News Around The District
Hip-hip hooray for the holiday gift giveaway!Posted by Alicia Smith on 12/22/2021 2:00:00 PM
It was reported that Santa Claus needed help from a special reindeer one foggy Christmas Eve to deliver toys. During a recent rainy, dreary afternoon, he called in a special group of elves to make sure gifts were shared in the Elmsford community.
On Saturday, Dec. 18, members of Alexander Hamilton High School’s National Honor Society, student government and a few alumni donned their festive cold-weather gear and assisted with the second annual holiday gift giveaway.
“One thing that is great about this community is that everyone comes out to help,” parent volunteer Lucie Rambaran said.
The district received 400 toys from Toys for Tots, enabling them to give away the toys to any student in the district who wanted them.
The day before, the student-volunteers gathered to wrap the presents and have them ready to be “delivered.” From 1 to 3 p.m., families stopped by Alice E. Grady Elementary School and received a free wrapped gift for their child. There were also a number of new donated coats that were given away too, thanks to the generosity of the Westchester County chapter of Y Service Club International.
The festivities also included a raffle for a child’s bike.
“With everything going on with COVID-19, I think it’s nice we are able to give back,” said junior and NHS member Sara Sookedeo.
“I thought this was a good cause to help with,” said freshman and student government member Mateo DiBerto.
“We volunteered for this last year and I liked it a lot,” said senior and student government treasurer Sunjay Green. “It is a lot of work, but when you have a lot of people, it’s more fun.”
AHHS takes lead in reducing waste with new recycling programPosted by Alicia Smith on 12/22/2021 8:00:00 AM
Pour the liquid here, drop the container there, food goes there, trash right here and you are on your way. These are just a few easy steps that students have adopted as part of the new cafeteria recycling program at Alexander Hamilton High School.
During each lunch wave, once students are finished with their meal, they dump any liquids from their beverage container out in a special bucket and throw everything else in one of three bins — one for liquid containers and plasticware, another for food and paper and another for more typical trash like food wrappers. Trays are then stacked on a nearby table. The materials collected in the bins are then composted or recycled and very little is just thrown away.
“At first I was kind of confused,” seventh-grader Autumn Jones said during a lunch period about what goes where. “I now know what to do. I didn’t realize a school made that much garbage in one day.”
“I was excited about it,” fellow seventh-grader Jovan Davis said about the new program. “I don’t like when there is a lot of garbage.”
“It’s easy to figure out,” seventh-grader Lilly Loriega said, referring to the bins and how they are used. She said she learned more about exactly where trash goes and what happens to an item when it’s recycled.
The district is working with Anna Giordano, the executive director of the non-profit organization We Future Cycle. She connected with the district through Westchester-based One World United and Virtuous, which also works with the district on environmental and cultural programs. She began bringing her School Lunch Recycling program to schools in 2010 after seeing how much waste was produced in her children’s school cafeteria alone. In 2014, she founded her company and actively works with schools throughout the county.
“In every school, we’ve reduced garbage by 95-98%, where we have just six pounds of trash versus 400 pounds,” Ms. Giordano said. “To achieve that, I work with students, teachers and the food services in order to create material that is easily composted or recycled.”
Overall, students at Hamilton have gotten the hang of what goes where, as the school year has progressed. Ms. Giordano is in the cafeteria at least once a week to assist students.
The program at the high school began with Ms. Giordano working with cafeteria staff to find materials they need that are recyclable or can be composted and are also budget friendly. She also provided custodial staff with details of how this all works and its benefits. Without the buy-in from the cafeteria staff and school custodians, the program would not be possible, she said.
During the 2020-2021 school year, Ms. Giordano met with students virtually to introduce them to the program. With students now in school full time, she has been in classrooms regularly to explain how the program works and its environmental benefits. She discusses topics including where aluminum comes from and what happens when food waste is composted.
She said the cafeteria staff has made important changes, such as switching from wrapping food in plastic wrap to using waxed paper. They are also in the process of eliminating individual ketchup packets and changing to pump containers for condiments.
“We see changes in how the kids behave with this,” Ms. Giordano said. “Some report they have started recycling at home and have bought a reusable water bottle. We are actively working to make this a normal kind of behavior.”
