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Earl L. Vandermeulen High School

‘Love, Gilda’ will be screened on Sept. 17 at Theatre Three

By Heidi Sutton

Fresh off its special summer screening of the blockbuster documentary “RBG” to a sold-out crowd at Theatre Three, the award-winning Port Jefferson Documentary Series kicks off its fall 2018 season on Monday, Sept. 17. Seven notable and acclaimed documentary films will be showcased, exploring everything from science fairs, ovarian cancer, poaching, disco, baseball and more.

‘Love Gilda’

Sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council and the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs, the first six films will be screened at Theatre Three while the final documentary will be presented in Earl L. Vandermeulen High School’s auditorium. Both venues are located in the Village of Port Jefferson. Each screening will be followed by a Q-&-A session with guest speakers.

The documentaries are chosen by a seven-member film board, affectionately known as “the film ladies,” who each choose one film to present to the audience. This fall’s picks were selected after the members attended screenings at the Tribeca Film Festival, DOC NYC and the Hamptons Film Festival.

The board members,  including co-directors Lyn Boland, Barbara Sverd and Wendy Feinberg along with Honey Katz, Phyllis Ross, Lorie Rothstein and Lynn Rein, along with volunteers Suzanne Velasquez, Elaine Friedman and Denise Livrieri, are celebrating the festival’s 13th year this month.

Lyn Boland is excited about sharing this new crop of films with audiences this season. “It’s a very interesting lineup,” she mused during a recent phone interview.

According to Boland, one of the more touching films this fall is “Love, Gilda,” an intimate portrait of the comedian, writer and actress Gilda Radner using personal recordings and journal entries along with interviews of her friends and family, including her husband, Gene Wilder. Radner died in 1989 from ovarian cancer at the age of 42. “For me, it was a revelation about who she was because … a lot of comedians have a dark side … but she was seemingly funny and charming and loved by everyone in her family and friend circle from the time she was a little girl,” explained Boland. “[Radner] was very endearing, very bright, very creative — it is a tragic story that she died so young.”

A scene from ‘When Lambs Become Lions’

Another film that will tug at the heart strings, especially for animal lovers, is “When Lambs Become Lions,” which documents the lives of a poacher and a park ranger in Kenya over the course of three years. “I’m very anxious to ask the director how he got this kind of cooperation. It’s just remarkable to see this story from both sides and it has a very intriguing ending,” said Boland.

The co-director’s personal favorite is the highly acclaimed “Roll Red Roll” where amateur blogger Alex Goddard uncovers evidence on social media about the sexual assault of an intoxicated teenage girl by football players at a preseason party in Steubenville, Ohio, in 2012. 

“The real crux of the story is that this blogger found these pictures online because the team was tweeting them and if it hadn’t been for her having the courage to follow up on it, this would’ve gone completely under the radar. It wasn’t reported to the police — just bragged about online,” explained Boland. “It’s one of those tales of personal courage and points out that small town ‘football team is everything’ way of thinking. It’s very well done and very suspenseful and winning a lot of awards.”

A scene from ‘Science Fair’

Perhaps the documentary that has received the most buzz in the news lately is “Science Fair,” which shadows nine teenagers working to win top honors at the acclaimed International Science and Engineering Fair. According to Boland, this is one of those films the entire family can enjoy. “It’s really one of those great stories of terrific talented kids doing their best and the different things that come into play when you are a teenager” no matter how smart you are.

For Boland, being a part of this committee for the last 13 years has been a true labor of love and one she is very proud of. It has also been the perfect outlet to share her love of documentaries to the community. “I really feel that documentaries are a very powerful way of communicating. When you finish watching a really good documentary, you sit there and say “Oh my god, what if I hadn’t seen this? What if I didn’t know? Because in 90 minutes you get a very well fleshed out description of a situation and it’s something that we all need to know more about.” The co-director encourages everyone to stay after the screenings for the Q&A, which can get quite lively.

The Port Jefferson Documentary Series will be held at 7 p.m. every Monday night from Sept. 17 to Oct. 22 at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson and at Earl Vandermeulen High School, 350 Old Post Road, Port Jefferson on Oct. 29. Tickets, sold at the door, are $8 per person. (No credit cards please.) If you would like to volunteer, please call 631-473-5200. For more information, visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com.

