Students and community walk together in strength

Hundreds attend S.T.R.I.D.E.S. march through Sayville

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The Sayville community held a S.T.R.I.D.E.S. Community Walk to celebrate the qualities of strength and resiliency that the students and community have shown throughout this difficult year.

The walk was organized by the school district director of student services Jillian Makris in conjunction with Sayville Chamber president Eileen Tynzar weeks earlier, with the idea of creating a joyful processional through the heart of town that validated the empowering reminder: Sayville Strong!

Tyznar said, “This event proves to the community that Sayville students and families are resilient in adverse times. It is times like this that we all come together as one to show that we can rise above even in the worst of times. This walk helps us move forward towards better times. I’m so proud of our West Sayville and Sayville community. We are so strong!”

The energy was positive and the weather perfect for the S.T.R.I.D.E.S. Community Walk.

The evening of family-friendly fun and food was such an uplifting event for hundreds of participants: a mix of students, families, Sayville faculty and staff, BOE trustees, and Sayville community members who responded to the open invitation to assemble on the Greeley Avenue soccer field—the launch point for the walk.

“I am excited and honored,” said Sayville superintendent Dr. John E. Stimmel, as he addressed the smiling faces waiting to begin the walk, “to stand before you as superintendent of Sayville Schools.  What a year it has been.  We started out by facing unprecedented challenges together and now, as we approach the finish line of this remarkable year, let us take time to recognize the stars and heroes of Sayville.”

“Our stars, of course, are our students!” Dr. Stimmel said, garnering applause and cheers from the crowd for the students from each building. “The Sayville S.T.R.I.D.E.S. program,” he continued, “was designed by our educators and parents to support the social and emotional well-being of our students.  We have gathered here this evening to celebrate our students’ incredible display of strength and resilience in the face of what has been the most challenging school year in anyone’s memory.”

In addition, Stimmel extolled the heroes. “Here to celebrate with our students are some of the heroes of Sayville.  We recognize these individuals for the special quality they have of running into dangerous situations when most people are running away. I speak, of course, of our firefighters, police, ambulance corps, and health care providers.” Stimmel also recognized our educators and staff: “all public servants who live lives in service to their neighbors.  We thank you for your service.”

After acknowledging that all the students were “fortunate to benefit from the support of loving families and a caring community,” Stimmel asked everyone to be mindful about safety and show respect. “While we are walking through a small part of town, please be aware that our schools benefit from the support of the entire Sayville-West Sayville community… Stay on the sidewalk, cross at the crosswalks, thank our business owners, and follow the directions of our SCPD. We will see you back here for some family fun and community togetherness.”

Led by high school percussionists, children (one on crutches, little ones in strollers or wagons), adults, bicyclists, even a few well-behaved dogs on leashes participated in the show of strength, resiliency, and pride. 

On the route through town, encouraging signs had been posted with reminders “We Are Strong,” “Be Grateful” and “Keep Going,” while Sayville merchants stepped out with noisemakers or applauded to show their support for the celebration.

Upon returning to the Greeley Avenue field for pizza (40 pies from Sal’s Pizza, 40 from Sayville Pizza) and ices from Poppa Mia’s Ice House, the community was welcomed by musical fanfare from the high school wind ensemble, conducted by Kerry VanBoxel.

Students enjoyed entertainment at various activities tables that included balloon sculptures, handprint mural paintings, affirmation stencil tattoos, and a gratitude jar. There was even a “Same Here S.T.R.I.D.E.S. Challenge” flyers station.

Keeping in the theme of the Sayville S.T.R.I.D.E.S. Community Walk—“resiliency”—Sayville public outreach director Jonathan Pryer invited families to explore the Suffolk County Library’s Mobile Service Vehicle that had been especially stocked with select readings and activities supporting  mental health.

After the pizza and Italian ices, Sayville student services director Jillian Makris introduced the highlight of the evening.  Several months back, students and staff districtwide engaged in the “Same Here S.T.R.I.D.E.S. Challenge,” an activity to promote mental health and wellness awareness. The project asked students and staff to identify a personal challenge or obstacle and to identify a way to overcome it with a focus on being resilient.  Makris invited student volunteers to step up to the mics and share their experiences and ideas.  From the elementary schools to the high school, students came forward to share their heartwarming messages, made more touching by the enthusiasm and pride they had in their accomplishments.

Vincent Vertuccio, a senior at Sayville High School said, “After spending much of my life going through Sayville Schools, closing out my year with such a wonderful event was a true privilege. I'm thrilled to see the district committing so strongly to the S.T.R.I.D.E.S. program, understanding fully the critical nature of supporting their students in every day. Sayville Schools looks to be headed towards a bright future.”

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