News Around The District

  • Powerful message about mental illness and addiction used to inspire students

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 5/21/2019 3:00:00 PM

    The screen flashed an abundance of photos of a smiling young man, hanging out with friends, vacationing with family and playing sports.

    The man in the images, Harris Blake Marquesano, sadly, passed away in 2013 from an accidental overdose at the age of 19.

    In honor of her son, Stephanie Marquesano has been diligently working to prevent another family from experiencing such an unimaginable tragedy. To that end, she founded the harris project, bringing awareness about co-occurring disorders, or COD, to high school and college students. COD, as Ms. Marquesano explained, refers to the relationship between mental health and addiction issues.

    On April 30, she brought her message to students at Alexander Hamilton High School during an assembly. Principal with two people

    Dressed in green and black, the project’s colors, Ms. Marquesano of Ardsley explained what co-occurring disorders are, how to recognize the signs a family member or friend may be experiencing the disorder and how students can help.

    “When you live in a small community and a young person dies, people ask what can we do,” Ms. Marquesano said. “I did what you would do. I did research. I created a PowerPoint presentation and have been taking it on the road.”

    The hope is that even if a student does not feel it will impact them, they may recognize that a friend could be in trouble.

    “Every one of you knows a Harris, the kid who is always smiling, goofing around,” said the mother, who talks about COD to students throughout Westchester County and beyond.

    That outward attitude can bely issues that individuals are experiencing on the inside as they try to hide their pain. If they do not get help, they may try to self-medicate with illegal and dangerous substances.

    “Talk about how you feel every single day,” Ms. Masquesano encouraged. “The more we share what is going on the more we get help and support.”

    Her hope is to help young people become more aware of mental health issues and overcome the stigma surrounding them. She wants to empower others to encourage their friends and family members who may be struggling to seek help. Early intervention is so important in preventing other issues, such as substance abuse/addiction problems that could arise if a mental disorder is not treated properly.

    What many did not know about Harris is that at a young age he had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and later with ADHD. He was taking medication which helped keep his anxiety in check and assisted with his ADHD. As a teenager he began to self-medicate, first using marijuana and later stronger drugs.

    His family did everything it could to get him help in overcoming his addiction. What they learned, through several treatment options they tried, is that many are not equipped to help an individual suffering from mental health issues and addiction problems. Their focus is on one and not the other, which can have severe consequences.

    There is a huge disconnect between treating both at once, Ms. Marquesano said. Her goal is to change that.

    “I am not a mental health professional,” she said. “I am a mom.”

    In addition to her speaking engagements, Ms. Marquesano is active in transforming how mental health patients are treated with the hope of one day integrating mental health treatment with substance abuse treatments, as the two often go hand-in-hand.

    “The time between the onset of mental health disorders and subsequent substance abuse is a key window of opportunity where COD can be prevented,” Ms. Marquesano said.

    Part of her activism is to not only bring awareness to young adults, but to also encourage them to start their own campaigns with CODA — co-disorder awareness prevention. The program began at Greenwich High School, in Connecticut, whose focus is to bring awareness in high schools, increase early intervention and create a board of youth leaders. The program has been piloted in 16 high schools throughout Westchester County.

    “If I touch one person I am going to keep doing this,” Ms. Marquesano said.

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  • “Muffins for Moms” celebrates a special person

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 5/16/2019 2:05:00 PM

    Moms were the very special guests honored during the annual “Muffins for Moms” event at the Carl L. Dixson Primary School on May 10.

    Just in time for Mother’s Day, moms came to school with their sons and daughters and stayed for a few minutes to enjoy a muffin and juice with fellow moms from the school.

    Students presented their mother with a special gift they had made. Some mom’s received a plant, while others enjoyed hand-made cards and decorated picture frames.

    “If I could give my Mom anything, I would give her . . . gum,” is what one daughter wrote to her mother on the picture frame she had made. The recipient was amused with this choice.

    “Thank you for being here,” Principal Jeffrey Olender said. “You are the most important people to our kids.”

    Click here to see more photos from this special day.

