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School Notebook: Long Island students feed families during the holidays

In Bethpage, Central Boulevard Elementary School provide about

In Bethpage, Central Boulevard Elementary School provide about 30 baskets of food last month as part of a partnership with the local Knights of Columbus. Each basket was equipped to serve a family of four and included a turkey and cooking pan. Credit: Bethpage School District

Many families are sitting down to bountiful tables this holiday season thanks to schools across Long Island.

Thousands of students have participated in food drives in recent weeks — or pitched in at nearby food banks — in an effort to help provide meals for those in need this Thanksgiving and Christmas.

In Elwood, the middle school recently created a food pantry to support 10 local families that includes donation bins built by technology teacher Alex Wightman. The shelves were stocked by members of the Student Council, Community Service Club and National Junior Honor Society, among other groups.

"As we seek to educate the next generation, we want students to recognize the benefits of giving," Elwood Principal Christina Moran said.

In Mastic Beach, William Floyd High School's cheerleading and football teams collaborated on a food drive in which they asked those attending the school's first playoff game to donate nonperishable items. The drive netted three large boxes of donations for a pantry at St. Jude's Roman Catholic Church.

In Massapequa, a group of 10 freshman in the high school's Helping Hands Club assembled food packages during a visit to Island Harvest's distribution center in Melville. It was the club's first field trip since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It was a good opportunity to help people that need food," Massapequa freshman Brielle Dargenio said. "I felt grateful to be able to help."

In Bellmore, John F. Kennedy High School's Student Government raised nearly $7,000 to benefit Community Cupboard, the food pantry of the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District. The funds were used to purchase food items and gift cards for about 90 local families at the Stop & Shop in Merrick.

In Floral Park, John Lewis Childs Elementary School's Student Council organized a "kindness tree" on which items were written on paper leaves. More than 600 donations — ranging from canned goods to resealable plastic bags — and proceeds from a spare change collection benefited Ronald McDonald House in New Hyde Park.

In Baldwin, Brookside Elementary School students collected more than 400 cans of food as part of the school's character education program.

"The donations are a way to showcase character pillars and give to others in need," Brookside Principal Unal Karakas said.

In Central Islip, students at Anthony Alfano Elementary School donated enough food to fill 11 boxes and two large bags for a pantry at the Central Islip Civic Council. The school community also gave enough funds to purchase dozens of gift cards to Stop & Shop.

In Rocky Point, the middle school held a food drive that collected more than 200 nonperishable items, which students sorted according to breakfast, lunch and dinner for local pantries.

"We are so grateful for our students and staff for this outpouring of support for others," Rocky Point Assistant Principal Dawn Meyers said.

AMITYVILLE

Ribbon-cutting ceremony

Amityville Memorial High School held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last month to unveil a new gymnasium and basketball court dedicated in honor of former coaches Fred Williams and Claude Byer, respectively.

Williams, who died in 1987, was a physical education teacher in the district from 1970 to 1987; he also coached the high school's boys varsity basketball team and the junior high school's basketball, soccer and track teams. Byer coached the girls vars

JERICHO

Renamed school

The Jericho School District has renamed the Robert Seaman Elementary School as Jeffrey Ratner Robert Seaman Elementary School to honor the late Jeffrey Ratner, a former educator in the district.

Ratner was named principal of the school in 1996. He retired in 2007, but later came out of retirement to become interim assistant principal of Jericho High School from 2017 until his death in 2019.

"From day one, Jeff touched the lives of everyone," said Jericho Superintendent Hank Grishman.

PLAINVIEW

Power of Children Award

Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK High School freshman Hailey Richman was one of five recipients nationwide of a Power of Children Award from the Children's Museum of Indianapolis in recognition of her efforts to improve the lives of others through a commitment to service.

Richman's projects include volunteering for Puzzles to Remember, a nonprofit that provides puzzles to nursing homes, veterans facilities and other facilities that care for Alzheimer's and dementia patients. She became the organization's executive director last year and created a program that connects young adults with residents to solve puzzles together.

She was awarded a $2,500 grant and a partial four-year scholarship to one of three Indiana universities.

SOUTH HUNTINGTON

Wildlife relocation

The South Huntington School District recently educated students about wildlife during a relocation project of animals from a sump that was dredged behind South Huntington Public Library. The efforts were facilitated by Long Island Orchestrating for Nature, a nonprofit that provided materials ranging from nets to a boat.

The rescued wildlife included tens of thousands of tadpoles and minnows, more than 1,000 goldfish and over 100 frogs.

"It gave us with an opportunity to provide an educational experience to our students," Superintendent Vito D'Elia said.

ISLANDWIDE

Robotics winners

An alliance among Bethpage High School, Southold High School and The Wheatley School in Old Westbury has won the Half Hollow Hills Robotics Invitational Tournament in Dix Hills.

The winners were Bethpage's Regal Eagles (Team 2869), Southold's Team RICE (Team 870) and Wheatley's Cybercats (Team 2872). This year's challenge, titled Infinite Recharge, asked alliances to protect a fictional city from approaching asteroids by performing such tasks as scoring points in a power port and hanging robots from a generator switch.

This year's event attracted 14 teams across Long Island. It was presented last month by Half Hollow Hills School District with support from the School-Business Partnerships of Long Island and FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

— MICHAEL R. EBERT

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