Film schedule:

The fall season will kick off with “Love, Gilda” at Theatre Three on Sept. 17. Lisa D’Apolito’s exuberant and moving documentary portrait of Gilda Radner looks back and reflects on the comedian’s life and career. Weaving together recently discovered audiotapes, interviews with her friends, rare home movies and diaries read by modern-day comedians, the film offers a unique window into the honest and whimsical world of a beloved performer whose greatest role was sharing her story. Presented in collaboration with the Long Island Chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, the event will be moderated by Tom Needham, host of “Sounds of Film” on Stony Brook University’s WUSB. Guest speakers will include producer Bronwyn Berry and executive producer Carolyn Hepburn.

■ “When Lambs Become Lions” heads to Theatre Three on Sept. 24. Exploring the violative African poaching trade, the film profiles an ivory dealer from Kenya and his cousin, a wildlife ranger who is tasked with hunting down poachers. Who are these hunters who will risk death, arrest and the moral outrage of the world? Guest speaker, director Jon Kasbe, followed the film’s subjects over a three-year period, gaining an extraordinary level of access and trust as he became part of their everyday lives.

The season continues on Oct. 1 at Theatre Three with “Roll Red Roll,” which examines the cover up of the infamous 2012 rape of a teenage girl by the star players of a Steubenville, Ohio, football team. As amateur crime blogger Alex Goddard uncovers disturbing evidence on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, questions arise around the collusion of teen and adult bystanders. The film documents the case in such a powerful fashion that your feelings of outrage will persist long after the movie is over. Guest speaker will be director Nancy Schwartzman.

■ “Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel,” to be screened at Theatre Three on Oct. 8, is a stirring story of sports, patriotism and personal growth which charts the underdog journey of Israel’s national baseball team competing for the first time in the World Baseball Classic. Director Daniel A. Miller will be the guest speaker. The film is sponsored by The Preserve at Indian Hills and Temple Isaiah. Enjoy a donut from Duck Donuts and take part in a raffle to win a Long Island Ducks gift basket.

A scene from ‘Skid Row Marathon’

The series continues at Theatre Three with “Skid Row Marathon” on Oct. 15. The inspiring and uplifting documentary follows Superior Judge Craig Mitchell over a period of four years as he starts a running club on L.A.’s infamous Skid Row. If club members stay clean, off the streets and out of jail, the judge will take them around the world to run marathons. The runners fight the pull of addiction and homelessness at every turn. Not everyone crosses the finish line yet second chances do exist.  Sponsored by The Law office of Michael S. Ross PC, guest speakers will include director Mark Hayes and producer Gabrielle Hayes.

■ “Studio 54” will be screened at Theatre Three on Oct. 22. Studio 54 was the epicenter of ‘70s hedonism — a place that not only redefined the nightclub but also came to symbolize an entire era. Located at West 54th Street, a then-seedy part of town, the nightclub was the brainchild of Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, two college buddy entrepreneurs from Brooklyn who, over the course of 33 months, became the kings of New York — and then lost it all due to greed. Now, 39 years after the velvet rope was first slung across the club’s hallowed threshold, we hear the whole unvarnished story for the first time, with a treasure trove of rare footage and celebrity interviews, the real story behind the greatest club of all time. Guest speakers include Myra Scheer, executive assistant to Rubell and Schrager; Marc Benecke, doorman; Gerard Renny, VIP doorman; Scottie Taylor, bartender; and Chuck Garelick, head of security.

The series concludes on a high note with “Science Fair” at Earl Vandermuelen High School on Oct. 29. Directed by Christina Costantini and Darren Foster, “Science Fair” won the first ever Festival Favorite Award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, beating out 123 other films. The film follows nine students and one mentor from around the globe as they navigate rivalries, setbacks and hormones, on their journey to compete against 1,700 students from 75 countries at the Intel Science Fair. Though all are participating for the love of science, we also learn there are underlying influences motivating them to pursue their dreams. With guest speaker Dr. Marnie Kula, director InStar Science Research/Science Chair at Ward Melville High School, Three Village school district.

The Port Jefferson community came out to bid farewell to the Class of 2018 at Earl L. Vandermeulen’s 123rd commencement ceremony June 22. The graduating class of 89 was honored by the hundreds who attended and district administration and staff in traditional fashion for Port Jeff, with personal achievements and future post-graduation plans read aloud prior to the distribution of diplomas.

A ribbon cutting kicks off last year's event. Photo by Alex Petroski

Spring has sprung and that means it’s time for the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce’s annual Health & Wellness Fest. Celebrating its ninth year, the event returns to the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, 350 Old Post Road, Port Jefferson on Saturday, April 28 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  

Sample healthy snacks at the event.
Photo by Alex Petroski

Visitors to the free event will enjoy healthy food samples at a food court sponsored by St. Charles Hospital. Their new executive chef Thomas Mulzoff along with dietitians, nutritionists and staff will be on hand to assist hungry attendees and answer questions about healthy eating and diet. A nutritional menu will be offered with a variety of breakfast and lunch items including delicious multigrain breakfast parfaits, strawberry oat bars, tacos two ways (turkey carnitas and freekeh), white bean guacamole and chocolate hummus.So bring you appetite and enjoy great tasting food that is healthy for you!

