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School Notebook: Working to raise awareness of childhood, breast cancers

Principal Anthony Ciuffo, right, joins Wantagh Middle School

Principal Anthony Ciuffo, right, joins Wantagh Middle School students who incorporated yellow and gold into their wardrobes last month in recognition of Go Gold for Childhood Cancer Awareness Day.  Credit: Wantagh School District

Long Island students and staff recently put aside their school colors in favor of new hues — on everything from shirts to shoelaces.

The fashion efforts were part of cancer awareness activities and fundraisers in which school communities transformed themselves into seas of gold and pink in recognition of Childhood Cancer and Breast Cancer awareness months in September and October, respectively.

In Wantagh, middle schoolers incorporated yellow and gold into their wardrobes on Sept. 24 in honor of those affected by pediatric cancer. The effort hit close to home since student James Lodato, who this year would have been a sixth-grader at the school, died of alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma in 2018.

"This is a cause near and dear to our hearts," said Wantagh Principal Anthony Ciuffo. "It is touching that so many of our students wore gold to show support for James and all those in the battle."

In Great Neck, members of South High School's girls volleyball team raised more than $2,300 earlier this month to fight breast cancer during two "Dig Pink" games to benefit Side-Out Foundation. The funds were raised through donations and the sales of individually wrapped food items.

In Syosset, high schoolers raised more than $2,000 through a walk-a-thon to benefit the Dezy Strong Foundation. The organization was created by Matthew "Dezy" DiStefano, a former coach in the Sachem School District who died of kidney cancer last year.

In Smithtown, Accompsett Middle School students donated $1,300 in coins to the nonprofit Solving Kids' Cancer, while those districtwide wore gold shoelaces as part of the organization's Lace Up for Kids campaign.

"Our take was 'changing' kids' lives," Accompsett Principal Timothy Hellmuth said.


New principal

Amelia Garcia is the new principal of Parkway Elementary School in the East Meadow School District. She replaced Jamie Mack, who retired.

Garcia previously served as an assistant principal at the district’s Barnum Woods and Bowling Green elementary schools. She has also been a teacher, staff developer/coach and interim acting principal at CS 102 in the Bronx.

"It is a true privilege to be part of a community where parents, teachers and students strive to build positive relationships that support academic success and social growth," Garcia said.


My Brother's Keeper

The Elmont School District has implemented My Brother’s Keeper, a national initiative that addresses persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color.

The initiative will allow the district to perform tasks ranging from establishing mentoring opportunities through community partnerships to enhancing its Teachers for Tomorrow program, which helps students connect with their school's educators for mentoring relationships.

The district will also partner with the Sewanhaka Central High School District through project-based learning in science, technology, engineering and math — also known as STEM.


Wall of Honor

Riverhead High School recently unveiled the Pfc. Garfield M. Langhorn Veterans Wall of Honor, featuring the names of 89 veterans and fallen service members who attended the district.

The wall, in the auditorium's lobby, was named for a graduate killed during the Vietnam War. The district plans to add more names each Veterans Day.

"All those being recognized have walked the halls of our schools," said Christine Tona, the district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. "They will always be remembered by our staff, teachers and students who now and will walk the halls of the high school."


New principals

Kenneth Costa and William Hender are the new principals of Walt Whitman High School and Maplewood Intermediate School, respectively, in the South Huntington School District.

Costa, who replaced John Murphy, was previously principal of Connetquot High School in Bohemia. Hender, who replaced Gayle Steele, was previously principal of Eastport Elementary School.

"I'm excited to continue the positive projections set forth by my predecessors and look forward to creating opportunities that allow all learners to succeed," Hender said.


Hispanic Heritage Month

Many Long Island schools recently educated children on the cultures of Spanish-speaking countries in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, which spanned Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

In Central Islip, Principal Carmen Vazquez shared daily quotes from famous Hispanics over the loudspeaker at Anthony Alfano Elementary School.

In Seaford, the middle school's seventh-graders researched Americans of Hispanic ancestry who have made significant contributions to society — such as Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to travel to outer space. Students also contributed to murals depicting famous Hispanic Americans.

In Hampton Bays, the elementary school's fourth-graders learned about Hispanic icons during a "gallery walk" on their Chromebooks. Meanwhile, kindergartners learned about el coqui, a tiny tree frog in Puerto Rico.

In Lynbrook, fifth-graders at West End Elementary School used their laptops to go on a virtual journey through nine different Hispanic communities in the country using the online platform Google Arts and Culture.

In Uniondale, the school district celebrated the heritage with a first-time Hispanic Heritage Month Festival and Soccer Jamboree.

In Huntington Station, Washington Primary School commenced the observances by viewing a video and answering trivia questions about the month's origins, while third-graders Samantha Graber and Jonathan Mejia Calderon delivered a virtual presentation to the student body on late pop star Selena Quintanilla.


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