Elysena DeStefano recently created an outdoor learning library at the...

Elysena DeStefano recently created an outdoor learning library at the Suffolk Y JCC in Commack.  Credit: Ivelisse DeStefano

A Commack High School student recently created an outdoor learning library for preschoolers at the Suffolk Y JCC.

Elysena DeStefano, a senior, installed items including a teacher bench, a platform and inspirational signs with phrases such as “Keep Reading” near the building’s playground.

DeStefano, a Girl Scout, pursued the project as part of her Gold Award, which is the highest achievement attainable within the Girl Scouts. She is a member of Troop 1955.

“Ever since I was young I’ve always loved to read and I also love the outdoors, so something I love to combine is reading and the outdoors,” DeStefano, 17, said. “Also, since COVID hit, everyone was stuck indoors with virtual learning, so I thought it would be nice if the kids were able to get outside and all be together.”

To fund the project, DeStefano raised $500 through a car wash at Sunshine Physical Therapy in Commack, as well as about $200 through a deal in which she received one-third of a day’s proceeds from customers mentioning her project at Cabo Fresh in Commack. She also received donations of items like wood and paint from a local Home Depot and Florence Building Materials in Huntington.

DeStefano’s other activities include having appeared in multiple school musicals and being a member of her school’s National, Math, Science, Spanish and International Thespian honor societies. She is also a pre-professional ballet dancer at New York Dance Theater/Ohman School of Ballet in Commack.

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