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Northport

Huntington riders may experience some problems with upcoming station work. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington Long Island Rail Road commuters may face some additional strain in their usual commute in the coming weeks.

The elevator at the South Parking Garage at the Huntington LIRR station is now out of service and is being replaced, with construction that began July 11. According to a press release from the town, this project is “much-needed,” to increase the reliability, safety and comfort for those who regularly use the elevator. The town said it estimates that the elevator will be out of service for about four months, with construction wrapping in November.

“We realize that no matter what the alternative, riders will be inconvenienced,” the press release said. “Please be assured that our contractor will endeavor to complete the project as quickly as possible.”

In an effort to make the change as painless as possible, the town asked for input from residents to help create options for those who, because of physical handicaps, find the elevator necessary.

“I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that we’re not on the first page of Newsday, but we do have real problems,” Georgina White, a Huntington resident said at the June town meeting where the input was gathered. “This is really a hardship. I did go online and take the survey, but the proposed suggestions are really poor. The handicapped and the elderly, and the people with strollers are going to be held. I suggest that you try to put the shuttle, that’s handicapped accessible, from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. It needs to happen.

She acknowledged the elevator has had a lot of issues in recent years, including breakdowns and filth, and commended the town for finally getting a new elevator. But She encouraged the town to improve its ways of getting the motive out, as she feared not enough residents realized the changes that were going to soon occur.

Based on those responses and the town’s recommendations, the following actions will be taken:

1. The town has added handicapped parking spaces on both sides of the tracks. On the north side, the additional spaces are on ground level in the parking garage. On the south side, the additional spaces are on level 2 of the parking garage. Both locations will provide easy access to the handicapped ramps. If at all possible, the town suggests users should try to arrange their trip so eastbound and westbound trips depart and arrive on the same track. Information on which platforms trains usually depart from or arrive on is contained in the full Port Jefferson line LIRR schedule.

2. Consider alternate stations. In particular, parking is available at the Northport station, which has only one track.

3. A town Public Safety vehicle will be available at the station during peak hours — 5:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 to 9 p.m. — to transport persons with disabilities from one side of the tracks to the other. To arrange a ride during those or other times, call Public Safety at 631-351-3234. Riders can call from the train to make Public Safety aware of their need in advance.

4. The town has reached out to the LIRR and asked that announcements about track changes be made as early as possible, so commuters will know if there is an issue before they board the train.

5. If a rider has questions or a problem, they should call the Department of Transportation and Traffic Safety at 631-351-3053.

“I appreciate all you’re trying to do,” White said. “Could we work together to communicate some better things for people in our town?”
After she spoke at the meeting, Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) thanked her for her suggestions and encouraged her to meet with the town’s director of transportation to continue a dialogue.
The news adds to rider woes, as those dealing with Huntington’s maintenance may also be delayed by Long Island Rail Road work at Pennsylvania Station.

By Bill Landon

A late Long Island-hit drew a penalty, leaving New York City with an even bigger advantage with two seconds left on the clock in the 22nd annual Empire Challenge football game. Monsignor Farrell kicker Paul Inzerillo tried to draw Long Island offsides without success, but just ahead of a delay of game flag, sent the ball flying as the clock ran down to zero, and nailed the 32-yard field goal attempt to snatch a second straight NYC victory, 37-35, from Long Island. The June 21 loss marks the second year in a row Long Island lost in dramatic fashion at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium.

“That penalty hurt us,” Elwood John Glenn wide receiver Damien Caffrey said. “But to play in this game is a dream come true.”

“That penalty hurt us, but to play in this game is a dream come true.

—Damian Caffrey

A Long Island interception led to NYC’s first touchdown of the game, with four minutes left in the opening quarter. But Ward Melville senior John Corpac received a pass from Long Island quarterback Aaron Ruthman, of Elmont, and bolted down the right sideline for the touchdown. Christian Carrick added the extra point to tie the game, 7-7.

NYC took the lead with the team’s second touchdown of the game, but the kick failed, and left Long Island with a chance to pull ahead. Ward Melville wide receiver Dominic Pryor, already looking comfortable on his new field, where he will instead though play lacrosse next year, was found twice for big yardage. The first connection was for 18 yards to NYC’s 40-yard line and the second, was for 28 yards to the 5. Two plays later, Farmingdale running back Jordan McLune took advantage of that opportunity by capping of a six-play, 58-yard drive, and Carrick’s kick gave Long Island the lead, 14-13, with 7:14 left in the first half.