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  • Mad Science proves science is silly and fun

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 5/15/2019 2:45:00 PM

    If second graders at Alice E. Grady Elementary School learned anything from a visit from a scientist with Mad Science, it was that science is anything but boring.

    Science is actually about fizzing water, smoky haze and corks popping out of bottles. It’s loud, messy and mad!Man blows bubbles

    Stellar Sam, one of many scientific entertainers from Mad Science, an organization that brings fun scientific programs to schools and more, spent a week visiting second-grade classrooms.

    One day, he had students wearing soap bubbles on their heads and gasping in amazement as they watched water instantaneously turn into ice.

    No you can’t touch this!” Stellar Sam shouted, holding up a large chunk of solid carbon dioxide, better known as “dry ice.”

    As tempting as it might have been, little fingers were kept away from the substance. He only touched it while wearing gloves, because, as he informed students, it is minus 150 degrees.

    “In other words, it’s really, really, really, really cold,” he said.

    But it was the star of show.

    Using a hammer to smash the large chunk into smaller pieces, Stellar Sam conducted several experiments resulting in fun and messy science.

    First, he put small pieces of the dry ice into an orange balloon and tied the balloon closed. Over time, the balloon began to inflate, to the delight of the students, with no hot breath needed. This happens, Stellar Sam said, because dry ice does not melt, it just turns into a gas — a process called sublimation — and, the gas causes the balloon to grow.

    He then turned water into ice right before students’ eyes by placing water on a spoon and holding it against a piece of the dry ice. Within seconds, because the dry ice was so cold, the water froze.

    As Stellar Sam walked through the classroom, the dry ice left a trail of “smoke” in his wake.

    “This tastes like ginger ale,” one student said after inhaling a whiff of haze.

    Girl holds balloon That happens because carbon dioxide is what gives soda its fizz.

    When Stellar Sam added hot water to a glass container, with a bit of dry ice and put a cap on the bottle, it did not take long for the cap to pop off and fly into the air.
    “Yeah! Do it again!” Stellar Sam encouraged himself.

    Once again, the cap took flight because of the pressure that had built up in the beaker when hot water was added to dry ice.

    As students giggled at these antics, Stellar Sam continued his work.

    For another experiment, he added soap to a concoction of dry ice and hot water. The result? Bubbles, and lots of them! They gurgled out of the container he held. When he blew on them, they sprayed throughout the air.

    Soon students had mounds of bubbles in their hair and sticking to their chins like beards, causing even more giggles to ensue.

    As a way to encourage students’ interest in science, Stellar Sam gave each student a plastic cup. Through the “magic” of science, the cup turns a dark Girl gets close up look at dry ice blue when filled with a cold liquid.


    Stellar Sam said he didn’t know, keeping it a science secret.

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  • Two staff members to be honored with American Dreamer Awards

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 5/13/2019 4:00:00 PM

    Two members of the Elmsford Union Free School District will be honored by Southern Westchester BOCES’ Center for Special Services at the annual American Dreamers Luncheon. The May 15 event recognizes members of the community who have been instrumental in supporting SWBOCES Special Teachers and students Services students.

    Jo-Anne Dobbins, Director of Special Education & Pupil Personnel Services, and Rachel Newman, Special Education Teacher at Alice E. Grady Elementary School, are being recognized for their work of coordinating a unique collaboration between Grady and the Tappan Hill Elementary School in Tarrytown. Once a month, special needs students from Tappan visit Grady to enjoy physical education classes and activities in the classroom.

    The nomination for said of Ms. Dobbins, “her inclusive attitude has provided our students with a unique learning and social experience. Thanks to Ms. Dobbins, our students have benefitted from this enriching experience, which our parents view as a critical component for their children’s education. Her enthusiasm and focus on students’ needs have made this collaboration a success from day one.”

    Ms. Dobbins was nominated by Phillis Rizzi, principal at Tappan Hill Elementary School.

    It was Ms. Newman’s enthusiasm and dedication to her students that has not gone unnoticed.

    In the nomination for Ms. Newman, she is credited with being “a warm and caring teacher who has welcomed us and treated them like her own.”

    Ms. Newman was nominated by Diane Storm, physical education teacher and Adrian Lompoc, special education teacher, both from Tappan Hill Elementary School.


