Education

Photo from Town of Brookhaven

The Town of Brookhaven Youth Bureau’s INTERFACE Back to School Drive is currently underway and will run through Friday, August 27. Last year, the INTERFACE Program collected enough supplies to help 1,200 children in need to enter the school year prepared to learn. Collection boxes for the Back to School Drive can be found at:

  1. Town Hall Lobby – 1 Independence Hill, Farmingville
  2. Parks Department Administration Building – 286 Hawkins Road, Centereach
  3. Highway Department Facility – 1140 Old Town Road, Coram
  4. Vehicle Control Building – 550 N. Ocean Avenue, Patchogue
  5. College 101 – 290 Main Street, East Setauket
  6. Modular Devices – 1 Roned Road, Shirley
  7. All For You Hair Salon – 161-1 Long Island Avenue, Holtsville

The Youth Bureau’s INTERFACE Program is asking for donations of pens, calculators, backpacks, notebooks, lunch boxes, folders, glue, binders and more. The supplies will be distributed to families in need who otherwise would be unable to provide them to their children before school begins.

INTERFACE is a partnership between individuals, generous corporate neighbors and the Town of Brookhaven united in a shared effort to give assistance to Brookhaven’s less fortunate residents all year round. For further information about the Back to School Drive and Brookhaven Youth Bureau programs and services please visit brookhavenny.gov or call 631-451-8011.

Suffolk County Community College interns prepare to take environmental samples in a south shore salt marsh. From left: Jake Montgomery, David Ziff, Jessica Cormier, Field Supervisor Nicholas Cormier, Brendan Lin, Kyler Vander Putten, and Grace Nelson. Suffolk County Community College photo

Six Suffolk County Community College interns are spending their summer monitoring the health of tidal wetlands as part of a multi-year study funded by a grant issued to Suffolk County and the College from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Grace Nelson holds an American Eel, a common inhabitant of the salt marsh. SCCC photo

Interns Jake Montgomery (Hampton Bays), David Ziff (West Islip), Kyler Vander Putten (Oakdale), Brendan Lin (Stony Brook), Grace Nelson (Selden), and Jessica Cormier (Farmingville) don waders, backpacks and other protection from the heat and biting insects to navigate through the challenging conditions of Suffolk’s south shore salt marshes as part of a multi-year post-Hurricane Sandy tidal wetland restoration project.

Assistant Professor of Marine Biology and grant coordinator Dr. Kellie McCartin said the students are given an orientation before starting their field work to understand the overall goals and science behind the multi-year study and how to safely navigate the salt marshes. “There are three monitoring aspects to this study: measuring the abundance of mosquito larvae, surveying the fish, invertebrate and plant community, and measuring water quality. Our students are learning a wide variety of skills and data collecting methods commonly performed by environmental scientists,” McCartin explained and said that the students are in the field up to four times per week collecting data that are vital to current and future salt marsh restoration efforts here on Long Island.

“Salt marshes play an important ecological role as the interface between the marine and the terrestrial environment, said Project Director of the Coastal Resiliency Internship Amy Dries.

“Salt marshes also affect public health by providing larval habitat for mosquitoes that are vectors for disease,” Dries said, adding that previously, ditching and pesticides were used as a control mechanism. “Ditching requires maintenance, and mosquitoes develop resistance to pesticides in the long term,” Dries said.

Beginning in the summer of 2017, select marshes on the south shore of Long Island were sampled weekly for mosquito larvae, nekton, and vegetation were collected and water quality parameters (dissolved oxygen, temperature, and salinity) were measured by interns from Suffolk County Community College. Hot spots of mosquito larvae were frequently found near locations of the invasive Common Reed, Phragmites australis, where reduced water flow and low salinities were also identified. Based on the data obtained by the interns, restoration of the marshes began in 2019.

Jessica Cormier pulls a minnow trap during a monthly nekton survey. SCCC photo

“We need healthy wetlands for a healthy Suffolk County,” said Edward Bonahue, President of Suffolk CountyCommunity College, “whether it’s water quality, habitat restoration, or aquaculture. Our students clearly feel a sense of urgency about this project, and I’m delighted they’re committing their time and energy to studying our crucial natural resources.”

