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Joseph Pierce, associate professor in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature and the inaugural director of Stony Brook University’s Native American and Indigenous Studies program. Photo courtesy Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University named Joseph Pierce, associate professor in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature, the inaugural director of a Native American and Indigenous Studies effort as the university plans to hire three new faculty in this nascent undertaking.

Next year, the southern flagship school of the State University of New York plans to add staff in the English Department, Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies and Anthropology.

“I have been eager for this to start,” said Pierce, a member of the Cherokee Nation who has been at the university for a decade. “We have so much to contribute to broader discussions that are happening around the world. The university is better by including Native American studies.”

Andrew Newman, professor and chair of the Department of English at SBU. Photo courtesy Stony Brook University

Andrew Newman, professor and current chair of the Department of English, who is also chair of a committee advising Axel Drees, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, described Pierce as having a “real national profile,” adding that he was the “right person to be the founding director.”

Starting next fall, students at the university can minor in Native American and Indigenous Studies, where they can study the history, art, social and political interests, languages and cultures of Indigenous peoples.

The focus on Native American Studies will emphasize transdisciplinary topics such as environmental justice and sustainability.

Earlier this year, Stony Brook won a competition to develop Governors Island as a climate solutions center [See story, “SBU will develop $700M climate center on Governors Island,” April 26, TBR News Media].

Indigenous scholars should have a “seat at the table,” said Newman, “as they are globally one of the demographics most impacted by climate change.”

Islands in the Pacific are disappearing, Guam is undergoing “significant environmental degradation,” and fires in the Pacific Northwest and leaking pipelines in the United States and Canada are “disproportionately affecting Indigenous peoples,” Pierce added.

Indigenous groups relate to the land in a way that’s different from others, approaching it as stewards and caretakers, Pierce said.

“We see land as a relative,” he noted. “We’re asking very different questions about what it means to care for a place and to care for the environment and to care for the life that sustains it.”

The New York City government proposed plans for flood relief on the lower East Side of Manhattan in the event of future storms like Hurricane Sandy. The proposals included building massive walls and raising elevated platforms, including clearing thousands of trees.

Numerous indigenous groups objected and protested against such plans, Pierce said.

In an email, Carl Lejuez, Stony Brook University’s provost, suggested that a significant piece of Governors Island is climate justice, so the link between the Governors Island effort and indigenous peoples “fits naturally with the goals of the New York Climate Exchange.”

Axel Drees, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at SBU. Photo courtesy Stony Brook University

Lejuez credited Drees as a “driver of this in collaboration with Professor Pierce.” Lejuez added that his office is “definitely providing support to see it come to fruition.”

The most crucial component in the start of this effort is hiring faculty.

“If we build the core faculty across the university, we can definitely consider expanding research and curriculum opportunities,” Lejuez wrote.

Student interest

Students from the Anthropology Department recently invited Pierce to give a talk about some of his current research.

“It was evident that a lot of them have an interest in working toward understanding humanity, what it means to be human,” he said. They also have an understanding of how anthropology as a discipline has sometimes historically “adopted rather unscientific and proto-eugenic methods” in describing and analyzing Indigenous Peoples.

Students are eager for an alternative perspective on the acquisition and acceptance of knowledge.

Pierce believes students have considerable interest in Native American Studies. His courses about Latin American indigenous populations are full.

“There are numerous students who are interested in Native American and Indigenous studies but don’t quite have a cohesive plan of study that’s available to them,” Pierce said. “This is remedying that disconnection.”

Long Island students grow up in numerous towns and communities with Native American names, such as Sachem, Wyandanch, Montauk and Setauket.

Newman added that the staff hopes the new effort can do some “outreach to local schools and provide professional development with kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers. It would be an important mission for the university to educate Long Island as a whole about Native culture.”

By Aidan Johnson

The Setalcott Nation hosted its annual corn festival and powwow on part of their ancestral home at Setauket Elementary School last weekend, July 8-9.

Throughout the day, members of multiple Native nations performed traditional dances and music.

