Local schools wrapped up the first part of the academic year by teaching students one of life's most important lessons: giving to others.
Dozens of holiday gift collections brought in items ranging from toys to toiletries to benefit Long Island's less privileged children and soldiers serving overseas.
In the Levittown district, Northside and Wisdom Lane elementary schools sent 650 holiday cards to soldiers overseas through the American Red Cross' "Holiday Mail for Heroes" program. In addition, Northside collected 800 toys and games as part of a drive to benefit children in local hospitals through the John Theissen Children's Foundation.
In Wading River, the town's elementary school teamed up with the Salvation Army for an "Angel Tag" gift drive that collected enough presents for 175 children in need. First- and second-graders filled a "giving tree" in the lobby with toothpaste, deodorant and soap for people in local shelters.
"The generosity our school has shown is amazing," said second-grade teacher Alice Steinbrecher, who helped organize the collection. "Even in these difficult times people still manage to give so much to others who are in need. It just warms the heart."
In East Setauket, Nassakeag Elementary School collected some 40 boxes of toiletries in a "Boxes for the Soldiers" drive. The boxes, decorated by sixth-graders, included homemade holiday cards for a platoon in Afghanistan where a staff member's nephew is stationed. The family of sixth-grader Tristan Rowland donated 20 cases of energy bars.
In Uniondale, Kellenberg Memorial High School collected more than 3,000 toys for the U.S. Marine Corps' Toys for Tots program and a selection of winter clothing to benefit the Society of Vincent de Paul.
In Shirley, John S. Hobart Elementary School fifth-grader Tyler Allan used $215 of his savings to buy toys for Nana's House, a nonprofit in Mastic.
Bailey Gribben Day
Students at Division Avenue High School collaborated last month on the inaugural Bailey Gribben Day to support their classmate who is battling neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder of the nervous system.
Proceeds from various fundraisers and from the school's football game against Lynbrook High School benefited the Children's Tumor Foundation.
Gribben, a junior, has raised $25,000 over the past few years for the foundation, for which he is a national ambassador. He was presented with an honorary game jersey at halftime.
The Long Beach school district recently educated elementary pupils' parents on everything from student assessments to the importance of reading during the district's first Elementary Parent Academy, held at Lindell Elementary School.
Fifteen workshops were held to give parents "the clearest picture" of how to reinforce their child's learning, officials said.
In other news, Lindell recently raised $2,200 via a "Walk It Forward" event, with participants walking the length of Lindell Boulevard and the Long Beach boardwalk. The money went to a school fund that helps local families in need.
Sanford H. Calhoun High School treated local senior citizens to a first-time musical performance last month as part of a new "senior connection" program in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District.
The acts included everything from commedia dell'arte-style skits to a scene from William Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale."
In other news, the district's Wellington C. Mepham High School recently collected $3,815 for the St. Baldrick's Foundation with a "Battle of the Classes," with the four grade levels competing in physical activities such as volleyball and relay races.
The New York State School Music Association's All-State Conference this month included 347 students from Long Island -- more than one-third of those chosen statewide to participate in ensembles at the event.
The conference, held Dec. 5-8 at the University of Rochester, featured performances by wind, string, women's chorus, symphonic band, mixed chorus, instrumental and vocal jazz ensembles. Thousands of students auditioned at NYSSMA festivals across the state last spring in the hope of winning a spot at All-State.
"Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our students, staff and parents, coupled with the strength and quality of the music program in Massapequa, our students are being recognized at higher levels than ever before," said David Gaines, curriculum associate for music in the Massapequa school district. Ten students from the district were chosen for All-State.