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Copiague Sandy victim celebrates prom, and science

Stephanie Fischer, 17, of Lindenhurst, and Alexander Riggsbee,

Stephanie Fischer, 17, of Lindenhurst, and Alexander Riggsbee, 17, of Amityville, arrive at the Copiague High School prom at Land's End in Sayville on Thursday, May 22, 2014. Photo Credit: Joseph Kellard

As Stephanie Fischer reflected on her pending graduation from Walter G. O'Connell Copiague High School during the prom at Land’s End in Sayville on Thursday, she talked about getting more fellow students involved in science research before she heads off to Stanford in September.

“I feel that not too many people in our school know about how great science research is, and what it can do for you,” said Fischer, 17, who will double major in earth systems and music.

Sporting a red gown, Fischer celebrated her prom with 260 of her classmates and her date, Alexander Riggsbee, 17, of Amityville. Her interest in science intensified after flooding from Sandy destroyed the basement and first floor of her Lindenhurst home on Oct. 29, 2012 -- her 16th birthday.  

Fischer and her family had to stay in their storm-damaged home throughout its reconstruction, at times going without plumbing. But during that time she was able to study with greater focus.

“School was a way to get away from the trouble at home, and I found I did better,” she said.   

She researched a project on past meteorological climates and their implications for the future, earning a distinction as the first Copiague student to enter the national Intel Science Talent Search.

“I know certain kids impacted by Sandy did have problems, but I noticed she never said anything,” said Tracy Wenzler, Fischer’s 10th-grade honors chemistry teacher and her class adviser throughout high school, who also helped organize the prom. “She just went on with her daily routine and wasn’t looking for anyone to give her any special treatment.”

Thursday’s prom marked about a year after some normalcy started to return to her life after Sandy.

“I realized then that my grades didn’t suffer,” she recalled, “despite the struggles I went through from the storm.”


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