School News

Students from Pulaski Street Elementary School honored the memory of Shoreham-Wading River Boy Scout Andrew McMorris on January 15.


Drumming To The Top

Rising percussionist Riley Wendt, a sophomore at Riverhead High School, has drummed his way onto some serious stages, and now has his sights set on attending the Juilliard School, as well as Boston University Tanglewood Institute this summer.

Wendt has been studying percussion for nine years, four of them privately. He recently auditioned for both schools.

As a freshman, Wendt earned an unprecedented score of 100 on his Level VI solos at the New York State School Music Association Solo Evaluation Festival, where he performed on snare drum, multiple percussion, timpani, two-mallet marimba, and four-mallet marimba. This marking is only achieved by five percent of scores. His performances earned him a place in the 2020 New York State Band Directors Association High School Honor Band. This will be his second performance with NYSBDA. He also qualified this year to perform in festivals held by the Hampton Music Educators Association and the Suffolk County Music Educators Association.

Last summer, Wendt was selected as one of five percussionists out of 1000 applicants to study and perform with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Saratoga Springs as part of the Orchestral School of Studies, co-sponsored by NYSSMA. During this four-week program, he studied with the principal timpanist and principal percussionist of the Philadelphia Orchestra and performed in concerts at the Arthur Zankel Music Center’s Ladd Concert Hall at Skidmore College, the Massry Center for the Arts at the College of Saint Rose, and the acclaimed Saratoga Performing Arts Center, where he was featured in a rare marimba duet.

During the school year, Wendt serves as principal percussionist for the Sound Symphony, an accomplished orchestra comprised of adult music educators and professionals across Long Island. He also performs regularly with his school’s pit orchestra, jazz band, wind ensemble, and symphonic band, and studies privately with renowned percussion instructor Gary Hodges. In addition to his musical studies, he is a member of his school’s National Honor Society and National Foreign Language Honor Society as a French student.

Honoring Andrew McMorris

Students at Pulaski Street Elementary School paid tribute to Shoreham-Wading River Boy Scout Andrew McMorris by wearing red to school January 15. McMorris was killed last year by a drunk driver.

The Andrew’s Day memorial was led by several Pulaski Street students who were all Boy Scouts with McMorris. Among them was fifth-grader Liam Sherman, who brought the idea to his teacher, Stacy Hubbard.

In planning for the memorial, Sherman wrote a speech about his friend’s hopes, dreams, and accomplishments, which he read to his peers over the school’s PA system January 13.

Sherman, along with his classmates, also made red ribbons for students in the school to wear, and placed red ribbons in and around the school in memory of McMorris.

The school plans to continue to honor McMorris’s memory by donating to the Andrew Rocks fund, which raises money for causes in Andrew’s name. Funding will be provided through the school’s Positive Shirt Day initiative, in which staff and students offer donations in exchange for wearing shirts with positive messages.

Guitars Donated To Library

Art Club members at Pulaski Street Elementary School donated 10 refurbished guitars to the Riverhead Free Library to loan to students in need of an instrument.

This is not the first time Pulaski Street students have reconditioned and donated guitars under the direction of art teacher Robert Fallot. In the past, the club has rehabilitated guitars for children in Puerto Rico, California, Texas, Florida, and Kabul, Afghanistan.

The less-than-perfect guitars are brought back to life through weeks of tedious work as students restring, add screws and nuts, and paint. The program is made possible through donations from the Pulaski Street Parent Teacher Organization, Riverhead Rotary Club, D’Addario Music Company in Melville, Spirit of Harmony Foundation, and

Dancing To A New Rhythm

Third-grade students at Aquebogue and Riley Avenue elementary schools are learning new dance moves, building shared experiences, and gaining knowledge through an in-school pilot program.

The initiative was brought to Riverhead by the Long Island-based Circle of Dance organization and integrates dance, movement, art, culture, and character education.

Students will participate in the new program for a 10-week period.

Young Inventors In Action

Pulaski Street Elementary School students recently tested their invention skills using Makey Makey, an electronic invention tool. As part of the school library program, the students connected everyday objects to an educational application to control the keyboards of their Chromebooks.

Hampton Bays

Healing Through Music

Bright smiles filled the halls of the Westhampton Care Center as Hampton Bays High School musician Gabrielle Caine led her peers in a musical performance.

It was delivered by Harmony Healing, an organization Caine founded. Knowing that music has the power to heal and bring joy, the high school senior decided to create the organization to share live music with those who don’t often get to hear it. As part of her project, Caine, a singer and cellist, enlisted musicians from the Hampton Bays, Southampton, and Sachem school districts to volunteer their time to practice and perform regularly at senior citizen centers.

“I have a passion for music, and I want to give back,” she said.