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  • Ninth graders investigate for annual science fair

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 5/7/2019 8:30:00 AM

    There were some interesting questions being pondered during the ninth-grade Science Fair at the Alexander Hamilton High School.

    Aspiring scientists were asking “Does lying affect a person’s heart rate?” And “Which Potato Powers the Potato Clock the Best?” As well as “Does the Amount of Wax Chips in Lip Balm affect the Product’s Duration?”

    Students shared the answers to these questions and many more in the school’s cafeteria, which was transformed into a science lab for the annual fair.

    There were 44 projects submitted by students, who worked together in pairs or small groups.Students at science fair

    Teacher Sabrina Doolittle’s science research students consisting of upperclassmen, worked with the younger students as mentors.

    “We hope to help build up science,” Ms. Doolittle said. “We want them to actively test for something and show more measurable details.”

    The freshmen displayed their projects and were on hand as upperclassmen and teachers came through asking them questions.

    Phoenix Harper and her partners Anna Vatai and Gabriella Pellegrino had come across information linking heart rate to lying and the idea piqued their interest.

    They worked with middle school students, bringing them into a dark room lighted by only one light and asked them a series of questions while measuring their heart rate.

    Some of the questions included: Did you do all of your homework? Do you like algebra?

    The results were mixed, until students were asked “Have you ever cheated on an exam?” That question caused the students heart rates to increase.

    “We feel our results are 80 percent accurate,” Phoenix said.

    Gabriella Brown and her partner Juanita Chambers had a fizzy good time with their project.

    They investigated what combination of products would make a lava lamp most bubbly. After testing several items, it turns out a mix of Alka-Seltzer and peroxide produced the most fizz.

    “It was fun,” Juanita said.

    “I enjoy science and the hands-on work,” Anjalice Arias said.

    Her project included investigating the impact LED lights have on mirrors.

    When Corlbert Edouard and Daniel Llanos wanted to check the time, they did not look at their phone or a watch. They looked at their potato.

    The two had made a clock which ran on potatoes. They had investigated what kind of potato would make the clock run the most efficiently. They found both russet potatoes and Yukon Gold worked equally well.

    Louis Falasca and Frances Navarro gathered empty bottles, yellow highlighters, tonic water and an ultraviolet light. Using these objects, they investigated what combination would make water glow the brightest.

    After some trial and error, and having their hands turn yellow, the two discovered the contents of three yellow highlighters does the trick.

    Initially Louis said he wanted to investigate what would make fire burn brightest, but admitted that would have been too dangerous.

    Joseline Mazariegos and her partner Cindy Torres had a video at their display, “Elephant Toothpaste.” The video shared the experiments they did to learn how much hydrogen peroxide made the biggest foaming event.

    “We thought it was really cool,” Joseline said. “We wanted to test it ourselves.”

    Cindy said it took them several attempts to get a big, foamy reaction.

    Students present at science fair Leslie Lima and Angelica Garcia both enjoy using a variety of lip balms and used their interest to guide their experiment. They investigated how much wax made a lip balm the most durable. Together they made their own balms, using different amounts of wax in each. They left their products in a hot car for a period of time before taking a close look at which ones withstood the heat.

    “We found out the more wax you have it makes the lip balm harder and more durable,” Leslie said.

    When Jaylen Savage heard a friends brother talk about the experience he had parachuting in the Army, it was enough to get him thinking.

    He and his partner made three different styles of small parachutes, attached each to a small figure, and dropped them all from the same height. They looked at Ram Air, Annular and Cruciform styles.

    “It was fun because my hypothesis was completely wrong,” Jaylen said. “I thought the Air Ram style would be the slowest, but it was the fastest.”

    Caroline Fuerte is a Pisces and for her experiment she wanted to find out if the traits often associated with each astrological sign actually reflected the personality of individuals with a specific sign.

    “It’s a little suspect,” she said of the characteristics each zodiac sign portrays.

    She worked with 30 teens and adults, asking them for their astrological sign and then had them take a survey. She compared the survey results to what the signs actually determined about individuals.

    “One’s zodiac sign does not align with their personality,” she concluded.

