Movers and Shakers

Andres Garcia, Jackie Winslow, Jaden Chimalis and Hazel Cash during a scene of “Unspoken the Musical.” Photo from Hazel Cash

Musicals can bring people’s stories to life, and on June 1, two performances of a student-led production at Ward Melville High School did just that.

“Unspoken the Musical,” written and directed by ninth-grade P.J. Gelinas Junior High School student Hazel Cash, was performed in the high school’s large group instruction room for the first time.

“She has always been very focused and very committed to whatever she wants to do and doesn’t do anything halfway.” — Deborah Fisher

The 15-year-old Stony Brook resident said the idea for the musical, which delves into the issues teens deal with today, came to her last summer when she had trouble falling asleep while at camp, and she started writing.

“I never actually thought it would turn into something,” she said.

However, one day, her friends at school asked what she was writing, and when they learned of her play, they told her, “We should produce that.” The conversation led to the forming of Theatre4Change, which produced the June 1 event.

Hazel’s mother, Deborah Fisher, wasn’t surprised when her daughter told her about the undertaking.

“She has always been very focused and very committed to whatever she wants to do and doesn’t do anything halfway,” Fisher said.

The mother said Hazel’s friends and everyone who was approached in the school district were incredibly supportive.

“I’m very impressed with how they have really stepped up and in some ways taken a chance,” she said, adding that Setauket Presbyterian Church lent the space for rehearsals.

The “Unspoken the Musical” storyline centers around Quinn Burke, played by Sophie Gonsalves, who comes out as a lesbian to her friends in the popular clique who don’t react well, leading the teenager to meet an eclectic group of students. One of those characters is Elana Cohen, played by Hazel, who she describes as both refreshing and at times obnoxious. In addition to touching on sexual identity and the quest of fitting in socially, the play also deals with other topics from loss to disabilities, including a girl named Ann who loses her mother and another character who is on the autism spectrum.

The young writer said the characters aren’t based on specific people but are a mixture of students she knows combined with her imagination. Always enjoying writing short stories, Hazel said one time she wrote a 35-chapter novel that she described as “really bad.” Some of her ideas also come to her while she is daydreaming in class.

“We have experienced it already and we know what is happening.”

— Hazel Cash

Hazel said that, for a while, she considered a career in science, but now dreams of a profession where music is involved. She describes herself as “a theater geek” who loves musicals.

“Science is a worthwhile career and it helps a lot of people, but I realized that I just want to be in music because I love it so much,” she said. “I can’t live without it.”

Jaden Chimalis, a seventh-grader who played Ann in the musical, said the performances went amazingly well. The 12-year-old said when Hazel told her about the musical she was impressed that her friend was writing it on her own.

Jaden said her character suffers from depression after the passing of her mother, and the student said she knows many people who are struggling with depression and anxiety.

“It felt very close to my heart,” she said.

After the musical’s debut, Hazel said the group was able to raise $1,500 that will be donated to three nonprofits. They have chosen The Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention to the LGBTQ population under 25; Women for Women International, which provides practical and moral support to women survivors of conflict and war; and the American Cancer Society, a nationwide voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer.

Hazel hopes that after seeing the musical, students are encouraged enough to speak up, and adults have a better understanding of what teenagers are talking about amongst themselves.

“We have experienced it already and we know what is happening,” Hazel said. “We have had friends go through this stuff, some of us have gone through this stuff. We’re not too young to talk about this and we talk about it anyway, so you might as well be included in the conversation.”

Chris Pendergast enjoys his 70th birthday bash at 89 North Music Venue in Patchogue with family and friends. Photo by Elliot Perry

While reaching 70 years old is a celebratory milestone for many, for one Miller Place resident, the birthday was a triumph.

Chris Pendergast and his wife, Christine, with their grandson Patrick Scali. Photos by Elliot Perry

On April 28, Chris Pendergast celebrated a special day which loved ones and doctors thought he wouldn’t see after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS and Lou Gehrig’s disease, 26 years ago. Most patients only live a few years after being diagnosed. Pendergast is the founder of ALS Ride For Life, the Stony Brook-based nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about ALS, funding research and providing patient services.

