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Brentwood High School student wins scholarship for safe-driving campaign

Brentwood High School senior Laura Villatoro accepts the

Brentwood High School senior Laura Villatoro accepts the scholarship with school administrators and Suffolk County Police Office Bonnie Raber, who issued Villatoro a proclamation. Credit: Brentwood School District

A Brentwood High School student is grand-prize winner of a $9,999 scholarship in a first-time local campaign designed to help educate peers about the dangers of distracted driving.

Senior Laura Villatoro took first place for her anti-texting awareness activities held in conjunction with iDrive — a program that strives to inspire students to take a pledge against texting while driving.

The program kicked off last year at five area high schools — Brentwood, Hempstead, Shoreham-Wading River, Uniondale and Wyandanch.

Villatoro's efforts included collecting more than 300 anti-texting pledges from members of her school community, distributing elastic bands to cover cellphones and deter their use while driving, and handing out cupcakes to students in exchange for their no-texting pledges.

She was presented with the scholarship check during a Nov. 7 ceremony at her school.

"I never thought I would win,” said Villatoro, 17, who credits her parents with inspiring her actions. Of texting and driving, she said: "Don't be selfish. Turn off your phone entirely so you're not distracted.”

The campaign began early in the 2013-14 school year, when iDrive representatives visited the five schools and challenged students to make two-minute anti-texting videos for an opportunity to be named the no-texting ambassador for their school.

Villatoro won her school's ambassadorship and then carried out the other awareness activities during the remainder of the school year. For those efforts, she was named the scholarship winner.

The iDrive program is co-sponsored by NY Auto Giant and Audi Lynbrook, which funded the scholarship prize.


AMITYVILLE: Message of forgiveness

Seventh- and eighth-graders at Edmund W. Miles Middle School recently received an inspirational visit from Steven McDonald, an NYPD detective shot in the line of duty in 1986. McDonald — who is quadriplegic as a result of the shooting — spoke to students about the power of forgiveness as well as the importance of preventing violence.

McDonald was injured when a 15-year-old boy shot him three times after being stopped for questioning about bicycle thefts in Central Park. The teenager, who served nine years in prison, died in a motorcycle accident three days after he was paroled in 1995.


BABYLON: Walking club

Babylon Memorial Grade School has launched a new walking club in an effort to build upon a school initiative designed to bolster healthy recess options. The club operates once a week and "features a variety of activities rooted in walking,” school officials said.

Participants use pedometers to track their number of steps and are rewarded for reaching various benchmarks. Rewards range from having their name read over the school loudspeaker to winning shoelace charms.

FREEPORT: Hispanic heritage

The eight schools within the Freeport school district hosted an array of activities during October in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Events included a student feast of Spanish foods at Leo F. Giblyn Elementary School, and a workshop at Archer Street Elementary School demonstrating how people in various Spanish-speaking countries use different words to describe a common item.

The district's Caroline G. Atkinson Intermediate School kicked off its celebration with a Spanish-themed dance performed by students at a district Board of Education meeting.

ISLANDWIDE: Veterans Day

Dozens of local schools honored area veterans in November with events and activities held in celebration of Veterans Day.

In Freeport, Caroline G. Atkinson Intermediate School students honored local vets with a choral performance, as part of a ceremony hosted by the American Legion at the Freeport Recreation Center. The school's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) executed a precision marching drill.

In New Hyde Park, a "wall of honor” was made at New Hyde Park Road School that showed photographs of local veterans, supplied by students and staff. The oldest photo featured a student's great-great-grandparent, who served during World War II.

In Levittown, fifth-graders at Gardiners Avenue Elementary School created cards with thank-you notes for the American Legion in Wantagh.

In Mastic Beach, Tangier Smith Elementary School hosted a concert in which kids presented thank-you cards to local vets and sang "Yankee Doodle Dandy” and patriotic songs. The event was attended by members of the American Legion's Arthur H. Clune Post 1533 and the 106th Rescue Wing of the Air National Guard.

In Hauppauge, Bretton Woods Elementary School honored 41 local vets with a music assembly that culminated with the entire student body singing Lee Greenwood's "Proud to Be an American.” The keynote speaker was Town of Islip Supervisor and state Sen.-elect Tom Croci, who served in the U.S. Navy.

In Copiague, Great Neck Road Elementary School hosted a breakfast for students' relatives who served in the armed forces and members of a local Veterans of Foreign Wars post.


ISLANDWIDE: Field band results

The Huntington High School Blue Devil marching band captured top honors in the 41st annual New York State Field Band Conference Competition, placing first in the "large school 3" category.

They received the highest score among marching bands from eight Long Island high schools in the competition, held in Syracuse's Carrier Dome. More than 5,000 students in bands from 55 high schools in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania competed in six classifications on the weekend of Oct. 25-26.

Among participating high schools in Nassau County, Floral Park placed fourth and Division Avenue in Levittown placed fifth in the "small school 3" class. Mineola placed second in the "small school 2" class, while Malverne placed third in that class.

Each band's performance lasted seven to 10 minutes, and groups were evaluated based on their musical and visual presentation.

In other results for schools from Suffolk County, the Sachem Flaming Arrows marching band placed fourth in the "large school 3" class. The band from Walter G. O'Connell-Copiague took third in the "large school 2" class.

Each band's performance lasted seven to 10 minutes, and groups were evaluated based on their musical and visual presentation.

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