Unfortunately, the lead was short-lived as NYC scored another touchdown, put the 2-point conversion play failed.

“It’s tough to come out and play football in June, but I was so motivated to come out here and play with such great athletes, and play my hardest,” Pryor said. “[NYC is] just a hard-nose team with great athletes.”

It looked like a Ward Melville football game from there on out though, as Pryor, who caught give passes for 89 and two touchdowns, scored his first on a 24-yard pass from Elmont quarterback Aaron Rutgman on fourth-and-seven.

Pryor got the call again on the next score, as the Ruthman-Pryor tag-team connected on a 17-yard pass. Carrick’s kick lifted Long Island to a 28-19 advantage.

“[This game] it’s just something that I’m blessed to be in,” Pryor said. “It’s a great event with everything that it stands for, and I’m glad to be a part of it.” Prior to Wednesday’s game, no Patriots had played in the Empire Challenge. With cornerback Eddie Munoz also on the field, it put not two, but three Patriots in the Empire Challenge for the first time.

“[This game] it’s just something that I’m blessed to be in. It’s a great event with everything that it stands for.”

—Dominic Pryor

But New York, held to 17 yards in the second half until midway through the fourth quarter, exploded for a five-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by a 45-yard touchdown from Christian Anderson to Seba Nekhet. The PAT made it 28-26 with seven minutes left in regulation. NYC’s defense forced Long Island to punt from deep in its own end and the city took advantage of the favorable field position to score on Siddiq Muhamad’s 12-yard run that made it 34-26. The special teams completed a 2-point conversion that brought the score to 36-28.

Corpac continued the strong Ward Melville showing as he handled another punt return 83 yards, going coast-to-coast to tie the game.

“I was telling my teammates on the sidelines: ‘I gotta take this one back,’” Corpac said. “’I got to do it.’ And sure enough, I saw the hole and I took it.”

Carrick, who was perfect on the evening, put Long Island ahead with 2:44 left in the final quarter.

NYC threw the ball out of bounds to stop the clock, and got a gift when Long Island was flagged for a late hit. The 15-yard penalty brought NYC to Long Island’s 22-yard line.

“I was scared leading by a point with eight seconds left,” Caffrey said. “It was pretty crazy, because their offense is really good. They brought it to a whole new level.”

Corpac, who is bound for Stony Brook University’s football team in the fall, echoed his longtime teammate-s sentiment of the significance of the Empire Challenge.

“[To play in this game] — it’s a great honor,” he said. “It’s the best way I could ask to end my high school football career.”

A 12-year-old boy was killed as a result of a boating accident in Centerport July 18. File Photo

A man’s body was found floating in the Long Island Sound about three miles north of Belle Terre Village at about 2 p.m. June 19, according to the Suffolk County Police Department.

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Gregory Blanco, a 41-year-old Commack man.

Someone on board the Park City, a Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company ferry, spotted a body floating in the water Monday afternoon. The Stratford Fire Department responded and recovered the body which was transported to the Town of Brookhaven Port Jefferson Marina.

The victim had launched in a kayak from Northport. He was pronounced dead by a physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner who will perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

On June 11, 24-year-old Huntington Station resident Selvin Vasquez-Enamorado launched his kayak from a beach near Crab Meadow Beach in Northport and never returned. His kayak was recovered, and the police have since called off the search.

Crab Meadow Beach. File photo.

Suffolk County Police are searching for a kayaker who was reported missing in Northport Sunday June 11.

Selvin Vasquez-Enamorado launched his kayak from a beach near Crab Meadow Beach to go fishing sometime between 3 and 4 p.m. When Vasquez, 24, of Huntington Station, did not return home, a friend called 911 at approximately 6 p.m.

Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau and Aviation Section, United States Coast Guard, Huntington Harbormaster, Smithtown Harbormaster, and United States D.E.C. Marine Units have assisted in the search.

The kayak was recovered.

Detectives are asking anyone with information to call the Second Squad at 631-854-8252.

Werner Hess shows students the passport Germans required he carry around as a young boy. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

By Victoria Espinoza

Young students in the Northport-East Northport school district were given a firsthand account of one of the most pivotal and horrific periods in human history.

Holocaust survivor Werner Hess, 96, spoke to Northport elementary students last week to share his story and encourage attendees to be kind and accepting of one another.

