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Nassau School Notebook: Long Island students sweep flag design contest

Jillian Zhang, an eighth-grader at Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle

Jillian Zhang, an eighth-grader at Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School, was the overall winner statewide of an annual flag design contest held in conjunction with the Council for Art Education's Youth Art Month in March. Credit: Chia Yu Chen Zhang

Long Island students swept the top four spots statewide in an annual flag design contest held in conjunction with the Council for Art Education's Youth Art Month in March.

The contest's overall winner was Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School eighth-grader Jillian Zhang, whose mixed-media piece featured a silhouette of New York with words such as "love," "pride" and "kindness." A single brushstroke connects the state's urban, suburban and rural areas, which are depicted through such landmarks as the Empire State Building and Montauk Lighthouse.

The high school level was won by Babylon High School junior Vanessa Espinoza. Yejin Park, a sixth-grader at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Bethpage, and Mia Reyes, a third-grader at East Lake Elementary School in Massapequa Park, won the middle and elementary school levels, respectively.

The contest, which had a theme this year of "Art Connects Us," was sponsored by the New York State Art Teachers Association.

"I was thrilled to learn that I won," Zhang said. "This means a lot to me, as art has been my motivation, especially during these difficult times."

Zhang's winning design was displayed virtually this month in the Youth Art Month Museum as part of the National Art Education Association's National Convention, which was held online this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each winner also received art supplies for themselves and for their schools to use in art classes.


Wellness website

Farmingdale School District has launched a wellness website to ensure the physical, mental and emotional well-being for its students and staff amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be reached at

The website comprises tools and strategies for managing emotions; for example, there is a "virtual calming room" that includes animal webcams, breathing exercises and soothing nature sounds. The site also provides links to crisis websites, tips for fostering wellness, and contact information for the district's social workers and psychologists.

"It will be a great resource for the many people who are struggling to cope with all of life's many challenges," said Farmingdale Superintendent Paul Defendini.


Creative writing contest

Herricks High School sophomore Carolyn Lau won first place in the nonfiction stories category of the Ringling College of Art and Design's Sixth Annual "Storytellers of Tomorrow" High School Creative Writing Contest, which attracted more than 500 students in the categories of literary, genre and nonfiction. Submissions were works of up to 2,000 words and judged on overall quality.

For winning, Lau was awarded a $150 prize and an iPad for herself and her writing teacher's classroom. Her piece, "On Circles," will also be published in Ringling College's literary arts journal.

"The author's facility with structure was next-level," Ringling's judges wrote of Lau's submission. "It's almost architectural on the page, and the prose and verse sections complement each other beautifully."


Lunar New Year

Schools celebrated the Lunar New Year last month with educational events and activities held in recognition of the Year of the Ox.

In Malverne, Maurice W. Downing Intermediate School students participated in a Lunar New Year-themed trivia game, and third-graders at Davison Avenue Intermediate School crafted paper lanterns and studied Chinese architecture and geography.

In Roslyn, high schoolers in Huichee Yeh's Chinese classes engaged in a traditional lion dance and created hong bao, which are red envelopes that are typically filled with money and given on special occasions.

In Long Beach, kindergartners at West End Elementary School visited an in-school "museum" of Chinese artifacts that included a parasol, scroll writings and silk scarves.


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