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Syosset's speech and debate team wins state crown for third year

Members of Syosset High School's speech and debate

Members of Syosset High School's speech and debate team hold individual and team first-place awards they received at the New York State Forensic League Championship Tournament. Pictured, from left, are David Wang, Isabella Souza, team president Diya Chadha, Ronit Dhulia and Michael Wang. Credit: Tricia Williams

Syosset High School's speech and debate team won the crown in the New York State Forensic League Championship Tournament for the third consecutive year, besting competitors from 107 other schools to take the overall title.

More than 1,000 students participated in this year's tournament, held at Hofstra University, competing in the categories of Speech, Public Forum Debate, Lincoln-Douglas Debate and Student Congress. Some of the categories were divided into varsity, junior varsity (intermediate) and novice levels.

Syosset, which had 80 students qualify for the state championship, placed first in the Overall Team Sweeps category, which ranks schools according to their students' performances across the spectrum of events. The team also won in the Lincoln-Douglas Debate category.

"These are busy students, involved in so many aspects of school life, yet they always find time to work on honing their thinking, writing and communication skills," Syosset coach Lydia Esslinger said.

In addition to their team's achievements, four of Syosset's students placed first in individual categories: Ronit Dhulia and Michael Wang, varsity Lincoln-Douglas; Isabella Souza, intermediate Lincoln-Douglas; and David Wang, novice Lincoln-Douglas.

The state competition was held in April. At the national contest in Milwaukee, Syosset's team placed in the top five overall, and Dhulia placed second in the Lincoln-Douglas category. That competition, held last month, drew about 2,000 students from 537 schools nationwide.


Video contest winners

Freeport High School's Human Relations Club placed first in the high school category of the "Speak Truth to Power" video contest created by the nonprofit Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights advocacy organization.

Freeport's video, which lasted 4 minutes and 38 seconds, showed students pledging to fight bullying and anti-Semitism by embracing Holocaust survivor Werner Reich's mantra — "Be J.U.S.T. a Ripple of Hope." J.U.S.T. is an acronym that stands for "Judge the situation, Understand the problem, Solve the problem and Take action."

The video was created by club president Christopher Bastida and teachers Dan Ciamaricone and Pamela Mary Schmidt.


Lead2Feed Challenge

Wantagh Middle School's "EsSCENTial Melts" team was one of five grand-prize winners in the 2019 Lead2Feed Challenge, a leadership program coordinated by the Foundation for Impact on Literacy and Learning and the Lift a Life Foundation. 

The eight team members, all sixth-graders, collected old crayons and melted them to create aromatherapy candles, which were sold to raise awareness for mental health issues. The team received $10,000 for their nonprofit of choice, the Born This Way Foundation.

This year's challenge attracted more than 7,200 teams nationwide.


National Merit Scholars

Thirty-eight Long Island students are among 2,500 high school seniors nationwide named winners of $2,500 scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Corp. Winners are judged to have the "strongest combination of accomplishments, skills and potential for success in rigorous college studies," the organization said.

The National Merit Scholars and their high schools are: Kevin Souhrada, Bay Shore; Deniz Sinar, Commack; Danielle Kelly, Friends Academy; Aidan Padala and Chloe Rogers, Garden City; Yoel Hawa, Isabella Mirro and Joshua Rothbaum, Great Neck North; Jared Bank and Rinni Bhansali, Half Hollow Hills East; Eish Maheshwari and Sahith Vadada, Herricks; Samuel Bogdanov, Bharvi Chavre, Julia Beth Grossman and Brandon Weiss, George W. Hewlett; David Wendt, Island Trees; Sam Cohen and Kaylie Hausknecht, Lynbrook; Saajid Chowdhury, MacArthur; Fayfay Ning, Aleah Tishler and Sophia Leigh Vincoff, Manhasset; Nino Baghashvili, Massapequa; Leah Taylor, Paul D. Schreiber; Johanna Kann and Gemma Schneider, Roslyn; Ian Winkeler, Smithtown East; Anthony DeFalco, South Side; Erik Williams, St. John the Baptist; Sabrina Eager and Michael Wang, Syosset; Annalisa Welinder, Earl L. Vandermeulen; Samantha Minars, Wantagh; Gregory Bodik, Adriana Orduna and Elizabeth Wang, Ward Melville; and Jonathan Melkun, W. Tresper Clarke.


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