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Amityville Students Become Immersed in Black History Month

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To celebrate Black History Month, students in the Amityville Union Free School District participated in virtual celebrations and learned about African-American men and women who made important contributions to the country.

At Edmund W. Miles Middle School, students portrayed a variety of important figures from the past and present in a video that was shared with the school during the advisory block on Feb. 25. Tiffany Asbell was Vice President Kamala Harris, Kiya Sizemore was civil rights activist Ruby Bridges and Janaiya Randolph was poet Amanda Gorman. Students did their own research on these notable individuals before portraying them in the virtual celebration.

Middle school students also did independent research projects on notable Black Americans. Social studies teachers incorporated Black History Month into their lessons through discussions of historical events and individuals. Students studied many concepts from the Black perspective and analyzed how decisions of the past have had implications in present-day society.  
Ninth grade students at Amityville Memorial High School developed a “Periodic Table of African-American Achievement in History” using Google Slides and Jamboard. Students researched notable accomplishments by African-Americans and created interactive databases. They also made accompanying videos using Flipgrid, explaining the impact of the changes led by these individuals. The digital presentation were then shared with sixth graders at the middle school.

“The project was designed as a part of our Black History Month celebration to further expose our students to the numerous achievements of African-Americans in history,” social studies teacher Jack Zider said. “In addition, it allows our younger students a chance to learn from their older peers while building their 21st century technology, research, organization and communication skills.”

Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School created a virtual presentation with the theme “I Can.” Students from third, fourth and fifth grade held up signs declaring their dreams for the future. 

Third grader Ayden Harding-Fuentes said he wants to be a police officer, specifically a member of the SWAT team, and third grader Lilly Betegon hopes to become a fashion designer. Lilly said that having dreams is important “to inspire yourself.”

Additionally, the video features Park Avenue staff, including teachers, teaching assistants, aides and monitors, who discussed the origins of Black History Month. It also showcases African-American inventors and others who have contributed greatly to society. The virtual celebration was coordinated by Megan Ashe, Nicole Baxter, DiAndre Coghiel, Christopher Grant, Christine Locher and Kendra Stevenson.

Ms. Stevenson created the “Because of Them, We Can” bulletin board which celebrates many successful African-American athletes, civil rights leaders, entertainers, world leaders and more. In the center of the display is a painting of three dancers to celebrate the rich history of African-Americans in the arts and serve as inspiration for Park Avenue students that there are many avenues for success. 

Kindness is the Warrior Way at Park Avenue

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Valentine’s Day is about spreading love, so Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School declared the week leading up to the holiday as Kindness Week.

There were different spirit days throughout the week, beginning with “Kindness Warriors,” as students and staff wore Amityville gear or red and gray. “Peace, Love and Kindness” was marked with tie-dye clothing. To wrap up the week, students learned that “kindness makes your hear grow,” so they wore pink and red.   

Students contributed to the “Be the I in Kind” tree in the lobby. The leaves were pink, purple and red hearts with messages the children wrote about the different ways they can show kindness to others. 

Guidance counselor Kimberly Balducci said students learned about the importance of “random acts of kindness” and how those small but meaningful gestures can brighten someone’s day. Showing kindness can have a ripple effect, she added, spreading good will from one person to the next.

The week ended with surprise recognition for a Park Avenue staff member who has exemplified kindness. Students and staff honored school nurse Pat Johnson. 

Amityville Grad Named Acting U.S. Attorney in Virginia

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Raj Parekh, a 1999 graduate of Amityville Memorial High School, was named the acting United States attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia in January. In this role, Parekh supervises the prosecution of all federal crimes and the litigation of all civil matters in which the United States has an interest. He leads a staff of approximately 300 federal prosecutors, civil litigators and support personnel across four divisions located in Alexandria, Richmond, Norfolk and Newport News, a district that includes more than six million residents.

The theme of Amityville’s 1999 yearbook is “Making every moment count,” a motto that Parekh has fully embraced. In high school, Parekh excelled academically, graduating near the top of his class. He was a member of “The Amityville Echo” student newspaper, Key Club and Moot Court, and was president of the student government in his junior year. It is because of those high school activities that he developed a passion for trial work and public service.  Outside of school, he volunteered to care for elderly patients at the Broadlawn Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, stocked shelves at CVS, and played baseball and the upright string bass. 

