Like many boys, NASA astronaut Michael Massimino had childhood dreams of traveling through space someday.
Earlier this month the Franklin Square native visited two of his former schools - John Street Elementary School and H. Frank Carey High School - to tell students that dreams can come true.
He also brought along a gift: a photograph of John Street students that he took to outer space last May during his 13-day mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.
"You could hear a pin drop as he spoke," said John Street Principal Ceil Candreva. "It was a very special event for the school. It was like a hero returning to his alma mater."
During the mission Massimino and two other astronauts replaced equipment ranging from insulating panels to battery unit modules that would allow the telescope to see deeper into the universe and function through at least 2014.
He also exchanged e-mails with Candreva while in space.
"I want the kids to know that I was in their shoes," said Massimino, who is now serving as a space craft communicator at Johnson Space Center in Houston. "I was a boy in that lunchroom with no idea whether I'd grow up to be an astronaut."
Massimino said he became the first person to use Twitter in space by having Mission Control post his messages on the Internet. The crew also documented the mission using a 3D camera for an IMAX film to be released next month.
Advocating for peace
Students at Friends Academy honored the ideals of peace last month in a series of activities held in conjunction with the school's 5th Annual Peace Week.
Projects included folding 1,000 origami "peace cranes" to hang in the academy's Helen A. Dolan Center and reading aloud the names of the thousands of U.S. servicemen who have died in Iraq. Students also wrote letters to various members of Congress advocating for peace in legislative decisions.
"This is all about coming together," said freshman Leah Ansel. "Much of the violence in the world is about ignorance and not knowing each other."
Cabaret Night benefit
Lynbrook High School's Tri-M Music Honor Society hosted a districtwide Cabaret Night last month that raised $2,000 for the food pantries at St. Raymond's Church in East Rockaway and Our Lady of Peace Church in Lynbrook.
The event - with senior Jessica Karpov as emcee - transformed the cafeteria into a cabaret lounge and included song and dance performances by dozens of students.
Aphrodite's big day
Sixth-graders at James A. Dever and Howell Road elementary schools recently went head to head in a mock debate that required them to assume the role of a Greek god or goddess and make a case to replace the retiring Zeus as ruler of Mount Olympus.
Each student presented an essay and resume highlighting their character's lineage, skills and achievements to a panel of Greek mortals - played by parents. Student Emily Parini, who portrayed Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was named winner.
Focus on scholarships
Wantagh High School students learned about various college scholarships available to them earlier this month during a Scholarship Awareness Day coordinated by Nassau County Legis. Dave Denenburg (D-Merrick). He was joined by representatives of several local and national scholarship programs including AXA Advisors and Wantagh Scholarship Fund.
"You don't have to be a straight-A student to win a scholarship," said Denenburg. "Most scholarships go to well-rounded students."
Three Nassau students - Jan Gong of Garden City High School, Pragya Kakani of Jericho High School and Anouva Kalra-Lall of Roslyn High School - were among four tri-state area winners last month in the American Academy of Neurology's 2010 Neuroscience Research Prize. The prize encourages teens to explore the brain and nervous system through lab research.
Each received a $1,000 cash prize and an all-expense-paid trip to present their research this spring at the academy's 62nd annual meeting in Toronto.
Valentines for troops
Many Long Island schools showed support for troops overseas and locally earlier this month by assembling hundreds of care packages and cards for Valentine's Day.
In Malverne, fifth-graders at Howard T. Herber Middle School shipped 100 thank-you and get-well cards overseas.
In Plainedge, elementary school students created handmade cards for local veterans as part of Nassau County's Valentines for Veterans program.
In Rocky Point, second-graders at Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School sent lunch bags - each containing candy and toiletries - to injured soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
"Boxes were sent in hopes that it will reach troops right before Valentine's Day to lift their spirits," said politics teacher Mike Cestaro of William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach, which sent 27 care packages to soldiers in Afghanistan.