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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sandy Aftermath
Finding solace after the storm in Valley Stream
School welcomes displaced students from Island Park
Andrew Hackmack/Herald
Hope and A.J. Rodriguez attend Brooklyn Avenue School in Valley Stream after being displaced from their Island Park home and schools by Hurricane Sandy.

Hope Rodriguez embodies her first name. She and her younger brother, Abel John, have remained optimistic and hopeful even in the face of great adversity.

The Rodriguez siblings were displaced from both their home and their schools by Hurricane Sandy, but they have found a new life in Valley Stream, and they are appreciative that they still have each other.

Hope and A.J., as he is known to family and friends, lived in Island Park before the storm hit on Oct. 29. Their home, which their parents rented, was severely damaged, and they have since been staying with friends in Valley Stream. They now attend the Brooklyn Avenue School, where they say they have been welcomed by teachers, administrators and their new classmates.

A.J., 9, a fourth-grader, attended the Francis X. Hegarty School, which was also heavily damaged by floodwaters and will remain closed for several months. Hope, 11, was in sixth grade at Lincoln Orens Middle School, which did reopen and now houses the entire Island Park School District. But they decided to attend Brooklyn Avenue, just a few blocks from their temporary home.

“It’s really good,” Hope said. “The kids are nice. The teachers are nice.”

Principal Dr. Scott Comis praised the students and staff for welcoming the new children. In total, the school has added five students displaced from other communities by the storm. “The support of the Brooklyn Avenue School family is just overwhelming,” Comis said.

The Rodriguezes are attending school together for the first time in two years, since Hope went to middle school. She said that going back to elementary school is a bit of an adjustment — she no longer changes classes, as she did at Lincoln Orens. But the change has been a positive. Since coming to Brooklyn Avenue, she has been studying Egypt and learning percentages, decimals and fractions.

A.J., meanwhile, has been learning about the solar system. In math, he has been doing graphs. The amount of work is about the same, he said, but some of the textbooks are different.

A.J. said that his classmates are great. “They showed us all around the school,” he said. “I didn’t really know a lot of this school.”

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