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Herricks summer rec alum return to help

Six-week program over 40 years old draws 546 children

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Posted: Thursday, August 2, 2012 1:04 pm

The Herricks Summer Recreation program has been running for more than 40 years, with many past participants returning as student volunteers to help direct the activities.

Chiara Marangelli, one of this year’s volunteers, came to the summer camp for four years starting in the fifth grade and said, “I loved it.” 

Marangelli is going into her senior year at Herricks High School this fall, and is volunteering her time this summer because she enjoys the atmosphere at the Denton Avenue School, and the chance to prepare herself for a career in education.

“The people who work with you are so friendly. Everyone’s willing to help you,” she said. “Ever since I was young I wanted to be an elementary school teacher. It’s a great experience spending time with them.”

Marangelli is one of 40 student volunteers - sophomores, junior and seniors at Herrick High - working in the six-week summer recreation program this year alongside 28 teachers.

“They’re giving back to their own community,” said Beth Rosenman, director of the summer program

There are 546 students enrolled in the program, from pre-K to grade 8, with the children organized in various activities by grade and school. Tuition costs for the program, which runs from July 5 through mid-August, are $975 for the full-day session, which runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. each weekday and $556 for the half-day session, which ends at 12:30 p.m. The full-day session included an hour of swimming at Christopher Morley Park. 

The young kids in the program are engaged in activities suited to their ages, including storytelling and an art program for students in grades pre-K through 4. On one recent day, a teacher was shepherding kindergartners through an enthusiastic chicken dance in the school gym.

“The older kids are involved in electives,” Rosenman said.

Some work on computer programs, help produce a camp newspaper, or create claymation animations, according to Rosenman, who said all students can also participate in cooking, dance and drama classes. There’s also yoga for students of all ages. 

“Every year it grows a little. The options are good for the kids because they have an area of concentration,” Rosenman said.

Students in grades six though eight produced 14 claymation animations this year. 

This week, a talent show was being planned along with an Olympics-style “color” war, with the blue team versus the white team in various athletic competitions. A fair with inflatables for the children to play on is also in the offing.

Madeline Messina, who regularly teaches pre-K and kindergarten classes, has been teaching in the summer program for the past 14 years.

“I enjoy working with the young children,” she said. “They entertain themselves. I enjoy doing arts and crafts with them.” 

Mona Taradash, who was a physical education teacher at Cardoza High School in Bayside, Queens for 28 years, has lived in the school district for nearly 30 years and has been a volunteer in the program for 32 years.

“I love the camp. We’re all family here,” she said.

Cathy Ciacco has been a volunteer in the program as the school nurse for 20 years “on and off,” as she puts it. She’s been a registered nurse for 40 years, working most of that time in the Syosset School District.

“I love the kids and I’ve got to be busy,” she said.

The only thing missing this year is Craig Lagnese, the long-time director of the summer program who died after a sudden illness last fall.

“For me, it’s like losing a brother. For the young kids, it’s a big shock,” Ciacco said.

Lagnese is gone, but certainly not forgotten. Rosenman had this year’s blue summer recreation T-shirt designed with a representation of a lighthouse drawn in white, a symbolic acknowledgement of the late teacher, who enjoyed lighthouses and the laughter of young children.  

Reach reporter Richard Tedesco by e-mail at rtedesco@theislandnow.com or by phone at 516.307.1045 x204. Also follow us on Twitter @theislandnow1 and Facebook at facebook.com/theislandnow. 

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