Kevin Herrera and Mike Rutkoski are in high gear: The two Eastern Suffolk BOCES students took first place recently at the state finals of the Greater New York Automobile Dealership Association competition.

The two seniors at Mattituck-Cutchogue High School, who are enrolled in the automobile technology program at Eastern Suffolk BOCES' H.B. Ward Career & Technical Center in Riverhead, each received a $50,000 college scholarship.

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They advance to the national finals against 32 teams, to be held next month at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.

"We're very grateful for this," Herrera said. "I didn't know what to say when we won. I was just speechless."

The competition required the two-student teams to spend two hours diagnosing and fixing a vehicle bugged with problems that ranged from low tire pressure to non-working taillights to loose lug nuts. The biggest problem on their 2012 Mazda CX-7, Herrera said, was the inoperable mass airflow sensor.

To reach the state level, Herrera and Rutkoski took first place at the regional level in January. There, they each won a $40,000 college scholarship.

"We were training every day after school for a month in advance of the regionals," Rutkoski said. Of the nationals, he said: "I think we have a good shot. Just getting there is a good achievement in itself."

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'Fear Stops Here'

William Floyd Middle School's Students Against Bullying Club recently hosted a bullying awareness week called "Fear Stops Here," in which more than 200 students signed pledges indicating they would stand up and speak out against bullying, school officials said.

Those who signed the "upstander pledge" were given tickets to attend an after-school movie.

Pupils also gave "compliment cards" to classmates to help them feel appreciated.

"I think this will let kids know they are not alone," seventh-grader Juliette Hubley said of the pledges. "Victims will know . . . that there are people here who will help them."



Farm Bureau award

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Justin Bakewicz, a senior at Rocky Point High School, beat out 10 other finalists statewide to be named the first-place scholarship recipient by the New York Farm Bureau and receive $1,500 toward his future career goals in the agricultural industry.

This is the second consecutive year that a Long Island student has won the competition's top scholarship.

"Does it mean anything to have two in a row -- absolutely," said Kristina Sidor, Long Island Farm Bureau's promotion and education chairwoman. "I think a statement is being made about Long Island's agricultural industry -- that we are strong, viable and growing."

To win, Bakewicz entered an essay on the importance of modern agriculture


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Schools to Watch

Longwood Junior High School and Sayville Middle School were recently recognized nationally and on the state level as an Essential Elements School to Watch for 2012. The schools will be honored at a spring conference in Washington, D.C. The award was issued by the New York State Middle School Association.

Schools were examined in a process that included two visits by a team of middle school evaluators who spoke with students, faculty and board members.

"Our students and staff know through experience they are working and learning in a safe and friendly environment," said Levi McIntyre, principal of Longwood Junior High School. "The school's culture is built in teaming across all organizational and instructional programs."



Youth essay contest

The Long Island Outdoor Communicators Network, On the Water magazine and the Coastal Conservation Association New York have launched a 2012 Youth Essay Writing Contest designed to introduce youngsters to the enjoyment of fishing and other outdoor activities.

The contest is open to all Long Island students in grades 1-12. The deadline is Oct. 31.

Contest themes are: 1) My Favorite Fishing Story; 2) What Fishing Means to Me; or 3) How My Generation Can Help Conserve the World's Fish Populations. Entries should be submitted to the network's contest coordinator via email at

All entries will be honored at an awards ceremony, and some may be chosen for publication.