The cafeteria initiative supports the district’s efforts to become more environmentally friendly. In April, Superintendent Marc Baiocco signed the carbon-neutral pledge “Let’s Go Zero,” making Elmsford the first school district in the country to do so. The high school also boasts the Getting Raiders to Establish an Ecological Network, or the GREEN Club. The club’s mission is to promote sustainability in the community. The club was responsible for installing a sustainable garden in the school’s courtyard.
“I’m pleased because we are saving our planet,” seventh grader Melissa Artega said. “I thought all we were going to do was recycle and not go so deep into composting.”
Classmate Max Starks said he thought he knew something about recycling but admitted he was not aware how long certain items can remain in a landfill.
Beginning in January, Ms. Giordano will introduce the program to students at the Alice E. Grady Elementary School and the Carl L. Dixson Primary School.
“In general, it’s going well,” Ms. Giordano said. “It usually takes a good year to see every school up and running. It takes a community to try to change this.”
“It’s one student at a time,” she said. “I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do in every school.”
Day of Giving a tradition before Day of ThanksPosted by Alicia Smith on 11/29/2021 1:15:00 PM
The Elmsford Union Free School District once more rolled up its sleeves and got to work during the traditional Day of Giving on Nov. 24. Each year, students engage in a number of community service projects, some focusing on their schools and others on the community
The highlight of the event, which is in its ninth year, is giving out baskets to community members in need.
“I think it’s really nice to have students come together to help out,” senior and Student Government President Katie Praino said.
Gathering in the Alice E. Grady Elementary School Cafeteria, members of the Alexander Hamilton High School Student Government filled donated boxes with a turkey, cake mix, canned goods, fresh carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, apples and milk. Feeding Westchester, Stop and Shop and Ray Catena BMW all made contributions to help the cause.
When the boxes were all packed up — a total of 50 this year —those in the community who were eligible were able to drive up and have student volunteers put their food box put in the car.
“It’s really great to have them involved all these years,” parent volunteer Lucie Rambaran said of the student assistants. “Hopefully the spirit of volunteering carries with them as they go on to their next stage in life.”
The food basket program was different from other years, Superintendent Marc Baiocco said, in that it was open to the entire Elmsford community and not just eligible school families.
The superintendent said he would eventually like to get students in all grades involved with putting the baskets together and helping with the donations.
“You really did an amazing job,” Dr. Baiocco told the student volunteers.
As the day progressed, Hamilton students continued working on other community service activities. Some wrote holiday cards to send to soldiers and other cards to children receiving care at St. Jude’s.
Other classes created Book Bento boxes. These are boxes that will hold a book and items related to that book. Some students celebrated with writing and sharing original poetry.
Classes came together to paint rocks that will be placed in the courtyard garden and others created paper wreaths to hang around the school for the holidays. Students were encouraged to create their own designs. Some painted funny faces others colorful designs.
Special guests were also on hand to talk to students. Among them was Taiyo Tatara, AHHS Class of ’19. Mr. Tatara is enrolled at the United States Naval Academy. He spoke with ninth- and tenth-graders about his experience and things they may want to consider.
“If you are thinking about joining the Navy or Marine Corps, the Naval Academy is a good place to go,” Mr. Tatara said. “You can become an officer in a leadership position.”
Generous donation will help children stay warm this winterPosted by Alicia Smith on 11/24/2021 8:00:00 AM
With temperatures dropping as winter approaches, the Elmsford Union Free School District will soon distribute winter coats to students in need, thanks to a generous donation by the Westchester County chapter of Y Service Club International.
On Wednesday Nov. 17, members from the club formally presented Elmsford Superintendent Marc Baiocco with 75 new winter coats. The donation was coordinated by Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Linda Carlin.
“This is the best Thanksgiving gift, especially during these difficult times with the pandemic,” said Shaji Zacharia, president of Westchester’s Y Service Club International.
“I want to thank the school leadership for opening your doors and letting us have an event here,” said Joseph Kanjamala, the organization’s former regional director.
The presentation was held in the main hallway of Alexander Hamilton High School, a location where international flags hang from the ceiling, representing the backgrounds of its student population. Dr. Baiocco remarked how the flags are a great representation of the school community and tie into the international service work that the organization does.
The coats will be distributed to community members in December.
“On behalf of the Board of Education and the community, I can’t thank you enough for your generosity,” said Board President Yvette Eannazzo.
Members of the Hamilton GREEN Club were also in attendance. In addition to the club’s activities promoting sustainability, the group also engages in community service projects throughout the school year.
“There are some families in our community facing hard times,” said GREEN member Yahir Arellano. “Hopefully, this will make a difference.”
Congratulations to our Boys Soccer team! They are state champs!Posted by Alicia Smith on 11/23/2021 10:10:00 AM
On Sunday, Nov. 14 the Alexander Hamilton High School Boys Varsity Soccer team did something no other Elmsford boys soccer team had done before: win the New York Section 1 Class C State Championship!
The team, coached by Rob Segaloff, beat Maple Hill in a 1-0 victory, with the game winning goal by junior Tiago Vargas.
On Friday, Nov. 19, community members gathered to do something in recognition of their amazing win: they held a victory parade!
Students, faculty and staff gathered outside of the school, while community supporters lined up on the sidewalks. Everyone cheered while the team and coaches paraded through the local streets in a wagon pulled by a truck and escorted by the Elmsford Police Department and the Elmsford Fire Department. After the victors returned to Hamilton, they visited the Alice E. Grady Elementary School next door and walked through the hallways as students and staff there cheered.
Team members dressed up in their state champion T-shirts and wore the medals they received as champions.
The Red Raiders received some extra attention from News 12, which stopped by to record and report on the event. Afterward, they enjoyed a lunch donated by Pete’s Saloon.
Coach Segaloff said as to when he began to think the team could finish as champions, “probably about mid-season when we were still undefeated, but I don’t think I ever expected it because I knew how hard the trip to the finals would be,” he said. “But to be honest, we pretty much focused one game at a time.”
“These guys are some of the nicest people I’ve coached, and they have remained humble throughout the whole season and even after they won,” the 17-year coach said. “They were complimented about their behavior and sportsmanship all weekend and that makes the championship even more special.”
“This is the best team we’ve ever had,” Athletic Director Rob Pollok said.
One ingredient the team had that contributed to its success was that most of the players have played together since they were children in various recreation leagues.
“They have a love for the sport, a real good chemistry,” he said.
The team was ranked No. 1 by the New York State Sportswriters Association.
A look at science at HamiltonPosted by Alicia Smith on 11/17/2021 12:00:00 PM
During the Nov. 3 Board of Education meeting the science curriculum at Alexander Hamilton High School was put under the microscope during a presentation by Department Chair Rich MacLeish and Principal Joseph Engelhardt. The two highlighted how the department has grown with new science related electives being offered and an increase in participation in the Science Olympiad Club.
Mr. MacLeish explained “the overall goal of the Science Department is to provide students with the curiosity, skills and knowledge they need to success in an increasingly complex world.”
This is done by helping students learn a broad range of scientific concepts through hands-on learning and practical experiences, Mr. MacLeish said.
Students have an opportunity to choose from a variety of science classes that not only meet state standards, but to enable students to have a broad range of offerings. Among them are 7th Grade Science, Earth Science, Technology, Living Environment, Chemistry, Physics, which are all Regents level courses. They can also choose among electives such as Nutrition, Anatomy/Physiology, Forensics and Robotics.
Students can also participate in a 4-year sequence in scientific research, made possible through a partnership with SUNY Albany, resulting in 12 credits recognized by SUNY Albany as well as other colleges. Students can also take Advanced Placement Biology and new this year AP Psychology.
“By their senior year, 100 % of our students meet their scientific requirements,” Mr. Engelhardt said.
During the presentation, Mr. MacLeish said students graduate from Hamilton with more than eight science credits.
It is not only in the classroom that the vast world of science is explored. Students can also indulge their scientific interest by participating in several school-wide clubs and programs, including the Science Olympiad, the Hamilton Green Club, Robotics Club and a special 8th Grade STEM Science Day. This year too, the cafeteria has a new recycling program and in the spring the district signed the carbon neutral “Let’s Go Zero” pledge, becoming the first school district in the country to do so.
In the coming year or two the state will be transitioning to the next generation science standards. In preparation, students at the Alice E. Grady Elementary School are also participating in more science related classes.
Mr. Engelhardt noted too that while science is the focus of these many classes and club, literacy is regularly included. Students have an opportunity to read articles on the latest scientific news, they often undergo close readings of scientific materials and “local and community connections to scientific concepts, are also incorporated.
“I want to thank you for everything. For continually engaging the department,” Superintendent Marc Baiocco said, complementing Mr. MacLeish.
