Some Long Island teens are enjoying the challenges of pondering ethical dilemmas.
The second annual Long Island High School Ethics Bowl last month included 13 teams from seven local high schools, plus a New Jersey entry, that argued the morality of such issues as using brain-enhancing drugs and telling a white lie on a job application.
Bethpage High's team -- Michelle Durnack, Mark Han, Amy Gaines, Alex Mangano and Matt Lippertshauser -- defeated N.J.-based Moorestown Friends School in the final round to take top honors.
"Since philosophy teaches us to think about how we think, rather than instruct us what to think, it's the bedrock subject," said Roberta Israeloff, director of the Squire Family Foundation, an East Northport-based nonprofit that coordinated the event and promotes the pre-college teaching of philosophy.
In the competition, the teams prepared arguments before panels of judges comprised of local attorneys, journalists and school officials.
Durnack, a senior, said one of her team's strategies was to squeeze each other's legs under the table when they wanted to cut in with a point. "Our team had been together last year, so we were very confident in our abilities," she said.
In Huntington, school district humanities director Joseph Leavy credited the bowl with promoting the study of philosophy and said that only a few local high schools offer it. "I'm very proud of that elective," he said, noting Huntington High School's philosophy course has been popular since he wrote the syllabus in 2006.
Focus on online safety
Sanford H. Calhoun High School students learned about the importance of online safety last month through a Digital Citizenship Day that consisted of assemblies on the dangers of cyberbullying and "sexting," the act of sending sexually explicit text messages or photos.
Speakers included Nassau County assistant district attorney Jeremy Glicksman and 14-year-old Jamie Isaacs of Lake Grove, a victim of cyberbullying who worked with Suffolk County legislators last year to help pass anti-bullying laws.
Richard S. Marsh has been named interim superintendent of Valley Stream Central School District, replacing Marc Bernstein, who retired Dec. 31.
Marsh most recently served as superintendent of Bethpage School District. He's also been Bethpage's assistant superintendent for instruction and principal at two of its schools.
Wantagh High School students learned about the wide range of college scholarships available to them last month during a Scholarship Awareness Day in which Nassau County Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) discussed how to locate and apply for various college scholarships.
He encouraged teens to target scholarships from local businesses and organizations based on their extracurricular activities, heritage and choice of major.
In other news, the school's European history students recently hosted an "enlightenment salon" in which they dressed as various historical figures -- such as physicist Isaac Newton and philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau -- and spoke of their achievements.
Five Nassau County students were among 250 nationwide recently named regional scholars and recipients of $10,000 college scholarships by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation.
The five -- Sam Ayo of Roosevelt High School, Brian Miranda of Great Neck South High School, Jai Sajnani of Paul D. Schreiber High School in Port Washington, Jeremy Schneck of North Shore Hebrew Academy High School in Great Neck, and Eric Zwilling of Jericho High School -- are eligible to be one of 50 national scholars this spring who will earn an additional $10,000 scholarship. They will go to Atlanta in April for interviews with a selection committee.
Helping Island Harvest
A group of 40 students from 17 Long Island school districts lent a helping hand last month to local soup kitchens and food pantries during a visit to the Uniondale warehouse of Island Harvest, a nonprofit that provides food and grocery items to the region's needy individuals.
Student tasks included assisting with food preparation, loading vehicles and handling paperwork. The goal was to engage teens in issues affecting Long Island "while teaching about active participation as a means to address the region's problems," Island Harvest officials said in a statement.
Participating districts were Carle Place, Copiague, East Williston, Great Neck, Half Hollow Hills, Herricks, Jericho, Levittown, Manhasset, Mineola, North Shore, Port Washington, Roslyn, Seaford and Wantagh. Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Syosset also participated.