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Long IslandSuffolk

Suffolk: Jericho student wins Brain Bee

From left, the 15th annual Brain Bee’s third-place

From left, the 15th annual Brain Bee’s third-place winner Ali Barlas of Sachem High School East in Farmingville, first-place winner Preeti Kakani of Jericho High School, and runner-up Crystal Zheng of Jericho High School. Credit: Long Island University

A Jericho student has proved to be the region's best high school brain in the field of neuroscience.

Preeti Kakani, a Jericho High School senior, took first place among 58 students in Long Island University's 15th annual Brain Bee, a live question-and-answer competition that tests teenagers' knowledge of the nervous system.

Runners-up were Crystal Zheng, also of Jericho High School, and Ali Barlas of Sachem High School East in Farmingville, respectively.

This was Kakani's fourth year competing in the bee. She placed third last year and in 2012.

"I've always been interested in neuroscience, but the Brain Bee has helped me learn more and develop a love for it," she said, adding that the victory was "really meaningful to me."

To prepare, contestants were asked to study Brain Facts, a primer on the brain and nervous system published by the Society for Neuroscience. During the competition itself, they gave short answers on stage on topics such as genomics, intelligence and memory.

"It's kind of an intense competition," said Barlas, the third-place winner. "For students who want to go into neuroscience, it's an absolute must."


Musicalworks winner

Billy Reece, a junior at Hauppauge High School, recently won first place nationwide in the International Thespian Society's 2014 Musicalworks Contest, which promotes original musical writing by high-school students.

He was selected for his musical "Balloon Boy," based on the 2009 hoax of a 6-year-old Colorado boy whose parents claimed he had floated into the atmosphere inside a gas balloon.

Reece next will have the opportunity to workshop and stage the musical's opening number this summer with the assistance of a Broadway choreographer and musical director at the 2014 International Thespian Festival in Nebraska.

He is the first student from New York to win the contest, Hauppauge officials said.



Scholarship winner

James Anson, a senior at Longwood High School, is the winner of the Long Island Farm Bureau's 2013 Agriculture Youth Scholarship for his essay, titled "How Agriculture Affects My Life Now and Will Affect My Life in the Future."

Anson works on his family's farm, Albert H. Schmitt Family Farms in Dix Hills, where he does everything from planting to assisting customers with sales and landscape designs.

For winning, Anson will receive a $1,000 scholarship from the Long Island Farm Bureau. He now is eligible for additional scholarship awards through the New York Farm Bureau.

"James and all of the other scholarship applicants show a great passion for agriculture," said Kristina Sidor, the farm bureau's promotion and education committee chairwoman. "I look forward to seeing where life takes him and how he will shape the future of farming."



Autism library

Eastern Suffolk BOCES' Masera Learning Center recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new library designed for students on the autism spectrum.

The library consists of four learning centers -- reading, activity, technology and creativity -- and a picture exchange communication system that allows children with little or no communication abilities to communicate nonverbally.

The renovations were made possible through a $5,000 donation from Northeast Structural Steel in Mount Vernon to Masera's Applied Behavior Analysis-Parent Teacher Organization.

"The main thing we want the students to learn is how to use a library and appropriate behavior that is expected in a library," said Kristyn Kealey, the center's assistant principal.

"The students deserve a nice functional library," teacher assistant Lisa Blandeburgo said.



U.S. Presidential Scholars

Thirty-four Long Island students are among more than 3,000 candidates nationwide in the 2014 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program based on their academic and artistic achievements, leadership and community involvement, among other things.

A group of 560 semifinalists will be named next month. Finalists -- one boy and one girl from each state -- will be named in May by the U.S. Department of Education.

Suffolk County candidates are: Spencer Williams of Comsewogue High School in Port Jefferson Station; William Meehan of East Islip High School; Brandon Fluhr of Half Hollow Hills High School West in Dix Hills; Daniel Darsillo of Smithtown High School West; Akash Nandi of St. Anthony's High School in South Huntington; Justin Shi of The Stony Brook School; Charlotte Broadbent, Luran He, Harrison Li, Alex Shea and Ray Yin of Ward Melville High School in East Setauket; and Graham Brown of Westhampton Beach High School.

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