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LI schools named for JFK celebrate his legacy

Seniors from John F. Kennedy High School in

Seniors from John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore standing by a bulletin board filled with index cards expressing the memories of individuals who remember the death of President John F. Kennedy for the 50th anniversary of his death. (Nov. 21, 2013) Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

Students and staff at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Bethpage, among the first schools in the nation to be named for the president after he was assassinated, will spend Friday honoring his legacy on the 50th anniversary of his death.

The school will transform its gymnasium into a museum with a student-created timeline and visual and audio presentations that will recount and analyze the 35th president's influence on public service, foreign policy, science, civil rights and pop culture. For the past few weeks, its 700 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders have been gathering artifacts and researching the various aspects of the Kennedy presidency.

"It means a lot to us to celebrate the legacy and leadership of President Kennedy, especially his idea of public service," Principal Kevin Fullerton said. "We are proud to live up to his name."

The events will culminate in a rededication of the school building, with an afternoon ceremony that includes performances by the student orchestra, chorus and band. Three winners of a schoolwide student essay contest will read their entries.

The school, built in 1950 and called the Broadway Avenue School, was dedicated to the late president on Nov. 26, 1963 -- the same day as a school in Butte, Mont. The renaming was the idea of then-Superintendent Charles H. Bryan and the district's board of education.

Bryan wrote an eulogy for the president, which will be reread at Friday's ceremony. The students also will have an online video chat, using Skype, with the elementary school students in Montana, Fullerton said.

"It isn't often we set aside a whole day for something like this, so it is exciting," said seventh-grader Soham Maiti, 12, of Bethpage. Soham studied Kennedy's legacy on innovation, including the space race.

Another Long Island school named after Kennedy has created a wall display case paying tribute to the anniversary.

At John F. Kennedy High School in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District, teachers distributed colored index cards to students with an assignment to interview someone in their household about the assassination.

"They were to ask where they were when it happened and how they felt," said Karen McGuinness, chairwoman of the social studies department.

More than 200 index cards were used to create a collage of memories for the "Wall of Honor" along with newspaper and magazine accounts of what McGuinness called "that horrible day in Dallas."

About 30 student volunteers will help a local firefighter rebuild his Sandy-damaged home Saturday as an example of the call to public service that Kennedy sought to instill in Americans, McGuinness said.

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