandia National Laboratories in the International Safeguards and Technology Systems Department on a variety of different projects in support of Sandia’s global security mission.

Sandia develops science-based technologies aimed at national and global security, with a focus on information systems related to international arms control, nuclear nonproliferation, and counterterrorism.

“The majority of my work explored cryptography and its application in an international and political realm,” she said. “Each of the various projects was incredibly interesting.”

One of her main jobs was helping to configure a Virtual Private Network (VPN) test scenario with contacts at Comissão Nacional de Energia Nuclear, Brazil’s national nuclear authority. The work was in preparation for future use in setting up a shared VPN surveillance system between Brazil and Argentina to transmit public health information. She also was involved with a committee of the Nonproliferation and Cooperative Threat Reduction Center, surveying departmental websites as part of cyber security analysis.

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Child’s play, serious learning

Preschoolers develop STEM literacy through everyday activities and play.

Two preschoolers, a boy and a girl, are playing with blocks at the Elisabeth Amen Nursery School on Wheaton’s campus. They are building a bridge. He steps back, examines the structure, and then consults with her before making changes.

What looks like ordinary play is so much more, according to Professor of Education Vicki Bartolini. In this case, she says, the youngsters are learning about engineering. “The structure is complex. They’re using physics concepts. They’re exploring the concept of gravity.”

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