“This powwow represents the tribes all over who are here getting together and thanking the Great Spirit, or God, as most people refer to him, for helping us through the bad and good and for keeping us safe,” said Helen “Hart of Morning Star” Sells, president of the Setalcott National Council.

The festival also celebrated corn, one of the Setalcott’s staple crops grown throughout the region. There was also a focus on the Setalcott Nation’s future and the need to acknowledge the past harmful actions done to the tribe.

The Setalcott also continue to fight for federal recognition, according to Sells, and to have their land restored.

Above, Jeff Schnee, president of Three Village Historical Society, tells visitors what the barn and education center will be like. Photo by Mallie Jane Kim

Amid raising funds to raise a barn, Three Village Historical Society is also looking to raise friends. 

Above, Jeff Schnee, president of Three Village Historical Society, tells visitors what the barn and education center will be like. Photo by Mallie Jane Kim

A so-called FRIENDraiser on Wednesday evening, June 28, was intended to provide a construction progress update and inform neighbors about the planned $1.3 million Dominick-Crawford Barn Education and History Center on North Country Road in East Setauket.

“People may drive by and not know what’s going on behind that fence,” said Kimberly Phyfe, the society’s development coordinator. 

Rain soaked the site right up until the event started, but still about 100 visitors came out to join hard-hat tours of the construction site, listen to live music, buy pierogies and, of course, make donations — to the tune of about $3,000. 

“We love this community and what we’re building here, so to see everybody come out and support us despite the downpours of rain is so heartening,” said Phyfe.

The barn, named for George and Sarah Dominick, who built the barn circa 1847, and William and Janet Crawford, its last private owners, will serve as a home for artifacts and exhibits, as well as an ADA-compliant event and education center on the ground floor that will be able to fit up to 183 people at a time. 

That’s a far cry from the society’s museum next door to the construction site, where 15 people at a time can tour exhibits about the area’s history — the Revolutionary War Culper Spy Ring and the multiethnic Chicken Hill community centered around first a piano factory and later a rubber factory.

During a hard-hat tour of the construction site, society president Jeffrey Schnee told visitors the larger space will dramatically improve logistics for the society’s history programs for students from Three Village Central School District, other school districts and BOCES programs.

“The schools always want to send more than one school bus,” Schnee said, adding that groups of students would have to wait outside while 15 classmates toured the museum. “That leaves an awkward situation.”

Children play historic games at the barn ‘friendraiser.’ Photo by Mallie Jane Kim

Instead, up to four buses of students can gather in the center’s main room, according to Schnee, where there will be a timber frame reconstruction of the historic barn with wood recovered from its original site in the Village of Old Field.

Subjects for future exhibits at the center include veterans of Three Village, women of Three Village and archaeology of historic sites around the area. There is also an oral history booth planned, where visitors can search by keyword and listen to available oral records.

“We’ll be able to bring more tourism to the area, and we’ll be able to explain more about the history of the area,” said Schnee.

The historical society is still looking to raise about $650,000 for the center and is planning to provide opportunities for community involvement in coming months, according to Phyfe. She said they are also looking into additional grants — the society previously received a $350,000 grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation and a $300,000 grant secured by former state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket).

For more information about the barn education center, visit tvhs.org/buildthebarn.

Maureen Manyasa-Zangrillo near the hole where children used to fetch drinking water before a well project.. Photo from Manyasa-Zangrillo

As a child in Kenya, Maureen Nabwire Manyasa-Zangrillo, now 35, loved learning about the world, but never dreamed she’d wind up living in the United States more than 7,000 miles away.

Maureen Nabwire Manyasa-Zangrillo with her husband, Joey. Photo from Manyasa-Zangrillo

She lived several different lifestyles moving around Kenya as a child, she said, following her father’s developing career as an agricultural scientist to cities and villages and back again, fostering her love of new places and different kinds of people. As she grew up, so did that passion, expanding outward from her region and continent to encompass the entire world atlas she loved to study.

