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Residents enjoy a day on the Nissequogue River. Photo from the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation

County officials are asking residents for help in creating Suffolk’s new blueway trail.

According to the National Park Service, a blueway trail is a water path that provides recreational boating opportunities along a river, lake, canal or coastline.

The county’s blueway trail plan will make nonmotorized water sports — kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding and rowing — more accessible to residents and visitors by identifying information needed for a safe and fun paddling experience.

As part of the first phase, the county has launched a survey to solicit feedback from residents to see what they would want in a blueway trail. The comments and recommendations received through the survey will be open until July 15.

“Our ultimate goal is to link the blueway trail to our great recreational assets, such as our parks, beaches, and hike and bike trails, as well as provide opportunities to advance ecotourism and economic development within the county,” said County Executive Steve Bellone (D). “Paddling is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and exercise at the same time. The county is committed to working with residents to add to the enjoyment of the experience.”

The survey will help identify existing and potential launch sites throughout the county’s more than 1,000 miles of waterfront and develop a wish list to improve the sites for water access.

“Paddlers have long enjoyed Suffolk’s scenic waters, and we want to make it easier for residents and visitors to learn how to take advantage of the magnificent waterways we have available to us while doing it in a safe and fun way,” said county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket).

The origins of a countywide blueway trail date back three years ago, when Hahn was developing a similar plan for her North Shore district.

In June 2016, Hahn sponsored bipartisan legislation authorizing the county to pursue state funding, which resulted in the award of a $60,000 grant.

“It is an exciting next step,” she said. “I grew up in Stony Brook, and there’s nothing like being out in the water.”

Once priority sites have been identified, Suffolk County will work with the various municipalities to identify funding sources for specific project improvements and develop a management, communication and marketing plan.

Hahn said the trail would help drive new opportunities for tourism and benefit the local economy.

“We are looking for inexpensive ways for residents to access the shoreline,” she said.

The trail would provide suggested routes depending on skill level, locations of features such as rest stops, scenic locations, bird-watching and amenities including restrooms, concessions, nearby businesses and parking. It will also include signage to help paddlers find launch locations and provide information such as maps, environmental educational information and safety information.

Though the first phase of the plan is underway, Hahn said this will be a long planning process that could take a few years.

She said it depends on how much funding they can get as they will need to reapply for more grants as well as fixing and preparing the launch sites to be used as part of the blueway trail.

For residents who want to contribute to the blueway trail survey visit, www.arcg.is/1KyPDq.

Local legislators and members of the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology at SBU were on hand for its ribbon cutting celebration July 9. Photo by David Luces

A new research facility at Stony Brook University aims to develop innovative technologies in the fight to improve the quality of water on Long Island and help rid nitrogen in wastewater in an effort to protect drinking water.

The inside of the NYS Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University Photo by David Luces

On July 9, the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology at SBU officially opened the new research site named the Wastewater Research & Innovation Facility. The WRIF will have nitrogen-removing technologies to clean wastewater. The new facility is situated close to a county wastewater pumping station.

“We all know how important water is to Long Island, we know our only source of drinking water is below our feet,” said Chris Gobler, director, NYS Center for Clean Water Technology. “This facility is designed to bring the next generation of nitrogen reducing and removing biofilters [also called NRBs] that will be smaller and more effective and more widespread.”

The WRIF’s main area is a trailer full of nitrogen-removing biofilters made up of two levels: a layer of sand on top and a layer of wood chips on the bottom. Wastewater flows down, and each layer take out the nitrogen as it goes through.

“Our focus is to take what we have installed in the field, these NRBs and make them smaller and want to make it more affordable,” said Frank Russo, associate director for wastewater initiatives, NYS Center for Clean Water Technology. “The only way we can do that on a scale like this is to do experiments first in a set environment and test all the theories we find in our research.”

There are 22 SBU students and researchers on staff at the new facility. A secondary trailer on the property allows them to conduct experiments and research at a test tube level.

The endgame of those experiments is to eventually install these filters in homes and businesses, so it can help reduce nitrogen pollution.

Russo said it will take a five-year process before they go full scale. He stated that it is a county requirement that before anything is to be installed, you have to show the county that it is a proven technology, and it will last a long time.

The associate director hopes these filters along with a home septic system will one day take the place of a cesspool.

