For the sixth time in the past nine years, the Lynbrook Junior Fire Department has been named the county's best when it comes to parading.
The department -- which includes students from Lynbrook, Malverne and East Rockaway school districts -- was awarded first place last month as the Best Appearing Junior Fire Department in Nassau County for 2011.
To win, Lynbrook beat out roughly a dozen other junior fire departments based on marching ability and presentation style at several local and state parades held last year.
"It's a military-type of rating service," said Steve Grogan, the department's ex-captain and public information officer. "They [judges] look at everything from whether the juniors' pants are pressed to whether they're talking or have any missteps -- even their haircuts."
The goal of the junior fire department program is to introduce students ages 12 to 17 to the field -- with the exception of actual firefighting -- in the hope they will join the regular fire department at age 18, Grogran said.
Lynbrook's junior program has been around for more than 30 years and has 45 members.
Paying it forward
Baldwin Middle School's Pay It Forward Club recently presented $4,500 in checks raised since the start of the school year to several local organizations to help those in need during the holiday season.
"Last year, the club donated $7,500 to various agencies," said club adviser Walter Baldi. "Our objective is to double that amount." The club has raised $5,800 so far this year, he said.
In other news, the school sent 250 "snowman soup" packages this fall to a U.S. troop in Iraq whom the school adopted. Packages included marshmallows, cocoa and a candy cane.
The effort is part of a yearlong adoption program in which the school will aid the camp with fundraisers such as the zumbathon and a masquerade ball.
"Because the camp is so close to our high school, many students and teachers volunteer there," said junior Shannon Romig, who helped organize the event. "It seemed like a perfect cause to support."
Harry B. Thompson Middle School students recently turned their lunch periods into a theatrical experience during a visit from acclaimed opera singer Francesco Pavesi as part of the school's Opera at Lunch program. During his visit, Pavesi performed several arias, answered questions and spoke to students about the importance of proper breathing techniques.
"I hope students learn from my singing and that I spark further interest in the wonderful genre," Pavesi said. The program is open all students interested in learning about opera.
Human rights contest
New York State United Teachers and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights in Washington, D.C. have launched a contest inviting New York students in grades 6-12 to create a three- to six-minute video about a human rights violation and the individuals who are fighting it.
"This is one of the many ways young people can learn about activism and what it means to speak truth to power in the face of injustice and inequality," said John Heffernan, director of the center's Speak Truth to Power program.
The deadline is Jan. 31, and the grand-prize video will be shown at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival in April. Submission details can be found at