More than two weeks before his big day, family members and friends attended a party for Pendergast at 89 North Music Venue in Patchogue to celebrate, while the Billy Joel tribute band Big Shot belted out some classic tunes. His wife, Christine Pendergast, said at the party he was surprised with a computer program that allows his communication device to generate his voice instead of a robotic one. The device produces a voice after he gazes at a letter, and the new program was put together using past recordings of him being interviewed.

Christine Pendergast said her husband was surprised and overwhelmed by the gift, and she and their children were emotional, too.

“You know you lose so much with ALS that having the gift of your own voice given back to you is a true gift of who you are as a person, and what you used to be before you lost so much to ALS,” she said.

Fellow ALS patient Paul Weisman, who described Pendergast as a living, breathing miracle, said the gift presentation was emotional for everyone in the room.

“When they gave him his present, where he got his voice back, I was standing right next to Chris and I could see and hear people sobbing — not just crying but sobbing — because they were so happy that he got his voice back,” Weisman said.

ALS Ride For Life started when Chris Pendergast embarked on a ride with his electric scooter from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to Washington, D.C., 22 years ago to raise awareness about the disease and raise funds for research. After a few years, the ride was contained to New York — from Riverhead to the Bronx — where participants stop by schools along the way that take part in the organization’s presentations throughout the school year. This year’s ride events run from May 6 through 18.

“It’s very hard to believe that this will be his 22nd ride, and from that one small spark of an idea to raising $8 million is just a testament to what one person can actually create and inspire so many others to join his mission.”

— Christine Pendergast

Christine Pendergast said she thought the first ride was going to be a one-time event. The nonprofit started out with a few people at a kitchen table trying to figure out how Chris Pendergast would do the ride, she said, and once they realized they could raise money, the group decided to start a nonprofit.

“It’s very hard to believe that this will be his 22nd ride, and from that one small spark of an idea to raising $8 million is just a testament to what one person can actually create and inspire so many others to join his mission,” Pendergast’s wife said.

Richard Iannuzzi, 2nd vice chair of ALS Ride For Life, described the nonprofit’s founder as persistent and strong willed.

“I think that’s probably key to what makes him do such terrific things with the ride as well as maintaining his own disposition in his approach to the disease,” Iannuzzi said.

The 2nd vice chair said he met the Pendergasts 20 years ago through the teachers union as Chris Pendergast was a teacher in Northport while his wife taught in Comsewogue for 32 years.

Iannuzzi said he estimates the group can visit up to 90 schools from September through May with presentations to raise awareness about ALS. The board member said Pendergast, through the example of his life, sends a general message to students about not losing hope, never giving up and always being optimistic.

“He always wants to deliver the message that if he doesn’t find his situation hopeless then you as a youngster — who is probably going through your own challenges, whether it’s bullying or divorce at home or what have you — if he doesn’t feel hopeless, and he can seek help the way we’re asking them for help, then you in the audience, if you’re facing the challenges of life, be sure to reach out and seek help from your parents and your teachers,” he said.

The Pendergasts enjoy the party at 89 North Music Venue. Photo by Elliot Perry

During the Ride For Life events Long Island students and teachers line up with signs and cheer the ALS patients during the two-week trip, Iannuzzi said.

“For the patients, it’s very exciting to have the attention, and for the youngsters, it’s very exciting to see they’re doing something good, and they’re supporting a wonderful cause,” he said.

Weisman, who is 58 and was diagnosed with ALS a little more than six years ago, said he found ALS Ride For Life online while researching the disease and met with the Pendergasts soon after discovering the organization.

“When you’re diagnosed with ALS, your world is just completely turned upside down where I couldn’t work anymore,” he said. “So being with the ride has given me a purpose in life.”

Weisman, who helps to conduct the school presentations, said he could do them all day, every day if possible, and he thinks the message resonates with everybody.

“It’s not just about ALS,” he said. “This is in life in general. We’re all going to go through some pretty tough times, but you can ask for help. It’s OK.”