Suffolk graduate and now Field Supervisor Nick Cormier, himself an intern before earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from Stony Brook University, said it’s nice to combine a passion for science with being outdoors. “It’s a great opportunity that’s also fun,” Cormier said, “the students are engaged and inquisitive. They want to be there,” he said.

Suffolk intern Brendan Lin of Stony Brook said he recommends the internship to anyone who’s interested in environmental science. “It’s quite interesting how the data we collect will help improve marsh conditions,” Lin, who is pursuing an environmental science and forestry degree, said.

Kyler Vander Putten said the internship is helping him narrow his study choices. “I’ve been really interested in the environmental science world and marine biology,” Vander Putten said. “I’m going to try and narrow it down by taking part in different internships and opportunities wherever I can. The field work we do supports everything we learned in class,” he said.

“The students are excited to be in the field. They’re applying what they’ve learned in the classroom or virtual classroom and it is a fantastic experience for any student interested in a career in the sciences” McCartin said.

The students in Eastern Suffolk BOCES Summer Enrichment Programs spent the summer designing video games, authoring books, exploring the ocean, and so much more. The Summer Enrichment Programs, held in the Bayport-Blue Point, Bayshore, Comsewogue, and Connetquot districts, featured STEAM-based activities, which incorporate the arts into the STEM model. Students participated in hands-on science and math classes, literacy courses and reading groups, and field trips to the Long Island Aquarium, Adventureland, Splish Splash, and virtual ESBOCES Arts-In-Education Programs.

Sessions ran in three, two- week sessions at each location from July 6 through August 13, 2021, and were available to all students entering Grades 1 through 9 in September. Students had half-day and full-day options, as well as an entire summer option.

Lauren Matarese, program director at the Bayport-Blue Point location, has seen firsthand how this program helps students avoid educational regression over the summer months. “The guided reading groups and writing support that we have incorporated are really helping the students practice their literacy skills,” she says. In addition to the enrichment activities, students spend time participating in team sports, arts and crafts, and games. “The students are still having summer fun, but with academics built in,” says Ms. Matarese.

The ESBOCES Model Schools Program assisted the summer staff with integrating new technology into the curriculum for the Summer Enrichment Programs. The Model Schools Program offers support to teachers in the area of technology integration in order to facilitate the implementation of the New York State Learning Standards. The goal of Eastern Suffolk BOCES is to provide a multifaceted educational experience for all students.

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Port Jefferson School District summer music camp students with music teachers Mark Abbonizio (left) and Christian Neubert (right). Photo from PJSD

Dozens of Port Jefferson students are advancing their musical skills by taking part in the Summer Music Camp at Port Jefferson.

Port Jefferson School District summer music camp students with music teachers Mark Abbonizio (left) and Christian Neubert (right). Photo from PJSD

Beginner and intermediate band and string classes for elementary and middle school students are led by music teachers Mark Abbonizio and Christian Neubert. The lessons at Edna Louise Spear Elementary School help to foster an appreciation of music and to develop the skills for New York State School Music Association solo performances during the academic year.

“We are excited to see our students and educators back creating music together,” Michael Caravello, district director of music and fine arts said. “The joy in exploring their talents and expanding their confidence as they master playing their instrument is a great boost to their self-esteem and a positive outlet for creativity.”

From left, Rocky Point High School’s Samantha Leversen, Tessa Cunningham and Brenna Kiernan. Photo from the Rocky Point School District

Rocky Point High School was well represented at the annual Teeny Awards and brought home two first-place honors from the July 11 event. 

The ceremony was held at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center and sponsored by the East End Arts Council.

Brenna Kiernan won in the category of Outstanding Performer in a Play, Musical/Mini-Musical or Musical Revue in the high school’s Musical Revue: A Broadway Revue. Tessa Cunningham, Brenna Kiernan and Samantha Leversen received first-place honors for Best Duet/Trio Performance in a Musical Revue for “Webber Love Trio” in the same stage performance. 