The selection of health professionals and organizations is extensive, and information will be given out about supporting healthy lifestyles. Members of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office will be on hand to speak about their sponsored Yellow Dot Program, a free service designed to help first responders provide life-saving medical attention during that first “golden hour” after a crash or other emergency. A yellow dot in the driver’s-side rear window of your vehicle will alert first responders that vital medical information is stored in the glove compartment. In addition there will be representatives from alternative residential communities, health practitioners and low-cost health insurance plans and programs.   

There will be lots of free giveaways at the event.
Photo by Alex Petroski

Attendees also will have the benefit of many free giveaways and screenings that are so important for good health including blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) screening, glucose, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, otoscopy for cerumen (earwax), hearing, cholesterol, balance and fall prevention and posture.

If this was not enough, there will be many activities to engage in! If you like yoga why not join yoga master Diane McDonald, a life transition coach and yoga teacher, in a short mini-yoga class that will introduce you to the therapeutic benefits of physical, mental and spiritual practices.

How about visiting with licensed, registered and board-certified art therapists? Art therapy allows older adults to be creative and allows them to be reached in a way that promotes a unique form of mental health treatment. And let’s not forget man’s best friend. Learn about healthy food for your pets including Natural Hounds, which offers human-grade wet food, preportioned, nourishing dog treats tailored to your dog’s individual needs.   

New this year

Stop by the Port Jefferson Free Library table for some fun! Photo by Alex Petroski

What’s friendly, furry and can be in the room with grieving families? A trained service dog that specializes in grief therapy. Owned by Peter Moloney of Moloney Funeral Homes, Koda, a 2½-year-old black Lab Weimaraner mix, comes to the funeral home where people pet him and he shows affection to those who want it. He is the first grief therapy dog on Long Island. Come meet Koda at the Health & Wellness Fest.

A special tai chi demonstration will take place at 11:30 a.m., performed by the Authentic Shaolin Kung Fu School of Holtsville. See how these internal Chinese martial arts can be practiced for both their defense training and their health benefits through the forces of yin and yang. After the demonstration attendees will be asked to join in! 

Other activities will include pilates demonstrations by Port Jefferson Pilates located in Port Jefferson Village. Pilates is a physical fitness system developed in the early 20th century and has shown that regular sessions can help muscle conditioning in healthy adults, when compared to doing no exercise.

Don’t forget to stop by the Port Jefferson Free Library table for free giveaways, puzzle solving, coloring for all ages and brain games! Solve a riddle and win a puzzle, while supplies last. Island Christian Church members will have face painting and balloon time with additional children’s activities as well.

Family Fun Run

The Health & Wellness Fest has partnered with the Royal Educational Foundation of Port Jefferson, which will be celebrating its fifth annual Power of One Family Fun Run on April 28 as well. 

The event is designed to encourage physical activity and is intended to celebrate the positive influence we can have on one another within our families and community. Whether you wish to walk or run, the 2-mile course is open to all ages.

Christian Neubert, a Port Jefferson Schools music teacher, volunteer fireman and Port Jefferson Library trustee will be honored with the Power of One Award for his significant positive impact on the village and school community. The proceeds of this fundraiser will be used to enhance the quality of education in the Port Jefferson School District. 

The run begins at 8 a.m. at the Port Jefferson Village Center, at 101A East Broadway, continues through the streets of Port Jefferson Village, and ends at the high school where runners are welcome to visit the health fest. 

You may register by downloading the registration form at www.pjref.com (click on the Power of One Fun Run tab). You may also register the day of the run between 7:30 and 8 a.m. at the Village Center. Advanced registrants need to check in no later than 8:15 a.m.  

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The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce’s 9th annual Health & Wellness Fest has something for the entire family. Mark your calendar now. When you finish attending the fest, visit the downtown business community for its first Port Jefferson Sidewalk Sale Days event from 1 to 5 p.m. Shop at over 20 different retailers throughout the heart of the village. If you are lucky you might win one of the two door prizes that will be raffled off at the fest, each having $250 worth of gift certificates to our local merchants in support of the Port Jefferson Retailers Association. 

For more information, please visit www.portjeffhealth.com.

