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Nassau School Notebook: 6 receive 2020 Congressional Award Gold Medal

Kaitlyn Berger, center, a senior at Northport High

Kaitlyn Berger, center, a senior at Northport High School, was one of six Long Island students to received the 2020 Congressional Award Gold Medal. She is pictured here with lasagna she made for senior citizens with her sisters, Ashley, left, and Emily, who both earned 2020 Congressional Award Silver Medals. Credit: Thomas Berger

Six Long Island students were among 478 nationwide last month to receive the most prestigious award bestowed upon a youth civilian by the U.S. Congress.

The students were issued the 2020 Congressional Award Gold Medal for achievements that include accumulating more than 800 hours over the span of at least two years in the areas of community service, personal development and physical fitness. They were mailed their medals in time for a virtual ceremony last month.

The recipients were Kaitlyn Berger of Northport, Ryan Czarkowski of Port Washington, Sahit Dokku of New Hyde Park, Dhruv Malhotra of Melville, Alp Sander Turgut of Westbury, and Diya Varma of Dix Hills. Berger, Dokku and Varma are seniors at Northport, Herricks and St. Anthony's high schools, respectively; Czarkowski, Malhotra and Turgut graduated this summer from the Port Washington, Half Hollow Hills and Jericho school districts, respectively.

"I learned to appreciate how much even small gestures mean to others and how helping others makes me feel like a better, happier, person," said Berger, whose community service efforts included having cooked and delivered thousands of meals to senior citizens in lower-income subsidized housing as well as creating personalized gift bags for those in need.

Statewide, there were 26 gold medalists this year, the fifth most among U.S. states. California led the way with 139.


New principals

The Baldwin School District has appointed two new principals: Andrew DiNapoli at Baldwin Middle School effective Nov. 1, and Valerie Paul at Lenox Elementary School.

DiNapoli had been the district's director of curriculum since 2018, and before that was the K-12 coordinator of English language arts in the Glen Cove School District.

Paul was previously principal of PS 312Q Jamaica Children's School, and before that was the assistant principal at PS 165 Ida Posner School in Brooklyn.

"I look forward to working with such a dynamic and passionate staff as we continue to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment that will be engaging for all of our learners," DiNapoli said.


New principals

Brendon Mitchell has been appointed principal of Oceanside High School, while Michelle Mastrande has been appointed principal of Oceanside School 5.

Mitchell previously served five years as principal of Oceanside High School Castleton, an alternative high school. Mastrande had been assistant principal of Oceanside Middle School since 2017 and before that was a dean, team leader and social studies teacher at Great Neck North Middle School over 15 years.

"I am looking forward to the opportunity to build relationships with staff and families as we navigate these challenging times together," Mastrande said. "As our year progresses we will strive to foster the social and emotional development of all of our students, while emphasizing a school culture that is rooted in compassion, inclusivity and equity."


Essay contest winner

Seaford High School senior Sarah Keane was one of five winners nationwide in an essay contest coordinated by American Olympic runner Brenda Martinez. The contest asked participants to share who they are and what they stand for, school officials said.

Keane, a member of her school's cross country and track teams, wrote about the person who inspires her as a runner: her grandmother. Keane's grandmother grew up in Ireland during World War II and used the prize money from winning races to finance her immigration to the United States.

For winning, Keane received the opportunity to participate in Zoom workouts with Martinez and will receive gear from New Balance.


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