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High School Library Named for Distinguished Nurse

High School Library Named for Distinguished Nurse photo

Approximately 150 people came out to Amityville Memorial High School on Dec. 10 to pay tribute to an American hero and a local legend. The library media center was renamed in honor of Major Nancy Leftenant-Colón, who had a distinguished career as a nurse in the United States armed forces and in Amityville.

Major Leftenant-Colón was born in 1920 and graduated from Amityville Memorial High School in 1939. She became the first member of her family to pursue higher education by attending the Lincoln School of Nursing in New York City. Her military nursing career spanned from 1945 to 1965, including service as an elite flight nurse with the Air Force. She made history as the first African-American woman to serve in the Army nursing corps, and later as the first woman to become president of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.

From 1971 to 1984, Major Leftenant-Colón was the nurse at Amityville Memorial High School. She became an inspirational figure for students with her well-known line, “The sky’s the limit.”

“It is an honor to welcome home Major Leftenant-Colón,” Superintendent Dr. Mary T. Kelly said in her opening remarks. “She is one of Amityville’s own. She taught students to believe in themselves and believe in their dreams. She is fondly remembered by Amityville alumni.”

Lt. Gen. Stayce D. Harris, inspector general of the Air Force, said the library dedication was an “incredible and most-deserved honor” for Major Leftenant-Colón. She presented her with an artistic piece that blended two photos together on a canvas  — one from Leftenant-Colón’s time as a major, and another of the two women together in 2009. 

Col. Ralph Smith, retired from the Air Force, presented a gold coin, one of only four in existence, commemorating the Tuskegee Airmen and Airwomen to be housed in the rededicated library. Dr. Kelly explained that as part of the upcoming project to renovate and expand the high school, the library media center will be updated and will include a display for Major Leftenant-Colón featuring numerous artifacts.


Retired Army Lt. Col. Jacqueline A. Gordon, spoke of the path that Major Leftenant-Colón paved for women in the armed forces. Lenore Braithewaite, of American Legion Hunter Squires Jackson Post 1218 in Amityville, fondly recalled her former school nurse and presented Major Leftenant-Colón with the American Legion’s 100th anniversary commander’s pin.

Several elected officials presented Major Leftenant-Colón with proclamations included Gordon, a Town of Babylon councilwoman, Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory and state Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre.

Keynote speaker Chaplain Joanne Bedford Boyd, spoke highly of her aunt and how she has always been a role model for young people. She cited Major Leftenant-Colón’s desire to succeed and achieve her dreams, and her refusal to back down from challenges. 

Chaplain Boyd explained the value that Major Leftenant-Colón has always placed on education, so it is fitting to have the school’s center of knowledge — the library media center — named in her honor.

Following presentations in the cafeteria, all guests were invited up to the library to see the new dedication sign along with pictures of Major Leftenant-Colón from her military service and her years as high school nurse. Student Council members presented Major Leftenant-Colón with flowers, and there were musical performances by the Amityville Memorial High School jazz ensemble and Edmund W. Miles Middle School ninth-grade string ensemble.

Students Decorate Amityville With Holiday Paintings

Students Decorate Amityville With Holiday Paintings photo

Art students from Amityville Memorial High School and Edmund W. Miles made their community more festive for the holiday season. The community window project was a collaborative effort among the two school, led by art teachers Jennifer Dibble, Jayne Grasso, Heather Rickard and Nicole Scoca as well as Director of Fine and Performing Arts Dr. Fran Fernandez.

The project started with a drawing contest among middle and high school students with high school teachers judging the submissions. The winners attended an outdoor field trip in Amityville in which they painted their drawings on the windows of local businesses on Nov. 29.

The inspiration for the project was generated by high school guidance Transition Coordinator Karen Gross and the Amityville Chamber of Commerce. Participating businesses included Gerald's Market, Great South Bay Dance Studio, Wrapping It Up, Amityville Men's Shop, Park Avenue Grill and Francesco's Pizza

“Students were able to see their personal creations come to life,” Ms. Dibble said, “It was a wonderful experience for them, their art teachers, and the Amityville community.”

