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Long IslandEducation

3 Suffolk teens nominated for Presidential Scholars Program

Sofia Gutierrez of West Hempstead High School is

Sofia Gutierrez of West Hempstead High School is one of five Long Island students nominated for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. Credit: West Hempstead School District

Five Long Island teens were among 25 statewide last month to be nominated for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program.

The recognition is considered one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students, with one boy and one girl from each state named Presidential Scholars.

Nominees from Suffolk are Victoria Blydenburgh of Westhampton Beach High School; Siena Gates of Southampton High School; and Epiphany Ramirez of Walt Whitman High School in South Huntington. Nassau nominees are Michael Bailey of Elmont Memorial High School, and Sofia Gutierrez of West Hempstead High School.

“All of these nominees have demonstrated exceptional academic success, artistic excellence or career skills development,” State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said. “They represent the best of New York’s future and show a real drive to make the world a better place.”

The U.S. Department of Education invites students to apply based on SAT or ACT scores, or nominations from chief state school officers or other authorized organizations. Candidates then undergo a rigorous application process and are subsequently evaluated on factors ranging from academic achievement to extracurricular involvements.

About 800 semifinalists will be announced in April, with scholars announced in May. Scholars will receive an expense-paid trip this summer to Washington, and a medallion during a ceremony sponsored by the White House.

“To be nominated for an award based on who I am and what I’ve been doing is mind-blowing,” said Blydenburgh.


Spirit of Empire

East Islip High School’s mock trial team won the David Post Spirit of Empire Award for showing the highest standards of civility and professionalism at the 2016 Empire World Mock Trial Championship in Brooklyn. The team was the sole winner from Long Island.

The tournament attracted some 700 students from seven nations. This year’s fictional case involved an American accused of conspiring with a terrorist group to plant bombs and carry out a mass shooting.

“Our team is proud and honored to have been chosen by our peers to be the recipients of this award,” East Islip’s mock trial coach Patricia Lester said.


Outdoor area refurbished

Six special-needs students at Eastern Suffolk BOCES’ Harry B. Ward Technical Center recently used their classroom skills to rebuild and refurbish an outdoor area that was designated to be torn down. The work was designed to help the teens gain experience needed for entry-level employment.

The project consisted of replacing an old wall bordering the 60-foot area, installing and painting siding and landscaping and constructing a walkway. The pupils also recently began installing a wood deck.

“This favorite spot is now back in use and better than ever,” said facilities maintenance teacher Arthur Pagano.


‘Hour of Code’

Many local students learned the basics of computer programming last month as part of the nonprofit’s “Hour of Code,” a national campaign meant to spur interest in the growing field.

In Greenlawn, Oldfield Middle School stretched the event into the school’s first weeklong celebration, from Dec. 5-9. “Doing the program and exposing them to these skills is a nice thing for them to prepare for possible future career choices,” Oldfield librarian Judy Boshnack said.

In Bohemia and Ronkonkoma, students at Edward J. Bosti and Helen B. Duffield elementary schools learned coding techniques by inputting commands to manipulate characters in educational games themed around Star Wars and Minecraft.

In West Babylon, students at Forest Avenue Elementary School were taught basic coding skills, played games using code and learned that “anyone can code,” school officials said.

— Michael R. Ebert

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