The opening of the new facility, comes a year after the center installed three prototype filters in homes throughout Long Island. The center has also been busy with other projects, including constructing a wetland in Cold Spring Harbor that is designed to treat wastewater and nitrogen levels.

Gobler stressed the need for reducing nitrogen pollution, stating that nearly 75 percent of Suffolk homes are not connected to a sewage system. The problem arises when the nitrogen-contaminated wastewater is stored into cesspools or outdated septic systems.

“The center is going to help address and solve the nitrogen problem on Long Island, but perhaps across the country and maybe even around the world,” said Carrie Meek-Gallagher, regional director of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

In 2017, the county began urging residents to make the switch to new, updated septic systems under the Suffolk County Septic Improvement Program with the help of grants.

As of July 1, Suffolk County residents who voluntarily decide to replace their cesspools will need to replace them with a system consisting of a septic tank and leaching pool at a minimum, according to a June 20 TBR News Media article. Contractors will need to register the system with the Department of Health Services. While residents can choose a conventional septic system, another option is an advanced device that removes more nitrogen. County grants of up to $20,000 are available for residents who qualify. There is also an additional state grant of up to $10,000, which can mean a total of up to $30,000.

From left to right: Daniel Lozeau, Galo Del Heirro, Alexander Dagum, Marissa Ayasse, Richard J Scriven. Photo from SBU

By David Luces

For one Ecuadorian native, attending a lecture by Stony Brook Medicine doctors changed his life.

Galo Del Hierro, 44, who works for the Charles Darwin Foundation in the Galapagos, was attending a lecture given by the Stony Brook Medicine team about skin cancer screenings and prevention in the archipelago. After the lecture, Del Hierro approached Alexander Dagum, a reconstructive plastic surgeon at Stony Brook, and showed him a lesion he had on his right eyelid that was not going away and had grown bigger in the last couple of years.

“He came up to me and said, ‘I’ve had this spot that has gotten larger for some time,’” Dagum said. “I looked at it and thought it was pretty suspicious and told him he should see one of our dermatologists.”

The team’s trip in March was part of a mission through Blanca’s House, a Long Island non-profit organization that works to bring much-needed, quality medical care to countries and communities throughout Latin America. The seven-person team from Stony Brook planned on providing screenings and other care for the local community. As they further examined Del Hierro, they realized they might have to bring him 3,051 miles away to Stony Brook for care.

Dr. Daniel Lozeau, a dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at Stony Brook Medicine, took a look at Del Hierro’s lesion and determined that they needed to do a biopsy. After testing was done, Del Hierro was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma.

Lozeau said given the location of the melanoma it would make it difficult to remove.

“On the eyelid you have less room to work with,” he said. “It not like when it’s on someone’s back, where we have a lot more real estate [to work with].”

Dagum said if people in the Galapagos had anything serious, they would have to go over to the mainland in Ecuador, which is quite far. Initially, he tried to find a doctor on the mainland to perform the surgery for Del Hierro instead of bringing him to Stony Brook as it was more convenient for Del Hierro, but he couldn’t find anyone that could do it.

Lozeau said the cancer Del Hierro had is aggressive, and he could have lost his eye and his life.

Dagum then got clearance to perform the surgery as a teaching case at Stony Brook Medicine and with help from the Darwin Foundation and Blanca’s House, Del Hierro was able to come to Stony Brook for the surgery in May.

The Stony Brook plastic surgeon said the procedure takes several days and requires using skin grafts to reconstruct and support the lower eyelid.

“It was important they we got [the melanoma] out as quickly as possible,” Dagum said.

Dagum and colleagues removed the lesion in full around his eyelids, and reconstructed skin around the eyelid so Del Hierro could see properly and blink normally. He had a second procedure to adjust the eyelid.

The Ecuadorian native said through a translator that he was grateful and impressed with the care he received at Stony Brook.

Del Hierro said that he had first noticed the spot on his eyelid when he was 18 years old.

“It was a tiny little dot, and I didn’t really think much of it, I thought it was just a mole,” he said.

He admitted when he first got his diagnosis, he was worried for himself and his family, but trusted Dagum and the team.

With the procedures complete, Dagum said they are waiting for the swelling to go down and everything should settle in and heal up in the next couple of months.

Dagum expects Del Hierro to live normally; however, he recommends he should continue to get screened and have the eyelid area examined periodically.

Del Hierro’s case and the team’s experiences bring to light the importance of skin cancer screening and skin protection, especially during the summer season.

Lozeau said the Academy of Dermatology recommends sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher.

“Most important thing is to constantly re-apply frequently every couple of hours,” he said. “Hats are good to wear and make sure you have eye protection.”

The dermatologist said when it comes to skin cancer, if one notices a spot that hasn’t gone away or has grown in size, he or she should get it checked out. Also, he mentioned spots that constantly bleed or scab over.

“Galo was really fortunate. He was at the right place at the right time,” Lozeau said.

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Ryan Augusta and two of his children. Photo from East Wind

The culinary industry will come together to support an executive chef who is currently battling an aggressive and rare cancer. On July 31 from 7 to 11 p.m., East Wind Long Island in Wading River will host a Super Ryan Fundraiser in honor of Ryan Augusta, who in 2018 was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma. 

Ryan Augusta’s kids dress up as Superman to support their father. Photo from East Wind

After undergoing surgery and medical treatments, it seemed that the cancer was in remission. However, recently he found out that the cancer had returned and is now more aggressive. Augusta has endured another major surgery and will undergo 34 rounds of radiation and chemotherapy treatments, causing a financial strain to his family. 

Augusta has been working at East Wind for over three years and manages a staff of about 50 people. The executive chef lives in East Northport with his wife, Christa, and their three children.  

Christa Augusta said she is blown away and thankful for what East Wind is doing. 

“They put this all together on their own, as soon as they found out about his [Ryan’s] surgery in May,” she said. 

The mother of three said she is grateful to all the people, staff and chefs putting in time and energy into the fundraiser. 

“We are looking forward to a great night with people we love,” she said. “This will give my husband strength.”

Charlotte Cote, director of marketing at East Wind, said Augusta’s work ethic is second to none. 

“It is a pleasure to work with Ryan on a daily basis — he is the type of person that makes your job easier because he’s always ahead of the game and his staff is ready to go,” she said. 

The fundraiser will feature well-known professional chefs and restaurateurs from Long Island to Las Vegas who dedicating their talents to the event. Each chef is expected to have an active workstation.  

Sixteen professional guest chefs will lend their talents to the fundraiser, including local chefs such as Steve Gallagher of The Trattoria in St. James, John Bauer of Danfords in Port Jefferson, Justin Scarfo of Ruggero’s in Wading River and John Louis, of Maui Chop House in Rocky Point. 

Food purveyors will be Prime Foods & Braun Seafood, all brought together by Ralph Perrazzo from BBD’s Las Vegas-Beers Burgers Desserts 

Ryan Augusta, top, Christa Augusta, bottom, and their children. Photo from East Wind

“Chef Ryan is a valued member of our close-knit family here at East Wind and we are committed to give him our unconditional support for his hard work and dedication in this time of need,” Lou Ambrosio, general manager at East Wind said.

Five breweries will also be on hand serving their signature brews, including Sand City Brewing Company of Northport, Barrier Brewing of Oceanside, Root & Branch in Copiague, Evil Twin in Ridgewood and Grimm in Brooklyn.

“I’m truly fortunate to have amazing friends in this industry who will always show support in time of need,” said Ralph Perazzo of BBD’s Las Vegas-Beers Burgers Desserts.

The fundraiser will include a buffet, live DJ, beer, wine, soda, a Chinese auction and a 50/50 raffle. Raffle prizes include a two-night stay at Foxwood Casino Resort with dining and spa credit plus other prizes. 

Tickets are $75 per person or $700 for a table of 10. Tickets can be purchased here. All proceeds go directly go to the Augusta family.  

If you are unable to attend, Augusta’s family have set up a GoFundMe page, which will help with medical costs that has already raised over $4,500 of a $50,000 goal. People wishing to donate can visit here.

This post has been corrected to reflect Augusta still has to undergo treatment.

This past weekend, several parts of Long Island was hit by an unexpected flash wind and rain storm that took down numerous large trees, branches and electric wires across parts of Long Island. In the Town of Huntington, much of the northern and eastern parts of town were affected.

Over 80,000 homes and businesses across Long Island lost power due to the storms. 26,000, nearly one third of the total power outages, were spread across Huntington, Smithtown and Islip.

Huntington’s Highway, General Services and Maritime Services Departments worked through the night to clear roads and waterways of hazards created by the storm, working on over 750 service tickets.

Crews from Nassau County, upstate New York and out of state, including 48 Con Edison personnel and approximately 400 tree trim and line workers assisted.