Randall Woodard, 97, reflects on meeting Roosevelt, a life and roots in the village, military service

Then 12-year-old Randall Woodard, Gilbert Kinner and New York Gov. Franklin Roosevelt in Port Jeff in 1932. Photo from Warren Woodard

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in one case, a picture is worth almost 100 years of history.

On Dec. 8, 1941, 76 years ago to the day, then president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, delivered his “day which will live in infamy” speech during a joint session of Congress in response to Japan’s attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Dec. 7. The address served as the precursor to the U.S. finally joining World War II and taking up the fight against the Axis powers. He went on to serve as president until his death in 1945, preventing him from completing his fourth term in office, a feat in itself, as no other American president has served more than two terms.

In the summer of 1932 just before his first presidential campaign, Roosevelt, an avid sailor, made a recreational stop in Port Jefferson Harbor.

Woodard and son Warren during a recent trip to Washington, D.C. Photo from Warren Woodard

At the time, Roosevelt was the governor of New York and the Democratic Party nominee for the general presidential election that fall. He defeated incumbent President Herbert Hoover to win the highest office in the land in November 1932. During the visit, Roosevelt took a photo aboard a sailboat with two youngsters from Port Jeff, one of whom is still alive residing in the village.

Randall Woodard was born Sept. 3, 1920, in his home on Prospect Street. His family has deep roots in Port Jefferson, though his ancestors can be traced back even further to Southold in 1664.

“I wasn’t there that day,” Woodard quipped during a November visit to the Times Beacon Record News Media office in Setauket, accompanied by his youngest son, Warren, and Richard Olson, a longtime Port Jefferson School District history teacher who has since retired.

Woodard’s father Grover was the school district manager in Port Jeff, and actually hired Earl L. Vandermeulen, who the high school was eventually named after. His wife Barbara worked in the elementary school under Edna Louise Spear, the eventual namesake of the same school. Though he said he didn’t meet any other presidents in his life, Woodard met Albert Einstein once, and his grandmother heard Abraham Lincoln give a speech in New York. Woodard went on to have two sons and a daughter, who were all raised in Port Jeff in a house on the corner of High Street and Myrtle Avenue.

The photo of Woodard, his childhood friend Gilbert Kinner and the soon-to-be president of the United States is a cherished possession of the Woodard family. Warren joked there’s a framed copy hanging in every room of his house.

Woodard said on the day he met Roosevelt that he and Kinner were sailing his family’s 12-foot mahogany vessel around Port Jefferson Harbor on a warm summer morning in June or July.

At about 10 a.m., two or three seaplanes landed in the harbor and taxied over to the beach near the east end of the waterfront near the famous Bayles Dock. Woodard, who was 12 years old at the time, said he and Kinner noticed a large crowd gathering near the dock, so they decided to sail over and see what the commotion was all about.

“I think I could take you.”

— Randall Woodard

They approached the black yawl sailing craft tied to the dock with a man wearing a white sun hat seated in the cockpit. Woodard said he still remembers noticing the metal braces on Roosevelt’s legs and a pack of cigarettes on the seat next to him.

“The whole waterfront of Port Jeff was people,” Woodard said. Roosevelt was waiting for his four sons, who were running late, to arrive to begin a vacation cruise.

The Democratic National Convention had just selected him as the party’s nominee for the presidential election that fall, and it was too early to begin campaigning. While he waited for his sons to arrive, Roosevelt and the reporters milling in the vicinity suggested the candidate should be in a photo with the two boys. Woodard and Kinner boarded, and “Vote for Roosevelt” hats were placed on their heads to wear in the photo. Woodard recalled that Kinner took the hat off, tossed it in the cockpit and calmly said, “My father is a Republican.”

Woodard said there was an even more memorable interaction from the meeting when Roosevelt asked him, “How does the boat sail?” Young Randall responded, “I think I could take you.”

He referred to the then-governor’s vessel as “badly designed,” with a laugh during the interview. He said eventually Roosevelt and the others took off sailing in the Long Island Sound. Woodard and his friend tried to keep up with Roosevelt for as long as they could until the soon-to-be president was out of sight.

“We kids went to the movies for a week straight just to see ourselves on the Pathé News movies,” Woodard wrote in a 2004 account of the day.

Woodard and his son Warren shared a story about seeing by chance a clip of 12-year-old Randall dancing on Roosevelt’s boat in a documentary about past presidents decades later. Warren said they purchased multiple copies of the documentary on DVD.

“We kids went to the movies for a week straight just to see ourselves on the Pathé News movies.”

— Randall Woodard

Woodard’s life and interests would intersect with Roosevelt’s in other ways later in life. His daughter Tracy was diagnosed with polio in 1949, which also famously afflicted Roosevelt. Woodard’s affinity for boating only grew after 1932, and he eventually went on to serve in the U.S. Navy, where Roosevelt had previously served as the assistant secretary prior to his years as governor.

The Woodards owned several sailboats and fishing boats through the years. In 1936, Randall and his older brothers, twins Martin and Merwin, finished tied for first among 2,000 other competitors worldwide for the Snipe Class International championship. Through the years he often competed in races and experienced more-than-modest levels of success.

After graduating from Port Jefferson High School in 1938, Woodard attended The Citadel military college in South Carolina.

“The war was on the horizon in Europe and a military college made sense at that time,” he wrote in 2004. He joked he and a high school friend went to Citadel because their grades were not good enough to attend the U.S. Naval or Coast Guard academies.

“I was not a hero,” Woodard said. “If we didn’t have a Marine Corps we’d still be over there. I was in enough tight spots to know.”

After graduating from The Citadel with a degree in civil engineering, he became a Seabee officer in the U.S. Naval Construction Battalions. The Seabees, as they were called — a play on “CB” for Construction Battalion — were deployed to Pearl Harbor in the aftermath of the Japanese attack to reconstruct damaged bulkheads, dredge the ocean floor to allow ships passage and assemble barges and causeways in preparation for an amphibious attack, according to Woodard. During his training prior to deployment while stationed in Rhode Island, Woodard was aboard the world’s largest sea tow, which was an experimental floating airfield slated for assembly in Alaska. The airfield was not needed, and broken-up pieces were used during the Normandy Invasion on D-Day.

“The war was on the horizon in Europe and a military college made sense at that time.”

— Randall Woodard

He was part of a mission headed to a series of islands in the Pacific near Japan in May 1944, weeks before the beaches were stormed in Normandy. Nine days after D-Day, aboard a craft carrying four barges Woodard was responsible for overseeing, the U.S. Marine Corps invaded Saipan, a Japanese-held island. Woodard and the Seabees contributed to the mission by using the barges to unload ammunition, gasoline and other supplies.

One day a Japanese Zero aircraft flew low and attacked his flat steel barge with little options in the way of hiding places. He said he pulled out his handgun and fired two rounds at the aircraft, which eventually went down.

“I probably missed, but the plane crashed into the side of a freighter,” he wrote in 2004. He said his barges survived for five weeks until the island was secure. After the victory over Japan, he spent six months at Navy Department Bureau of Yards and Docks in Washington, D.C., where he met Barbara Brown, whom he later married. Woodard said he remained in the Navy reserves for about 15 years.

When he returned home, Woodard worked for years as a civil engineer. In the 1950s he was the resident engineer overseeing a series of contracts to construct the Northern State and Sunken Meadow parkways, and said he was responsible for the construction of all of the parkway overpasses in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

This post was updated Dec. 8 to correct the date of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1941 speech.

Bobby Farenga, Alex DiCarlo, John DiCarlo and Joseph Cangemi in front of the White House during their trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in an investment game. Photo from Bobby Farenga

By Kyle Barr

Do the math. Thousands of grade schoolers across the United States participated in the nonprofit Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association Foundation’s annual Stock Market Game, in which students  invest an imaginary $100,000 in real businesses to see who can earn the largest returns. Out of nearly 4,000 teams who compete, SIFMA specifically recognizes the top 10 and brings them to Washington, D.C.

A team from Port Jefferson School District’s Earl L. Vandermeulen High School beat the odds. Brothers Alex and John DiCarlo along with their friend Joseph Cangemi took the initial investment and turned it into $127,961 earning them fifth place in the competition.

While they have more knowledge about how stocks work than most adults, they still can’t help seeming nonchalant.

“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” Alex DiCarlo said in an interview about the success he achieved with his older brother and friend.

The SIFMA foundation is a nonprofit organization that aims to educate about financial markets, with a particular aim toward young people, and its Stock Market Game has been an annual competition since 1977. The team said they worked on their investments for 14 weeks.

The odds were long for the Port Jeff team that eventually went to D.C. Four teams from within the school’s investment club  participated in the competition. This was their first time entering the national event.

“Did we expect to win? No, not at all,” the younger DiCarlo said.

The club’s advisor and Spanish teacher  Bobby Farenga said he had a different attitude going into the large competition.

“You should try to win,” he said, despite the seemingly long odds. “You have to go in planning on winning, otherwise it just won’t happen.”

The team hit the ground running despite being brand new to the contest.

“What I told them was there’s two different strategies when you invest,” Farenga said. “You have a long term perspective, which you should have if you’re at a younger age. But for this particular competition since this was short term you had to do some things a little more aggressively to stay competitive, and that’s what they did.”

The team took the approach of going for some long term investments early on, then they took a percentage of what they had and looked for more “highly volatile stocks” to invest in the short term. A lot of their investments were in gold and silver markets.

The students were checking the SIFMA phone application for updates on the standings every two days, but that turned into checking it every day as the clock wound down toward the end. Two weeks before the end, the team had the option to either liquidate their assets, to sit on their cash or to maintain and see if they could eek out a bit more.

“Mr. Farenga was telling us to liquidate it! Liquidate it!” the younger DiCarlo said. “But I said ‘I don’t know about that.’ So I took it aside and I ended up losing a lot of money, like $5,000 in the last two weeks. But in the last week we ended up making back a ton of money.”

That last push allowed the team to travel to Washington, D.C., where they met with U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and staff from U.S. Sen. and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-New York) office. They also visited some of the Washington landmarks and interacted with other D.C. insiders.

The team said they agreed that doing the competition as a group made them learn how to interact in a group setting. They had to play to each other’s strengths and trust each other’s judgement to succeed.

“We also learned to work as a team, we could collaborate and bounce ideas off each other,” the older DiCarlo said.

Cangemi reiterated that sentiment.

“We really learned to work together and share our ideas,” he said. “I was friends with Alex before, but doing this competition made that a lot stronger.”

Alex DiCarlo and Cangemi are both headed into their junior year. John DiCarlo graduated in the spring and is heading to Stony Brook University in the fall to study computer science. While he can see himself perhaps doing some future investing in the stock market he said he doesn’t want to make a career out of it. For the time being, he said he’s more worried about his math placement exams.

The returning juniors said they expect to participate in next year’s Stock Market Game as well as a number of other local and state investing competitions.

Though they finished within shouting distance of the top spot, and the group said it’s a goal for next year to come in first, but for the younger DiCarlo, that jump is more complicated than a few steps up a ladder — it means a higher return on investment.

“It’s a tough task,” he said. “That’s four more places with 70 percent more return.”

Port Jefferson valedictorian Chiara Rabeno and salutatorian Xinyi Hong. Photo from Port Jefferson School District

By Jill Webb

At the top of their respective classes at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School and Comsewogue High School are five talented and smart 2017 graduates.

Chiara Rabeno has earned her place as Port Jeff high school’s valedictorian. She will graduate as an AP Scholar with Honor with eight AP credits and has received a National Merit Scholar letter of commendation along with earning a gold award on the National Latin Exam three years consecutively.

In addition to her commitment to academics, Rabeno was an active participant in athletics during her high school career. She played softball and field hockey, earning an All-Conference distinction two years in a row.

Port Jefferson salutatorian Xinyi Hong and valedictorian Chiara Rabeno during 2017 graduation. Photo from Port Jefferson School District

Rabeno was  president of  National Honor Society, and balanced the rest of her time as a member of the Interact Club, Environmental Club, Science Olympiad, and  a participant in the STEM program.

The valedictorian attributes her success to having supportive family and friends who encourage her, along with finding time to focus on things she enjoys.

“Ultimately by doing what you love to do, I think that you’ll end up doing well in everything else,” Rabeno said in an interview.

In the fall, Rabeno will study biology at Boston College, on the pre-med track to become a doctor.

Like Rabeno, salutatorian Xinyi Hong has  received a gold award for three straight years on the National Latin Exam. She has a lengthy list of academic achievements, including being a National Merit Scholarship Finalist, an AP Scholar with Distinction, and earning the American Chemical Society Award.

Hong’s parents emigrated from China, and Hong herself was born in Germany. Her family came to the United States when she was six years old, moving to Port Jefferson when she was in fifth grade.

Hong served as  co-captain of the Science Olympiad team,  treasurer of the Environmental Club, and sits first chair viola in the school’s orchestra.

Comsewogue High School valedictorian Marissa Kaye Lehner. Photo from Lehner

She said one of her proudest accomplishments is overcoming shyness as a way to contribute to her own personal growth.

“I would be scared to say hi to people,” Hong said in an interview. “That’s something I’ve definitely had to work towards as opposed to something that came easily to me.”

When she attends Duke University in the fall, Hong said she will pursue a science-related field.

During graduation June 23, Rabeno and Hong broke with tradition somewhat, delivering their valedictorian and salutatorian addresses together on stage. They shared the stage  and spoke in tandem about the gifts the other possesses. The address touched on the honesty of Hong and the sentimentality of Rabeno, delivering the ultimate message of needing balance in order to achieve their full potential.

At Comsewogue High School, Marissa Kaye Lehner has been named the class of 2017 valedictorian.

A Nation Merit Scholar, Lehner took nine advanced placement classes during her time at Comsewogue. She was a part of several national honor societies, including music, English, math, science, social studies, and Spanish.

Outside the classroom, Lehner was  co-captain of the tennis team, winning a doubles match during the Section XI conference championships. She was a part of the academics club, math team, Bringing Unity Through Youth club, robotics and Girl Scouts.

Lehner said a key trait in her development as a student and person is she isn’t afraid to ask for help, and frequently encourages others to “rely on the people you have around you.”

Co-salutatorian at Comsewogue High School Lauren Ehrhard. Photo from Ehrhard

Attending the University of New Haven this fall, Lehner will major in national security, working towards a career as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. government.

Two students had matching grade point averages for second place in Comsewogue’s senior class and will share the salutatorian position — Lauren Ehrhard and Lucas Szeto.

Along with taking seven AP classes throughout high school, Ehrhard has been involved with athletics, including softball, and Athletes Helping Athletes, a club designed to teach elementary school students what it means to be a good athlete.

She was a member of Task Club, a community service organization called BUTY, chamber orchestra, and pep band.

One of her favorite experiences was being the director for a Night For Jason, an annual talent show that raises money for Friends of Karen, an organization supporting families with children suffering from cancer.

The biggest force driving her academically is having “really big dreams ahead of me,” Ehrhard said. “I know that the only way to reach that is to get good grades and be the person I know I can be.”

Ehrhard will be studying criminal justice at the University of New Haven, where she will join the ROTC program in preparation for joining the Air Force post-college.

Co-salutatorian at Comsewogue High School Luis Szeto. Photo from Szeto

Like his co-salutatorian, Szeto took seven AP classes. Szeto said school has always been something that has come easy to him, though that didn’t stop him from putting in his full effort.

Szeto is also proud of his musical achievements — he plays the upright bass. He participated in two different music festivals, the Long Island String Festival and the Suffolk County Music Educators Association festival, and contributed to  the Bay Area Summer Orchestra.

Lisa Szeto, his mother, recalled as a child Szeto told her he wanted to start playing video games. She told him she didn’t have time to teach him how, so Szeto took it upon himself to learn how to read so he could play.

“If he wants to learn something he will learn it with gusto,” his mother said of the memory. “If he doesn’t he will get through it.”

After graduation, Szeto will be attending Rochester Institute of Technology and majoring in computer science.

Parents of seniors at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School in Port Jefferson have been prepping for the big reveal of their 2017 prom theme for months. Monday night, prom-goers pulled up to the high school dressed to the nines; riding in outrageous cars, trucks, trollies, military vehicles and more; and strolled the red carpet through droves of family and friends into the gymnasium which was decked out in a Disney motif.

Every year parents of graduating seniors volunteer their time and money and spend months brainstorming, painting and constructing decorations for the annual June celebration. Theme is kept a secret until the prom actually begins.

Dressed in purple and white caps and gowns, the 97 students who make up the 2017 Earl L. Vandermeulen High School graduating class were presented with diplomas at the annual commencement ceremonies June 23.

In a unique presentation, valedictorian Chiara Rabeno and salutatorian Xinyi Hong shared the stage together and spoke in unison about the gifts and choices each of their peers possess. Their address touched on the honesty of Xinyi and the sentimentality of Chiara, winding up with the ultimate message of needing balance in order to achieve their full potential.

During the commencement, speakers offered congratulations and words of wisdom. Among those addressing the students were Earl L. Vandermeulen High School Principal Christine Austen and Superintendent of Schools Paul Casciano, in his first commencement address as the district’s leader.

The ceremony featured several musical performances by the school’s orchestra led by Michael Caravello; the presentation of the American flag by the Port Jefferson Fire Department; the presentation of the traditional class gift — a new water fountain installed for all students to enjoy; as well as motivational speeches peppered with anecdotes and advice by Student Organization President Rebecca Stafford and Elisa Scott, mother of graduate Charlie Scott, who gave the parent address.

Port Jeff’s green roof at the high school provides environmental and educational benefits. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

A facilities administrator in the Port Jefferson School District is doing his part to reduce the district’s impact on the quality of the Long Island Sound’s water.

Finding innovative ways to improve and protect Long Island’s water is a priority for state and county governments, environmental groups, businesses dependent on marine life and concerned residents. Last year, Fred Koelbel, Port Jeff’s facilities administrator, was able to secure a grant funded through the state’s Environmental Protection Fund as a part of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Water Quality Improvement Projects program.

The grant paid for the district to install a bed of vegetation on a 3,400 square foot portion of the high school’s roof to serve as a basin to catch and treat stormwater prior to discharging it into the village’s stormwater system, according to Aphrodite Montalvo, a spokeswoman for the DEC.

“It rains on this, the water filters through and is held in the growing medium,” Koelbel explained while looking over the dual-purposed roof, which will be used for middle school science lessons beginning in the spring in addition to its environmental benefits. “It’s a drop in a bucket, but it’s meant to be a demonstration project. It demonstrates to the kids what the potential is; it demonstrates to the community what the potential is if you did this on a larger scale.”

Koelbel said he frequently monitors grants made available by New York State, and after being denied for this particular project once, the district was approved to receive the funding in 2016. The total cost of the project was about $275,000, though the grant covered all but about $68,000. Koelbel added that the area of the building was in need of a new roof anyway, and it would have cost the district more than $68,000 to install a conventional roof.

“It’s a really great thing. This is the kind of stuff I like to do.”

— Fred Koelbel

“It was a win-win because it gave us all of the benefits of the green roof, plus saved us money on the installation,” he said. The previous roof was made of a material that reflected sunlight and caused a glare and higher temperatures in a wing of classrooms in the building’s middle school, which is adjoined to the high school. Koelbel said the district first installed air conditioners to alleviate the problem, and then put a reflective film over the windows, but the green roof provides much greater benefits in addition to fixing an existing problem.

“The Earl L. Vandermeulen High School green roof is an excellent example of New York State’s statewide investments in green infrastructure,” Montalvo said in an email. “The green roof will reduce the overall pollutant loading entering Port Jefferson Harbor, as well as educate students and the public on the benefits of green infrastructure.”

Port Jefferson is the only district on Long Island to install a green roof. Koelbel said some districts have reached out to him with questions about the project, though none have visited yet. He added he has plans to host a workshop in the near future for Port Jefferson Village roofing contractors and commercial property owners who might be in need of a new roof to advocate for the installation of more green roofs.

“For the next generation, this is something we do now,” Koelbel said. The district also has solar panels installed on some buildings, which are used to teach lessons about energy use. They also replaced many lighting fixtures with LED lighting in the past. Koelbel said he was proud of the example the district is setting for students about reducing environmental impact.

“When you’re doing public works type stuff, getting innovative sometimes is difficult, so the fact that we could set it up this way where it was a savings to the district over what we would have done if we just did what we had always done, and now we get to demonstrate the benefits to the students — it’s a real plus,” he said. “It’s a really great thing. This is the kind of stuff I like to do.”

John Lutterbie and Naomi Solo with the sign designating Port Jefferson as a ‘green’ village.

By Naomi Solo

The Port Jefferson High School Environmental Club sells reusable water bottles at a previous Go Green event.
The Port Jefferson High School Environmental Club sells reusable water bottles at a previous Go Green event.

A decade ago Ann Kaplan and John Lutterbie from the Stony Brook University Humanities Institute formed a university community group in order to inspire positive thinking about the environment. When the group wanted to choose a target area to begin its work, the Village of Port Jefferson was selected. The Humanities Institute joined forces with the local government and Port Jefferson schools to make the village a model for environmental awareness.

On Saturday, Nov. 5, the community is invited to to learn more about these joint efforts at the 9th Annual Go Green Information Fair. This year the free event will be held in the cafeteria of the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School at 350 Old Post Road in Port Jefferson from noon to 3 p.m. Creative projects initiated by local students will be the highlight of the day along with musical presentations by the elementary school chorus and a special musical performance by high school student Cole Fortier.

Come learn about Port Jefferson High School’s new Green Roof project, located on the roof of the boy’s locker room. A green roof is a roof of a building that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. Sierra Club members will be on hand with information on where to hike and explore on Long Island, and members from the Long Island Native Plant Initiative will demonstrate the many ways to cultivate a garden using indigenous plants. A fine example of this is the native plant garden Go Green, LINPI and Port Jefferson Village have developed on the green triangle at the intersection of Spring and High Streets.

An environmental-themed student art show, organized by Lynn Edsall, chairperson of the high school art department, will also be on view to add to the richness of the day and don’t forget to stop by the “Green Elephant” table where, for no money, you can be part of yet another recycle team by taking home whatever items you wish. You may also contribute items while cleaning your closets and cabinets. Call Barbara at 631-642-3048. Please no clothes, linen, electronics, or books.

For further information, call 631-473-3549.

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