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  • Grady author visit inspires young writers

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 5/6/2019 9:00:00 AM

    Students at the Alice E. Grady Elementary School received some spine-tingling inspiration when children’s author Ellen Potter paid a visit.

    The New York author has written the Big Foot and Little Foot series, along with the Piper Green series and more.

    She visited Grady on April 18, first enjoying a schoolwide assembly before she met with students in smaller groups as part of a writing workshop.

    “I wanted to talk to you about suspense,” Ms. Potter told students. “It is such a great way to totally grip your readers.”

    In order to get the creativity flowing, Ms. Potter shared a short video. In it someone is walking up a dark staircase using a flashlight, when suddenly something startles him and he screams.

    When whatever it was jumped out at the person in the video, several students jumped and screamed as well.

    That’s it, Ms. Potter said, asking students what they had seen that startled them in the video.

    Students answered things such as it being hard to see, not knowing exactly where the location was, the creaking stairs and spooky music and the Author speaks to students unexpected object that suddenly appeared.

    “When you read suspense, you want to hurry through it to see what happens,” Ms. Potter said. “When you write suspense, you do the opposite. You have to slow down and not rush that big reveal.”

    The author walked students through a writing exercise using a character named Stacy who was visiting her great aunt’s old mansion. Stacy had been told she could go anywhere in the house except for the room at the end of the hall on the third floor. Naturally, Stacy was curious about the room and soon decided to see for herself what was inside.

    If Stacy had just walked into the room, there would be nothing interesting about that.
    The author asked students to think about what would make the character and what she was doing more suspenseful. Students replied the writer could describe the weird photos on the walls, how the floor creaked with each step and how there was a smell of blood in the air.

    “Let’s tuck in and start writing,” Ms. Potter encouraged.

    Students work on writing Students then spent some time writing the beginning of their own suspenseful story.

    As they worked, Ms. Potter reminded them to “slow it down so your suspense builds.”

    As the students were writing, Ms. Potter walked among them checking in to see how they were doing and answering questions. She then invited a few students to read their work aloud.

    “They are amazing,” Ms. Potter said after reading some of the students’ work. “The details are incredible.”

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  • Dixson students learn about job opportunities during Career Day

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 5/1/2019 9:30:00 AM

    Students at Carl L. Dixson Primary School learned it is never too early to start thinking about the future during the annual Career Day.Police talk to students

    Special guests from a variety of industries visited the school to talk to students about their jobs, the tools they use and the satisfaction they get from a job well done.

    “Career Day is a very exciting day for us,” Principal Jeffrey Olender told guests. “It’s good to engage kids in what you want to be when you grow up.”

    During the sessions, students met members of the local police department, a computer consultant, a physician, a senior account executive, a DJ, a software engineer, a day care provider, a carpenter and an individual who works in a STEAM field.

    Guests were escorted to various classrooms where they spoke with students about their daily responsibilities and the education required for the job. Students, many of whom were dressed up to represent different careers, also had an opportunity to ask questions.

    Officer Andrew O’Mara and Detective Sergeant Gianpaolo DiLisio of the Elmsford Police Department were among those visiting classrooms. They talked to student about the work they do and discussed the apparatus they have on their belts, which includes handcuffs and a walkie-talkie.

    Officer O’Mara used his walkie-talkie to contact a fellow officer so students could say “hello.”

    Computer consultant Kimberly Ware told students “she was a computer fixer.”

    “I go to people’s homes and fix their computers,” she said.

    She talked about how much she enjoys being self-employed, which means she has a flexible schedule.

    She said she does a lot of reading, which helps her learn more about her work.

    “You’re cool,” one student informed Theo Philip, who works as a DJ, when he walked into a classroom. Mr. Philip always wears his signature sunglasses.

    Once he pulled out a microphone, headphones and a small mixer from his bag, it did not take students long to guess what he did for a living.

    “Using my devices, I can go from song to song,” Mr. Philip told students, adding that he often works at weddings and parties.

    DJ talks to students To further show them how he does his job, Mr. Philip cued up “Baby Shark,” much to the delight of students, before segueing into another song.