Hess’ life changed when Hitler came to power while he was living in Frankfurt, Germany. His mother was able to help him escape to England in 1939 and, Hess eventually arrived in the United States in 1940. He talked about how the events leading up to World War II were encouraged by racial hate speech, and isolating and mistreating certain groups of people.

“These horrible sufferings must not be forgotten, and the lessons of the Holocaust must not be diminished into just a footnote in history,” Hess said at Dickinson Avenue Elementary School May 26. “We must educate generations…and combat all forms of racial, religious and ethnic hatred before it is too late.”

The passport with a large red “J” for Jew. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

Hess told the children to imagine living how they are now, except being forced to no longer see their friends, and family members being sent off to concentration camps to do slave labor. Hess himself went through that reality when he was about the same age as the fourth- and fifth-graders he spoke to.

Hess’ family had lived in Germany for generations, and his grandparents fought for Germany in World War I. Hess had plans to go to college and become an accountant, however he said this became impossible once Jewish people were no longer allowed to attend college in Germany. This led Hess to drop out of school and learn how to make women’s handbags in a factory in his town. However, soon enough the government shut down the factory, and Hess’ Christian supervisor helped him get work elsewhere undercover, where he was hidden from inspectors.

The only part of Hess’ childhood the Northport students could relate to was that he was playing on a local soccer team. He was  the only Jewish boy on the team. He had played for years, however one Sunday in 1935 he was told by the coach he could no longer play due to his religion.

“Quite a blow to a 14-year-old boy,” he said.

Eventually Hess said Jewish-owned stores were closing down, with signs on their windows saying, “owned by Jews, don’t shop from Jews.” Books written by Jews were burned in his town, statues erected for well known Jewish leaders were destroyed and Jewish names were removed from street signs. Hess lost his citizenship, and was given a passport with a large red ‘J’ on it to identify his religion. Hess said he watched synagogues, including the temple where his bar mitzvah was held, Jewish owned stores, including his parent’s fish store and homes burned down by the government, and Jewish citizens rounded up and taken to concentration camps. He saw German troops marching through his streets singing, “Jewish heads must roll, Jewish blood must be spilt.”

Gestapo officers came to Hess’ house to arrest his father and bring him to a concentration camp.

“We are all created in the image of God, you may not like each person you meet in your life, that does not mean you must hate an entire race, ethnic group or religion. You must respect the human rights of everyone.”
—Herner Wess

“After they were convinced that my father was sick and dying, they asked for me,” he said. “I was hiding in the attic of the apartment we lived in. They told my mother I should report to them when I returned home or else I would be killed on site. Trembling and with tears in her eyes, my mother came to my hiding place and sent me off to the designated assembly point.”

When Hess arrived at the train station he was told the last round of transfers just left and they would get him on the next train, but it never showed and he was sent home.

“Whether it was just luck or higher powers that protected me I don’t know,” he said.

When Hess was 17-years-old, shortly after his father died, he was able to escape Germany and fled to England.

“Saying goodbye to my mother at the train station in Frankfurt was very, very difficult,” he said. “Put yourself in my position. Having just lost my father, saying goodbye to my mother and not being assured if we would ever see each other again. Forced to leave family and friends, and head to a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language.”

He said traveling to England was not easy, and people were constantly taken off trains by border guards and shipped to concentration camps to be murdered — including his aunt, uncle and cousins.

Eventually Hess was able to bring his mother to England and in 1940 he left for America. Three years later he was drafted into the Army.

“It was not only the Jewish people who suffered during this time,” Hess said. “Millions of innocent people of all religions were killed. We are all created in the image of God, you may not like each person you meet in your life, that does not mean you must hate an entire race, ethnic group or religion. You must respect the human rights of everyone.”

After Hess finished speaking students asked him dozens of questions about his life, what soccer position he played, what it was like making handbags, what he misses about Germany and if he’s ever been back. Students looked in awe at his original passport he used to travel out of Germany, and saw the red ‘J‘ and Swastika symbols covering the front.

“In those 12 years he [Hitler] turned one of the most civilized nations in the world into one of the most barbarous of all time,” he said. “Please do not bully your friends, because everyone is different, but that doesn’t mean you need to hate them. So be nice to each other.”

It was hammer time for Middle Country’s Jamie Ortega, as the sideline sang her goal-scoring song five times in the girls’ lacrosse team’s 13-3 win over Northport May 30.