So when a serendipitous meeting over a charity project gave her a chance to travel to the other side of the world to make a new life on the North Shore of Long Island, she was ready. Now married to Joey Zangrillo, owner of Joey Z’s Restaurant in Port Jefferson, she is in the perfect setting to keep learning. “My love for geography and reading maps really helps when I meet people,” she said. “I have a clue about almost every corner of the globe.”

Growing up in Kenya

Before she even started primary school, Manyasa-Zangrillo had lived in Nakuru, the fourth largest urban area in the nation; her family’s village in Busia near the Ugandan border; a remote agricultural field station outside of Kenya’s capital Nairobi; and finally the thriving urban capital itself.

When it was time to start school, Manyasa-Zangrillo’s parents moved her and her younger sisters back to the quieter Busia, where they stayed with an aunt in a circular mud hut built in the traditional manner of their ethnic group, the Luhya tribe, while her father started the long process of coordinating construction of a modern brick house.

It was common in Kenya for breadwinners to work in the cities but keep their families back home in the villages, and such was the case for Manyasa-Zangrillo’s father. So building the house was slow progress over the next four or five years, with her father coordinating the work whenever he could make time to be home from Nairobi. Her mother, a primary school teacher, was gone awhile also to advance her training at teachers college.

Both parents made sure to stay connected to the girls. The father would send letters and packages to his daughters through the local bus company’s courier service, and — since landlines were rare — would schedule times to talk. Manyasa-Zangrillo remembered friends with landline telephones in their offices coming to tell the family what time to wait at the local payphone booth. She and her sisters would crowd around. “You’d find all of us at the booth — he’d talk to us turn by turn,” she said. “That’s how we found ways to connect.” Once the house was finished, the family finally had a landline of their own. 

At age 10, Manyasa-Zangrillo’s lifestyle changed yet again, when she went to a Catholic boarding school, run by a very strict nun. “She was tough on us,” Manyasa-Zangrillo said, recalling that after parents visited, the staff would check the students to make sure they weren’t bringing in any outside food, drinks or treats.

 Amid the rigid schedule and lack of comfort food, Manyasa-Zangrillo discovered bright spots: literature and geography. The curriculum included many storybooks, in both English and Swahili. For Manyasa-Zangrillo, reading was a beautiful escape. “It was a way of distracting myself from all the craziness and strictness that was going around,” she said.

Her beloved geography also gave her mind space to travel. “They would teach us about different areas — you learn about the geography, the weather of all these places, the planting, cultivation, commerce structures and all those things,” she said. “I was just curious about places.”

As she was growing up, she saw her parents rise in their education and careers. Her father obtained his university degree, a master’s and eventually a doctorate in plant breeding for arid and semi-arid regions, and her mother earned a bachelor’s in special education. “I’d see how strong willed they are,” the daughter said. “It was really motivating to see.”

Manyasa-Zangrillo, right, with her parents and a cousin in Kenya. Photo from Manyasa-Zangrillo

This motivation helped Manyasa-Zangrillo succeed in her own education, earning a government scholarship to university herself. She struggled, though, to know what to study. In the end, she settled on law. “I wasn’t crazy about it,” she said, remembering she looked into other options like English linguistics, but her dad was even less crazy about that idea. “You have good grades — a top performance,” he told her, encouraging her to choose a major he saw as more serious.

After completing her education, she was admitted to the Kenyan bar and landed a job at the firm where she had carried out her required internship. She found ways to enjoy it. Serving documents or filing petitions, for example, took her all around the region. “I liked it because I love traveling, and I love seeing and exploring,” she said. “It was fulfilling my adventurous self because I’m going to new towns, new places.”

Charitable deeds

Another thing that helped fulfill her curiosity were opportunities to serve. Along with her sisters and other neighbors in Nairobi, where her family had relocated, Manyasa-Zangrillo had started a group called Youth for Change as a means to serve underprivileged children. So when her close friend from law school, Annette Kawira, invited her to volunteer at Bethsaida Community Foundation’s home for orphans, vulnerable children and children who had been living on the streets, she was happy to go along.

