A six-student team from Friends Academy in Locust Valley proved its chess chops last month by taking first place in the Nassau County Interscholastic Chess League Championships.
To reach the finals, the team - which qualified for the playoffs based on its regular season performance - survived three single-elimination rounds against Portledge School in Locust Valley, Chaminade High School in Mineola, and Paul D. Schreiber High School in Port Washington.
In the final round, Friends Academy beat Schreiber by a score of 23.5 points to 21.5.
"It was extremely, extremely close," said Polly Duke, Friends' chess coach. "What makes it even more of a Cinderella story is that it was our first full year in the league."
In the tournament, teams went head to head in six games worth between 5 and 10 points each, depending on the predetermined skill level of each player.
In the finals, Friends Academy lost its top two matches - worth 9 and 10 points - but pulled off the victory with three wins and a draw in the final four games.
"We knew we were the underdogs," said team captain Brandon Blau. "I can't speak for other schools, but my team had heart and the desire to win."
Other team members were Will Duke, Jahan Khan, Dustin Lee, Alex Pakh and Ryan Rosmarin. Alternates were Holly Ansel and Peter Duke.
A lesson about prejudice
Glen Cove High School students learned about the negative effects of racism last month during a visit from Vinny St. Marten, a white blues singer who grew up in The Orchard section of Glen Cove in the 1950s. St. Marten, who was born with glaucoma and lost his sight by the age of 8, was escorted throughout school hallways as a child by a black classmate.
At first, St. Marten said of his escort, "I didn't realize that Roy [the classmate] was black, and it became too late to hate him. I was a racist, I was prejudiced, I had hate, but Roy started a process in me."
St. Marten also distributed copies of his new DVD to all students in attendance.
Auto competition aces
Two Nassau County teams - John Moccia and Anthony Rodriguez-Arias of Joseph M. Barry Career and Technical Center in Westbury, and Brendan Scheiner and Chris Williamson of Gerald R. Claps Career & Technical Center in Levittown - took fifth and sixth place, respectively, in the regional level of the National Automobile Technology Competition.
They have advanced to the state finals in Queens later this month along with four teams from Suffolk County. The contest requires two-student teams to diagnose and repair vehicle problems within an allotted time.
Teaching about drugs
Paul D. Schreiber High School's Safety and Substance Abuse Task Force held a districtwide presentation last month to help parents recognize the warning signs of drug and alcohol abuse and teach them how to talk to kids about the topic. The program was divided into three sessions geared toward the elementary, middle and high school age groups.
"It takes all of us working together to keep our community well-informed and our children safe," said Board of Education president and task force co-chairwoman Karen Sloan.
Five LI Psych Fair winners
Five Nassau County students were winners last month in the Long Island High School Psychology Fair at Roslyn High School. Each student presented a 10-minute research project on a psychology topic followed by a brief Q&A with judges.
New Nassau BOCES chief
Thomas L. Rogers took the helm as superintendent of Nassau BOCES on Jan. 19, after being voted into the position in the fall. Rogers previously served as executive director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents in Albany for six years and was a program associate in the New York State Senate Majority Program Office.
Nassau BOCES had been without a permanent chief since 2008, when James Mapes left to become superintendent of Baldwin School District.
Schools throughout Long Island celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day last month with character education and cultural programs designed to promote tolerance and diversity.
In Island Park, children at the Francis X. Hegarty School cracked open dozens of white and brown eggs to see that they all have the same interiors - similar to people.
In Suffolk County, Wenonah Elementary School in Lake Grove initiated a two-week Kindness & Justice Challenge in which kids adopted New Year's resolutions and determined how they could work to benefit their school and community.
Meanwhile, students at Wing Elementary School in Islip made a "rainbow salad," including chocolate chips and marshmallows, as a symbol of diversity.