“It’s really a testament to the teachers themselves,” Mr. MacLeish said. “It’s a real statement to their dedication.”
Diwali at DixsonPosted by Alicia Smith on 11/8/2021 3:10:00 PM
The fall season is awash with holidays and seasonal traditions! Recently, the students at Carl L. Dixson Primary School were introduced to a special celebration: Diwali.
Diwali is a festival of light celebrated over the course of five days. It is often referred to as a victory of light over darkness, hope over despair.
Students were introduced to the Indian festival through the eponymous book by Hannah Eliot. The story was read by a virtual guest reader, parent volunteer Chitra Singh. Children followed along in the classroom as their teacher showed them illustrations from the book.
Students in all grades learned that, during the five days of celebration, families prepare by first spending a day cleaning their homes, followed by a day of decorating their homes with lights and lamps. The third day is for assembling with family and friends. The fourth includes visits with extended family. On the fifth day, siblings celebrate their relationships. Lanterns, lamps, candles and fireworks play a significant role in the festivities; they are often lit throughout homes and along driveways.
“Everyone celebrates, whether you are Hindu or not,” Ms. Singh said.
“We learn about a lot of holidays,” kindergarten teacher Adrienne Capocci told her students. “They do things similar to what we do when we celebrate.”
Following the reading, students worked on a special craft project. They colored a unique design on a sheet of paper, using whatever colors they chose. The design was cut out by their teacher and then glued to a paper plate. Their creations were sent home with a tea light so they could share in the Festival of Light at home with their families.
Grady students get a closer look at the DNA of a strawberryPosted by Alicia Smith on 11/4/2021 3:40:00 PM
Strawberries are red, have small seeds and many find them to be tasty. All of those characteristics come from one place: its DNA.
Students at the Alice E. Grady Elementary School not only learned about strawberry DNA but conducted an experiment to extract it from the berry thanks to the generosity of some volunteer scientists.
On Oct. 22, volunteers from Regeneron participated in the “Regeneron Day for Doing Good.” Regeneron is a biotechnology company based in Tarrytown. Several Regeneron employees joined students virtually. They talked about science, their careers, and they walked the students through a scientific experiment.
The Regeneron Day of Doing Good is the company’s global day of service. Last year, the pharmaceutical company contributed more than 16,000 volunteer hours to 155 organizations.
“We are going to help you think like a scientist,” April McCullough, a medical director with the company, told a group of students.
Ms. McCullough and her Regeneron partner, Mark Cossu, first showed students a series of slides. The images shown were close-ups of common objects and students had to guess what they were looking at. This helped to show students how scientists look at the world in a different way.
Some of the slides were easy to guess — a dandelion, chocolate ice cream and a football. Others, not so much.
One slide looked like a stick. Students guessed it could be a log, when in fact it was a close-up of an apple stem. Another slide showed a series of colorful ridges. Students thought it could be a rainbow-colored Slinky. It was actually a butterfly.
Then it was time for some messy fun.
“DNA is the instruction manual for the body,” Ms. McCullough said. “Differences in DNA is what makes us unique, like our hair color or the shape of our nose.”
Students also learned that 99.9% of human DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the same for all humans. However, 60% of human DNA is similar to that of a banana!
In their experiment, Ms. McCullough and Mr. Cossu went step by step as students in their classrooms did the same steps.
Students put two strawberries in a Ziploc bag and smashed them up before putting the bag aside. The next step included putting half a cup of water into a plastic cup along with 1 teaspoon of salt and two teaspoons of dishwashing soap. They very gently swirled this solution around before adding it to the strawberries in the bag and mashing them up again. In another clear cup, the students carefully poured the strawberry and solution mixture through the filter they placed on top of the cup. The larger pieces were left behind, as a light red fluid filtered into the cup.
“It’s a little messy,” Ms. McCullough noted.
Finally, the students were assisted by their teacher as they slowly poured rubbing alcohol in with the filtered red fluid.
“Do you see anything happening?” Ms. McCullough asked.
As students gently swirled the red fluid around in the cup, small white strands began to float to the top — the strawberry DNA!
“Thank you so much for doing this,” Principal Andrea Hamilton said during a short break with the volunteers. “The kids are super excited.”
Regeneron’s Celeste Rojas, a clinical research manager and medical specialist Aggie Katz worked with another group of students on the strawberry DNA experiment.