    Carpenter Jeysson Alfonso showed the children some of the tools he uses when he builds custom cabinets. Among them were a tape measure, a level and a circular saw. He described how he uses each of these tools while on the job.

    He also shared how math is a large part of what he does.

    “Math is very important,” he said. “You have to make sure the cabinets fit.”

    Kentaro Takatomi demonstrated how he uses robots, manipulating them with an iPad or computer. He works in the STEAM industry and discussed how math and coding play a huge role in his work.

    Dr. Kattia Olender asked a group of students what a doctor does.

    “They help people,” a student replied.

    Dr. Olender said she uses her stethoscope to determine if a person is healthy or sick. She also uses her audioscope to look in patients’ ears.Doctor talks to students

    As a general internist, Dr. Olender, who is the principal’s wife, said she treats adults and as a civic doctor, she works with firefighters when they are ill.

    “Anyone have an idea of how you become a doctor?” she asked.

    Her answer was for students to learn and practice their reading and math skills. Both have helped her learn how things work, which is what her job is all about. She had to learn how the human body works. Math, she said, helps her with medicine.

    “I hope you got ideas on what types of work to do when you grow up,” Mr. Olender encouraged students.

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  • International Night brings the world to AHHS

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 4/24/2019 9:00:00 AM

    Elmsford school community members had an opportunity to travel without leaving their hometown during the International Night held on April 12 at Alexander Hamilton High School.

    Guests gathered to enjoy cuisine, music, dance and traditional clothing from all around the world.

    Tamales, falafel and baked ziti were just some of the delicious options to taste throughout the evening.
    Families could try their luck with a 50-50 raffle, model a Japanese kimono or watch traditional dance numbers by students throughout the event.

    Click here to view more from from the evening

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  • Hippity Hoppity Easter egg hunt fun

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 4/22/2019 10:00:00 AM

    There was no doubt that students at the Carl L. Dixson Primary School were ready.

    “Let’s do this!” one student said as he and his classmates walked to the gymnasium.

    The school gathered children together to enjoy some seasonal Easter fun. They began first with decorating a paper plate, which was soon transformed into an Easter basket.

    Finishing this project, students lined up to head outside.

    “I’m so excited,” one boy said as he waited for his teacher to give the signal to leave the building.

    Awaiting the students was a front lawn full of Easter eggs.

    Superintendent of Schools, Marc Baiocco gave the go-ahead and that was all the students needed.

    There was a rush to the lawn as students searched out the four eggs with their name on it.

    Click here to see photos of the event.


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  • Books and baseball

    Posted by Alicia Smith on 4/18/2019 1:00:00 PM

    Milk, cookies, a good book .  . . and baseball. It doesn’t get any better than that. Students and their parents had an opportunity to enjoy all three during the Fourth annual Boulder Read-In, held on April 9 at the Alice E. Grady Elementary School.

    The event represents a partnership with Scholastic Books and the Rockland Boulders, a Can-Am League baseball team. The team plays in Ramapo and Girl reading book each year hosts the “Read for the Rockland Boulders” contest.

    The program encourages students to read for a certain number of hours for an opportunity to win tickets to upcoming games. The top prize, if a student reads 1,200 minutes or more, they are eligible for eight tickets to upcoming games, can throw out the first pitch and win a t-shirt.

    The evening is planned in conjunction with the school’s Scholastic Book Fair. Students and their parents purchased a book during the event or selected one from a cart full of books from the school library. The evening enabled students time to read that added to their hours.

    Math teacher Barrie Hittner is a huge Boulder fan. She arrived at the event in her signed jersey and brought along Boulders team member Albert Gonzalez.

    “The program is the perfect mix for students,” Ms. Hittner said. “It supports student reading and includes a bit of math as they add up the number of hours they read each day and throughout the week.” Numbers, she said, are part of the process as students consider how many pages are in their book and how long they have been reading.

    Group of children reading “It’s just a fun night,” Ms. Hittner said.

    “I like to read chapter books,” third-grader Amina Elzenary said as she sat with her mom reading. She often reads on the bus ride home.

    Angel Vivanco, also in third-grade, said he was interested in coming to the event so he could buy a new “Dog Man” book.

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