High School Students Make a Cross County Connection

High School Students Make a Cross County Connection photo

Members of Amityville Memorial High School’s Warrior Awareness Club eagerly waited at the front door for their guests to arrive on Nov. 15. After a 23-mile ride across Suffolk County, 28 students from Bayport-Blue Point High School and their chaperones pulled up on a school bus and were warmly greeted by their hosts.

The Cultural Exchange program, an annual tradition in Amityville, is designed to connect students from across Long Island. It creates bonds and establishes new friendships, as the teens typically keep in touch through text message or social media. 

Students from both schools gathered in the cafeteria for breakfast and icebreaker activities that helped them find common interests. WAC PAC adviser Jason McGowan called out two words, like bacon or sausage, or Christmas or Halloween, and students went to one side of the room or the other. There was also great enthusiasm during a rock-paper-scissors competition. 

Each Bayport-Blue Point student was paired up with an Amityville student and they attended classes together throughout the day before coming together again for a pizza lunch. The students will meet up in the spring when Amityville students will visit Bayport-Blue Point High School. 

Physical Education Students of the Year

Physical Education Students of the Year photo
Seniors Carlos Ponce and Ashley Sanz were named physical education students of the year for Amityville Memorial High School by the New York State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

Awareness Weekend Builds Bridges at High School

Awareness Weekend Builds Bridges at High School photo

For 97 Amityville Memorial High School students, their school day didn’t have a typical ending on Nov. 9. Instead of going home for the weekend, those students spent the next 32 hours in the school participating in bonding activities and listening to inspirational speakers.

Awareness Weekend has been an annual tradition for 15 years. The 10th-, 11th and 12th-graders who participate say it is a transformative experience that cultivates new friendships and leads to self-reflection.

“You feel welcome,” said senior Jeridania Rodriguez, a first-time participant this year. “This is an opportunity to express yourself in a different environment and no one judges you here.”

An essential part of Awareness Weekend are the family groups. Students are typically paired with others who are not part of their normal friendship circle, and each team has a facilitator. Family groups have follow-up discussions based on the speakers, share personal experiences and participate in icebreaker activities. 

This year’s keynote speaker was Bobby Petrocelli, whose “You Matter” presentation kicked off Awareness Weekend on Friday afternoon. He told students that the world deserves their greatness and that they should never be hindered by something in their past. He spoke of a tragedy in his life, and how bad decisions by one person can have consequences for many.

Chris Memoli was involved in a car accident at 16 and suffered brain injuries as a result of no wearing a seatbelt. He communicates through typing device and shared his story about he overcame tragedy to earn his master’s degree in computer science. Hashim Garrett, a former gang member who paralyzed from waist down, spoke about forgiveness, overcoming adversity and learning from mistakes.

Alisha Armellini, mother of senior Imagine Halyard, said Awareness Weekend has been tremendously valuable for her daughter. During her sophomore year, Imagine was able to share a personal story about a traumatic event in her past. That revelation ultimately had a positive impact on her home life and her emotional well-being. 

“Awareness Weekend saves lives and saves families,” Ms. Armellini said. “It has brought so much goodness to our family. Every student should participate in this program.”

Students and their faculty chaperones spent the night in the school in sleeping bags and on air mattresses in classrooms. Awareness Weekend ended at 10 p.m. on Saturday night with goodbyes and hugs. Special education teacher Jason McGowan, who coordinated the event, said it was inspirational weekend for both the students and the teachers.

“Our 97 participants truly did break down walls and build bridges,” said Mr. McGowan, citing the weekend’s theme. “These students left here on Saturday night as new people. They learned a little about themselves and more importantly, learned from their peers. They also realized is that they are not alone and that they matter.”

Monday, December 17, 2018