Huntington Foundation Counts Down to Annual Gala

Filed under: Huntington Union Free School District,News |

The Huntington Foundation for Excellence in Education’s 20th annual Reach for the Stars gala is set for Friday, January 18 at the elegant Woodlands estate on Southwoods Road in Woodbury. Proceeds from the event will fund the organization’s efforts to enhance education, the arts and athletics in the Huntington School District.

The Huntington Foundation for Excellence in Education (HFEE) is a non-profit 501(C)(3) corporation dedicated to enhancing educational opportunities for all students in the Huntington school district. Since its founding in June 1993, HFEE has enriched Huntington Schools through hundreds of mini-grants aimed at promoting innovation in the classroom as well as funding larger school- and district-wide initiatives through its Reach for the Stars Program.

Recent Star grants have included funds to create a cell culture lab at Huntington high School, public speaking workshops for sixth graders, iPod Touch devices for the high school English and social studies departments, a projector, laptop and flip camera for the a school library/computer center to enhance research projects as well as reader theaters and musical productions. HFEE has also established a Greenkill Fund and a Field Trip Fund to provide financial assistance to students enabling them to participate in these activities.

 Last year, the Huntington Foundation awarded a grant to Flower Hill School teachers Veronica Quinlan and Danielle Nolan for an iPad 2, a dock and adapter and a cover for the device, which was integrated with a SMART board by the faculty members. Teachers across the country are finding educational uses for the iPad, Apple’s popular tablet.

“Danielle and I teach inn an integrated, co-teaching, third grade classroom,” Ms. Quinlan said. “We were fortunate to be given a SMART board for use in our classroom. The addition of this technology added invaluable teaching opportunities. Through this enhanced technology we download textbook pages, notes, educational games, pieces of students’ writing and videos pertinent to the third grade curriculum.”

Superintendent James W. Polansky said that grants awarded over the last two decades have made a real difference in the lives of students. Since its founding, the Huntington Foundation has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the district through its mini-grant and Star grant programs.

The purpose of the mini-grant program “is to provide money for special projects costing up to $1,000 for innovative classroom activities that are beyond the core curriculum, such as new computer software, educational additions for a classroom and various workshops,” according to the application form.

Star grants typically exceed $1,000 and have reached as high as $12,925. They are awarded for projects that “fuel grade-wide, department-wide and school-wide initiatives that have a broad impact or grand vision of education,” according to the application.

Foundation President Maria Cassar believes the January 18 gala will be a memorable evening. The affair will consist of a sumptuous pre-dinner hour, a delicious hot meal, music, dancing and dozens of raffles. Since its inception, the Foundation has funded nearly $1 million in educational grants in the district.

At this year’s gala, the Foundation will honor former PTA president and Huntington School Board member Christine Bene with the group’s Spirit Award in recognition of her exceptional volunteer efforts over the years to provide the young people of the community with a first-rate academic and co-curricular experience.

Mrs. Bene was elected in May 2008 to serve a three-year term on the Huntington School Board. She has lived in Huntington with her husband Andrew for nearly 39 years. The couple sent three children to the school district.

Prior to her election as a trustee, Mrs. Bene was a member of the district’s PTA Council for six years, serving the last two as its president. She has served on a variety of district committees and on the Lowndes Avenue Task Force. She has also participated on five different shared decision-making teams.

In addition to extensively volunteering with the district, Mrs. Bene been a longtime Family Service League board member and is active with her family’s Kimberly Bene Foundation, which provides nursing scholarships to graduating seniors.

“We are, once again, looking forward to an enjoyable event at which an individual who has done so much for the Huntington school community through the years will be recognized and honored,” Superintendent James W. Polansky said. “Congratulations and thanks go out to Chris Bene, and thank you to the HFEE organization for all that those involved have done to coordinate the event and for everything they continue to do for our students and staff!”

The contributions of donors and local businesses and the support of individuals, combined with the unending work of Foundation members continues to allow for ground breaking educational initiatives in the Huntington School district.

An invitation to the gala, donation forms and additional information can be located by visiting the Huntington Foundation’s web page at (click on School Community, then Huntington Foundation and finally “Forms and Files”) or by contacting Laurene Napurano at (631) 988-0949 or Seating for the gala is limited. Tickets are priced at $125 per person.

Photo Above: Patricia Dillon, former trustee Christine Bene and Andrew Bene.

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