The youngest of the scholars wriggling into tidy rows on the front lawn of Northern Parkway School on Oct. 19 might not have been able to count to 100 yet.
And they might not have guessed why about 40 white-haired adults on folding chairs near the temporary stage were smiling at them so sweetly.
But they knew they were part of a special event: the 100th anniversary of their school. And by the end of the program, some of them would learn that the adults had once been their size and had sat in their very classrooms.
“Northern Parkway was our home away from home,” said Jill Kahn Artus, who graduated from Lawrence Road Middle School in 1972. “The teachers lived in the community, so the whole community was in the Northern Parkway family.”
Kahn Artus’s sister, Judy Kahn Canetti, who graduated from Uniondale High School in 1972, remembered watching astronaut John Glenn orbit the Earth in Friendship 7 on Feb. 20, 1962.
“I’d never seen a TV in school before,” Kahn Canetti recalled. “We had wonderful teachers. Our mother, Joyce Kahn, taught music at Northern Parkway, 1962 to 1995.”
The Kahn sisters’ fond memories were shared by other alumni. Some were public personalities who came to join the celebration.
“Happy Birthday, Northern Parkway, U Strong,” said Adebisi Labinjo, now known as Classique. She lifted her violin and released haunting melodies and chords into the October sunlight, interweaving them with accompanying hip-hop songs.
“I am a Uniondale High School graduate who gets to come back here and pour it into you guys every single day,” Assemblywoman Taylor Darling said. She led the children in a cheering competition between the two sides of the yard and added, “That’s how excited we should be to celebrate 100 years!”
County Legislator Kevan Abrahams told the children that he, too, had attended Northern Parkway School.
“I sat right in that corner classroom,” Abrahams said, pointing. “I remember Mr. Strong. He had a good impact on my life, and I can tell you, a good teacher is someone you will always remember.”
Sean Douglas, Northern Parkway’s resident social worker, introduced keynote speaker Laura Savini, a television personality and a video director for PBS and WLIW21. Savini attended Northern Parkway from kindergarten through sixth grade in the 1970s. At Douglas’s invitation, she began participating in a mentoring program for Northern Parkway girls in 2022.
“I have so many happy memories of being here at Northern Parkway,” Savini said. “We all grew up as one. What was beautiful was that we had so many different colors, and when I moved into the world and started working in offices, I belonged to the world, because I grew up with the whole world around me here at Northern Parkway.”
Savini encouraged her young listeners to take the opportunity to participate in sports, plays, student government and other activities the school offers.
Deputy Hempstead Town Supervisor Dorothy Goosby echoed Savini’s encouragement when she delivered a citation that read, in part, “Northern Parkway School has inspired its students to excel in extracurricular activities that help students to build strong character traits and leadership skills.”
Throughout the program, the scholars demonstrated the truth of Goosby’s words. Northern Parkway youngsters led the Pledge of Allegiance, articulated an acknowledgment that the land on which they stood had once belonged to Long Island’s native peoples, read aloud, in English and Spanish, a list of events from 100 years ago, such as the founding of the Walt Disney Studios and Warner Brothers, and sang celebratory pieces.
The school band and orchestra students played “Happy Birthday.” Giving the young children a preview of excellence to come, Uniondale High’s Pure Gold Drumline, Dazzling Knightettes dance group, and varsity cheerleaders opened the program.
The blessing delivered by Frances “Tunie” Bush, a member of the ancient Montaukett Nation, native to Long Island, summed up the spirit of the occasion.
“Let us learn to raise leaders of peace,” Bush prayed. “Teach us to love, to be compassionate, to honor and respect our ancestors. May we heal the earth and each other.”