Two Nassau County students have been recognized at the state level for making their communities a better place.
Samuel Lam of Jericho High School and Cory Nichols of Oceanside Middle School were selected earlier this month as New York's top two youth volunteers for 2013 by Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program that recognizes outstanding acts of volunteerism.
Each received $1,000 and a free trip to join 100 other state honorees at a spring ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Lam, a senior, was honored for co-founding the nonprofit End to Cyber Bullying Organization that educates people on cyberbullying and provides support and assistance to victims of online harassment. The idea was sparked when a bully plastered Lam's Facebook wall with racial slurs in the eighth grade after he confronted the bully for harassing a classmate.
"I had no idea whom to turn to for help," said Lam, 17, whose nonprofit has more than 200 volunteers. "Humiliated and defenseless, I felt caught in a seemingly hopeless battle."
Nichols, a seventh-grader, is donating at least $100 worth of food items to a local pantry each month for an entire year.
Through his campaign, titled "C the difference: Cory Cares," he solicits donations and uses the funds at a local supermarket that gives him a discount. He sends thank-you notes and bracelets to donors.
"It's rewarding seeing [pantry] shelves go from empty to not-so-empty," said Nichols, 12.
Among the state's eight finalists for the awards were Kevin Chaves of Northport, Stefanie Kaufman of Westbury, Adam Moss of Rockville Centre, Steven Trezza of West Hempstead and Alec Urbach of Roslyn Heights.
As a token of gratitude, the Maine teens were given Lady Devil T-shirts from Long Island's Freeport High School and thank-you cards signed by staff at Giblyn Elementary School.
"This is a wonderful connection for the students of both Freeports," said high school principal Linda Carter. "The hope is to nurture the cooperative relationship into a mutually beneficial and lasting relationship."
Hebrew Academy of Long Beach will be treated to a generous donation of books from Young Israel of Oceanside as a result of the synagogue's first-place victory in an online voting competition held by Yeshiva University in Manhattan.
The university offered to donate $10,000 worth of books to one of six local synagogues or schools affected by superstorm Sandy as part of its Seforim Sale, an annual sale of Jewish books that runs until March 3.
After votes were calculated, Young Israel of Oceanside won and chose to split its winnings with Hebrew Academy.
Lynbrook High School's Tri-M Music Honor Society raised $1,500 earlier this month through a cabaret night to benefit the music department of East Rockaway High School, which was hit hard by superstorm Sandy. The event featured nearly two dozen vocal, instrumental and dance acts.
"Everything from the stage crew to refreshments to ticket sales was arranged and run by the students," said Alyssa Panitch, Lynbrook's Tri-M adviser.
In other news, Waverly Park Elementary School third-graders raised $120 by doing household chores to benefit the North Shore Animal League. Their gift was matched by the school's faculty.
Parents as partners
Many local schools recently held kickoff events and celebrations as part of Parents as Reading Partners, a state PTA program that encourages parents to read with their children at least 15 minutes daily.
In Glen Cove, the district's elementary schools held Community Readers Days in which dozens of guests -- including Superintendent Joseph Laria and Mayor Ralph Suozzi -- visited classrooms to read to children. Fifth-graders Samantha Santos and Branden Rodriguez of the Landing and Connolly elementary schools, respectively, created a logo: "Be a Leader, Be a Reader."
In Syosset, A.P. Willits Elementary School hosted a pep rally in which students held up letters to spell "PARP Rules" with assistance from the school mascot Willy Willits, who collected each child's reading contract and reading logs in the subsequent weeks.
In Elmont, Dutch Broadway Elementary School hosted an Olympics-themed kickoff, with each class depicting a different country and entering the gym to a reading parody of Queen's "We Are the Champions."