In addition to Tessa, Brenna and Samantha, the Rocky Point School District congratulated nominees Grace Benedetto, Chris Carley, Jillian Carley, Adam Olszewski, Renee Ortiz and Jacey Ruisi. 

The students who worked along with Mary Donovan and Jaimie Mancini, were lauded at the ceremony for the obstacles they overcame to still creatively perform during the pandemic.

“The Teeny Awards were such an exciting event,” Mancini said. “It was a wonderful way to honor our students for all of their tremendous talent and efforts throughout this year.”

Organizer Cait Corrigan speaks at the July 19 rally in Stony Brook.

It may be weeks before colleges open again, but students and friends are already rallying against the potential of a requirement coming this fall semester.

Cait Corrigan and a protester in Stony Brook July 19. Photo from Cait Corrigan

On Monday, July 19, more than 200 people showed up across from the Stony Brook Long Island Rail Road train station on Route 25A to protest mandated COVID-19 vaccines for State University of New York and City University of New York students.

The Students Against Mandates rally took place less than a mile from Stony Brook University which is a SUNY school. In May, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said the students in the state university system would be required to be vaccinated once the vaccines get full FDA approval, which is still pending.

On the SUNY website, Chancellor Jim Malatras in a May 10 statement talked about the educational system’s success in curbing infections and the possibility of a vaccination requirement.

“We thank the governor for providing resources to our many campuses offering vaccines to SUNY and the broader community,” Malatras said. “The state’s new vaccination requirement — contingent on full FDA approval — will be another step in restoring normal campus activity this fall.”

Cait Corrigan, who will attend Boston University in the fall for her second master’s and describes herself as a religious and medical rights advocate and defender of the Constitution on her social media pages, organized the event. She said in an email while SUNY and CUNY have not taken official action yet, “many private schools such as Hofstra and Fordham universities have told students they must get the experimental COVID-19 vaccine to attend in the fall.”

The recent graduate of Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Indiana, said she “overturned my school’s policy for requiring proof of COVID vaccination and proof of a negative COVID test for graduation.”

She is now helping others do the same. At the July 19 rally, protesters held up signs with messages such “SUNY! No forced vax!” and “Vaccine makers are exempt from liability.”

Among the elected officials in attendance were state Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) and Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga). Civil rights attorney Tricia Lindsay also joined the students.

Trotta said in a phone interview it would be hypocritical to ask students to be vaccinated when unvaccinated people are going to stores and bars maskless. The county legislator said students can most likely socially distance themselves in a classroom more than they can in a store or restaurant. He added that young people are more likely to die in a car accident or from an opioid overdose than from COVID-19.

Students speak out on why they believe COVID-19 vaccines should not be mandatory for college students in Stony Brook on July 19.

Trotta said he is not against vaccinations, and he got his as soon as he could.

“I think people should get vaccinated, but I’m not going to tell people to get vaccinated,” he said, adding that he feels the same way about wearing masks, that while he’s not against them he doesn’t believe people should be forced to do so.

SBU will follow “the state’s and SUNY chancellor’s public health guidance for students and employees,” according to a statement from the university. SBU surveyed students and employees earlier this summer and found high rates of vaccinations among the school’s population.

“As a public research institution, Stony Brook affirms and strongly supports freedom of expression and the use of science and data to make informed decisions,” the statement read. “The safety and efficacy of the vaccines approved for emergency use by the FDA were demonstrated by many carefully monitored clinical trials, including some that Stony Brook helped to lead. As with other immunizations that are required to enroll at Stony Brook, the COVID vaccines are important tools to protect our community’s public health and ensure student’s optimal learning experience. We maintain the same process as for other required immunizations, to consider exceptions for religious or health reasons.”

In the fall, SBU and SUNY students who are not fully vaccinated will be required to wear masks on campus and maintain social distancing in indoor settings.

Student researchers from Brentwood Union Free School District have been working as environmental interns for New York State Parks in a program that was developed by Dr. Rebecca Grella and Regional Parks Environmental Manager Annie McIntyre. Grella is a Brentwood high school teacher and an affiliated Stony Brook University instructor.