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the walk in 2017, Chris Pendergast road his wheelchair once again from Yankee Stadium to D.C., and Weisman said he walked along with him to talk to Congress members to advocate for ALS awareness. He also participates in the annual rides on Long Island.

“The energy we get from these kids — you read in the papers and a lot of people talk about kids these days this that and the other thing — but I go from school to school to school,” he said. “I spend time with these kids, and I have to tell you, man, we’re in good shape with these kids out there. They’re so encouraging. They just want to help. You can see the empathy they have.”

Christine Pendergast said the funds raised by Ride For Life go toward ALS research, patient services, nursing respite plans, scholarships, a mobility program with a fleet of eight handicapped vans and to fund the Stony Brook University clinic that has been named the Christopher Pendergast ALS Center of Excellence.

On May 11, ALS Ride For Life will hold its pinwheel ceremony at SBU where 6,000 pinwheels will be planted to represent those who have died from ALS in the past year. Those who have lost family members or friends to the disease can ask that their loved ones be added to a list of 90 whose names will be read that day to represent the patients who are lost to ALS every 90 minutes.

D. Bruce Lockerbie and his wife, Lory, pose for an Easter Sunday photo. Photo above from D. Bruce Lockerbie

A familiar face in the Three Village area is receiving a special honor from his college alma mater.

On May 4, East Setauket’s D. Bruce Lockerbie will be inducted into the New York University Department of Athletics, Intramurals and Recreation Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a member of its men’s cross country and track and field teams, during a reception at NYU’s Kimmel Center. Lockerbie majored in English and religion at NYU and graduated in 1956.

Bruce Lockerbie during his days on the New York University track and field and cross country teams. Photo from New York University

“Bruce Lockerbie’s accomplishments as a member of the NYU cross country and track teams have stood the test of time and rank him among the greats to ever don the NYU violet,” said Christopher Bledsoe, NYU assistant vice president for student affairs and director of athletics. “We celebrate Dr. Lockerbie’s achievements and look forward to a special afternoon in May.”

Lockerbie, 83, said he was surprised and humbled when he heard about the induction, especially since the university counts numerous world record holders in track and field.

“I thought it was an April Fools joke in September,” he said, adding he had good teammates with him during his stint in track and field.

Among his college successes were his team being named the Penn Relays Distance Medley Relay and Spring Medley Relay champions and winning the bronze medal at an NCAA cross country event, both in 1955. He was also the Canadian Indoor Track and Field 1,000 yards champion in 1956 and missed qualifying for Canada’s Olympic team the same year due to illness on the day of the trials.

Lockerbie was born in Canada and moved to the U.S. as a junior in high school when his father accepted a position as pastor at Bay Ridge Baptist Church in Brooklyn. He soon found himself running for Fort Hamilton High School’s team.

“This is a key time in my life,” he said.

Lockerbie said he almost didn’t attend NYU after high school. The son of Depression-era parents who dropped out of school to work, the former runner said he had no college expectations and didn’t apply to any schools. It was his high school coach who gave him advice at a New York City championship race that changed his life.

“He said, ‘Run the race of your life kid, and maybe God has a surprise for you,’” Lockerbie said.

It was apparent that the surprise was in store, as an NYU coach discovered him, and he received a four-year scholarship.

“It absolutely changed and shaped my life,” he said.

Lockerbie said he doesn’t believe he would have attended college if it wasn’t for that fateful day. After graduation, he would go on to teach and coach at Wheaton College in Illinois and then at The Stony Brook School for 34 years. He was recruited by the headmaster at the time, Frank E. Gaebelein, who had the same coach as him at NYU.

Jane Taylor, former assistant head of The Stony Brook School, who has known Lockerbie since 1973, described the ex-track star as an Energizer bunny. Through the years, she said, he took on many administration roles at the school including chair of the English department, dean of faculty and being involved in various committees.

“He said, ‘Run the race of your life kid, and maybe God has a surprise for you.'”

