Janiece Morgan was just a small child during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but now the Copiague Middle School student wants to spend that tragic day doing good.
As a member of the school's "Esteem Team," Morgan is helping to clean used backpacks that will be stuffed with school supplies and given to charities. Her school is taking part Friday in the first National Day of Service and Remembrance, as outlined in the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America legislation signed by President Barack Obama.
Making Sept. 11 a day of public service could mean "people will not think of it as a horrible, horrible thing that happened," said Morgan, 13. "We can build upon it.''
Many schools across Long Island have chosen to participate in the day of service.
In the William Floyd and Valley Stream school districts, students are gathering canned goods and other perishables to donate. In Wyandanch, elementary students will make friendship cards for local seniors. And in Copiague, where Morgan goes to school, middle school principal Andrew Lagnado said the staff came up with the plan to donate backpacks.
Art teacher Maria Ostrofsky is Esteem Team's adviser, and her husband is a New York City firefighter whose firehouse lost 14 members on Sept. 11. Lagnado said the service project will likely continue for years to come.
"It's a great idea to do something good on such a bad day," said Joseph Amorosino, 13.
Garden City Middle School students are collecting new storybooks and pajamas for The Pajama Program, an organization that serves children awaiting adoption. Garden City was particularly hard hit by the Sept. 11 attacks when 21 residents were killed.
To earn a Girl Scout merit badge, Garden City High School senior Emily Madigan contacted the middle school and launched the project. Collection boxes were placed in classrooms and notes about the drive sent home to parents.
"We are giving pajamas to people who really need it," said Madigan, 17.
Spanish teacher Dina Reilly, who is helping with the service project, said middle school students are also composing poems or short stories to send to The Pajama Program.
In the Valley Stream 13 school district, fifth-graders at Willow Road School will honor the day by starting a food drive to benefit Island Harvest, said teacher Sharon Marrione.
For one week, children will be asked to bring donated food items.
"For a lot of these kids, [Sept. 11] is something they hear about, but can't grasp it in the same sense of poignancy," Marrione said. "I love the idea of making this day something that inspires someone to serve others while making it in the memory of the people who were lost that day."