“You can’t touch this,” they screamed louder and louder with each goal.

Ortega stepped out on the field Tuesday ready to finish what her older sister Nikki had started more than five years ago — win the program’s first Class A Suffolk County championship. Nikki Ortega had led the Mad Dogs further and further into the postseason over her six-year varsity career until she graduated two years ago, and her younger sister has been steering the wheel ever since.

“I wanted to do this for her,” Jamie Ortega said. “And I wanted to play for all those seniors that didn’t have the opportunity to. We finished it for them. We didn’t want that feeling again.”

That feeling she referred to was the devastation after each loss at the hands of West Islip over the last three seasons — twice in the semis and once in the finals.

This time, although the foe wasn’t as familiar, Middle Country knew it couldn’t take its opponent lightly. No. 5 Northport was fresh off an 8-7 upset over nationally ranked No. 1 Ward Melville.

“We were nervous,” said senior Ava Barry, who scored a goal and had five assists. “It’s hard to beat a team twice. Any team can win on any given day.”

Middle Country is also ranked nationally, featuring the top lacrosse recruit in the nation in Ortega. The senior pulled out a similar showing to when the Mad Dogs completed a 14-5 win over the Tigers May 8. Ortega finished that game with four goals and two assists.

She scored three goals and had one assist at the end of the first half in the final. She completed her hat trick when, after passing to Barry who couldn’t find a clear lane near the circle, sent a pass back to Ortega and who fired her shot home for a five-goal lead, 6-1.

“It’s my last year and I knew that this was the time to step up and play ‘all in,’” the University of North Carolina-bound midfielder said. “I’m so proud of this team.”

The team was “all in” from one end of the field to the other. The defense held Northport to 12 shots, and senior goalie Emily Walsh made nine saves. Jennifer Barry, Ava’s younger sister, led Middle Country to a 13-5 draw advantage, with Ortega also pulling away with some draw wins. The offense had nine assists on its 13 goals.

“Our defense was great, we came up so big on so many stops in goal and had so many extra possessions that we took advantage of,” Ortega said. “We knew if we got the extra possession and made them turn over the ball that we could calm down and make a good play out of it.”

Barry had passed to Ortega for her second goal and dished the ball to senior Rachel Masullo for a 7-1 lead. Ortega and Barry made another pass-back move on the opening goal of the second half, after Ortega forced a turnover behind Northport’s goal.

“My teammates were making great cuts, got open really well and helped me be able to make the passes to them,” Barry said.  “When the sidelines get involved in the game it’s fun, it’s exciting. You always want your sideline to be cheering your team on.”

After a brief second-half hiccup, with Northport’s Emerson Cabrera putting her team’s first goal on the scoreboard since the 11-minute mark of the first half, Middle Country got right back to work. Head coach Lindsay Dolson never slowed down her team, saying the girls like to use their speed, and the team racked up three more goals before Northport scored its final goal of the game. She also said the win gave the team some needed confidence. But Ortega said she told her team they were capable all along.

“I told my teammates we shouldn’t be nervous,” Ortega said. “This was our game, our time. I told them we’re not losing today, everyone believed it and we proved it.”

Twin sisters Rachel and Amanda Masullo added three goals apiece and Jennifer Barry assisted on two goals.

Middle Country will face the winner of the June 1 Massapequa-Port Washington game for the Long Island championship at Adelphi University June 4 at 7:30 p.m.

“Our mentality has been just putting in every ounce of effort and not stopping until we seal the deal,” Rachel Masullo said. “So many of our seasons got cut short. Now, we’re ready to barrel through anybody that gets in front of us.”

Ricardo Reyes-Benitez was charged with public lewdness in East Northport. Photo from SCPD.

Suffolk County Police arrested a Huntington Station man Monday, May 29 for public lewdness after he masturbated in front of a woman outside a Northport grocery store.

A customer was walking in the parking lot of Stop & Shop, located on Fort Salonga Road, when a man masturbated in front of her at 7:50 a.m.

Ricardo Reyes-Benitez, 28, of Sioux Place, was charged with public lewdness. Reyes-Benitez will be held overnight at the 2nd Precinct and arraigned on May 30 at First District Court in Central Islip.

Communities from across Suffolk County gathered on a wet Monday in support of the men and women who served our country to commemorate Memorial Day.

The evening of May 16 was a good one for school boards across New York State, as residents cast their ballots overwhelmingly in favor of district budgets.