Caine aspires to expand her new organization, turn it into a nonprofit, and bring the initiative to more communities — all while starting college in the fall to study music business and industry, and continuing to advance her own musical abilities.

Caine’s passion for music started at a young age, and she has continued to grow as a musician. In 2018, she performed at the Sydney Opera House as one of 85 vocal finalists in an international competition. This year, she will take the stage at Carnegie Hall, performing with the Honors Performance Series choir.

When not involved in music, Caine is focused on her schoolwork. She was recently recognized as a commended student in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program. She is also president of her school’s Interact Club, Rotary Youth Club, and Tri-M Music Honor Society, and is a member of the National Honor Society and Science National Honor Society.

Reading Together

To foster a love of reading while bringing students together, Hampton Bays Elementary School has been hosting its annual reading together initiative, where students read “Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows” by Asia Citro.

Along with the reading, the students participated in activities during the past several weeks related to the book, which tells the story of a young scientist who can see magical creatures.

To further engage students in this literary event, the school’s STEM lab adopted a bearded dragon named Marshmallow after the dragon in the story.

The initiative will culminate on Wednesday, January 22, at 6 PM, with the school’s annual Family Literacy/Author Illustration Night, where 16 local authors and illustrators will be on-hand to autograph their books and share their life stories.

Inspiring Hospital Visit

Students in the science research program at Hampton Bays High School learned more about careers in the STEM and health care fields as part of Northwell Health’s Spark Challenge, held at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead on January 13.

The Spark Challenge, which aims to ignite student interest in medicine, gave 12 Hampton Bays students the opportunity to work alongside top medical professionals. Students were paired with top hospital staff members based on their interests. Some met with hospital director Dr. Jean Cacciabaudo and top surgical teams to learn about cardiology, while others met with liaisons in the physical therapy and food and nutrition departments. Some also spent time with the clinical rotation manager, the director of nursing, the blood bank supervisor, the point of care and phlebotomy lab supervisor, the medical staff coordinator, the social work coordinator, and the director of patient care.

“There was a focus on each of the students’ passions, interests, and future career paths,” said science research teacher Dr. Stephanie Forsberg.

The visit will be followed by a poster competition and presentation in April, which will include students from neighboring districts that participated in the Spark Challenge.


Career Day

Bridgehampton High School students had a real-world learning opportunity during a career day organized by Equity First Foundation.

Students met in small groups with 12 individuals representing various industries and were tasked with using fictitious profiles to solve budgeting and financial challenges.

They then presented their solutions with the assistance and advice of several of the business advisors. The students also listened to Wendy Rodriguez, president of the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce, who served as the guest motivational speaker. She is a health care advocate for the Brentwood community and Brentwood School District, and founder of “Empowering Women TV and Radio.” She spoke of multiple personal challenges she overcame to become a successful business professional.


A Funded Yoga Class

Through donations from the Tuckahoe Educational Foundation and the Tuckahoe PTO, students in pre-K through eighth grade were exposed to the benefits of yoga on their body and mental health. The students had two certified yoga instructors spend four school days with them this month. Under the guidance of Angela Polchinski and Marcus Lapianna, the students learned how to use their breath to help them relax in difficult situations. They also practiced balance techniques and stretches. Through mindfulness and yoga, children can learn how to manage their emotions, make good choices, and balance their busy lives.


Science Fair

The Montauk Public School and Concerned Citizens of Montauk have partnered to present the 2020 Montauk School Science Fair. Students in third through eighth grade will present their extracurricular independent science projects, and a panel of representatives from the community, school, and regional science and environmental organizations will be judging.

The Montauk students with the best projects January 24 will go on to the Long Island regionals, run by Science Teachers Association of New York State, with the potential to continue to the New York State regional competition.

Westhampton Beach

Gobbling Up Books

Students in third through fifth grade at Westhampton Beach Elementary School rang in the new year by exploring new books during a tasting event cooked up by school librarian Joy Campagna.

As an authentic touch, the school’s library was transformed into a restaurant, complete with artificial candlelight, classical music, and a menu featuring a variety of book genres. Students were encouraged to “taste” new books and take one home to devour.

“Students left the library with books they never knew were on the shelves,” Campagna said. “They learned that you don’t know whether you like something until you try it.”


Bingo For A Cause

The Southampton High School Rotary Interact Club’s ninth annual Bingo Night fundraiser, held January 10, resulted in a $2100 donation to the Southampton Animal Shelter. The donation included $1000 club members earned by participating in Altice’s Charity of Champions campaign.

Sag Harbor

Striking A Pose

Pierson eighth graders recently expressed their creativity in Meg Mandell’s art classes, where they had some fun exploring gesture drawing and capturing facial features with colored pencils.

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