General services crew leaders are completing damage assessment at all

Huntington town facilities and parks, municipal & commuter parking lots.

Tree and limb removal will take place at Veterans Park, Henry Ingraham Preserve, Heckscher Park, Caravan Park, Elwood Park, William Byrne Park, Cedar Road Park, Commack Park, Dix Hills Park & Golf course, and the Washington Drive Parking Lot.

The most extensive damage is at Crab Meadow Golf Course where approximately 35 trees are down, and hundreds of broken branches are on the ground or hanging in trees. The golf course is currently closed, and officials hope to have it opened for play by this Wednesday,  June 3, even though tree removal operations will continue for several weeks.

The Dix Hills Pool was closed July 1 due to a power outage.

Officials said they expected half of all outages would have been restored by July 1 and 95% restored by midnight, July 2.

To report a downed wire and receive status updates on power call PSEG Long Island’s 24-hour Electric Service number at 1-800-490-0075.

To report downed trees blocking roads or branches suspended over roads, contact the Highway Department at (631) 499-0444 or huntingtonny.gov/highway.

Residents without power can keep cool at these Town of Huntington facilities:

  • Senior Center at 423 Park Avenue in Huntington from Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Dix Hills Ice Rink at 575 Vanderbilt Parkway, open until 8 p.m. and opening at 6 AM.
  • Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park at Elwood Park on Cuba Hill Road in Elwood is open 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. seven days a week, with extended hours, opening at 10 a.m. for special needs children Tuesdays and Thursdays, including the 4th of July.

The home where an alleged attempted burglary took place. Photo from Google Maps

Port Jefferson residents helped detain an alleged burglar Sunday evening, police said.

Suffolk County Police said Frank Beinlich, 33, undomiciled, illegally entered the home at 22 Gladysz Way in Port Jefferson at around 5:05 p.m. and stole a safe, jewelry, small electronic equipment and clothing. No one was home at the time. Beinlich then allegedly placed several of the stolen items in a wooded area behind the house and called a taxi to pick him up.

When the taxi arrived, neighbors saw Beinlich carrying the safe to the waiting taxi. The neighbors called 911 and then detained Beinlich until 6th precinct officers arrived at the scene.

There was earlier police activity in the area after a neighbor spotted two individuals in the wooded area behind her house and called the police, one neighbor, who wished not to be named, said.

Police said they responded a few hours before the burglary in regard to a stolen vehicle that had been taken from Lake Grove. They are currently trying to determine whether the burglary suspect is also linked with the stolen car.

“They left and we thought it was over — that they had found who they were looking for,“ she said. “But about two hours later I noticed a cab coming down the block.”

The neighbor thought it was pretty unusual and the driver looked like he didn’t know what house to go to.

“He [the driver] parked his car at my neighbor’s and I knew he wasn’t home,” the neighbor said.” From my window I could see the thief behind the gate, he came out to talk to the driver briefly, went back to the house and then came back out with a bag. That’s when I called the police.”

Besides her, two other neighbors had called the police and they tried to keep the suspect in the car telling the driver to turn off the vehicle, but then the burglar jumped out, trying to escape.

“At that point my husband cornered him and with help from another neighbor they held him to the ground until the police came and took him,” she said.

The homeowner whose house was burglarized did not wish to be quoted in this article.

Beinlich was charged with burglary in the 2nd degree and an outstanding parole warrant. He was held overnight in the 6thprecinct and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip July 1.

Residents gather at the marina in Nissequogue River State Park for the 2018 Regatta on the River. This year’s launch is planned for July 13 at the same location. A family barbecue and picnic is scheduled after the paddle. High school students help to coordinate the event and encourage residents to join in to enjoy all the park has to offer. Photo from the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation

For the fourth year running, Kings Park students are working to bring the Smithtown community together to raise funds for the upkeep and improvement of Nissequogue River State Park. All residents are invited to participate July 13 in the annual canoe, kayak and paddleboard regatta at the park’s South Marina at 799 Saint Johnland Road in Kings Park. 

Residents gather at the marina in Nissequogue River State Park for the 2018 Regatta on the River. This year’s launch is planned for July 13 at the same location. A family barbecue and picnic is scheduled after the paddle. High school students help to coordinate the event and encourage residents to join in to enjoy all the park has to offer. Photo from the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation

The Nissequogue River State Park Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the park for future generations, is coordinating the event with students. The event, called Regatta on the River, is sponsored by the Reichert family, owners of the East Northport and Fort Salonga IGA supermarkets, and will feature both a competitive 10-mile race that begins at 9 a.m. and a leisurely five-mile excursion that begins at 9:30 a.m. This year the event includes a barbecue and picnic. 

