Riverhead High School's Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps drill team has marched its way to the top spot in the tri-state area for the fifth straight year.

The team finished first among 10 teams last month in the Area Four Regional Drill Competition at Mattituck High School.

The meet was a qualifier for the U.S. Navy's Junior ROTC Area Four Championships to be held this spring in upstate Middletown. Riverhead has now secured one of 12 spots available to schools in the Northeast region for that event.

"One of our goals every year is to make Area Four, and our kids are really motivated by it," said Riverhead's ROTC instructor, Peter McCarthy. "Walking away with the first-place trophy gets you bragging rights."

Riverhead students winning first place in various categories were Alison Miller in varsity color guard, Leanne Weber in varsity inspection team, Abigail Wehunt in first-year cadet squad, John Roca in first-year cadet inspection and Aleki Lui for first-year cadet color and first-year cadet academics.

Each meet includes a synchronized drill, naval science exams and a battalion personnel inspection. Naval inspectors even use rulers to check that ribbons are properly hung on uniforms, McCarthy said.

Other Long Island high schools in the event were Westbury, Freeport and William Floyd. The meet was sponsored by the Southold/ Greenport/Mattituck NJROTC.

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Winter wonderland

Great Neck Road Elementary School recently transformed the school gymnasium into a "wonderland" of winter activities designed to test pupils both mentally and physically. Activities included a mountain skiing simulation using Nintendo Wii, a polar-themed puzzle and a "letter scramble" in which students were asked to spell out winter-related words.

In other news, Walter G. O'Connell Copiague High School recently hosted a Senior-to-Senior Dinner in which the school's senior class prepared a meal for more than 300 local senior citizens.


"I think [this dinner] is one of the most important community outreach programs our senior class is involved with," said class adviser Kerri Costadura.



Reality show: jail tour

Huntington High School's street law and criminal justice classes recently received a firsthand look a prison life during a visit to the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverhead. During the visit, 42 students toured the facility's male and female tiers to view the living conditions of individuals who "lost their freedom due to poor decisions," school officials said.

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Before the tour, a Suffolk County deputy sheriff visited the school to educate students on the jail's history and to display contraband items that had been confiscated from prisoners.

"[They] learned more in one day at the correctional facility than any book could possibly teach them," said the business teacher Suzi Biagi.



Food collection

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Woods Road Elementary School collected more than 1,600 nonperishable food items last month for local families in need through a joint effort coordinated by the student council, the PTA and the North Babylon Teachers Organization.

Students personally delivered the items and stocked the shelves of a food pantry at the Babylon Town Hall Annex.

In other news, William E. Deluca Jr. Elementary School students recently raised more than $3,000 for the American Heart Association with a Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser.



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 that 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 if 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 speaktruthvideo .com.