Wantagh students give back to those in need


“I like raising money for a good cause because it helped out a lot of kids,” Wantagh Middle School Sixth-grader Cat Russo said, about her donations to the Cerebral Palsy Association of Nassau County, after participating in the Trivia Challenge event. “It was also fun to do the trivia.”

Russo is one of 30 active members in the Wantagh Middle School’s Business and Education Serving Together (BEST) community service club. The club members, consisting of sixth- through eighth-grade students, recently participated in two trivia challenges at their Jan. 22 club meeting, Jennifer Holden, Wantagh Middle School reading teacher and BEST club co-advisor said.

The students with the best scores from the two teams — one for each grade — were placed in two groups of four to represent Wantagh Middle School at the Nassau County championships in Roosevelt, on Feb. 26 and 27.

Sixth-grader Skylar Mondelli, who led the group of sixth-graders, said the title of leader was just a name, and she considered all her teammates to be leaders. “I thought participating was fun,” she said, “and raising money for a good cause.

Wantagh’s eighth-grade team — which consisted of Abigail Conway, Emma Caputo, Natasha Meagher and Sean Browne — finished in third place, according to a Wantagh School District news release.

The trivia challenge is open to any third- through 12th-graders in Nassau County, according to the Cerebral Palsy of Nassau County website. The students are grouped into teams of four, at their school and take a 100-question test, which the Association provides.

Students’ friends and families sponsor the children by giving a minimum donation of $15.

The challenge brings together students with “great minds and good hearts” to raise funds for the association, according to the website. The association’s services and programs help more than 1,500 children and adults, who have cerebral palsy, as well as other developmental disabilities.

The association’s Community Outreach Manager Patricia Quinn said there is “such great enthusiasm” at the event. “I just love it,” she said. “It gives us the opportunity to tell all these youngsters about what we do here.”

This year’s money is going to help the association purchase equipment for two programs, according to Quinn: the Augmentative Communication program and the Mobility Opportunity via Education (M.O.V.E.) program.

The Augmentative Communication program uses computerized devices, ranging in cost from $5,000 to $20,000, to help children who can’t speak on their own. The MOVE program uses specialized equipment — some pieces of which cost as much as $8,000 — to help children in wheelchairs to stand. Roughly 250 students between 2- and 21, attend the Children’s Learning Center.

Cerebral Palsy is a developmental disorder commonly caused by brain trauma during fetal development or birth, according to the Cerebral Palsy Group. There is currently no known cure.

Holden said the BEST club members raised roughly $660.

Apart from donating funds to the Cerebral Palsy Association, the BEST club, which meets on Tuesday afternoons throughout the school year, has also performed other service acts. They donated toys to Nassau University Medical Center and the John Theissen Children Foundation during a holiday toy drive and participated in

the school-wide program of writing Valentines Day letters to veterans as well,

Holden said. “We’re a service organization where we do good for the community,” she said.

Anne Craven, BEST club co-advisor and Wantagh Middle School home and careers teacher, said the students in

the club are making a big difference. “It’s all about making life better for others,” she said.

Craven added that the students also participated in a Pen Pal program with the students who have learning disabilities at the Nassau BOCES Rosemary Kennedy Center in Wantagh.

Eighth-grader Natasha Meagher said she enjoyed writing letters with the students at Rosemary Kennedy, and meeting them on Nov. 29 at Tavola Kitchen and Pizza, in Wantagh. “They’re having fun [and] we’re having fun,” she said. “It’s just a good thing to do.”

Club president eighth-grader Emma Caputo, who has been in the BEST club for three years, said she has always loved the club’s community service aspect. Eighth-grader Sean Browne, and the club’s vice president, agreed with her. “You get

to help out a lot of people, which is nice,” he said.

Eighth-grader Abigail Conway said the club prepares its members for high school by showing students that they can help out the community. She is looking forward to participating in similar service-oriented high school clubs, such as the Key Club. Sixth-grader Bridget Toscano agreed. “There are other clubs like this, and I’d like to join them for community service,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun too.”