According to the New York State School Boards Association, the average proposed school district tax levy increase in 2017-18 will be 1.48 percent, more than half a percentage point below the acclaimed 2 percent property tax cap. It is the fourth consecutive year the tax cap growth factor will be below 2 percent.

Here’s how school districts on the North Shore of Suffolk County fared:

Commack
According to the Commack school district’s website, the district voted 2,019-555 in favor of the $187,532,818 proposed budget. Carpenter edged out Janine DiGirolamo 1,363 votes to 1,059, and Hender narrowly beat April Pancella Haupt 1,240 to 1,148.

Comsewogue
Comsewogue residents voted 789 in favor and 208 not against the $89,796,337 budget. Incumbents Ali Gordon and Jim Sanchez won back their seats in an uncontested race, with 882 and 846 votes, respectively.

Harborfields
Members of the district voted 1,224 to 249 for the $84.4 million budget. In a tightly-contested race, David Steinberg and Christopher Kelly won the two open seats with 800 and 741 votes, respectively. Sternberg won back his seat, while the third time seemed to be a charm for Kelly. Laura Levenberg finished with 623 votes while Anila Nitekman totaled 467.

Hauppauge
The Hauppauge school district passed its $107,965,857 budget 811-308, and its capital reserve fund proposition 869-248, according to the district’s Facebook page. James Kiley and Lawrence Craft were elected to the board of education, with 803 and 797 votes, respectively.

Huntington
Residents passed the $126.2 million budget and capital reserve proposition, according to the district website. Trustees Jennifer Hebert and Xavier Palacios were re-elected to three-year terms.

Kings Park
The Kings Park community passed its $88.5 million proposed budget with 1,360 yes votes to 533 no. Incumbent Joe Bianco won back his seat with 989 votes, while challengers Katy Cardinale and J.P. Andrade finished with 733 and 110.

“I just feel great,” Kings Park Superintendent Tim Eagan said. “The budget passed with 72 percent approval. I’m just happy that the community is very happy with what we have going on here, and it’s just great to have their support. We’ve been fortunate the last couple of years. We’ve been 70 percent passing or higher.”

Middle Country
Residents chose to pass the $243,590,487 proposed budget 1,658-418. Runners Dina Phillips (1,523), Ellie Estevez (1,380) and Doreen Felmann (1,512) won their uncontested board of education seat races, with 17 write-in votes.

Miller Place
Voters passed the $126.2 million budget 763-162. With no challengers, Lisa Reitan and Richard Panico were elected with 726 and 709 votes. Other write-in candidates totaled 23 votes.

Mount Sinai
The $59,272,525 budget was overwhelmingly passed by residents, 1,007 to 251 and the library 1,111 to 144. Incumbents Robert Sweeney (1,013), Edward Law (866) and Peter Van Middelem (860) won back their seats, while Michael McGuire almost doubled his total from last year, finishing with 597.

“I’m very happy that it passed,” Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said. “We have great programs here. We can maintain those programs. We made the AP Honor Roll two years in a roll. Almost every team right now is in the playoffs, our music program is better than ever, so to keep those programs is great, but we’re not resting on that. Now we can get to work on our elementary reading program, bolstering that, we have a new principal coming in who has high expectations. There are programs we want to put in place that a lot of our kids need in the elementary school.”

He was disappointed with the turnout, though.

“I’m not happy,” he said. “We’re 200 lower than last year. We have 9,000 eligible voters. I’d like to see 500 to another 1,00 approve it so we have everyone together.”

Northport-East Northport
Northport-East Northport residents said “yes, yes, yes.” With 2,074 votes for and 636 against, the $163,306,840 budget passed, while support was also strong for the capital reserve expenditure, with 2,197 votes for and 512 against. This will allow the district to use capital reserves to fund additional projects including resurfacing/replacing two tennis courts and replacing the fence at William J. Brosnan School, installing new operable gymnasium windows at East Northport Middle School, replacing circuit panels at Northport High School, replacing auditorium seating at William J. Brosnan School and replacing classroom ceilings at Dickinson Avenue Elementary School. Donna McNaughton beat out Thomas Loughran for the lone seat up for grabs with 1,750 votes to Loughran’s 769.

Port Jefferson
Community members passed the nearly $43 million proposed budget 338-74. Renovations and upgrades using the capital reserve funds was also passed, 368-43. Incumbents Adam DeWitt and David Keegan were re-elected to serve three-year terms, with 357 and 356 votes, respectively.

