Central High School takes prize at SPARK! Challenge


Valley Stream Central High School students won their second consecutive SPARK! Challenge award last week with a presentation on surgeons and surgical teams.

Thirty-eight schools joined the Challenge, which began late last year. The Challenge is sponsored by Northwell Health and is intended to foster an interest in the health care field.

The competition was in two parts. In the first part, they created a poster that visually summarized their presentation. The second part was the actual presentation — a two-minute overview of what they had taken away from their experiences.

Teams from all across Long Island competed for cash prizes of as much as $5,000. More than 600 students took part in 50 site visits— double last year’s participation, according to Cheryl Davidson, Northwell’s senior director for workforce readiness. Teams were assigned partners from various health care facilities. Northwell representatives stressed that careers in the segment could cover a range of skill sets, both clinical and non-clinical. Students were partnered with culinary services, emergency departments, industrial engineering, procurement and telepsychology. Central was paired with Long Island Jewish Valley Stream’s operating room; North High School was partnered by the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research.

North chose to do their presentation on the Institute’s neurophysiology program. Team members were intrigued by a bioelectronic armband that could stimulate damaged nerves. Randy Kublall described one of the Institute’s patients, who had lost the use of his hands in a automobile accident. “He hadn’t been able to move his hands at all for three years,” he said. Kublall showed how the armband stimulated responses to help repair the damage. “He said wanted to be able to do two things,” team member Caterina Mayo added. “He wanted to be able to hold his own glass, and he wanted to be able to play the guitar.” After three months of therapy, he was able to do both, she said.

Central’s presentation was on the parts played by the different members of a surgical team. As part of their site visits, they were allowed to scrub in and watch two procedures, Patricia Joseph said — a gall bladder removal and a hernia repair. “The surgeon is the heart of the body in the operating room,” she said. “But you still need the rest of the body. The team may be illuminated by the light of the surgeon’s talent, but you still need the strength of the whole team.” Joseph said she hopes to become an Ob Gyn.

“I love the enthusiasm,” said Davidson, “and it’s inspiring to see the level of their knowledge.”

A panel of senior managers judged the posters and presentations, including Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer Joseph Moscola, himself a graduate of Central High School. “I’m blown away by your enthusiasm, your ambition, your passion and creativity,” he said.

“You really energize us,” Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Solazzo said. “You really raised the bar this year.” To show the sincerity of his appreciation, he doubled the amount of the prizes.

The students from Central hadn’t decided what to do with their winnings. “It’s exciting,” 11th-grader Kayla Dhanipersaud said. “Since we won last year, we felt like we had more pressure on us.”