By 2016, Kawira had moved to the United States and found herself, of all places, in Joey Zangrillo’s Port Jefferson restaurant, then called Z Pita. Zangrillo had started a nonprofit organization and apparel company promoting racial reconciliation, and he was also donating 10% of his profits to charity. When Kawira saw a sign about the restaurant owner’s philanthropy, she remembered the Bethsaida orphanage and made a fast friendship and partnership with Zangrillo.

As the two organized fundraising on Long Island, Manyasa-Zangrillo served as the woman on the ground in Kenya, liaising between them and the children’s home. Logistical texts and FaceTime interactions between her and Zangrillo blossomed into friendship — she enjoyed his sense of humor — then took on a flirtatious air. Interest sparked. 

By the time he planned to take a trip to Kenya to visit Bethsaida and meet the children in 2017, he was also looking forward to meeting her. She remembered being nervous about what he would be like in person, but after she opened her door to him, she said, “he just busted in with so much energy, and I was like, OK, we’re going to get along.”

For his part, Zangrillo was drawn to her compassion. “What made me fall in love with my wife is when I saw the love in her eyes for the children in the orphanage,” he said. “That second, I knew.”

To Long Island and marriage

The trip was a success and plans to install a well at the orphanage moved forward, as did plans for Manyasa-Zangrillo to visit Long Island, which she did that fall. Joey Zangrillo sent Kawira and another Kenyan friend in a limo to pick her up from the airport, and she was charmed. Manhattan charmed her, too — it was larger than life, just like the movies. She even sat in the audience at “The Daily Show” to see the comic Trevor Noah she’d watched back in Africa.

Manyasa-Zangrillo found the Port Jefferson community and Zangrillo’s friends welcoming and warm, but the weather less so. “The drastic hot to cold — I felt like my ears were going to fall off,” she said. 

The weather wasn’t enough to keep her away. After a couple months back in the more temperate climate of Kenya, she kept thinking about New York, Zangrillo and the possibilities. “In my legal profession, I was wallowing a bit,” she said. “Am I going to do this for the rest of my life, yet I’m feeling like this is not what I really wanted to do.”

So she took a risk and came back in early 2018, still unsure what the future would hold. Zangrillo was more certain. “He was like, ‘You know what? I would like you to stay.’”

They married that summer. “There’s no need to overthink something that is good,” she said of the quick timeline, adding that where immigration law is involved, “you date through the marriage because you don’t have a long courtship.”

She found her transition to New York easy, partly because of Kawira and other Kenyan connections, but also because of her new husband. He’d told so many people about her and about the orphanage that restaurantgoers and friends were thrilled to meet her, and to learn more about her. “It’s so refreshing because when I walk in, people say, ‘You must be Maureen,’” she said. “Through the restaurant, I’m meeting people every day.”

For Zangrillo, having her in town is “a godsend,” he said. “It changed my life — I’m a happy man, with a happy life.”

Careerwise, the future is still open for Manyasa-Zangrillo. She has taken a paralegal class and is studying the American legal system in case she wants to return to her original career path. She helps at the restaurant and has introduced a top-selling menu item — the lemon potatoes. The couple are continuing their charity work, as well, with hopes to install a school library for students in a Nairobi slum settlement.

Now living in Setauket, Manyasa-Zangrillo has come to appreciate the North Shore’s feel and location, not too close and not too far from the city. “My life dream when I was younger was just to be somewhere that is full of nature and very serene, and the environment is cool,” she said. “I’d say I got it here.”

It was a bright and breezy Monday as hundreds lined Route 25A in Setauket to cheer on the annual Memorial Day parade participants.

The event kicked off after a wreath-laying ceremony on the Village Green across from Emma S. Clark Memorial Library.

Veterans, scouts, elected officials, the Ward Melville marching band and more made their way down the parade route, ending with a closing ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park on Shore Road and 25A.

Earlier in the day, another ceremony was held at Stony Brook Harbor Memorial near the fire department.