Rocky Point
Rocky Point residents voted to pass the $83,286,346 budget with 663 saying yes, while 246 said no. The district also sought voter approval to access $3,385,965 million from its capital reserve fund in order to complete facility renovations across the district. For that proposal, 600 voted for and 312 against.

“We are extremely grateful for the community’s support of our proposed budget and capital improvement plan,” Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring said. “The educational enhancements included in this budget are ones that we believe will further support the needs of Rocky Point students while also providing them with opportunities to succeed at even greater levels, while still maintaining our commitment to fiscal responsibility.”

Incumbent board of education member Sean Callahan and newcomer Joseph Coniglione, who is principal of Comsewogue High school, were elected with 713 and 641 votes, respectively.

Shoreham-Wading River
Voters approved the $74, 842,792 budget 1,112 for to 992 against, and passed the capital reserve fund with 1,282 yes’ to 813 nos. The people are calling for change, as Katie Anderson (1,318), Henry Perez (1,303), Erin Hunt (1,279) and Michaell Yannuci (1,087) won seats, while James Smith (1,015), Jack Costas (563) and John Zukowski (524) missed the mark. Yannucci, who has previously been on the board, will be taking the one-year seat left by Michael Fucito, and both incumbents have been ousted.

Smithtown
The community passed the proposed budget with 2,241 yes votes to 693 no. Incumbents Gledy Waldron and Joanne McEnroy, who were running unopposed, won back their seats with 2,095 and 2,090 votes, respectively.  Matthew Gribbin defeated incumbent Grace Plours with 1,835 votes to Plourde’s 1,155.

Three Village
Three Village residents voted 1,708 for to 719 against the proposed $204.4 million budget. With no challengers, incumbents Jeff Kerman, Irene Gische and Inger Germano won back their seats with 1,805, 1,794 and 1,753 votes, respectively.

Northport elementary students cheer on their classmates playing Family Feud, Monday, May 8. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Victoria Espinoza

The halls of the W. J. Brosnan Building were roaring with cheers Monday night as elementary students in Northport learned how to have fun and stay drug free during a game night hosted by the Northport-East Northport Drug and Alcohol Task Force.

Kids from all five of the elementary schools in the district battled for prizes in Family Feud, dance competitions and more, while also learning about ways to avoid peer pressure and enjoy a drug-free life. Parents of the students sat in the audience to cheer on the contestants.

Anthony Ferrandino, co-chair of the task force, said the group wanted to do something in the realm of prevention, aimed at fifth-graders who are transitioning to middle school.

Northport elementary students play Family Feud, Monday, May 8. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

“We wanted to hit the younger kids with the prevention message but do it a little bit differently, where they were having fun while learning,” Ferrandino said in a phone interview. “We wanted to show the kids, if you don’t do drugs you can have fun.”

The co-chair said he got in touch with Kym Laube, the executive director of Human Understanding and Growth Services, or HUGS, a group aimed at prevention efforts, who told him about the program she ran in another school district.

“I said that’s exactly what we’re looking for,” Ferrandino said. He sent out surveys for all the students to complete in school, which became the answers in Family Feud, and the students created posters on being drug free and some even came up with a rap they performed during the dance contest.

“This was a unique way to send a message to the kids,” Ferrandino said. “We’re trying to start a positive culture because there’s so much negative energy.”

Laube, who Ferrandino described as “the queen of prevention,” said this type of interactive concept is successful at getting families and kids on the same page.

A poster decorated by elementary school students. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

“He [Ferandino] took it to a whole other level though,” she said in a phone interview. “He turned it into more than just a one evening event. This culminated into weeks of learning about prevention — it reinforces the information. When young people get together and have fun and experience a natural high, it just reinforces what the school is trying to do.”

Laube was the host of Family Feud and said the event was a total success.

“It was a blast,” she said. “Fifth graders have such an intense energy, and to see the joy of their parents watching their children have fun and be free, it was great. It was also a great showcase for what the task force is working to accomplish.”

Ferrandino said he agreed the night was great. Students won prizes like a pizza party for their school, tickets to Adventureland, laser tag and more alternative activities to have fun instead of drug use.

“It was awesome,” he said. “The dance-off was planned for 15 minutes, and the kids could’ve gone for more than an hour. The hidden gem was really all the prevention work that was done weeks before last night, all the work the elementary counselor did ahead of time.”

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