Many local families in need found themselves thankful for the generosity of Long Island schools this Thanksgiving.
Dozens of holiday food drives gave school communities the opportunity to join forces in an effort to combat hunger and help residents who are less fortunate.
NASSAU COUNTY: In Locust Valley, students and staff from schools throughout the district gave 100 baskets, plus $500 to help fund all of the fixings, to Grenville Baker Boys and Girls Club, which collects donations annually for the area's families.
"Being part of such a wonderful community can only make you feel good, and I hope the actions of our district will make the recipients of the baskets feel just as good," Superintendent Anna Hunderfund said.
In Carle Place, the high school's Key Club sponsored a drive that consisted of a "friendly competition" between social studies classes to see which could collect the most food, school officials said. The result was about 500 nonperishable items to benefit the pantry at Our Lady of Hope Roman Catholic Church in Carle Place.
In Glen Head, North Shore High School's Interact Club and Community Service Office prepared 25 food baskets, complete with gift cards to local grocery stores. The items went to locations such as Harbor Child Care in Glen Head and Mutual Concerns in Sea Cliff.
In Seaford, fifth-graders at Seaford Manor Elementary School decorated brown paper bags and inserted a dessert from nearby Runyon's Restaurant and Bar, which filled the bags with food for local families.
In East Rockaway, Centre Avenue Elementary School's Student Council hosted an annual food drive that resulted in more than 300 pounds of food for Island Harvest in Mineola.
SUFFOLK COUNTY: In Copiague, middle-school students in teacher Karen Kazlauskas' family and consumer-science classes prepared and donated more than 100 pans of cornbread to the nearby Circle of Love Ministry. The service project was done in conjunction with an instructional unit on cooking.
"With the cooking unit coinciding with Thanksgiving, I thought it would be a great idea for students to cook something that we could donate to a local organization," Kazlauskas said.
In Bayport, James Wilson Young Middle School's Student Council and Bayport-Blue Point High School's Interact Club held two-week drives that collected thousands of nonperishable food items for locations including the Greater Sayville Food Pantry and Our Lady of the Snow Roman Catholic Church in Blue Point. The homeroom that collected the most items per grade level was rewarded with a bagel breakfast.
Students and staff at Oldfield Middle School in Greenlawn banded together to collect enough food for 17 local families, as well as supplies and snacks for troops overseas through "Operation Ziploc." The children also wrote thank-you letters to the troops, which were included in the care packages.
In Hampton Bays, middle- school students collected more than 400 nonperishable items for a local pantry as part of a competition to see which grade could collect the most food.
In Rocky Point, second-graders at Carasiti Elementary School collected hundreds of food items for area churches and the Lighthouse Mission in Bellport.
BELLMORE: 'It Can Wait' texting campaign
Wellington C. Mepham High School students were educated recently on the dangers of texting while driving through an AT&T-hosted assembly titled "It Can Wait," held in conjunction with National Teen Driver Safety Week.
During the assembly, students operated a driving simulator while texting to experience the perils firsthand. They also signed no-texting pledges.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, now congresswoman-elect, was on hand to share various statistics, such as one that equated texting behind the wheel to driving for five seconds with closed eyes. AT&T shared a documentary that described four families who were affected by texting-related accidents.
"Teens must learn to park their phone before they start their car," said Wendy Tepfer, director of the Bellmore-Merrick Community Parent Center, which coordinated the event.
SYOSSET: '7 in 7' fundraising campaign
Students in Syosset High School's Interact Club are engaged in an ambitious fundraising campaign for the nonprofit Gift of Life International, with a goal of raising $35,000 through May to fund heart surgeries for seven children on seven continents in a seven-day span.
The surgeries cost $5,000 each. The fundraising initiative, called "7 in 7," will raise money through activities such as bake sales and bowl-a-thons.
In the campaign's kickoff, club members participated in a Skype conversation with Grace Agwaru of Uganda, who in 1975 was the first recipient of a Gift of Life surgery.
HAUPPAUGE: 'Stage the Change'
Hauppauge High School's theater students recently helped educate local youth on the importance of using theater as a tool for change through "Stage the Change, Theatre as a Social Voice," a conference held at LIU Post's Tilles Center in Brookville.
The event attracted about 350 students and educators from 15 high schools on Long Island.
Workshop topics ranged from staging a flash mob to playwriting in the classroom. Several Broadway professionals, including producer Tom Kirdahy and playwright Dominique Morisseau, were among the speakers and presenters.
"If theater is our art form and means of expression, it becomes our most powerful voice," said Hauppauge High School theater teacher and conference founder Ruthie Pincus.
NORTH BABYLON: Car donation
North Babylon High School's car-care classes received the donation last month of a used 2003 Hyundai Sonata that school officials said will be used for instruction and demonstration.
The car, which replaced a 1970s-era vehicle, was donated by Stack's Auto Service & Tires in North Babylon.
"It is great to have hands-on learning experiences and community support for our tech programs," North Babylon Principal Jonathan Klomp said.
SHOREHAM: Save a Life Tour
Shoreham-Wading River High School recently educated students on the dangers of drunken and distracted driving during a visit from the Save a Life Tour, a Michigan-based nationwide program.
Participating teens had the opportunity to try two simulators -- one that replicated the effects of drunken driving and another that enabled them to use a cellphone while driving to experience the perils firsthand. The teens also signed pledges promising not to text and drive.
Senior Kelly Bennett said she couldn't believe how much the simulated car swerved while she attempted to respond to the machine's texts. "You think you can text and drive, but it is really difficult," Bennett said.
NASSAU COUNTY: 'America's Got Talent'
Students at Nassau BOCES' Long Island High School for the Arts in Syosset got some star treatment recently with personal instruction from Taylor Mathews, a finalist on season five of NBC's "America's Got Talent."
Participants performed songs and received constructive criticism from Mathews during the master class. The performer also played a set of acoustic tunes.
"He explained to them from firsthand experience that although a career in music can be incredibly rewarding, it can also be difficult to navigate," Principal AJ Hepworth said.
ISLANDWIDE: Robotics invitational
Twenty-two local teams took part in the 3rd Annual Half Hollow Hills Invitational, which invited teams to compete with robots they built last school year for the 2014 Long Island Regional FIRST Robotics Competition.
The winning alliance in the Nov. 15 contest was Malverne High School's Team No. 884 "Mechanical Mules," Patchogue-Medford High School's Team No. 329 "Raiders" and Huntington High School's Team No. 5016 "Huntington Robotics."
Finalists were Hicksville High School's Team No. 1468 "J-Birds," Center Moriches High School's Team No. 4458 "Infernobotix" and Bay Shore High School's Team No. 271 "Mechanical Marauders."
Robots battled on a playing field featuring a truss five feet above the ground and earned points by shooting as many balls as possible into the goals.
FIRST is an acronym from "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology."