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Dawnwood Middle School

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Students in the Middle Country Central School District returned to school Sept. 5, and readers responded to our request for first day of school photos.

Dawnwood Middle School's boys basketball and cheerleading teams. Photo from Cindy Buzaid

Seventh-grader Chris Buzaid may be the smallest kid on the basketball court at 4-10, but when it comes to drive, hustle and spirit, there’s nobody bigger.

During a midseason game against Brentwood North this past December, the 12-year-old guard for Centereach’s Dawnwood Middle School dove onto a loose ball with some physically imposing players from the other team. He ended up with the ball, and a bloody lip. But when his coach, Tim Dowler, tried to take him off the court, worried about the injury, Chris begged to be allowed to keep playing.

Dawnwood Middle School student Chris Buzaid with current New York Knicks NBA player Joakim Noah. Photo from Cindy Buzaid

“I ended up having to take Chris out for a bit, and then, when he eventually went back in, he just took the game over,” Dowler said.

Within a couple minutes Buzaid had three steals in a row and hit three jumpshots to lead Dawnwood to victory. The team of seventh- and eighth-graders would end the season in January undefeated for the first time in school history since 1974 — a feat Dowler said Chris contributed largely to.

“He just went right back out there and faced the same bigger kids, showing no fear,” the coach said. “It would be very easy for someone like him to want to play a little softer and feel a little afraid, but that isn’t him.”

Chris isn’t just a star athlete — he started playing travel basketball in fourth grade, has been on three of the best Amateur Athletic Union boys teams in the New York metropolitan area and is an accomplished cross-country runner. He is also among Dawnwood Middle School’s brightest students; he’s currently in the National Honor Society and has a 99.5 GPA, with a particular interest in science and history, and a tendency to help fellow students who may be struggling in certain subjects.

“He’s an amazing student and such a good Dawnwood citizen — Chris always does what’s right,” Dawnwood Middle School Principal Kristi Leonard said of the district’s former student of the month. “He’s definitely a natural leader and just has a great inner confidence. Chris has so many commitments in and out of school, balances clubs and sport activities while maintaining near-perfect grades.”

Chris Buzaid Photo from Cindy Buzaid

So it makes sense that Chris has been chosen as one of six finalists in a special competition presented by the Brooklyn Nets All-Star Awards recognizing junior high school basketball players within the tristate area that “demonstrate grit, determination and a desire to succeed both on the court and in the classroom.” His mother and coach nominated him in the fall and he was announced as a finalist in January, with Dowler saying he “was the perfect person to represent Dawnwood.”

Chris and the other five finalists, some from Brooklyn and Nassau County and others from Connecticut, will be attending the Brooklyn Nets Summer Basketball Clinic and a Brooklyn Nets v. Chicago Bulls NBA game in April. The finalist with the most votes will be announced during that contest, and win a $3,000 grant for their school’s athletic program.

“Chris is such a hardworking, competitive person and always tries to be the best that he can,” said mother Cindy Buzaid. “And now, I think he’s just in the competitive mode of wanting to win this for his school. He really wants to be able to say, ‘I was able to win this for Dawnwood.’ He loves his basketball coach, he loves Dawnwood and he’s really excited.”

Cindy Buzaid said she felt her son exhibited all the required traits of a stellar scholar-athlete when she put his name in the ring — grit, dedication, character, academics and teamwork. In her nomination letter to the organization, she wrote of her son’s maturity and strength through tough situations. Between the ages of 3 and 6, Chris witnessed his father, Jim Buzaid, be diagnosed with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin
lymphoma. While his father is now in remission, Chris carried a lot of those early memories with him as he grew up.

“Chris knew what cancer was before any kid should,” his mother said. “It made him a tough kid — made him grow up a little faster than others. Chris is such a fun-loving kid, but I believe the whole thing made him a more serious person and learn not to take things for granted. He was always very protective of me at that time and worried a lot about me getting sick, too.”

Jackie and Chris Buzaid. Photo from Cindy Buzaid

She said it makes sense that her son fell into basketball, as his older sister, Jackie Buzaid has spent most of her life playing the sport.

A Centereach High School graduate, Jackie Buzaid played basketball throughout her adolescence and currently plays as a senior at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland.

She remembers her brother always tagging along with her for pickup games at the park and watching her play from the sidelines at school. It also didn’t take long for him to develop his own competitive spirit, she said.

“Christopher doesn’t settle for mediocrity,” Jackie Buzaid said. “I remember when we would go shoot at our local park, he would always have to make three 3-pointers before he could leave. My brother’s determination to constantly improve and excel are what make him stand out from others. But he’s also kind and generous, and has a way of making people smile.”

It’s still up in the air as to what exactly the grant money will go toward within the athletic department, but whatever it is, Chris said he just hopes it will help the school.

“I’m really happy that I might have a chance to win money for Dawnwood, because I really want my coaches and friends and all the other kids in my school to be able to have something new,” he said. “Being a good student and athlete is important to me because I get to be healthy, active, one of the top kids in my class and I really like to help others who need help.”

To vote for Chris visit the Brooklyn Nets website www.nba.com/nets/community/2017-18/allstarawards.

Across from left, David Ebanks, Michael Barnum, Abigail Jones and Logan Aybar were named Middle Country school district’s students of the month for March. Photos from Middle Country school district

The Middle Country Central School District honored students of the month for March at a recent Board of Education meeting.

Centereach High School senior David Ebanks, Newfield High School senior Michael Barnum, Dawnwood Middle School sixth-grader Abigail Jones and Selden Middle School sixth-grader Logan Aybar were recognized for their academic and athletic achievements, perseverance and positive attitudes.

“Each month, it brings all of us here at Middle Country Central School District such joy to celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of our students,” Superintendent of Schools Roberta Gerold said. “Watching our students grow brings an overwhelming feeling of fulfillment. Their successes here are just the beginning, and we can’t wait to watch all they accomplish in the months and years to come.”

Ebanks was chosen for his academic excellence and consistent “can-do” attitude — even in the face of obstacles. Teachers and administrators have recognized him as a respectful young man who walks around the school with a smile on his face, brightening the days of all who interact with him. Despite his wide range of successes academically and in extracurricular activities, he has remained humble.

Last month, he was honored during the Town of Brookhaven’s Black History Month celebration, recognizing him for his outstanding academic accomplishments throughout his high school career. Ebanks continued to thrive academically even while challenging himself by enrolling in college-level statistics and English courses during the current school year. Due to his hard work, he will graduate this June with an Advanced Regents diploma.

Ebanks has also left an invaluable mark on Centereach High School through his efforts as a peer tutor and his active role in the Bible club.

Barnum’s journey during his time at Newfield has been one of great success and resilience. Following his freshman and sophomore year achievements, both in the classroom and on the basketball court, he received unimaginable news in March 2015. He was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He spent the next 11 months keeping up with his academics through home teaching — even while facing intense chemotherapy treatment.

His diagnosis never altered his steadfast commitment to his studies and trajectory of excellence. He is in remission, and will be graduating on time this June with a potential to graduate with over 18 college credits.

During her first two quarters of middle school, Abigail has maintained a 98 GPA, with high honor distinction, and is an active member of jazz band and art club. Outside of school, she finds time to participate in dance, Girl Scouts, volleyball and piano. Her favorite subject is science, because of the hands-on experiments and interaction with her peers.

Logan’s academic excellence during his first two quarters as a middle school student earned him high honor roll. Although he enjoys all of his classes, his favorite class is math because he relishes the challenge of solving complex problems. He is an active participant of the science club and also enjoys attending after-school fitness intramurals. In his free time, Logan plays in soccer and basketball leagues and volunteers to prepare and deliver meals to homeless shelters. He is recognized as an attentive, genuine student who is a pleasure to have in class.

District’s teachers association partnered with groups to get books for community

Middle Country Central School District Board of Education President Karen Lessler and Middle Country Teachers Association President Nadia Resnikoff of Dawnwood Middle School were the driving forces behind this year’s book distribution. Photo from Middle Country school district

The Middle Country Central School District Teachers Association’s free book fair for the community was a huge success.

Hundreds of students, families and members of the community searched through and took home donated books. Attendees lined up around the corner to take advantage of the program meant to give the gift of reading back to the community.

 Hundreds of students, families and members of the community lined up to look through more than 15,000 books donated by the Middle Country Teachers Association. Photo from Middle Country school district
Hundreds of students, families and members of the community lined up to look through more than 15,000 books donated by the Middle Country Teachers Association. Photo from Middle Country school district

“We are proud of our teachers for the work they do with our students inside the classroom, but also the work they do with them and the rest of the community outside of the classroom,” Middle Country Superintendent of Schools Roberta Gerold said. “The Middle Country Teachers Association is setting a positive example for our students — giving them the gift of reading and teaching them the importance of giving back.”

The teachers of the district aimed to give back to their community in a way that spread the spirit of reading and critical thinking. Through a partnership with New York State United Teachers, First Book and the American Federation of Teachers, the Middle Country Teachers Association was able to collect more than 15,000 books to distribute to community members.

“We were excited for the opportunity to give books to a population of people that might otherwise not be able to buy their own during this holiday season,” Dawnwood Middle School teacher Nadia Resnikoff said. “As a member of the Middle Country Teachers Association, we are always looking for new ways to foster education throughout our community and we were proud to be able to give back in this way this year.”

For more information about academic programs available at the Middle Country school district and a calendar of events, please visit www.mccsd.net. To learn more about the student experience and news from the district, also visit www.mymiddlecountryschools.net.

Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro and Councilman Kevin LaValle stand on the freshly paved 43rd Street in Centereach. Photo from Losquadro’s office

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) joined with Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) to announce the completion of $1.4 million, 23-road paving project near Centereach High School and Dawnwood Middle School.

In addition to the replacement of 4,100 square feet of aprons and 2,700 linear feet of curb, this project included tree trimming; replacing area signs and guide rails; the addition of handicap ramps at the existing crosswalk by the middle school; milling and paving.

“This was an extensive paving project that addressed the concerns of area residents, motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as faculty and students in the Middle Country school district,” Losquadro said. “I am grateful that we were able to schedule and successfully complete this project during the summer.”

Roads paved during this project were 43rd Street, 57th Street, Arlene Court, Dawn Drive, Dusk Drive, Edwin Street, Forest Court, Forest Road, Irene Court, Kerry Court, Linda Drive, Linden Street, Market Street, Martha Street, Michael Court, Midday Drive, Morning Drive, Nikki Court, Noel Drive, Peggy Court, Stanley Drive, Sunset Drive and Vining Street.

“I thank Superintendent Dan Losquadro and the hardworking men and women of the Highway Department for working diligently in such high temperatures over the past couple of weeks,” LaValle said. “It was important to ensure the completion of this project occurred prior to school beginning next month. I am happy to see this project completed which positively affects the entire Centereach community.”

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