The Huangs celebrate 30 years in business with their children Jason and Amy. Photo from the Huang family

By Mallie Kim

Xin Tian Huang came to Long Island with a couple changes of clothes and a clear goal: to learn English and send money back home to his family in Fujian, a province in southeastern China. Huang, now co-owner with his wife Zhi Dan Huang of Kai Li Kitchen in East Setauket, was 18 in 1981 when he landed at John F. Kennedy Airport on an early, frozen January morning. He was shocked and delighted to experience knee-deep snow for the first time, and another discovery soon followed: American soda. “The first day, I drank Coca Cola — ‘What is that?’” he remembered thinking. At the time he’d never even seen Coke advertised in China. “It surprised me,” he said.

The Huangs on their wedding day. Photo from the Huang family

This sense of adventure and enthusiasm would serve Huang well over the next four decades as he and Zhi Dan worked hard toward the classic American Dream: support family back home, provide a better life for the next generation and find success along the way.

China and the United States established diplomatic relations in 1979, opening the door for families like Huang’s to send their children to the United States to study and work. So in New York, Huang trekked from his uncle’s home in Hauppauge to the language school at Hunter College in Manhattan several days a week, leveraging the long train ride to practice English while making friends with other commuters. He spent the rest of his time working in his uncle’s restaurant Hau Po, all while sending money back to his family’s farming village.

In 1990, as he began preparing to open Kai Li Kitchen, Huang took a trip back to China, where his cousin introduced him to a classmate at a party, a young woman named Zhi Dan. The two dated briefly, saw their values aligned, and married within three months. We were “just attracted, and 1, 2, 3!” he said. “Marry first, and then talk later!”

After three years of letters and once-a-month international phone calls, Zhi Dan was finally able to immigrate to Long Island and join him at the new Kai Li Kitchen. Huang said he chose the name because Kai Li is easy to remember, and the Chinese characters translate to “triumphant victory forever,” an auspicious motto for starting a new life with his new wife.

Huang called himself Steve and his wife Gina, to simplify communication with customers, and the newly christened Gina was just as goal oriented as her husband. She made time to learn some English with a volunteer tutor at Emma S. Clark Memorial Library but otherwise spent the years juggling the restaurant and motherhood. “I worked 30 years. I made wontons — 30 years,” she said. “We had six years with no days off.”

The Huangs celebrate 30 years in business with their children Jason and Amy. Photo from the Huang family

Their children Jason and Amy, now 31 and 24, simply came along for the ride, sleeping under the counter during the 5 p.m. rush or standing on small chairs to help take orders once they were tall enough. “It was very, very difficult when we came here,” she said, pointing to the large age gap between Jason and Amy. “That’s why we had seven years with no children, because [it was a] difficult life.”

They pressed on, determined to accomplish their goals, falling in love not only with each other but also their North Shore community.

Regular customers knew the children and watched them grow. Jason would ride a small bike around the restaurant lobby or sit and draw with a stubby pencil. One day, a customer brought in a full box of colored pencils for him. It meant the world to Zhi Dan. “My son right now still saves this box because he says, ‘This is my first gift,’” Zhi Dan said, adding that to this day, she brings up this story whenever that customer drops by for a meal.

By the late 90s, the U.S. economy was riding high, and people ate out more. Kai Li Kitchen started to thrive. The Huangs, by then American citizens, were able to pay off the money they’d borrowed to start the restaurant. Eventually, Jason and Amy earned degrees and started successful careers — Jason as a financial advisor, and Amy as a software engineer at HBO Max. For the Haungs, it meant their hard work had paid off. “This is my goal — this is my dream,” Zhi Dan said. “My husband and I didn’t go to college.”

Zhi Dan loves that her children have integrated so well into American culture, she said, partly because of the discrimination she felt upon moving to the United States — of people seeing her “with different eyes.” She doesn’t want that for them. Though the kids know Chinese celebrations, food and traditions well, she said, “they have American friends; they know American history. They know American culture.”

Other dreams have also come true, thanks to the Huangs’ hard work at Kai Li Kitchen: They paid off their home loan, and they helped other relatives immigrate to the United States as well. The Huangs also made a point to give back to the community they’ve grown to love. Over the years, they said, they have donated food to community events and the fire department, raised money for St. Jude’s Children’s cancer center and even supported a Chinese cultural festival at Emma Clark library — the same place a volunteer tutored Zhi Dan years before.

