A team from Paul J. Gelinas Junior High School in East Setauket won third place nationwide last month among grades 6-9 at the 2010 National Science Olympiad at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The competition, which aims to create a passion for science among young people, gives teams 23 challenges in topics ranging from physics to biology to geology. This year 60 teams from 47 states competed after winning regional tournaments.

Gelinas' feat makes it the first Suffolk County middle school to be in the Olympiad's top five, district officials said.

"We were speechless for a moment when they announced winners, then ecstatic," said ninth-grader Phoebe McAuliffe, who shared captain duties with ninth-graders Rachel Gutman and Daniil Lukin. "Every team was at a high level, so we didn't know what to expect."

To reach the national level, Gelinas took first place at the Eastern Long Island Regional Tournament in March - the 10th consecutive year the school has won the local title - and then took first place at the New York State Tournament last month in New Paltz.

At the nationals, Gelinas won the ecology, fossils, solar system and earthquake and volcano categories. Tasks required teams to do everything from using forensics to solve fictional crimes to designing bridges.

Other team members were Mike Arato, Stephanie Chen, Justine Cooper, Brendan Diviney, Theo Gibbs, Kim Koon, Andrew Lukin, Nevena Marinkovic, Jim Napoli, Siavash Parkhideh, Alan Wei and Dan Yu.

A team from Ward Melville High School in East Setauket was 14th among high schools.


Ex-gang member's lesson

Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School recently received an inspirational visit from representatives of Struggling to Reunite Our New Generation, a Hempstead-based organization that promotes gang prevention.

Sergio Argueta, a former gang member and the group's founder, told students he initially joined a gang for camaraderie only to be arrested three times by the age of 16 and lose a brother to gang violence.

"Gangs don't just affect the individual, they affect the community," Argueta told students.


LI Math Fair medalists

The Commack school district won 12 gold medals - the most among Suffolk County districts - in various age groups of the 2010 Long Island Math Fair at Hofstra University. The contest, sponsored by the Nassau and Suffolk math teachers associations April 30, required students in grades 7-12 to submit a three-page essay on a math topic of their choice.

Half Hollow Hills and Babylon school districts followed with six and four gold medalists, respectively. North Shore school district received 30 gold medals to lead Nassau.


Longwood's poetry jam

More than 400 students at Longwood High School recently participated in the district's first poetry jam over videoconference - trading rhymes with pupils from four high schools in the Suffolk Public School District in Virginia.

As part of the program, teens recited original works - ranging from haiku to sonnets to free verse - over a two-way broadcast and held a Q&A in which they asked about each other's poems and schools.


District recycling progress

The Sayville school district is decreasing its trash with a paper recycling program that has put plastic recycling bins in classrooms of all five schools.

Sayville is the first Town of Islip district to launch such a program, district officials said.

"This project decreases Sayville's trash by 2,160 tons a year," said senior Tessa Buono, president of the high school's SWEEP environmental club.


Distinguished teachers

Five Suffolk County teachers were recently named distinguished teachers of 2010 by the Harvard Club of Long Island based on nominations by current Harvard undergraduates from the Island. Winners were:

Copiague: John Young of Copiague High School; East Setauket: Daniel Deutsch of Ward Melville High School; Hauppauge: Ellen Ryan of Hauppauge High School; Northport: David Storch of Northport High School; Selden: Ann Marie Inzalaco of Newfield High School.


Business winners

Thirteen Long Island students were winners in the Long Island Business Teachers Association's 2010 Contest, which required teens to demonstrate skills in topics ranging from accounting to business law to web design. Winners were:

East Setauket: Julia Deng of Ward Melville High School; Floral Park: Stephanie Iacona of Sewanhaka High School; Freeport: Justin Grant of Freeport High School; Miller Place: Amizhdini Eswaramoor of Miller Place High School; New Hyde Park: Amanda Lesor of New Hyde Park Memorial High School; Port Washington: Alice Chou and Paul Kagan of Paul D. Schreiber High School; Smithtown: Steve Gardella, Bryan Kane and Kevin Rooney of Smithtown High School West; St. James: Rachel Davis of Smithtown High School East; Syosset: Andy Avrick and Ben Lederman of Syosset High School.

State employee pleads guilty to rape … Fauci won't speak at Hofstra … Hometown Flower Co. opens Credit: Newsday

Santos expelled from Congress ... State worker pleads guilty to rape ... Ex-LIRR employee admits lying about inspection ... Feed Me: Best Pizza

State employee pleads guilty to rape … Fauci won't speak at Hofstra … Hometown Flower Co. opens Credit: Newsday

Santos expelled from Congress ... State worker pleads guilty to rape ... Ex-LIRR employee admits lying about inspection ... Feed Me: Best Pizza

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