Parekh credits his Amityville teachers and peers for their positive influences on him and others. 

“They are among the most talented, generous, compassionate and culturally accepting individuals you will ever meet,” Parekh said. “My Amityville classmates embody the spirit of diversity and inclusion. We always looked out for one another, and we always wanted the best for each other.”

Parekh was born in New York after his parents immigrated from India. He recounted the countless sacrifices they made when he was a student. Parekh’s father served in the textile sales industry before losing his eyesight, and his mother held two jobs at one point. 

“My parents worked tirelessly to make ends meet,” Parekh said. “It is their work ethic and selfless dedication to our family that has inspired me to always give back to my community and help others.”  

After graduating from high school, Parekh attended The George Washington University, earning a degree with honors in economics and international affairs in 2003. Parekh says that a 1998 trip to the nation’s capital, which happened because of the support of the Amityville community, led to his decision to attend GW. In high school, then-Principal Anthony Servideo, along with the Amityville Rotary Club, helped Parekh raise tuition funds in order for him to attend a week-long civic education program that included a visit to the U.S. Supreme Court and other government institutions. 

After college, Parekh earned his juris doctor with honors from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2006. Parekh then served in a number of significant legal positions, including at a leading global law firm, as assistant general counsel at the Central Intelligence Agency, as counsel to IBM, and as a federal prosecutor in multiple positions at the U.S. Department of Justice, including as a counterterrorism prosecutor. 

Parekh received a superior performance award from the Justice Department for his work on United States v. Mohamad Jamal Khweis, which led to the 2017 conviction of the first individual to face a jury trial in the United States after having joined the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham in ISIS territory. 

In January 2021, Parekh became the first person of color in the 232-year history of the Eastern District of Virginia to serve as its chief federal law enforcement official.

As for what he would like his tenure as the acting U.S. attorney to be most remembered for, Parekh stated, “Ensuring that all participants in the legal process are treated with dignity and respect as we seek equal justice under the law, uphold victims’ rights, and protect our communities. I am eternally grateful to my wife, son, parents and grandparents, whose love and support have meant everything to me.”

Lots of Learning and Love at Northwest

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Northwest Elementary School was filled with heart, literally, in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. The symbol of love could be found all around the building as students learned how the holiday is a celebration of friendship and kindness.

A heart tree decorated the kindergarten hallway in the new wing as students made paper heart crafts with smiley faces and inspirational messages. Students folded paper arms and legs for the hearts as a dexterity exercise. Also to work on fine motor skills, children crumpled up small pieces of tissue paper, glued them down in the shape of a heart, and added their handprints in the middle as a gift to bring home. 

First graders read many books about the holiday including “Happy Valentine’s Day, Charlie Brown” and “Love Monster and the Perfect Present.” Other students sorted candy hearts by color, then graphed their results, as a math activity. 

Northeast Students Have Lots of Heart

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Pre-K students have been spreading some love, and also practicing their literacy and math skills, leading up to Valentine’s Day at Northeast Elementary School.

By making presents for their loved ones, children learned about the true meaning of Valentine’s Day while also expressing themselves creatively. There were a wide variety of projects that students could take home to give to a parent, grandparent or sibling.

Students made “You Stole a Pizza My Heart” crafts out of construction paper, and the pieces of pepperoni were cut in the shape of hearts. They also constructed photo frames with hearts glued around the edges, used pieces of tin foil to make large Hershey’s Kisses, wrapped up paper bears holding a Valentine’s Day poem and made candles by putting a small battery-operated tea candle and red confetti in a mason jar. 

The youngsters practiced their literacy skills by writing Valentine’s Day cards to family and friends. They also used candy hearts to write different letters of the alphabet.

Candy hearts were a popular math tool, as well. Students sorted the hearts by color, counted how many they had of each, then made bar graphs. To learn about patterning, they created Valentine’s Day headbands with paper hearts in alternating colors. 

As a special treat, Olaf from “Frozen” visited the school and was stationed at the “kissing booth” in the main lobby. The kisses were actually Hershey’s Kisses and each child received one at the end of the day to take home and enjoy.
Saturday, February 27, 2021