The Huangs in their restaurant. Photo from the Huang family

Zhi Dan said she no longer feels seen “with different eyes” and credits the Setauket community with that. “I know location is very important,” she said, highlighting the school district and the kindness of neighbors and customers as a few of the area’s assets. “That’s why we’re here 30 years. This location is so good.”

Huang says there is much less snow during Long Island winters these days, but still plenty of Coca Cola — they sell cans of it in their restaurant. And it’s obvious the optimism has remained as well. After more than 30 years cooking sesame chicken, pork fried rice and wonton soup in Setauket, he shares nothing but love for his community. “The thing is, we love this town,” he said with his characteristic enthusiasm. “I tell everybody: This is my home town!”

The hard work doesn’t stop now that the Huangs have achieved their original goals. Now they have new targets in mind: Someday Zhi Dan would like to take more English classes and study real estate, and Huang dreams of driving an RV all the way to California, to see more of this country they are so proud to call home.

And if the past is any indicator, these dreams are just around the corner. “If you have a goal, keep going,” Zhi Dan said. “It can come true.”

Kai Li Kitchen is located at 207 Main St. in East Setauket.

The Setauket branch of Investors Bank will close in February. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Many Investors Bank customers will soon find an empty building where they once traveled to take care of their financial matters.

Last year, Citizens Bank, headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, acquired New Jersey-based Investors Bank. While Investors’ doors remained open to customers, the process of the merger began in August as investmentaccounts transferred to Citizens, and in October, mortgage loan services transitioned from Investors to Citizens.

According to the Citizens website, the merger will “offer Investors’ customers an expanded set of products and services, enhanced online and mobile banking capabilities, and more branch locations, along with a continued commitment to making a difference in our local communities.”

While the East Northport location on Larkfield Road will remain open doing business under the Citizens name, the Investors Commack location on Jericho Turnpike will close Feb. 14. The Huntington branch on Main Street and the Setauket location on Route 25A will close their doors for the last time Feb. 15. All three due-to-be closed branches have Citizens operating nearby.

Nuno Dos Santos, retail director of Citizens, said the banks located in Commack, Huntington and East Setauket are less than 2 miles away from the Investors branches that are closing.

“As we continue to integrate Investors with Citizens, we have been reviewing customer patterns and branch locations to ensure we are serving customers when, where and how they prefer,” Dos Santos said. “As a result of this review, we will close the Investors branch locations in Commack, Huntington and Setauket.”

Current Investors employees have been encouraged to apply for positions at Citizens, according to a company spokesperson.

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Despite weather forecasters calling for rain, Setauket residents showed up for veterans on Friday, Nov. 11. 

In an abbreviated ceremony to avoid the pending bad weather, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3054 hosted its annual recognition service at the Setauket Veterans Memorial Park at the corner of Shore Road and Route 25A in East Setauket.

Scouts and veterans laid wreaths at the memorial that recognizes the various wars American soldiers have fought in. 

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Leah Jantzen in a previous race. Photo from Leah Jantzen

While many Three Village residents will be reading The Village Times Herald soon after it hits newsstands on Oct. 6, one familiar face in the area will be in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, competing in the Ironman World Championship.

Elite endurance athlete Leah Jantzen, left, with her husband, Michael, right, and children Phoebe, 19, Luke, 14, Audrey, 10, and Charlie, 12. Photo from Leah Jantzen

Elite endurance athlete Leah Jantzen has qualified for this year’s competition. The Ironman Triathlon includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile marathon. To qualify for the event, triathletes must be in the top 2% in the world. Jantzen has competed in two triathlons before, but the competition in Hawaii is the longest.

In a phone interview, Jantzen said she is excited about qualifying and competing in Hawaii, where husband Michael has joined her to cheer her on.

Jantzen is a guidance counselor at Ward Melville High School and a 1991 graduate. The mother of four children, ranging in age from 10 to 19, was the Ward Melville girls volleyball team coach, but she put coaching on hold so she could train more rigorously.

