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Long Island students learn lessons in altruism during the holiday season

In East Meadow, Barnum Woods Elementary School's Student

In East Meadow, Barnum Woods Elementary School's Student Council collected a variety of holiday toys for local children in need in December 2014 as part of its Toys for Tots drive. Credit: East Meadow School District

Local students finished the first semester of the academic year by learning one of life's valued lessons: the importance of giving.

Dozens of holiday-gift collections brought in items ranging from toys to toiletries to help Long Island's children in need and soldiers serving overseas.

In Carle Place, the high school's Key Club raised $531 for the Salvation Army by volunteering to sing and ring bells outside North Shore Farms in Mineola. The club also hosted a toy drive that collected 100 items for local families and Winthrop-University Hospital.

"It feels good when people tell you that you're the bright spot in their daily routine," said Carle Place senior Sarah Laga.

In East Meadow, Jennifer Abshire's fifth-grade class at Bowling Green Elementary School spearheaded the collection of $2,000, which was used to buy gifts for local children at Toys "R" Us in Carle Place. To assist in the effort, Carly Cutrone's fourth-grade class made gift tags and Alison Gallina's third-grade class made holiday cards.

In Massapequa, fifth-graders in John Coyne's class at Birch Lane Elementary School held a toy drive that netted nearly 1,500 toys for distribution to hospitals and families in need through the John Theissen Children's Foundation in Wantagh.

In Malverne, students and staff at Davison Avenue Intermediate School donated 50 winter hats, gloves and scarves that they hung on a "mitten tree" in the school lobby before the items were distributed to local families.

In Locust Valley, the intermediate school's Student Council mailed handwritten holiday letters to soldiers through the nonprofit Operation Gratitude.

"It's the perfect blend of education and altruism," council co-adviser Shari Zindman said.

In East Islip, the high school's varsity softball team acted as "Softball Santas" by meeting at a nearby Target to buy items on the Christmas lists of 10 underprivileged children in Amityville through the local nonprofit Holiday Magic. The gifts were delivered by the team's coach, Charlie Russo.

"It felt great shopping for the girl I had," said Emily Curpita, a junior. "It was so much fun."

In Bayport, James Wilson Young Middle School hosted several collections, including an eighth-grade toy drive that yielded hundreds of items for Toys for Tots, and a pet food and supply drive hosted by the school's Leadership Club to benefit the Islip Animal Shelter.

In Islip, Eastern Suffolk BOCES students at the Islip Career Center spent a week baking 600 pounds of holiday cookies that were divided into 2-pound arrangements for local families in need. Computer graphics students designed tags and ribbons for each package.

In Commack, Burr Intermediate School collected 600 pairs of pajamas for patients at Stony Brook Children's Hospital.

In Babylon, classes at Babylon Elementary School created art and holiday letters for nine soldiers — each of whom has a Babylon connection — through an adopt-a-soldier program.

Principal Jessica Kemler said the packages were sent in the hope that soldiers would "feel a nice connection to home during the holiday."


PORT WASHINGTON: Inspirational visit

Paul D. Schreiber High School students learned about the consequences of substance abuse last month during a visit from former NBA player Chris Herren.

Herren, who played with the Denver Nuggets and the Boston Celtics from 1999 to 2001, spoke about being featured in Sports Illustrated and becoming drug- and alcohol-free after he overdosed and crashed a vehicle into a utility pole in 2008. He also engaged in a question-and-answer session with students in which he emphasized the importance of healthy decisions.


SMITHTOWN: Business Olympics

The Smithtown Central School District recently hosted a Business Olympics in which about 50 teams from the district's two high schools created fictional business plans designed to help revitalize the town's Main Street.

Ideas ranged from creating underground transportation to alleviate traffic to relocating the town's Whisper the Bull statue to make it more accessible.

Teams created promotional pieces of mock print ads and TV commercials that were evaluated by local business professionals and members of the town's Planning Board. Prizes for top teams included cash, jackets and gift cards to local stores.



A total of 104 seniors from 52 Nassau County high schools received Nassau Zone Awards last month from the New York State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. Each high school names one male and one female recipient based on academics, leadership and physical performance. Local winners were:

Carle Place: Pedro Duarte and Shannon McGuinness, Carle Place High School; Cold Spring Harbor: Philip Stiger and Kirsten Morgan, Cold Spring Harbor High School; East Williston: Luis Costa and Morgan Hanel, The Wheatley School; Glen Cove: Sean Peet and Zulma Bonilla Yanes, Glen Cove High School; Glen Head: Kevin Lynch and Tayler Bradford, North Shore High School; Great Neck: Spencer Diamond and Hallie Roth Singer, Great Neck North High School; Elias Kokalis and Ji Ann Greenberg, Great Neck South High School; Herricks: Ryan Abraham and Simran Polce, Herricks High School; Hicksville: Rob Schmidt and Noelle Batista, Hicksville High School; Jericho: Zach Brown and Gloria Park, Jericho High School; Locust Valley: Brendan Wright and Lindsay Bleistein, Locust Valley High School; Manhasset: Carter Paterson and Chelsea Taylor, Manhasset High School; Mineola: Ryan Ecchier and Emily Abrams, Mineola High School; New Hyde Park: Olivier Simeon and Danielle Estapinian, New Hyde Park High School; Plainedge: Jacob Schozer and Allyson Baner, Plainedge High School; Port Washington: Kyle Cohen and Krista Ledins, Schreiber High School; Roslyn: Adam Heitner and Taylor Bergman, Roslyn High School; Syosset: Jack Robbins and Morgan Lannig, Syosset High School; Westbury: Richard Skervin and Gabrielle Katehis, Westbury High School.



A total of 118 seniors from 59 Suffolk County high schools received Suffolk Zone Awards last month from the New York State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. Each high school names one male and one female recipient based on academics, leadership and physical performance. Local winners were:

Commack: Nick Fox and Erica Pacello, Commack High School; Dix Hills: Tom Oliveri and Jaclyn Chizner, Half Hollow Hills High School East; Josh Wende and Jen Casadonte, Half Hollow Hills High School West; Elwood: Anthony Pino and Simisola Familusi, John H. Glenn High School; Greenlawn: Pat Godfrey and Nicole Bifulco, Harborfields High School; Hauppauge: Brian Foley and Casey Cummo, Hauppauge High School; Huntington: Justin Weigold and Samantha Lynch, Huntington High School; Kings Park: Luke Daly and Emily Morello, Kings Park High School; Northport: Trevor Fox and Sabrina Barton, Northport High School; Smithtown: Charles Bellini and Rebecca Giancana, Smithtown Christian School; Cole Valinoti and Kayla Feeney, Smithtown High School East; Peter Torres and Madison Stapleton, Smithtown High School West; South Huntington: Josh Roiland and Rebecca Sansotta, Walt Whitman High School.

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