Brentwood student researchers have been involved in marsh restoration efforts for the last three years and have collected informative ecological data at Sunken Meadow State Park. The district has partnered with the EarthBus partnership with the BIOBUS education program, which aims at increasing the diversity of student participation in geosciences and developed by SBU’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) and the Department of Geosciences in the College of Arts and Sciences

It is one of the Brentwood district’s most recent collaborative grants supported by the National Science Foundation to advance STEM for students and educators.

Suffolk County Community College has been awarded $90,000 as part of the Johnson Controls Community College Partnership grant. Suffolk is one of 10 community colleges nationally to receive the grant award that may be renewed annually for up to four years.

“This Johnson Controls award will advance the ability of our HVAC program to train high-need, high-skills technicians for our county workforce, and to partner with area employers who need this talent,” said Dr. Edward Bonahue, President of Suffolk County Community College. “We’re very grateful to Johnson Controls for investing in community college programs that are keeping up with cutting-edge building engineering technology.”

The college will use its funding to invest in state-of-the-art training simulators and growth of a guided mentoring program featuring Johnson Controls employees supporting peer mentoring and career counseling.

The Johnson Controls grant supports efforts to expand associate degree and certificate programs in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), fire and security and digital building automation systems, all areas where the U.S. Bureau of Labor is predicting an increased need for skilled trades expertise in coming years. In general, the funding will support the purchase and development of classroom materials, learning technologies and student scholarships.

“We are excited by this opportunity,” said Sylvia A. Diaz, PhD, LMSW, executive director Suffolk Community College Foundation. “Johnson Controls’ award is transformative and aligns with our Foundation’s mission is to support student access to a superior quality education and vocational skills training by providing critical funding for students pursuing rewarding careers in the dynamic Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVAC/R) industry.”

“Johnson Controls is proud to build upon our significant presence in Suffolk County by partnering with Suffolk County Community College on the Community College Partnership Program. We believe the program will empower people to build life-long careers that will transform their lives and their communities,” said Grady Crosby, VP of Public Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer at Johnson Controls.“Just as smart, healthy buildings are critical to our well-being, well-educated and trained technicians are crucial to keeping our environments operating safely and efficiently. As a leader in the building industry for over a century, Johnson Controls is honored to share our expertise with the country’s leading community colleges.”

Suffolk County Community College’s Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVAC/R) program prepares students for rewarding and challenging positions in the ever-changing and growing HVAC/R industry by combining comprehensive, career-based courses such as system design, diagnostics, servicing and controls with real-life, hands-on training through internships and intensive laboratory sessions. The HVAC/R curriculum provides students with the credentials and experience needed to obtain immediate employment upon successful program completion.

Visit: https://www.sunysuffolk.edu/explore-academics/majors-and-programs/hvac/about.jsp for more information.

 

Laura Adams. Photo from SCCC

Seven Suffolk County Community College Radio and Television Production (RTV) interns are helping Suffolk crime fighters after being tapped by Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini to help produce training videos for his office’s prosecutors. Interns include Laura Adams of Nesconset; Rob Scioscia of Mastic; Melina Williams of Centereach; Dylan Strickland of Medford; Henry Yanza of East Patchogue; Justin Rivera of Commack and Zachary Rodrigues of Lake Ronkonkoma (not pictured).

Photo from SCCC

“Here in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office we invest heavily in top class training for members of our team. When new prosecutors join our Office, they undergo three weeks of training right off the bat, and even the most seasoned members of our team participate in the Office’s rigorous ongoing training program every single year on top of their busy schedules,” District Attorney Sini said. “Being able to have these training materials available to ADAs on-demand at all times is an invaluable tool, and we are grateful to SCCC for making that possible. This was certainly a win-win for our Office and for the participants in the RTV program. I thank SCCC for their continued partnership and look forward to expanding this program in the future.”

RTV Professor and Assistant Academic Chair Gayle Sheridan said the opportunity is a natural fit for the students who travelled to the Riverhead court complex to shoot the first of several training videos for Sini’s office, the State’s 6th largest prosecutor’s office with more than 204 attorneys.

Sheridan said that working with the district attorney’s team was an invaluable learning opportunity for RTV student interns because it was a “real life planning, shooting and editing experience.”