Three co-presidents of the foundation’s student board, Emily Dinan, Caleigh Lynch and Juliana Quigley, have worked together to organize this year’s event. Last year, the regatta event raised a total of more than $2,500. Lynch, a senior at St. Anthony’s High School in Melville, said the student board makes decisions about the regatta for the organization, which instills leadership qualities among board members.   

“Knowing that our involvement with the board is making a difference right here in my own community is an amazing feeling,” she said. “It will be amazing to see all of our hard work from January to July go into full effect.”

Dinan, a senior at Kings Park High School, said being on the board allows her and others to give families in the community a fun activity to do and helps them raise money to beautify and help clean up the park. 

“We are excited to see how big our event grows each year,” she said. “I love seeing new faces among the familiar ones as they gear up and get ready to go out on the river.”

In preparation for the event, the group files the necessary permits for the event, designs T-shirts and obtains event sponsors. Dinan said everyone is responsible with helping spread the word about its events. Quigley, also a senior at Kings High School, said it feels great to help maintain the park. 

“There comes a sense of pride in the work we’ve done to contribute to this jewel in our backyard,” she said. A third-generation resident, the senior said she has been visiting the park all her life since her grandparents took her there when she was young. 

Dinan said many people have told them they didn’t even know how big the park was or that there was so much you could do.  Last year, paddleboarders were included in the regatta for the first time, and the group hopes they can get even more participants this year. 

Lynch said the park often gets a bad reputation for being located on the waterfront portion of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center, stopping people from realizing how beautiful the park is. 

“I believe the park is one of Mother Nature’s greatest hits,” she said.  

All proceeds from ticket sales will go directly to the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation for use in the park. To register for the many different options available for participation visit www.ourstatepark.com/4th-annual-regatta-on-the-river.

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) during a press conference at Port Jefferson Harbor. The LIPA power plant can be seen in the distance. File photo by David Luces
Extreme weather events, coastal flooding, crop yields, brush fires and disruption of fisheries and other ecosystems are among the many concerns that scientists and policymakers aim to address through legislation. Image from the United Nations International Panel on Cllimate Change

New York lawmakers aim to tackle the climate change issue head on: It passed June 20 a bill that will largely eliminate fossil-fuel emissions by 2050. 

The bill, called the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, will require incremental changes to the state’s infrastructure. By 2030, the state plans to obtain 70 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources, shifting entirely to carbon-free electricity by 2040 and cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent below 1990 levels. Part of the plan includes developing and implementing measures that remove carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas, from the atmosphere. 

New York joins California, Nevada, Hawaii, Washington, New Mexico, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico in committing to clean energy power. The initiative comes in response to the current administration bailing out of the United Nation’s landmark 2015 Paris Agreement to build a low-carbon future and scaling back on many other environmental measures and regulations. 

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), the bill’s original sponsor, said the bill addresses one of the most important issues of our time. He and state senators have been trying to get clean-energy legislation passed for the last four years. Prior to the 2018 elections, he said, the bill was stuck in the Republican-led senate. 

“It made a big difference in getting this [bill] passed,” he said. “When you have individuals that deny climate change, it is difficult just to get to first base.”

“We will all need to work together to solve this.”

— Steve Englebright

The bill lays out an ambitious plan for the next 30 years, and it will be guided by a 22-member state panel called the Climate Action Council. 

The council will be made up of state agencies, scientists and individuals in the environmental justice, labor and other regulated industries. The bill requires the council to create a scoping plan that will set out recommendations for reducing emissions across all sectors of the economy, including transportation, building, industrial, commercial and agricultural. They will have to approve a scoping plan within the next two years and then update the plan at least every five years. 

Englebright said a lot is at stake with this climate plan and it is important that they are successful. 

“I would say this is the most aggressive plan to combat this climate challenge; New York should be leading the way,” he said. 

The bill will also set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to prioritize disadvantaged communities around the state, particularly those devastated by pollution and climate change. 

