Long Island students are doing their part to spread the warmth this holiday season.
Dozens of clothing drives at local schools in recent weeks have brought in thousands of coats, gloves and other winter-related items for those in need.
In Freeport, John W. Dodd Middle School's Future Corps Club collected more than 100 coats through a drive to benefit the Salvation Army's Freeport Citadel Corps. Club members personally delivered the coats to the citadel and were treated to lessons on the organization's history and mission of helping underprivileged individuals.
"The generosity of the human spirit is astounding," said Linda Salzer, the school's Future Corps adviser. "Our club members interested in community service now have a connection with a local program where they can volunteer."
In Syosset, Berry Hill Elementary School collected hats, scarves and gloves to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island. Some items were hung on a "giving tree" designed on a school wall, where third-graders wrote on paper apples about how it feels to give.
In East Setauket, Minnesauke Elementary School's Positive Behavorial Interventions and Supports Committee headed a collection of 155 gently used coats for the Children's Community Head Start & Early Head Start, a program for income-eligible families in 13 Suffolk County school districts through the Community Program Centers of Long Island.
In Center Moriches, the district's three schools set up drop boxes for donations of new pajamas for local children in need. Scholastic Books paired a new book with each pajama set.
"This season, Center Moriches' learning community is, once again, dedicated to bringing a smile to others who are less fortunate as we give thanks for our many blessings," Superintendent Russell Stewart said.
Physical education grant
The Freeport school district has been awarded a $701,917 physical education grant from the U.S. Department of Education, through its Carol M. White Physical Education Program in partnership with Adelphi University.
The three-year grant will help the district enhance its physical education and wellness curriculum for students in grades K-12.
Planned programs will range from focusing on proper nutrition to the use of equipment and technology that will help students monitor progress toward personal fitness goals, the district said.
"This grant will enable us to go to the next level of physical education and wellness instruction, ensuring students receive the knowledge and skills they need to live a healthy lifestyle," said Jonathan Bloom, the district's director of health, physical education and athletics.
Mineola Middle School is among a group of 87 schools nationwide to be named an Apple Distinguished School for the 2013-14 school year for its efforts demonstrating Apple's "highest vision of a successful 21st Century learning environment," school officials said.
The designation is a result of the school district's iPad program, which enables more than 1,200 pupils -- including all middle-schoolers -- to use district-issued iPads.
Letters to military
Students in grades K-5 at Robbins Lane Elementary School recently wrote more than 250 letters to military personnel who are away from loved ones this holiday season.
The effort, spearheaded by the school's student council, was inspired by U.S. Navy Lt. Christine Deuro, who is the daughter of a school staffer and is currently deployed in the Middle East.
In other news, Syosset High School has been named to the National Forensic League's Societe de 400, which is reserved for chapters that earned 400 or more level-of-membership points the previous year. These chapters represent less than 1 percent of all schools nationwide, school officials said.
Nine Long Island high schools were among 123 semifinalists nationwide last month to be named "Signature Schools" by the GRAMMY Foundation based on their "outstanding commitment to music education," the organization said.
The semifinalist schools are Bay Shore, Bellport, Garden City, Herricks, Great Neck North and Great Neck South, Mineola, Plainview-Old Bethpage and Sayville.
Finalists will be announced in the spring and will receive a grant between $1,000 and $15,000 to benefit their music programs.
"Many of these schools face serious economic challenges, so it's truly inspiring to see this level of commitment to arts education and to the students who benefit from this type of curriculum," said Neil Portnow, president and chief executive of The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation.