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Mount Sinai High School

Ben May is a Mount Sinai High School senior student. Photo from Ben May.

It doesn’t take much to start helping the environment.

Eight-year-old me was exploring a stream with my brother and our friends. As we began heading home, I spotted a large plastic container sitting on the bank. Everyone else seemed to ignore it, but I wandered over to examine its contents. After a quick examination, I decided it contained nothing of interest and threw it back to the ground. My brother yelled up at me to ask why I was not recycling it.

I responded, “No one else is going to do that, why do I have to clean it up?”

With a stern face, he said, “For exactly that reason.”

From this quick conversation, my outlook on the world was forever changed. Humanity faces many challenges, but not everyone chooses to help confront them. The environment is in danger of destruction; it is our obligation to save it.

I began my environmental activism at Mount Sinai High School. As a sophomore, I founded the Environmental Outreach Club. This club implemented a recycling program and facilitated annual beach cleanups each year with a turnout of more than 70 students. It amazed me how many people were ready to help. Even a small group of passionate youth can make an observable difference. Then, last fall, I found myself one of three high school students on the planning committee for the first Long Island Youth Ocean Conservation Summit. This event, where participants heard from environmentalists such as Fabien Cousteau, was meant to bring about youth-driven conservation efforts. Since earning a minigrant from the summit, the Environmental Outreach Club has been pressing for the elimination of one-use bottles and cans from the cafeteria of Mount Sinai High School.

Thus far, we have installed three water bottle refill stations throughout the school and plan on selling reusable bottles at the cafeteria. We hope to later replace the vending machines with beverage fountains to eliminate the need for one-use cans and bottles. Local projects usually have the most powerful impact to someone’s community with small-scale actions creating large-scale changes; however, national endeavors bring a far-reaching aspect to environmentalism.

Last year, I had the honor to be a member of the seven-person Sea Youth Rise Up delegation to lobby President Barack Obama (D) to establish a new marine protected area off the coast of Cape Cod. We met with the Environmental Quality Council at the White House, ran a live international broadcast on World Oceans Day, filmed a documentary and visited the United Nations in New York City to bring attention to the cause. As a teenager, it is difficult to enact change at the federal level, but this opportunity enabled me to engage in debates that directly affected legislation. When Obama heard our collective voices and established the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument, which protects large sections of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Cod, I realized change can be created by anyone — no matter their age. After returning from the Sea Youth Rise Up campaign, I was appointed communications coordinator for the national Youth Ocean Conservation Summit organization, was a guest speaker at this year’s Long Island YOCS, and have been invited to speak at an upcoming TEDx event in London this June.

From my limited personal experience so far, the world of environmentalism is composed of smart, passionate people. Today — even when temperatures and sea level are rising, fish stocks are being depleted, water is becoming scarce, petrochemicals are being added to the oceans at an exponentially increasing rate and a mass extinction is occurring — I am still extremely hopeful. After meeting other people who help mitigate these ailments of our society,  both by small-scale and large-scale actions, I am confident in our collective ability to save our world.

Over my few years of being an environmental advocate, I have learned two things: the opportunities to get involved are endless, and an open door foreshadows more doors to come. Every opportunity that presented itself to me has been the product of some previous action I had taken — all tracing back to my brother yelling at me to throw out a piece of plastic.

Ben May is a Mount Sinai High School senior and is the founder of the Environmental Outreach Club at the school.

School district staff fight for bragging rights while raising money for booster club

By Bill Landon

Mount Sinai school district faculty members were pitted against each other March 3 in the Battle of the Educators. Teachers laced up their sneakers and grabbed a ball, donning black shirts on the middle school side, and gray on the elementary/high school team, for the 16th annual basketball game that raises money for the Mount Sinai Booster Club.

Mount Sinai High School Assistant Principal and Director of Guidance Matt Dyroff, who is the event’s organizer, said the week of practice each team had leading up to the game paid off. In the first quarter, each team traded points until the black team hit a triple to retake the lead, 28-27, before going on a scoring frenzy to take a 10-point lead, 37-27, into the halftime break.

“We do it for our booster club because they do so many things not only for our sports teams, but any other thing we ask their help with they’re more than willing to donate for the cause.”

—Matt Dyroff

“We’ve been practicing hard,” Dyroff said. “A couple of outdoor practices in the cold, but the teams got down to work — they buckled down and it was evident in the score tonight.”

Dyroff had a lot of help with the event from Mount Sinai Booster Club member Terese Lumley, the student council members who volunteered their time to help out, and Mount Sinai High School earth science teacher Roger Cardo, who took care of the play-by-play commentary.

With a $5 admission fee and $1 charge to compete in the halftime shooting contest, Dyroff said he hoped the event cold exceed last year’s $3,000 raised, and as students lined both sides of the court to take part in the shooting contest, it seemed the goal may very well be met.

“Each year we’re hoping to improve on the previous year, and preliminary amounts suggest that we’ve approached $4,000 tonight,” Dyroff said. “We do it for our booster club because they do so many things not only for our sports teams, but any other thing we ask their help with they’re more than willing to donate for the cause. No matter what it is.”

Celebrity spectators, in the form of the first-time county championship girls’ basketball team, had fun watching their teachers take the court.

“It’s a fun time, and everyone comes together to watch the game,” senior point guard Victoria Johnson. “Everyone can joke around take trick shots. It’s all for fun, and that’s the best part of it.”

“Everyone comes together to watch the game. … It’s all for fun, and that’s the best part of it.”

—Victoria Johnson

There were no trick shots down the stretch though, as both teams battled through the final 25 minutes of play. The gray team shook off the first-half jitters and chipped away at the deficit to retake the lead, 62-61, with less than two minutes left in the game. The black team battled back to take a three-point lead in the final 10 seconds of the game, but the gray team had one last possession.

With the ball in hand, Mount Sinai boys’ basketball head coach Ryan McNeely took matters into his own hands when Dyroff inbounded him the ball, and McNelly let a three-point shot fly with 2.3 seconds on the clock. The ball rimmed out as the buzzer sounded, and with that, the middle school held on for a 67-64 win, to claim the championship trophy for the second year in a row.

Senior center Veronica Venezia said the event was a much-needed respite while she and her Mustangs team prepares for the Long Island championship against Nassau County’s Elmont March 11 at SUNY Old Westbury.

“It’s definitely a fun night watching everyone come out and play — all of the teachers and their families and a lot of people coming out to join our community,” she said. “It’s a good breather — especially because it’s a basketball game — it’s a great night watching our coaches play against each other.”

After the game, Dyroff weighed in on the girls’ unprecedented success this season.

“Going to the Long Island championship is tremendous,” he said. “The district and the community have been so supportive of it. The girls have put in so much time and it’s come to fruition. The off-season workouts, the summer leagues, the spring leagues, getting out to play — this group has progressed each year and to see it culminate in a county championship is huge.”

Debbie Carpinone and her son Anthony Forte. Photo from Debbie Carpinone

By Kevin Redding

On what would have been Anthony Michael Forte’s 25th birthday Oct. 8, Debbie Carpinone stood over a cake decorated with a photo of her son and icing that spelled out “Happy Birthday In Heaven Anthony There’s A Light That Will Never Go Out” and led family and friends in singing to him before taking a brief moment to reflect and pray to herself.

All were gathered at VFW Post 6249 in Rocky Point to honor and celebrate her son’s memory with live music, catered treats, a Chinese auction and raffle prizes for the 2nd annual Anthony’s Angels fundraiser.

For Carpinone — who lost Forte to a heroin overdose on May 2, 2015 — getting through this particular day without him is still a new challenge, but one that’s led her down a path of keeping active, doing good things for others and providing hope and charity to her community.

Local band Remedy plays old hits like ‘Fame’ by David Bowie during the second annual Anthony’s Angels fundraiser. Photo by Kevin Redding
Local band Remedy plays old hits like ‘Fame’ by David Bowie during the second annual Anthony’s Angels fundraiser. Photo by Kevin Redding

Last year, in the wake of Anthony’s death, she set up Anthony’s Angels to help raise money for Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson, various treatment programs, as well as establish a scholarship in his name at Mount Sinai High School, which is geared toward someone who has overcome a personal obstacle. Carpinone, who works as a teaching assistant for the Mount Sinai Elementary School, was able to give $1,000 to Matthew Kirby this past June and help him pay for college in Rhode Island.

“Anthony always wanted to go to school, but due to his addiction, he never got the chance to go,” Carpinone said. “He just was always in and out of rehabs, and sober houses.”

Now, she continues to keep herself busy in different ways, by striving to do something good in his memory, like the scholarship.

“Matthew [Kirby] was pretty much one of the only kids who really wrote from the heart, about losing his grandparents, and he has suffered a lot of loss as far as family members … and I felt connected to his family just by reading his essay,” she said. “I’m glad I went with my gut and chose him, because he’s just a wonderful kid.”

She wanted this year’s fundraiser to benefit the next scholarship and hopes that she’ll be able to give it out to two students in 2017. Because the event happened to fall on his birthday this year, she also wanted to throw a party he would’ve appreciated.

“Debbie is channeling her grief in such a positive way, and I just find everything she’s doing to be so good for her body, mind and soul. Her situation touched my heart.”

—Kelly Amantea

“He loved all the old Hollywood legends,” said Carpinone, who filled the room with huge cutout standees of Elvis Presley and Audrey Hepburn, and stocked the tables with photos of icons like James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. She said that caterer Crazy Crepe Café even provided an Elvis-themed peanut butter and banana crepe.

“Everybody just came together, and it’s so nice to know that there’s still good people out there, and people that still want to do good things,” the mother said.

Long tables were covered with over 100 prizes from local businesses and attendees, including a $25 gift card to Setauket Pastaria, a glam girl Marilyn basket, a Mercedes Benz donation and a kid’s pedal car.

As local band Remedy played high-energy covers of David Bowie, The Knack and Weezer, pictures of Forte in what appeared to be his happiest days adorned the tables and walls, and had many reminiscing about him.

“He was a very special person,” said Dolores Franklin, Forte’s aunt. “He was very charismatic, talented. I can’t say enough. He loved to act, liked to do skits … he brought us a lot of laughter. And no matter how awful you looked, he’d always tell you you were beautiful. He made you feel good.”

She said that there was certainly a big hole in the family’s hearts, having lost such a huge presence.

“I just wish that one of us could’ve gotten through to him, and could’ve let him know how special he really was,” she said, “because I don’t think he knew how great he was.”

Debbie Carpinone reads off raffle winners at the Anthony’s Angels fundraiser. Photo by Kevin Redding
Debbie Carpinone reads off raffle winners at the Anthony’s Angels fundraiser. Photo by Kevin Redding

Carpinone wants to get rid of the stigma around heroin and those who get hooked on it, because her son didn’t look like a drug addict, didn’t come from a terrible family and wasn’t a bad person. As overdoses become more and more common across Long Island, it’s become very clear that drugs don’t know who you are, and addiction can latch itself onto anybody — a fact that more and more people are becoming aware of.

“Debbie’s son’s death was my first eye-opening experience to heroin,” said Kelly Amantea, Carpinone’s friend. “It never touched my life, my family, or my heart prior to that. It just never affected me. I knew nothing about it. I lived in my own little drug-free bubble.”

She said for her, a lot of awareness came out of the tragic event.

“I do find that the community as a whole is starting to wrap its arms around this,” she said. “I’m hoping that there’s more attention paid to this because it’s affecting more and more families — more and more lives — and I want the cure and the remedy to catch up with the epidemic … they’re so far apart right now.”

Amantea added she’d never been to a funeral like Forte’s before and believes every middle school kid should be dragged to a funeral of someone who died this way, to open children’s eyes to the harsh reality.

“It rocked me to my core and I don’t think these kids really understand what it’s like for the families that have to carry this,” she said. “That drug is Russian roulette. Debbie is channeling her grief in such a positive way, and I just find everything she’s doing to be so good for her body, mind and soul. Her situation touched my heart.”

The fundraiser raised $220 for Hope House Ministries and $1,500 for the scholarship.

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Mount Sinai’s Caiya Schuster makes a save against Shoreham-Wading River’s Nicky Constant. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

All Lydia Kessel was thinking in the final seconds of overtime is that she couldn’t let Mount Sinai score.

The Shoreham-Wading River junior goalkeeper wanted action, but received almost more than she could handle. A cluster of frenzied girls squeezed between the six and 18-yard line, and that made it difficult to get a hand on the ball.

Mount Sinai's Victoria Johnson and Shoreham-Wading River's Haley Rose battle for the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai’s Victoria Johnson and Shoreham-Wading River’s Haley Rose battle for the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It was like a game of Pong,” she said of the final frantic moments of the Sept. 27 match. “It was just touches — the ball was going back and forth and the only thing going through my head is that I had to get the ball. If I could get the ball, I could get it out and we can get through the last 10 seconds. I did not want to lose in the last 10 seconds.”

Kessel eventually muscled her way to the ball, although she missed it on the first grab and left a Mount Sinai player with an open net. She threw herself on top of the loose ball, scooped it up and tossed it away to escape with the 0-0 draw for her Wildcats and the Mustangs after two 10-minute overtime sessions.

“They’re a much more physical team,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Adrian Gilmore said of Mount Sinai. “But we played a hard game. [Mount Sinai] plays a lot in the air, which is different from the way we play, since we play more to feet. I feel like any time we play them, anything could happen, because they’re so physical.”

Mount Sinai controlled the game for the first few minutes and showed that toughness, but Shoreham-Wading River pushed right back, and came up with back-to-back chances at a goal, the first of which went off the right post.

After the two teams tied 2-2 Sept. 8, Mount Sinai head coach Courtney Leonard expected much of the same the second time around.

“I thought something like this would occur,” she said. “Shoreham — their personnel, our personnel are very evenly matched. They had chances and we had them. They had an unfortunate post in the beginning of the game that could’ve gone in and we had some opportunities in the middle of the net with nobody there that we should’ve gotten. But I thought we did a great job.”

Lydia Kessel sends the ball into play after making a stop. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Lydia Kessel sends the ball into play after making a stop. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Shoreham-Wading River senior outside midfielder Alex Kuhnle had several opportunities to help her team put one away in the second half. First, she attempted a fake from 25 yards out, but Mount Sinai’s junior goalkeeper Caiya Schuster saved her shot. Later, sophomore striker Nicky Constant, took a pass from senior midfielder Sarah Stietzle, but the touch was too soft. Kuhnle also tried to set up Constant twice, but Schuster saved the first, and although the second attempt went in, an offside call waved off the goal. Another shot went in within a five-minute span, but offside was called again. Schuster made 10 big saves on the evening to keep her team in the game.

“Mount Sinai is always a tough team to go up against,” Kuhnle said. “They always come out strong, and I think that we reacted well. We were just unlucky with our shots. We had a lot of opportunities, so that’s a good thing, but moving on, we need to work on finishing.”

Despite junior sweeper Samantha Higgins being forced to leave the game with a foot injury, Shoreham-Wading River’s defense held its own. Kessel made a save with 5:54 left in regulation, one of her five for the game.

“It was a tough battle, but we all helped,” Mount Sinai sophomore midfielder and forward Brooke Cergol said. “We focused on covering their top players, attacking and looking outside; we just really wanted to score and win this game.”

Mount Sinai’s Brooke Cergol and Shoreham-Wading River’s Alex Kuhnle race for the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai’s Brooke Cergol and Shoreham-Wading River’s Alex Kuhnle race for the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Gilmore said having Kessel, a three-year varsity starter, in goal helped her feel more comfortable about the matchup.

“I think having her in the back is such a dangerous weapon,” she said. “My assistant coach [Brian Ferguson] thinks it was one of the best games he’s seen her play. I expect her to do what she does, and it’s a nice feeling.”

With the draw, both teams move to 4-1-2 in League VI. It is the last time the two rivals — that are just miles from each other down Route 25A — are scheduled to battle this season, but it certainly may not be the last time they face off.

Kuhnle said if they see each other again in the postseason, her team will be ready.

“There’s a ton of talent on this team and we can go as far as we want to go if everyone comes together and plays hard,” she said. “This will help fuel a fire for playoffs and show us what we have to work on, so maybe we’ll focus a little more in practice to improve. I’m not disappointed with our performance though; we just got unlucky.”