“The Long Island Progressive Coalition celebrates the power of the NY Renews coalition in winning a climate bill that makes New York a national leader in legally-mandated emissions cuts,” Lisa Tyson, Long Island Progressive Coalition director said in a statement. “The agreement struck on the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act is a significant step forward in combating the climate crisis and moving toward a more regenerative economy for our communities — one powered by 100 percent clean renewable energy.”

Though it is considered a victory in the fight against climate change, the coalition was disappointed that some amendments were left out of the final bill. 

“We are deeply concerned that the changes in the final version of the bill weaken the original intent we set out as a coalition to directly invest resources in vulnerable communities,” Tyson said in a statement. “Although the bill includes a nod toward prevailing wage, the governor’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act removes mandates to secure specific worker protections, job growth and training included in previous editions of the Climate and Community Protection Act, which are essential to a just transition off of fossil fuels.”

Other county officials weighed in on the passage of the bill. 

“As chair of the Suffolk County Environment Committee, I understand how crucial it is to our children’s futures that we take measurable steps to counteract human-induced climate change,” Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said in a statement. “I am proud to say that I am from a state that recognizes the importance of environmental consciousness, and that takes the action necessary toward progress. I commend Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature for reaching an agreement that will ensure measurable reductions in carbon emissions and promote clean energy and a greener economy.”

Once the bill is signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), it will become law. 

Englebright stressed it is going to take a collaborative effort to make sure this plan will work. 

“It is going to take recognition from people that this is not some made up problem, It is not a fake science,” he said. “We will need to work together to solve this.” 

Scientists from the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change have been recommending to policymakers the 70 to 85 percent reduction of fossil fuel use by 2050 to curb the worst impacts of a warming planet.

Miller Place valedictorian Lori Beth Sussman and salutatorian Jenna Hoyland. Photos from Miller Place School District

Miller Place High School announced the top students of the 2019 graduating class are seniors Lori Beth Sussman and Jenna Hoyland, who have been named valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Sussman has been an all-county musician involved in the jazz band and pit orchestra. In addition, she was the foreign language national honor society Spanish president, Tri-M co-vice president, varsity tennis member and part of the mock trial club. She also was Mathletes captain, Future Business Leaders of America member and The Cancer Answer project fundraiser founder.

She shared some advice to students who are heading into high school, saying not to be afraid to ask questions and put your foot forward. 

Sussman finished her high school career with a 99.918 weighted GPA and plans to attend Vassar College in the fall. 

“I’m really excited to go to Vassar. They have an open and flexible curriculum.” she said. ”I’m looking forward to learning more.”   

Hoyland has participated in winter and spring track, served as senior council president and service club treasurer and was yearbook editor. This year she was also named a National Merit Commended Scholar.   

The senior shared some advice to her fellow peers and students who are heading into
high school.

“Set high standards and don’t back down from them,” she said.  

Hoyland finished her high school career with a 99.77 weighted GPA and will attend Binghamton University where she plans to study chemistry. 

“I’m excited to meet new people and take on new challenges,” she said. 

Comsewogue valedictorian Ankita Katukota and salutatorian Jessica Sperling. Photos from CUFSD

Comsewogue High School announced the top students of the 2019 graduating class are seniors Ankita Katukota and Jessica Sperling, who have been named valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Katukota finished her high school career with a 101.43 weighted GPA. She served as the varsity tennis captain and interned at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. She was a member of the jazz band, Brookhaven youth court, Women in Science and Engineering and Athletes Helping Athletes. 

She will attend University of California, Los Angeles and plans to study pre-med. 

“I’m really excited to go to UCLA and ready to try something new,” she said. “The school is really well-known for its pre-med program.”

Katukota shared some advice to students who are heading into high school. 

“I would just say keep working hard, get involved in extracurricular activities and keep striving for what you want,” she said.

Sperling, as salutatorian, finished her high school career with a 100.2 weighted GPA. During her time at Comsewogue, Sperling served as   T.A.S.K. club member, student government president, Comsewogue Board of Education student representative, Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association student representative, Spanish honor society vice president and yearbook editor-in-chief. 

Sperling will attend Binghamton University in the fall and study political science. 

“I’m really excited to go Binghamton,” she said. “I’m really interested in law and hope to go to law school [in the future] and possibly go into government work.”

Sperling said she is looking forward to continuing doing work in the community and being active in campus clubs and organizations at Binghamton. 

The senior also shared some advice to students heading into high school. 

“Have a good balance between school and your personal life,” she said. “I think it is really important to have time for yourself and enjoy your high school experience. Before you know it it’s over.”

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