These girls are ‘Scouting’ for another successful year at the Holiday Light Show

You know them for their addictive cookies, but the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County may have a new claim to fame: The Holiday Light Show. In Bayport, Long Island the Girl’s Scouts are hosting their 9th annual Holiday Light Show from 5pm to 9pm everyday from November 29th to December 30th.

“We reach people with the show from Manhattan all the way to Montauk” said Director of Public Relations, Christine Terzella. Last year over 50,000 visitors made their way to the Holiday Village to take part in the event. “This year we are hoping to be even bigger than last year and hopefully break that record” said Terzella.

What about this event brings in so many people? The main attraction is the mile long drive through a wooded trail filled with numerous light displays. The display is put together by the Girl Scout’s staff of volunteers. After the light show visitors are welcome to enter the Holiday Village for refreshments or have their picture taken with Santa.

Another special feature of the event is the “Hall of Trees”. This display features different Christmas trees designed by each troop, decorated with items for someone in need. Troop 2681 from Wading River, New York designed a “pet tree” which was decorated with pet products that correlated with their mission to help animals.

The Girl Scouts use their light show not only to raise money for their philanthropy but as an outlet to raise awareness for their specific missions. In support of Troop 2681’s mission to help animals they used the Holiday Village, prior to it’s opening up to the public, to throw an animal themed party.

The party included pizza and a live show from “Nature Nick,” an exotic animal entertainer. “This is the first year we are doing this for the Girl Scouts. They were a great audience, hopefully we will be back to do another show again for 2013” said licensed animal handler Nick Jacinto, who trains rescued zoo animals.

Although there was no denying the animal entertainment, food, and light show were much enjoyed, these girls never lost sight of what mattered most during the Holidays. Scout member Isabella Licati, from Troop 764 spoke for the entire Scouts when she said, “the best part of it all is getting to help other people.” If you haven’t already, take a drive through the Holiday Light Show; it’ll put you in the Holiday spirit while helping someone in need.

Cinematography by Jonathan Kudzmas


“The Polar Express” stops at Long Island School

Eight-year-old Madison Thorpe, of Islip, shows off her favorite stuffed animal during of viewing of "The Polar Express" during a holiday celebration at Commack Road Elementary.
Eight-year-old Madison Thorpe, of Islip, shows off her favorite stuffed animal during of viewing of “The Polar Express” during a holiday celebration at Commack Road Elementary.

Dressed in Monster High pajamas with her favorite stuffed animal, 8-year-old Madison Thorpe enjoyed the best day of second grade so far: Pajama Day.

She was among the more than 50 second-graders at Islip’s Commack Road Elementary School who eagerly gathered in the hallway Friday to listen to Chris Van Allsburg’s “The Polar Express.”

For more than a decade, the last day of class before winter break has been dedicated to celebrating the upcoming holiday. Students enjoy a “Polar Express” themed day that includes listening to the story, wearing pajamas and eating holiday treats.

“We got to listen to the story, watch the movie and eat cookies,” Madison said. “It was the best day.”

Students also wore bells that they rang during the reading of the story.

“My favorite part was when we all rang the bell,” said 8-year-old Shawn Ryan. “It was awesome!”

Donning flannel penguin pajamas, Elizabeth Johnson was one of five teachers who took part in the day’s festivities, giving a whole new take on casual Friday.

“All of the second-grade teachers came up with this idea over 10 years ago because we felt it was important to celebrate our real gifts of Christmas — the children,” said Johnson, who has taught second grade at the school for 25 years.

This year, to extend the tradition throughout the entire school, the students made a green-and-red paper train that lined the hallway walls. Students wrote their wishes on notebook paper and placed them on their homemade version of “The Polar Express.”

One wish from a student read, “If I had one wish it would to be a teacher because I want to teach everybody.”

“Seeing these wishes really connects the real holiday spirit for students,” said Johnson.

Principal Jeannette Feminella said the holidays are an especially important time to connect with students. She visited each classroom to celebrate the end of the year with the students.

“Isn’t it great to have a principal that actually knows the names of all her students?” Feminella asked. “Isn’t that how all schools are supposed to be?”

A student in Kerin Haak's second-grade class holds up "The Polar Express" book they read during the holiday celebration at Commack Road Elementary.
A student in Kerin Haak’s second-grade class holds up “The Polar Express” book they read during the holiday celebration at Commack Road Elementary.