Rob Scioscia

“The DA’s team are the content experts,” Sheridan explained, “and we are the skilled production team. Students learned how to combine those skills to produce an effective instructional tool.”

“Using a multicamera approach gave students the chance to see and experience what the possibilities are as well as the complexities of a field production. Dealing with ‘talent’ outside the RTV program gave students a chance to see what that was like too,” Sheridan said.

The students, Sheridan said, worked through scripts and script revisions as well as blocking movements.

Sheridan said that the students will now also learn how to do postproduction multicamera editing, an important skill she said for when RTV students are competing for jobs.  “Our students shine because they have really strong production skills,” Sheridan boasted.

Laura Adams, 39 of Nesconset, a camera operator and post production editor on the technically challenging four-camera shoot said the experience was both rewarding and invaluable.

“The partnership between Suffolk County Community College and The Suffolk County District Attorney’s office provided an amazing production experience for RTV students. Throughout our involvement, we were able to apply our skills, collaborate with talent, and gain an invaluable understanding of our chosen field of study,” Adams said.

Kathy McLeod retired back in 2013, but she still kept a tradition of mailing her former students a keepsake when it was their turn to graduate. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Kathy MacLeod taught in the Miller Place School District for 36 years. 

Mostly a fourth-grade teacher, she created years ago a project that would eventually become a tradition for her students and their families. 

“The students had to write a letter to themselves that I would save and mail to them when they were ready to graduate from high school,” she said. “And they were just adorable.”

MacLeod would have the students write to their future selves about their families, hobbies, what they learned in school and what they thought they’d be doing as a senior.

Ariel’s self portrait.

“Sometimes, they were very funny, like, I’ll be driving a Lamborghini or, you know, I’ll be playing Major League Baseball,” she said. “And some would be more realistic, saying that I’ll be driving a car or working at McDonald’s.”

The first batch of letters had to wait eight years to eventually be mailed out, with a reminder of the graduating year when they were to be dispatched. 

And the majority of the time, MacLeod said, the students forgot the assignment from their elementary school days. 

The Miller Place High School graduating class of 2021 was different, though, as this was MacLeod’s last batch of letters. 

In 2013, she decided to retire, but retirement didn’t mean stopping from sending out the last eight batches of letters her students wrote. Over the last eight years, she sent the envelopes back to them with copies of what the children wrote to themselves. 

Sadly, this was her last group to graduate.

“The parents love it,” she said. “They’re very emotional when their kids are getting ready to graduate, and it’s like a voice from the past.”

MacLeod is so devoted, she always finds a way to get the letter into the right hands — one former student she had to track down in Arizona, and the girl was thrilled. 

“Teaching there was the best job I could have had in the best school,” MacLeod said. “It really was a wonderful place to work.”

Along with the letter and the self-portraits she encouraged them to draw, MacLeod attaches a photo from the students’ fourth-grade class picture. The kids look different now. 

“I remember them like it was yesterday,” she said. “It’s so funny seeing them grown up.”

Of the class that has just graduated, the students recently received their letters that their previous teacher mailed out. 

Andrew’s self portrait.

Andrew Bova, 17, said the blast from the past was very different than what he previously remembered. 

“I wrote to myself that I’d be a professional Islander player,” he said. “Now I’m going to Emerson College for musical theater.”

Bova said it was a blast from the past and reading what he thought of his life when he was 8 years old was nostalgic. 

He said can’t thank her enough for this fun memory. 

“She’s by far my favorite teacher,” he said. “I really appreciate her.”

Ariel Martin, another student, said that her 8-year-old self thought she would have pink streaks in her hair and would be going to Harvard after high school.

She decided instead to Chapman University in California for film production. 

“I just want to give her a big ‘thank-you’ for holding onto these and sending them out to all of us,” she said. “To this day, she’s my favorite teacher.”

MacLeod said it’s bittersweet that she won’t have to head to the post office with a large envelope in 2022. 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

“I just wanted to remind them how proud I am of them, how creative and fun the class was,” she said. “But this class in particular, they were such a creative, loving bunch. It wasn’t an easy last year and a half, and I just think they came through with flying colors.”