— D. Bruce Lockerbie

As head of the international consulting team Paideia, Inc. since 1991, she said Lockerbie is well-respected for his educational consultations and workshops she described as thought-provoking.

Taylor added she also remembered him as the kind of coach who actively engaged and ran with his students, and he would carefully look at the running times he felt each student was capable of running.

“His athletes rose to the occasion,” she said.

As for running, it’s something Lockerbie had to give up after a heart attack in 1982, he said, when his doctor told him he would miss his son’s wedding that was scheduled a few days after but would be around for his grandchildren’s.

Despite the setback, Lockerbie said he kept his competitive edge and took up golfing, even winning a car in the past for getting a hole-in-one.

“I just had to replace it,” he said. “Chinese checkers wouldn’t have been as challenging.”

Lockerbie and his wife Lory, who have been married since 1956, have lived in the Three Village area for 62 years where they raised three children. In addition to his successes in track and field and cross country, Lockerbie is the author, co-author and editor of 40 books, and he and his wife are active parishioners in the Caroline Church of Brookhaven.

When it comes to the May 4 induction ceremony at NYU’s Kimmel Center, Lockerbie said he is looking forward to it, and he is still grateful for his time at the university.

“It’s a case of a university having expressed its faith in me, when I was utterly a nobody, and giving me the opportunity to affect other people’s lives all these years in the profession of education,” he said. “The appropriate sentiment is humbling, and I’m grateful.”

Marshall Irving poses with a clock that belonged to his grandfather. Photo by Susan Risoli

By Susan Risoli

You don’t reach the age of 90 without learning a thing or two about living. For Setauket resident Marshall Irving, life is a bit like his favorite pastime of fixing antique clocks: value teamwork, be willing to listen and don’t forget to apply critical thinking when difficulties arise.

“Figure out what is going on and what you can do about it to make it better,” Irving said recently in an interview at his home. “And whether it’s a mechanical issue or something to do with people, bring an open mind about the problem you’re working on.”

Marshall Irving with his wife, Arline, recently celebrated his 90th birthday. Photo by Susan Risoli

Irving is an antiquarian horologist — someone who restores and maintains antique timekeeping devices. The Ward Melville Heritage Organization relies on his skills to keep its tower clock and landmark eagle in good running order. WMHO president, Gloria Rocchio, called Irving “one of the Three Village area treasures, just like the eagle.”

Irving has always been fascinated by the carved wooden eagle, which since 1941 has flapped its 10-foot wingspan from a vantage point atop the Stony Brook post office.

“The Stony Brook eagle is the only one we know of in the world,” Irving said.

He started working on the clock and the eagle 20 years ago.

“When I first got involved, the eagle was in such bad shape, it was shaking the building,” he recalled. “I put in a chain drive and a new gearbox to drive its wings.”

Back then he would climb up four flights of stairs to get to the big bird. “Then I made it, so we could work it out of a closet in the office by pushing buttons, rather than physically going up there,” he said.

“When I first got involved, the eagle was in such bad shape, it was shaking the building.”

— Marshall Irving

Irving was trained as a steamboat engineer at the Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy. He and his wife, Arline, moved to the Three Villages when he went to work at the Dayton T. Brown company. He also served as a naval intelligence officer, which he said “was kind of fun.” The Irvings have four children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren with a third great-grandchild on the way.

The Irvings’ home is filled with clocks, each playing a soft chorus of chimes that sound at different times with different notes. Hanging on the wall is “the first clock I got serious about fixing,” an 1860s Seth Thomas clock that was in Irving’s grandfather’s office at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

The Mather House Museum in Port Jefferson has an antique clock collection that Irving restores and maintains. He runs a “clock school” there, where he teaches people how to restore antique clock mechanisms and finishes, and how to make the clocks look their best for public display. Irving said he teaches his students that patience and teamwork are essential to diagnosing and treating the problems of these delicate clocks.

“We have people come into our clock school and run out screaming because it doesn’t fit their mindset,” he said. “They don’t realize it takes years to learn these things.”

He added, “I’ve been doing this for 50 years, and there are still things I’m learning, every day.”

Irving said he will continue being an antiquarian horologist for his own pleasure and to spread the word about the beauty of aging clocks.

“I enjoy talking to people about it, because the ability to do this is starting to die out,” he said. “A sad thing for me is that we don’t teach children how to tell time anymore from an analog dial on a clock.”

Aidan Donnelly, an Eagle Scout from Troop 362 in Selden, spearheaded a project to have fishing line resource recovery/recycling containers installed near Suffolk County fishing spots . Photo from Aidan Donnelly

By Karina Gerry

A Centereach High School senior and Eagle Scout has dedicated much of his time to protecting Long Island beaches and wildlife.

During a terrapin turtle project, Aidan Donnelly searched, tracked, monitored, measured, weighed and coded turtles to take environmental data and GPS location of the turtles. Photo by Aidan Donnelly

Aidan Donnelly, 17, joined his local Boy Scout troop when he was in fifth grade after he was inspired by his older cousin’s Court of Honor ceremony, the highest rank a Scout can earn. Donnelly saw all the volunteer projects his cousin was involved in and wanted to make a difference as well. Now an Eagle Scout himself, Donnelly has planned and been the leader of four different wildlife projects since 2014.

“I really can’t describe it,” Donnelly said. “I just love seeing my projects make a positive difference. I love seeing the difference I was able to make through my projects and knowing I’ve helped the beach and so many people.”

Donnelly has been volunteering since he was nine years old, when he joined an educational program at West Meadow Beach called Beach Rangers, a program that teaches young kids about West Meadow Beach and the ecosystem there. He credits Beach Rangers and the cleanups he participated in as inspiration for the many wildlife projects he has started.

“I was pretty sad the first time to see how much garbage was left at the beach,” Donnelly said. “Which sort of sparked my interest in wanting to help out. So, I did beach cleanups every year from then on, and once I got into Boys Scouts, I got my troop involved in the cleanup.”

Through his Eagle Scout project, which he completed in 2015, Donnelly led, designed and planned the building and installation of an osprey nest platform at West Meadow Beach, when he was just 13 years old. In order to complete the project, Donnelly had to work with local politicians, such as Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), who recognizes him as a true asset to the community.

“I was pretty sad the first time to see how much garbage was left at the beach.”

— Aidan Donnelly

“Aidan has an obvious sense of loyalty and duty to his community,” Cartright said. “He goes above and beyond in all that he does, and his dedication is reflected in academic honors, high achievements in scouting, and his organization of community activities. In my role as a town council member I have met hundreds of outstanding young people in our community, but Aidan is exceptional even among that elite group.”

Out of the many projects he has been involved in, Donnelly said he felt particularly proud of his most recent one — a fishing line resource recovery/ recycling project that he just completed this past December. The project is a countywide sustainable fishing line recovery and recycling project that is installed at West Meadow Beach, Stony Brook Harbor, Port Jefferson, Caleb Smith State Park Preserve, Deep Pond Conservation Area, Lake Ronkonkoma, South Haven County Park, Bubbles Falls, Rattlesnake Brook near Oakdale and West Brook Pond. The project required Donnelly to work with many outside sources, such as community members and an out-of-state recycling facility.

“I needed to find somewhere that would take the line and recycle it,” Donnelly said, “rather than it ending up in the trash or in landfills. I did find a Midwest company, and they sent me postage-paid shipping boxes to give to the organizations.”

Bill Schwalback, scoutmaster of Donnelly’s BSA Troop 362, has known him since 2016 when his son joined the troop where Donnelly was serving as troop guide. He has seen the growth and drive of the 17-year-old since then and notes that Donnelly has always jumped on the opportunity to take on a leadership role and enjoys passing on his knowledge to others.

“Aidan does not deflect an opportunity to teach others,” Schwalback said. “He thrives on the ability to share his knowledge and his passion with others, and it is great to see a young adult fill with pride when he sees something to completion and knows that it will make a difference to the targeted population or species.”

Tim Kearon, left, instructs a student in golf at the Tsai Hsing Golf Academy. Photo from Mastro Communications

Golf’s off-season proved to be a hole in one when it came to life experience for one assistant golf professional.

Tim Kearon, an assistant pro at the Nissequogue Golf Club, spent four months in Taipei City in Taiwan, teaching students in third to sixth grades how to play golf along with the sport’s core values this past winter. The East Setauket resident said the golf program, Tsai Hsing Golf Academy, was established by Dominic Chang, a U.S. businessman and member of the Nissequogue Golf Club who founded the Family Golf Centers chain. John Elwood, the club’s head professional, worked with Chang to put the initial program at the private Tsai Hsing School together, where the businessman is board chairman of the school.

Tim Kearon, left, poses with a student. Photo from Mastro Communications

Chang said in an email that the golf instruction department was created in the fall of 2017 with a full-time Professional Golfers Association instructor and one full-time Taiwan PGA instructor along with several part-timers on hand. He credited Elwood with being instrumental in putting the initial program together, and Kearon with refining it further through his teaching.

Kearon, 25, said he thought it would be an opportunity of a lifetime when Chang invited him to teach there.

“I thought it was a no brainer,” he said. “As soon as it was given to me, I took it. I didn’t take much time to think it over, and it was a big step for me.”

While golf is popular in Taipei, Kearon said it’s not always easily accessible, and to have a golf program in a school is unusual. The program is a mandatory physical education class that lasts 45 minutes twice a week for four weeks. The assistant golf pro, who participated in a similar program called First Tee in Nassau County where he grew up, said the core values of golf — respect, honesty, sportsmanship, confidence, leadership, judgment, etiquette, responsibility and perseverance — create the main lesson plan. He said out of 1,000 students perhaps only 100 are good at golf but most will learn those values.

“At least with the core values, 100% of the kids are going to walk away with something positive,” he said. “If they don’t like golf, they have that which is a huge part of it.”

Chang agrees with the philosophy.

“Because golf teaches similar virtues on and off the golf course, Tsai Hsing School decided to incorporate a golf program as part of physical education for third- through sixth-grade students, as kids learn these important core values before they hit the first golf ball,” Chang said.

Kearon said that while teaching is second nature to him, being in a foreign country was outside of his comfort zone, even though he found learning about a different culture and food enjoyable.

While the students spoke English, he encountered a language barrier outside of academia, but he said the people of Taipei couldn’t have been more helpful and welcoming, and the students were extremely polite.

“For me, I appreciated that more than anything and that really got me through,” he said. “I don’t think I would have made it had it not been for the locals being so friendly and just everyone in general taking care of me and looking out for me,” Kearon said.

While Kearon was there, Elwood was able to visit him for a week to see the school firsthand. Elwood said it was helpful for him to see how it operated in person, and he was pleased Kearon took the opportunity as many golf pros in the cooler weather head to Florida or sit it out.

“It was a nice opportunity for him to see a different culture,” Elwood said. “Also, it helps differentiate Tim from every other assistant pro in the area, something unique that’s going to stand out, I think, probably for the rest of his life.”

Micayla Beyer, center, with teammates Luke Solak and Melanie Young at a recent fundraiser. Photo from Micayla Beyer

A team of Stony Brook University students is preparing for the journey of a lifetime to help those in need, all while bringing awareness to the lack of access to clean water in impoverished villages around the world.

Micayla Beyer, 21, a senior who is majoring in physics and German, is heading up a group of 14 SBU students. The team will climb up the 19,341-foot Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, stopping along the way to help villages with limited access to clean water. The trip is in conjunction with WaterAid, an international nonprofit dedicated to improving access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation in the world’s poorest communities. Beyer said she learned about WaterAid through the organization Choose a Challenge, which pairs student travelers with a cause. To be eligible for the week-long Kilimanjaro trip, which begins May 29, each team member has to raise $6,000.

Nearly 100 SBU students attended an information session held on campus to learn more about the trek and the charity. Photo from Micayla Beyer

Kaylie White, engagement and support care associate for WaterAid America, said the organization has been working with Choose a Challenge for more than a year now, and the philanthropic treks can be a learning experience for students.

“Often on adventure trips like the Kilimanjaro one, students will be faced with lack of access to clean water and modern toilets as well, which is an opportunity for them to think more critically about how important those basic necessities are,” she said.

White said the trip challenges students both physically and emotionally, as they learn about the problems that are caused by a lack of access to clean water, dependable toilets and good hygiene.

“We hope that after participating in this trek, students will continue to be advocates of our work and spread awareness for the global water crisis,” White said.

Beyer, a 2015 Harborfields High School graduate, said she feels it’s important for people to know that there are areas in the world where residents don’t have access to clean water, and who sometimes have to travel miles to the nearest water source. Many times children will also help to retrieve the water, she said, and therefore are unable to attend school.

The college student said the trek, which will be her first trip outside of North America, is something that can be done with minimal training as the students only need to carry a personal backpack while guides and porters help to carry heavier items such as tents. She said she and the others will be grateful for the help as she admits, “we’re probably not as fit as we should be.”

To help students prepare, White said she and her colleague Elena Marmo, help students with their fundraising goals. They encourage efforts like bake sales and on-campus events, and in the past, some students ran 5ks for donations. She said Beyer has been an incredible advocate for WaterAid at SBU.

White said the plan is to have eight students from SBU participate in the trek, which will raise $25,000 for the organization and fund projects at two schools overseas to install clean water technologies, bathroom facilities, handwashing facilities and hygiene programming.

“That will make an incredible difference in the lives of children — allowing kids to grow up healthy and strong, staying in school so they can pursue their dreams,” White added.

Team member Mary Bertschi

Mary Bertschi, 22, a SBU marine biology major, plans to join Beyer on the mission. She said she was excited to participate because she studied in Madagascar in the fall of 2017 where she learned how many poor villages have limited access to clean water and toilets. During that trip, she and other students tested the parasite loads in young people in five different villages and found 85 percent of those tested had at least one waterborne parasite. She also learned that one in nine people doesn’t have access to clean water.

“That stuck with me,” Bertschi said.

While in Madagascar, Bertschi said SBU students had ways to clean water, including LifeStraw filters, but they did have to bathe at times in the dirty rivers and streams. She said the mild introduction to limited access to clean water was eye-opening for her.

Both students are near their goals of raising $6,000, and March 30, Greenporter Hotel in Greenport, where Bertschi works, will hold a fundraiser for the nonprofit.

Bertschi said the students will have to be realistic about how much ground they can cover on the mountain and will have to watch for altitude sickness, but she said the challenges during the trip will be worth it.

“I hope people recognize what a large issue this is, the lack of access to clean water, and the lack of access to toilets and sanitation and hygiene education,” Bertschi said. “I feel like that is something that a lot of people don’t really understand the severity.”

Beyer said she and her teammates are already learning from the experience.

“This path from signing up for the trek to reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro is the hardest thing any of us have gone through — it requires incredible time management, self-discipline, a positive attitude, insane creativity and networking skills, all to fundraise the 6K each and summit the third tallest mountain in the world,” Beyer said. “The best part about this whole thing so far is that we’re making an impact on so many people’s lives and bringing awareness of this water crisis to Long Island where we have some of the best water imaginable.”

To learn more about the Kilimanjaro trek, visit us.wateraid.org/team/185472.

Operation Space members assemble a rocket at Vanderbilt University. Photo from Joshua Farahzad

Former Ward Melville High School graduates are finding out how valuable past connections are while they keep their eyes on the sky.

Joshua Farahzad and Hugh Ferguson graduating from Ward Melville in 2017. Photo from Joshua Farahzad

When Joshua Farahzad, a 2017 Ward Melville graduate, decided to give building a rocket a try, he began to solicit college and graduate students from around the U.S. and Canada for his team, which he called Operation Space. Along the way, fellow 2017 Ward Melville grads Hugh Ferguson and Brandon Cea joined the mission.

Farahzad, who is currently a sophomore at Duke University majoring in electrical engineering and economics, led a group of 40 college and graduate students in building two hypersonic rockets last summer. While many colleges have groups of students trying to do the same, Farahzad set out to assemble a group from various universities by emailing every college in the U.S. and Canada to work on a rocket remotely, learning the art of collaboration along the way.

After receiving resumes from fellow rocket enthusiasts, he and Operation Space team members remotely designed and built a rocket that is capable of reaching Mach 6-plus speeds, which is six times the speed of sound. Farahzad said the group is planning its first launch in late May at Spaceport America in New Mexico, and the goal is to break the student altitude record of 330,000 feet to reach the Kármán line, recognized as the border between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.

Farahzad said Operation Space, in a way, took root in Ward Melville when he was in teacher Bob Spira’s Advanced Placement physics class during his junior year. Spira showed the class “October Sky,” a movie about students who try to build rockets. As a part of the final project, the students built one themselves.

“I remember really, really loving that,” he said. “I never did it before.”

Farahzad said he knew he wanted to include Ferguson, who while in high school started the nonprofit Mission Toothbrush with him. The group, which is still run by Ward Melville students, collects oral care products for those in need. Later into the rocket project, during a trip home Farahzad said he was talking to Cea, and he realized how valuable his friend, who is a West Point cadet, would be to the plan.

The Duke student said after planning remotely with other Operation Space members, they managed to prefabricate electronics at Rutgers University in New Jersey and structures at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, which is also where the students finally met in the summer of 2018.

“We never met each other before,” Farahzad said. “We had been working on it for less than two months. We tried to piece it all together at Vanderbilt over a course of week. Some things worked, some things didn’t work.”

Farazad said the group decided to build two rockets in case one got damaged. The rockets were shipped to Princeton University in New Jersey where they will be housed until take off.

Ferguson said he was happy when Farahzad, one of the first people he met when he moved to the Three Village school district, approached him about the project. He said their experience with Mission Toothbrush provided a solid foundation to work on future projects.

Ferguson said they learned that when you have an idea you just have to jump in, and it’s important for young people to follow their interests no matter what their personality or skill set.

Brandon Cea and Joshua Farahzad. Photo from Joshua Farahzad

“It has taught me that do things you’ll be the most interested in and most fulfilled in, and because of that, I think you’ll do your best work, and it will be the best for your personal growth as well as be the best for the cause,” Ferguson said.

Now a sophomore at Northeastern University studying computer science and economics, Ferguson has helped Farahzad with recruiting, creating a business plan, and working on the web side of things. He said the project, and how quickly the rocket was built, reminds him of hackathons where students create an app or computer program in 24 to 48 hours. He added having a focused idea and proper planning is the key, and he also realizes how important a network is when it comes to working on a project of this size.

“Your network is much bigger than you think, probably better than you think,” he said. “If you really put the effort in, I think you know a lot more people than you think you do or who can help you, at least.”

As for the connection with Cea, Farahzad learned that his former classmate founded the West Point Space Engineering and Applied Research Program, an interdisciplinary team focused on enabling the next generation of space-capable leaders. Cea says for their projects the team can source BKNO3, an explosive compound, which cannot be procured or tested by civilian universities. Farahzad said Cea partnering with Operation Space allows them to get the explosive material they need for their rocket.

The West Point cadet, who describes Farahzad as inspirational, is happy to be working with his fellow classmate and is looking forward to the launch day.

“While it would be the crowning achievement of most students, it’s just the first step of an exciting partnership between a couple of Ward Melville alumni,” he said. “The future lies in space, and the best shot we have is through the building of the civilian-military relations. I don’t know what problems we’ll want to tackle next, but we can be content in the fact that it hopefully won’t be rocket science, and if it is, we already know how that’s going to go.”

Farahzad is looking forward to launch day too and said while a date has not  been scheduled yet, the second rocket will be launched at a later date.

“I’m just happy to get to launch and see this whole thing, which feels very abstract, become real,” he said. “As long as everyone is safe, whatever happens after we hit the button will be a bonus.”

For more information about Operation Space, visit operationspace.org.

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