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Former NBA player asks students ‘Why?’

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On Jan. 29, Babylon Junior-Senior High School welcomed Chris Herren, former NBA player turned motivational speaker, for two presentations at the school. One was offered during school hours for ninth-12th grade students, and the other was hosted during the evening so families and community members could join.

Herren lost his basketball career and almost his family to his struggle with drug addiction before achieving sobriety in 2008. Since then, he has spoken to more than 1 million people around the world in hopes of awakening them to the grave consequences of substance abuse. Members of the Babylon community listened in silence as Herren detailed his past with intense honesty and solemnness.

Herren focused his talks on “the first day, not just the worst day.” In other words, he not only highlighted the “rock bottom” that is often discussed in similar conversations, but also examined the ways in which drug abuse begins. He encouraged students to ponder “the why”: that is, “why” young people feel compelled to alter themselves with drugs in the first place.

Herren then responded to audience questions and offered his nonprofit “Herren Project” as a resource to anyone struggling with issues related to substance abuse. All in attendance for both events were deeply moved by Herren’s powerful and emotional words, and a palpable sense of reflection filled the auditorium.

The district truly appreciates and thanks Dennis Murphy, district director of guidance services, for bringing Herren to the Babylon community and for coordinating the day and evening events with other district leaders.

Music and motivation at Babylon Junior-Senior High School

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On Jan. 29, seventh and eighth graders at Babylon Junior-Senior High School welcomed entertainer James Orrigo for a meaningful assembly at the school. Orrigo, who goes by the nickname “Lad in a Battle,” centered his presentation around the idea that it is important to be kind because everyone faces adversity whether or not it is obvious to others.

Orrigo told the students about some major obstacles he had faced, from sustaining a severe brain injury while playing lacrosse to caring for his late mother while she fought terminal cancer. He credited music with helping him heal from these experiences and allowing him to offer that same healing to those around him. He then detailed his cross-country travels, through which he has mobilized young people to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and performed at numerous children’s hospitals, all in an effort to spread joy and preserve his mother’s legacy.

In addition to sharing his story, Orrigo also shared his musical gift with the junior high schoolers by performing some of his original songs. Most importantly, though, he acted as a positive role model, motivating the students to maintain an optimistic mindset and dedicate time to serving others.

Babylon Memorial Grade School students host virtual interview with inspirational speaker

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On Jan. 22, fifth graders in Amy Malone, Debbie Gandiello, and Nicole Cupo’s ELA class at Babylon Memorial Grade School honed their journalistic skills through a unique interactive activity. As part of their unit on feature writing, the students conducted a Skype interview of Nicole Ficarra, who became a quadriplegic at 4 years old as a result of a bad car accident.

Prior to the interview, the fifth graders conducted internet research on spinal cord injuries to gain background knowledge. They then prepared questions on a variety of topics related to Ficarra’s experiences and adapted lifestyle. During the interview, students took turns asking their questions and diligently recorded Ficarra’s responses so they could later incorporate them into two collaborative feature articles.

This lesson not only taught the students how to conduct and synthesize research like true journalists, but also to have empathy for those who are differently abled and to maintain a positive attitude like Ficarra.

Babylon business students succeed at regional competitions

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Students in the business department at Babylon Junior-Senior High School recently showed off their knowledge and skills at two regional competitions.

On Jan. 8, 100 members of the school’s chapter of DECA participated in the Suffolk County Regional DECA Competition, which challenged the students to compete in events on a variety of subjects, such as marketing, management, accounting, finance and hotel management.

During the competition, Babylon students received 52 trophies and had a number of phenomenal achievements. Erin Corcoran placed first and Meghan Nachemin placed third in the Hotel & Lodging Management event; Kate Hannon placed first and Allie Van Rossem placed second in the Quick Serve Restaurant event; Kiera Mroczka placed second in Principles of Marketing; and Kevin Mroczka and KJ Graham placed third in the Marketing Management team event. There were also several fourth- and fifth-place winners from Babylon. The next step in the DECA journey is the NYS DECA Career Competition, which will be held from Feb. 26 to Feb. 28 in Rochester.

The following day on Jan. 9, the high school’s Virtual Enterprise class participated in the Long Island Business Plan Competition at Virtual Enterprises International’s 2020 Long Island Conference & Exhibition. Virtual Enterprise is designed to equip students with in-demand business skills, teach them entrepreneurship and guide them toward fulfilling careers.

At the competition, Babylon students presented and explained a business plan in front of corporate judges and marketed their “products” to VE classes from other schools. They won a silver award for their branding campaign and a gold medal for their company website.

Holocaust survivor inspires students with message of tolerance and forgiveness

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Students at Babylon Junior-Senior High School and Babylon Memorial Grade School recently had the honor of listening to Esther Basch, a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor, as she shared her harrowing testimony through a series of age-appropriate assemblies at the schools.

Basch was connected to Babylon Union Free School District through her great-grandson Jake Turet, who is a 10th grader in the district. Christopher Ryan, the high school’s director of social studies, jumped at the opportunity to have Basch speak. “It’s one thing to teach about the Holocaust and its history, it’s another thing to hear a firsthand account from someone who actually went through it,” Ryan said. “It makes it real for the students. It enables them to understand and appreciate the topic more than just reading about it in a textbook.”

One of the biggest lessons that became “real” for Babylon students was that of forgiveness. Basch explained that, despite the immense suffering and trauma the Nazis caused her and so many others, she forgives them. When asked how this could be possible, she replied, “It’s very simple; if I don’t forgive, if I hold a grudge, I only hurt myself.” She also related her experience to the students’ lives by drawing parallels to bullying, in hopes of making them mindful of avoiding bullying behavior in school and beyond.

Basch, who has given speeches throughout the country in recent years, emphasized just how powerful they have been in encouraging coexistence, saying, “I have many, many letters from youngsters, thank-you notes, telling me, ‘Mrs. Basch, we’ll make sure it’ll never happen again.’”
Sunday, February 16, 2020