“Let’s think about being a scientist,” Ms. Katz announced before leading students through the experiment.
“The salt and soap mixture helps open up the cells of the strawberry and release the DNA,” Ms. Katz explained. “The salt makes the strands of DNA plump.”
“Whoa!” said one student as the white strands of DNA began to appear.
“Wow!” said another.
“We have a lot of amazed scientists here,” said music teacher Christopher Funke, who was helping students.
Reading inspires senior to share the joy with Lending LibrariesPosted by Alicia Smith on 11/3/2021 12:35:00 PM
If Kathleen Praino, a senior at Alexander Hamilton High School, is not reading, she is suggesting books to her friends and encouraging them to put down the video games and pick up a book.
These days, she has gone so far as to encourage the youngest in the community to do the same. This fall, she installed two Little Free Libraries, one just outside of the Carl L. Dixson Primary School and another outside of the Alice E. Grady Elementary School.
“I’ve always been a big reader,” Kathleen said. “I read a ton over quarantine. I literally read every single day.”
“I want kids to be excited about reading,” she continued. “I feel like it’s a lost art. They are not excited about finding a good book. I want them to be excited and not go home and play video games.”
Little Free Library is a non-profit organization that encourages communities and individuals to provide enclosed boxes filled with books. They are available to anyone, and reading enthusiasts are welcome to take a book and leave a book for another person to enjoy.
As they would drive around town Kathleen and her mom noticed that there are little libraries all over. She began to think it might be just the thing to not only encourage young students to read but would also be a great project for her Girl Scout Gold Award.
Kathleen has been in Girl Scouts since she was 5 and is currently a member of Troop No. 2046. She said she always knew she was going to get involved in some of the bigger projects that the scouts offer their members. The Gold Award is the highest honor a Girl Scout can receive.
She has been planning her project since her sophomore year but paused the entire plan due to COVID-19. As restrictions began to ease, she sprang into action. The first step was to present her idea to the Gold Award Committee for their approval. She also had to fulfill leadership hours, during which she solicited volunteers and organized how they could assist her with her project. As the project progressed, she also reached out the school principals for their input.
“This was something I knew I could do,” Kathleen said.
Kathleen was also determined to make the libraries herself as opposed to using one of the building kits that can be found online. Working with her grandfather, Joseph Praino, the two designed the libraries, built them and installed them near the schools. Kathleen also had assistance from her fellow Girl Scouts, who helped with painting the libraries and collecting books to put in them. They also attended Elmsford Day, where Kathleen and the scouts collected books and passed out flyers letting people know the libraries were coming. They installed the libraries on Sept. 21.
The libraries are wooden structures that look like a small house atop a post. A door in the front allows access to the books inside.
Need a good laugh? Come on out to see “The One Act Play that Goes Wrong” at AHHSPosted by Alicia Smith on 11/2/2021 4:00:00 PM
As poet Robert Burns wrote: “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men.” Sometimes things just don’t turn out the way you think they will.
No one knows that better than the fictional group of local thespians who are planning, rehearsing and getting ready to debut a new show as portrayed in “The One-Act Play that Goes Wrong.” It tells the story of an unlucky group of actors who are attempting to put on a show, but fate has something else in store for them.
For the very real group of thespians at Alexander Hamilton High School, they are hoping that nothing will go awry when they perform the show on Nov. 4-6. Like the characters they portray, the cast of 15 students have been busy learning lines, memorizing the staging and finding costumes in preparation of their performance.
Director Chris Guzman described the show this way: “Over the course of 75 minutes, hilarity ensues as the group work to make it to the end of the play as things quite literally fall apart around them.”
“Will they make it to the end of their play? We hope so! Audiences should come out and see this production because it will have them rolling over in laughter,” the director continued.
This spring the AHHS theater students performed their show, “The 2021 Courtyard Spectacular,” outside due to COVID-19 safety concerns. This November, the show is returning to the AHHS auditorium with special protocols in place.
“It is the first time we are back in the auditorium since the shutdown of winter 2020,” Mr. Guzman said. “We cannot wait to welcome audiences safely back into the AHHS theater. The students have once again worked so hard to mount this production. I am so proud of their dedication and commitment.”
“The One-Act Play that Goes Wrong” will be performed on Nov. 4, 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the AHHS auditorium. There will be limited seating to ensure social distancing is upheld; masks will be required. For tickets, visit www.eufsd.org/theatre.
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