A typical weekend for the Three Village elite athlete has included 6-hour bike rides on Saturdays and 20-mile runs the next day. During the week, she is engaged in one or two of the three triathlon activities every day.

“I’m that lady who is running and biking all over town,” she said, adding she swims at West Meadow Beach.

Jantzen balances her training schedule with caring for her family and working by setting goals and establishing boundaries.

“I’m really good with boundaries for myself,” she said. “I take care of myself as best as I can. I don’t do a lot of shopping. I don’t do a lot of decorating. I don’t drink a lot of wine. I don’t go out with the girls.”

The guidance counselor and coach said she follows the same self-care advice she gives her student-athletes regarding staying in top form. She said getting a good night’s sleep, eating healthy, especially before a competition, and surrounding yourself with good people is key.

Jantzen has her own private performance coaching business and is a motivational speaker; however, like coaching, has had to put these pursuits aside to train. Recently though, she became involved with The Hidden Opponent, a nonprofit organization. She is raising funds for the nonprofit and is a mentor for its campus captain program. Jantzen said she believes in its cause of raising awareness of mental health for student-athletes and addressing the stigma within the sports culture where many teens are hesitant to ask for help.

“There are times when you’re OK and there are times when you’re not OK,” she said, “I want to try to empower our athletes on the high school level to be equipped to handle this. The kids that are struggling, I want to be one of those resources for these kids.”

In her role as coach and counselor, she tries to ensure student-athletes know the importance of mental wellness when they come to her to discuss issues. She said young athletes go through issues such as suffering an injury in their senior year when colleges may be scouting games, while others may want to quit a team but feel they will let down their families or friends.

“Adults don’t get it sometimes that they are really wrapped up in it, and it’s normal for a 17-year-old to see themselves as this athlete,” she said. “That’s their identity and that just gets sort of taken away from them without any notice, and they don’t know how to cope with it.”

Among the Three Village residents who know Jantzen and are excited about her entering the triathlon are Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Billy Williams, father of four children who through the years have had Jantzen as a coach or guidance counselor. His youngest child Bailee has been on varsity volleyball for the past three years and has been coached by Jantzen in the past. He described the coach and guidance counselor as a positive role model for the students.

“Everything she does is at the highest quality,” he said, adding that she is a hard worker and organized. “It’s like knowing a professional athlete or rock star, someone who is at the pinnacle of their sport.” 

Hahn, who is also a Ward Melville graduate, grew up with Jantzen. She described her as strong, determined and an inspiration. 

“She’s doing it, and she’s just inspiring to everybody because you see her, you see her on the streets when you’re driving,” Hahn said. “She’s so dedicated and an incredible athlete and incredibly dedicated individual. It’s a huge commitment.”

As Jantzen prepared for the big race, she followed mental health advice she shares with students when it comes to dealing with pressure, which includes setting goals and practicing visualization. While athletes can get lost in anxiety, Jantzen suggests embracing the excitement.

“Excitement and nervousness are the same thing,” she said. “Like butterflies in your stomach, that means you’re nervous. That means you care about what you’re doing, and it also means you’re excited. It’s OK to try and change it a little bit to be more excited — and less about it being nerve-racking and anxiety producing.”

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From the Ru Yi Spa website

Suffolk County Police today arrested a Flushing woman for allegedly unlawful practice of a profession during a massage parlor raid in Setauket.

In response to community and quality of life complaints, Suffolk County Police Sixth Precinct Crime Section, Sixth Squad detectives, and the Town of Brookhaven fire marshal and building inspector, conducted an investigation at Ru Yi Spa, located at 175 Route 25A, at 6 p.m. Oct. 5.

Following the investigation, Xiahong Zhao, 57, was charged with two counts of unauthorized practice of a profession. Town of Brookhaven investigators and the fire marshal issued numerous violations for fire and building code offenses.

Zhao was released on a field appearance ticket and is scheduled to appear in First District Court in
Central Islip on a later date.