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South Country Students Gain Educational Advantage with AP Capstone

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With the inauguration of an AP Capstone Research course at South Country High School, students will have the opportunity to earn the prestigious AP Capstone designation on their diplomas.

“We are so excited to offer this program,” said Jack Burke, director of STEM. “Through Capstone, our students will move on to their college experience ahead of their peers.”

To earn an AP Capstone diploma, students are required to complete both AP Capstone Seminar and AP Capstone Research. The AP Capstone Seminar course was first offered during the 2020-21 school year, with the goal to provide AP Capstone Research this year.

The two courses were designed under AP Capstone guidelines and following research and implementation by Burke and Jackie O’Hagan, director of humanities.

“We wanted to ensure we instituted the best model,” said O’Hagan. “We spoke to colleagues in other districts and made decisions based on our research.”

Their hard work resulted in a two-year AP Capstone sequence that provides students with an experience that will demonstrate their high level of achievement, allow them to excel in Advanced Placement courses and set them apart when applying for college.

The yearlong AP Capstone Seminar focuses on a high level of academic writing through team and individual presentations that students must complete during the course of the school year. Students are encouraged to take the class, which is co-taught by Kristen Fehr-Thompson and John Bishop, during their sophomore year. Currently, there are close to 125 students enrolled in the course.

The AP Research class, co-taught by Christine Bellante and Andrew Budris, currently has 45 juniors participating. The course provides the tools for students to execute a research project of his or her choosing. At the end of the course, students must present their 4,000- to 5,000-word research paper that is modeled after a doctoral dissertation.

“The work students complete in [AP Capstone] is level-appropriate, but similar to work they will complete in college or postgraduate studies,” said Burke. “They become independent researchers, exploring academic areas that interest them.”

South Country Thespian Earns Merit Award

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South Country High School senior Emma Butler, a talented actress and singer, has been recognized with an award of merit as part of the Long Island Arts Alliance’s annual Scholar-Artist Awards. She was one of 20 students from across Long Island to be selected for the honor after being nominated by her school.

To qualify, Butler had to submit a video recording of a song and a monologue, as well as an essay. She sang “A Part of That” from the musical “The Last Five Years” and performed a monologue from the musical “Now. Here. This.” Both the song and the monologue, she said, resonated with her. For her essay, she wrote about how the arts have enriched her life.

“It wasn’t difficult to write about the arts in my life,” Butler said. “Theater has been a part of me since my first production in the fifth grade.”

Since she first took the stage, she has continued to perform in annual school productions and was recently cast in her first professional show at the Studio Theater of Long Island. She will be performing in the chorus in a production of “Aida.”

“I love theater,” she said. “I love the sense of camaraderie and performing on stage after all the hard work we put in.”

When not performing, Butler can be found reading at her local library, where she recently participated in a Battle of the Books program. She is also president of her school’s National Honor Society and a member of the Tri-M Music Honor Society.

She plans to study psychology in college.

South Country Marks 20th Anniversary of 9/11

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On the morning of Sept. 10, students at Bellport High School in the South Country Central School District listened intently as a panel of speakers somberly shared their memories during a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11.

Among those who took the podium were Erika Della Rosa, Bellport High School principal; Gregory C. Miglino Jr., chief of the South Country Ambulance Company; David DiDio, first assistant of the Bellport Fire Department and former member of the New York City Fire Department; and Joseph Alt, retired New York City police officer and teaching assistant at Bellport High School.

Della Rosa spoke about her brother, who was deployed as a Navy SEAL shortly after Sept. 11. She discussed the role he played in protecting America’s freedoms and the bravery of all the men and women who fought for the nation.

During Miglino’s address, he recalled the sense of community that developed amid the tragedy and how members of the South Country Ambulance Company were willing to stop what they were doing to assist at Ground Zero. He also reminded students to never forget those who had perished. “We have a task that we must not fail,” he said. “We must make sure future generations understand the sacrifices that were made.”

In his speech, DiDio conveyed to students the sights he witnessed when he arrived at Ground Zero on Sept. 11 as a member of the New York City Fire Department. He spoke of the sheer destruction of the Twin Towers and the work that went into the search efforts and cleanup. When not working, he recalled, he would attend the funerals of many of the fallen first responders.

Alt reflected on arriving in New York City on the morning of Sept. 11 as an active New York City police officer. He explained that because of an imminent fear of further attacks, officers were sent to guard important structures. He was stationed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before being charged to search for potential bombs near Ground Zero, a site that he said resembled a futuristic horror film. He reminded students to live each day to its fullest because it could be snatched away in an instant.

The ceremony also featured an emotional recorded song by James Leskowicz, a Brookhaven Fire Department member. The song, titled “Song to a Friend,” recounted the events on that fateful day 20 years ago.

Culminating the ceremony was the dedication of a tree in the school’s Veterans Courtyard to Corporal James E. Lundin, a Bellport High School alumnus. Lundin was killed in action in Balad, Iraq, on May 30, 2007, at the age of 20. He was a member of the U.S. Army 2nd Brigade Combat Team. During the moving dedication, each student in attendance stood to lay a flower under the dedicated tree.

The ceremony concluded with a reflection and prayer by Bishop Bullock of the New Bethel First Pentecostal Church in Bellport.

Top Football Players

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The South Country School District congratulates two standout senior football players who were named to Newsday’s Top 100 Long Island Football Players list. Three-year starter Jack Halpin, QB/S, was recognized for having rushed and passed for more than 820 yards and making 12 touchdowns last spring. Calvin Pedatella, WR/LB, also a three-year starter, was honored for making 73 tackles last spring.

New School Year Kicks off in South Country

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Students across the South Country Central School District quickly became acquainted with their new teachers, routines and programs as they kicked off the 2021-22 school year on Sept. 1.

Elementary students began the school year as they stepped off their buses to be greeted by smiling teachers. They entered their colorful classrooms and started their day by getting to know their new teachers and classmates. Secondary students also met their teachers and made a smooth transition back as they adjusted to their new classrooms and schedules.

“We are looking forward to a year filled with outstanding academic and extracurricular opportunities for our students,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Giani.

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