“It’s a service that is simply good for the kids, good for the community and good for everybody,” said Saul Lerner, the Central District director of health, physical education and athletics, noting that the program costs the community nothing. “We’ve helped kids who might have gone undetected.”
The Gruen Foundation pays Cohen technicians to perform the tests, while Central District nurses, secretaries, teachers and administrators volunteer for the program. In particular, Blum credited MAMS secretary Alberta Miller and Grand Avenue secretary Cathy Paolillo with annually scheduling students for their testing appointments. In a half-hour, about a half-dozen students can be seen.
Testing is voluntary. This year, 240 of the Central District’s 980 eighth-graders were tested at MAMS. Parents must accompany their children to the tests, Blum said, noting that students are informed of any ailments they might be suffering from on the day of the tests. Parents need to be there in the event that the news is particularly bad.
“I come home drained because I know these children’s lives are going to be changed, but at least their lives are saved,” said Gruen Helsinger. “They might not be able to play ball or dance, but they’ll find another way, and at least they’ll have another path.”
The testing program has also been offered in the Great Neck, Jericho, Long Beach and Valley Stream school districts.