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School Notebook: Envirothon winners

Teams from Sachem North High School in Lake Ronkonkoma and Wantagh High School took the top spots last month for Suffolk and Nassau counties, respectively, at the 2012 Long Island Envirothon.

The annual competition consisted of written exams and outdoor challenges in the topics of aquatics, forestry, soil and wildlife, as well as an oral presentation about non-point source pollution, at the Usdan Center for Creative and Performing Arts in Wheatley Heights. Thirty-eight Long Island teams competed.

For winning, team members received $500 scholarships and Canon digital cameras, as well as a color printer for their school. They will compete at the state level this week in Geneva.

"This is a team of students that are intrinsically environmentally aware," said Valarie Sebastiano, a Wantagh science teacher and team adviser along with Frances Galan-Pena. "They worked very hard and earned it. We're very proud."

Wantagh teammates are Teresa Clark, Ariane Jong, Jake Kaplan, Jillian Rodesk, Isabella Swyst and Danielle Tralongo. Sachem North's team is Tyler Breitfeller, Aly Gruber, Charlie Horn, Sharon Luebs, Ruchi Shah and Danielle White.

"The team met on weekends and vacations to practice, and I think this level of commitment is what really set them apart," said John O'Neill, who with Monica Marlowe advised Sachem North's team. Sachem North has won the Suffolk title for the past eight years, he said.

The local competition was coordinated by the Soil & Water Conservation Districts of Nassau and Suffolk counties.


Cancer fundraiser

Commack Road Elementary School recently raised about $8,000 -- the highest amount of any Suffolk County school -- for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through a "Pennies for Patients" campaign. Students donated spare change for several weeks, and were rewarded by seeing principal Jeannette Feminella dance on the school's roof.


Lunch challenge

Tangier Smith Elementary School pupils recently learned how waste affects the environment through a "Paperless Lunch Challenge" in which they substituted disposable food and beverage containers with reusable ones and used cloth napkins. The one-day challenge resulted in about 25 percent less trash, school officials said.

Third-grade teacher Michele Montalbano said, "I'm so proud of our students for taking this challenge so seriously."

In other news, William Paca Middle School's Grow the Future Corps recently spent a Saturday picking up litter on Mastic Road with Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko.


Merit scholarships

Thirteen Suffolk County high school seniors were among 2,500 nationwide to receive $2,500 scholarships recently from the National Merit Scholarship Corp. based on their "accomplishments, skills and potential for success in rigorous college studies."

Selected students were Alex Barnes of Smithtown High School West, Caitlin Cawley and Teresa Oszkinis of West Islip High School, Andrew Ku of Huntington High School, Rachel Lawrence of Comsewogue High School in Port Jefferson Station, Caroline Lovaglio of Northport High School, Kayla Mathisen of St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School, Kimberly Shen of Walt Whitman High School in Huntington Station, William Smith of Cold Spring Harbor High School, Shannon Wetzler of Kings Park High School, and Anna Whitney, Ariel Yang and Jack Zhou of Ward Melville High School in East Setauket.


Best music programs

Nineteen Long Island school districts were among 176 nationwide last month named Best Communities for Music Education by the NAMM Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to advance participation in music. To be selected, districts answered surveys about their funding for music programs, graduation requirements and participation in music classes.

Winning districts were Baldwin, Bay Shore, Commack, Connetquot, Fishers Island, Great Neck, Half Hollow Hills, Hewlett- Woodmere, Jericho, Long Beach, Longwood, Manhasset, Massapequa, Mineola, North Babylon, Oceanside, Port Jefferson, South Huntington and Syosset.

"We know communities are struggling to maintain funding for many education programs, and we applaud these communities that remain committed to a complete and quality education that must include music and the arts," NAMM executive director Mary Luehrsen said.


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