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National honorfor Commack team's aid to veteran

In Commack, a group of teens was rewarded recently for helping to make the life of a disabled veteran a little easier.

A 19-student team from Commack High School was among 36 semifinalists nationwide last month in the 2010 National Engineering Design Competition hosted by the Junior Engineering Technological Society and AbilityOne. The contest is to build a device to help a disabled person in the workplace.

Commack's creation was RolleRead, a device that turns pages for amputees. It was designed for Paul Yarbrough of Smithtown, who lost both arms during a military training accident in the first Gulf War.

"He had trouble handling individual pieces of paper," said science teacher and team co-adviser Rich Kurtz. "Our device easily moves them for him."

To build RolleRead, the team dissected old computer printers for springs, rollers and motors. XCL Business Products in Hauppauge also donated parts.

"We're happy to be semifinalists, but we wanted to go on," said junior JungHoon Choi, who said the team is still refining the product for Yarbrough. "We're technically not done."

Other team members were Navtej Ahuja, Rebecca Alford, Jesse Badash, Harrison Ferlauto, Steve Jang, Matt Kim, Zach Kramer, Josh Krongelb, Austin Lee, Kyle Lee, Sonal Nanda, Rajkumar Pammal, Erica Portnoy, Savitha Racha, Arpon Raksit, Richard Ramsland, Chris Zambito and Michael Zhang.

Last year's Commack team took second place nationwide for an adjustable work space to help those with cerebral palsy.

DEER PARKAnti-drug summitDeer Park High School hosted an anti-drug summit last month that attracted community groups and local officials in an effort to combat the growing problem of teen drug use on Long Island.

The event included lectures on the neurological damage caused by drugs as well as a Shed-the-Meds program in the school lobby that invited visitors to drop off unused medication for proper disposal by the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department. Sixty-five pounds of prescription drugs were collected, according to a school district representative. Experts say prescription drug abuse can be a gateway to use of harder drugs.

School clubs also distributed anti-drug brochures.

Attendees include Legis. Steve Stern (D-Huntington), Babylon Councilwoman Jacqueline Gordon and members of the Deer Park Fire Department.

OAKDALEMarine visits third-graders

Idle Hour Elementary School students learned about life in a war zone last month during a visit from Marine 1st Lt. Pat O'Shea, a Connetquot school district alumnus. Third-graders had written dozens of letters to O'Shea during his deployment in Afghanistan last year.

O'Shea passed around of a photo of himself as a third-grader at the school in 1992 and told students he missed family and friends most while deployed.

ROCKY POINTNew district officesRocky Point Union Free School District held a ceremony last month to announce the moving of its headquarters to a portable building on the Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School campus. The move is expected to save district taxpayers the $200,000 per school year it currently pays in rent for offices on Rt. 25A.

To welcome administrators, Carasiti students gave cookies and a plant to Superintendent Carla D'Ambrosio. Students Riley Watson and Nick Papachristos also read poems.

WEST ISLIPHelp for HaitiSt. John the Baptist Diocesan High School raised more than $10,000 last month through a series of fundraisers to aid victims of the Haiti earthquake. Efforts included coin donations at lunchtime, a bake sale and a Dress Down Day in which students paid $5 each to wear red and blue - the colors of Haiti's flag.

"It was awe-inspiring to see so many people step up and contribute ideas, hopes and funds," said assistant principal Nan Doherty.

COUNTYWIDEAir traffic controller visit

Ninety students at Eastern Suffolk BOCES's Suffolk Aviation Academy in Shirley recently learned about life in the aviation industry from Patrick Harten, an air traffic controller during last year's Hudson River crash landing of US Airways Flight 1549. Harten explained his job duties and the chain of events that preceded the now-famous flight.

"He told students how pilots and air traffic controllers have to work together precisely with as few words as possible - and understand each other," said academy instructor Lou Ballester.

ISLANDWIDEValentines for troopsMany Long Island schools showed support for troops earlier this month by assembling hundreds of care packages and cards for Valentine's Day.

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.

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.

"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.

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