Hofstra students unaware yet appreciative of simple dorm renovations

I interviewed Hofstra University students living in Estabrook and Vander Poel after revealing some unknown recent renovations to Hofstra Dorms. While a full renovation is still fully desired, students reactions were more understanding of Hofstra faculties’ efforts to creating the best living environment.

part 4 of 4. Check out other posts on the topic: Hofstra dorming: the ongoing renovation process, A personal perspective of dorming conditions, and Dorm quality starts with maintenance, but how trustworthy are they?

Hofstra dorming: the ongoing renovation process


Vice President of Students Affairs,  Sandy Johnson and Vice President of Facilities and Operations, Joseph Barkwill, meet with me to discuss what goes behind Hofstra’s renovations. 

Molding, leaking, and decaying, oh my! These are some of the problems Hofstra University students who live in the towers Vander Poel and Estabrook have. With a good portion of tuition allocated for rooming, some students are unhappy with their current living conditions. Good news students! Hofstra has heard your complaints and is doing all they can to address the problems.

“Our belief is to remain in a state of positive restlessness,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Sandra Johnson. “What we are doing to improve is good, but there is always room for more improvements.”

What exactly are these improvements? Hofstra is currently two years underway into their three year plan to renovate all six towers. The time it takes to completely renovate each building allow Hofstra to manage only two per Summer.

“Literally the day after commencement we start taking apart the buildings” said Vice President of Facilities and Operations Joseph Barkwill.

Summer classes and activities hinder their ability to renovate them at once because they must keep a good portion of the dorms available. Vander Poel and Estabrook are the last two buildings scheduled for renovation this upcoming Summer.

Each renovation includes new furniture, flooring, blinds, fire alarm system, security system, HVAC units, and a complete painting. This comes with a price tag of 1.4 million dollars for each tower. The towers will also receive new windows which equals an additional 4.5 million dollars for all six.

Students who live in the two unrenovated towers may feel frustrated with current room problems there are things they can do prior to renovation. By using the Hofstra Portal, a work order can be put in to public safety who will respond and fix the problem in a timely manner.

To some students, having perfect dorm quality seems that it should be an unquestionable priority but there is a much more complicated process behind it all. Plans for improvements are always underway, ranging from a two to five year planning process.

Johnson describes the altercations to Hofstra facilities as “constant, you never stop. Students dictate what changes they want to see and we listen.” Through the data they find in work orders, the results of the Quality of Life Survey, and any other suggestions they receive, Student Affairs works within the realms of their time and budget to offer the best solutions to Hofstra students.

My Infographic

Infographic created by Jennifer Sekyi

 part 3 of 4. Check out other posts on the topic: Hofstra students unaware yet appreciative of simple dorm renovations, A personal perspective of dorming conditions, and Dorm quality starts with maintenance, but how trustworthy are they?

A personal perspective of dorm conditions

Peyton Fletcher is a Hofstra University student living in Estabrook, a dorm scheduled for renovation. Although she has numerous infrastructure problems, she is optimistic about her rooming experience. Check out Peyton’s break down of her room and interview with Julian Coltre here.

part 2 of 4. Check out other posts on the topic: Hofstra students unaware yet appreciative of simple dorm renovations, Hofstra dorming: the ongoing renovation process, and Dorm quality starts with maintenance, but how trustworthy are they?

Dorm quality starts with maintenance, but how trustworthy are they?

While  functioning furniture and air tight windows are all essentials to dorm quality, safety is a top priority. But what happens when students can’t trust those that are there to fix their dorms? Take a look at what students have to say about maintenance safety in Jennifer Sekyi’s storify.

Want more information about Hofstra’s renovation process? Check out the rest of the story:

Rennovations you may not have known about at Hofstra University #HofRenovation

The facts and figures behind the renovation process at Hofstra #HofRenovation

How much do dorm renovations at Hofstra cost? Check out this infographic to find out #HofRenovation

A personal perspective of Hofstra’s dorm conditions #HofRenovation

How trustworthy are the maitenance in your dorm? #HofRenovation

Stony Brook Village hosts 33rd annual Holiday Festival

I took a trip down to Stony Brook Long Island to see what made Stony Brook Village’s Holiday Festival Newsday’s festival pick of the day. I was pleasantly surprised to encounter the lovely festival perfect for any family looking to celebrate the holiday season. Take a look at what I saw: