Young activist’s rallying cry

Andrew Goldman speaks with student journalists from the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute , on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, about his upcoming Rally to End Gun Violence on July 29. (Photo by Caroline Ledoux.)

By Chelsea Sibri
The Scholars’ Academy

Andrew Goldman, a recent 18-year-old Syosset High School graduate, is not unfamiliar with the political scene and what it takes to make a social change.

“As Americans, every single person—really everyone around the world—should have the right to voice their opinions, voice their beliefs, whatever they are,” Goldman said. His social activism stems from a gunman’s rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February. The shootings had a profound impact on him, as fellow students at his high school knew people affected by the massacre. He said he felt the need for change.

“After Parkland, that’s when my activism itself started,” said the incoming freshman at the University of Michigan. “When we worked on the walkout memorial at my school. I was able to start working with the March for Our Lives rally” in March, Goldman said. “I felt like it was my responsibility to get something going. A lot of work went into it, making sure that we were going to be able to do this in a safe way. It was an incredible experience, standing up for what we believe in.”

Goldman played a key part in setting up his school’s memorial and walkout. About 2,000 students ended up participating, he said. It was a grand taste of success, but it did not satisfy his appetite. He decided to become more involved and joined a task force working to end gun violence.

“Our goal is really a simple one: to end gun violence. Another one of our main goals is a call to action to ensure that every student across Long Island and across the country mobilizes. Whether that is if you’re old enough to vote, to make sure you go out to vote. If you’re not, have a letter-writing campaign, talk to your friends or parents who can vote, call your congressman, call your senator, to voice your opinion on the issue,” Goldman said. “We just want to empower young people.”

Even before beginning his career in social activism, he had been involved in political internships with different senators and officials and was able to experience Congress itself as a rising senior in 2017. He is currently an intern for U.S. Rep. Thomas Suozzi.

“Last summer I was actually able to work as a Senate page in D.C., which was an amazing experience where I was able to work on the floor of the Senate, right in the midst of the healthcare debate,” Goldman said. “And I really saw how Congress works.”

With all he has accomplished already, Goldman still shares common interests with most teenagers.

“I like to play the ukulele,” he said. “My ukulele’s name is Lola. I like The Beatles, Chance the Rapper.”

As for college, he intends to major in philosophy, politics and economics when he attends the University of Michigan in the fall.

“Overall, in my work experience, I’ve done public service and I think I want to continue that after college,” Goldman said. “What that ends up leading to, I guess time will tell.”

Goldman is helping to organize the End Gun Violence rally at Breezy Park in Huntington set for July 29. He encourages everyone to attend, especially young people.

“The tagline of this event is, #YourVoteYourVoice.’ That feeling when you get to register someone to vote is amazing because you’re given the opportunity to ensure that their voice is heard in the most fundamental way.”


Yash Kumar contributed to this report.

World War II veteran is a sight for sore eyes

Ninety-year-old Sheldon Polan is a World War II veteran and retired optican who treats other veterans at the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook. (Photo by Laila Stevens.)

By Chelsea Sibri
The Scholars’ Academy

Optician Sheldon Polan has always had a singular vision: making a difference in his community.

For 10 years, Polan has volunteered weekly treating veterans at the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook. He does this work even after retiring 20 years ago in 1998.

“I am doing this because I’m enjoying doing this,” Polan said. “It’s mentally stimulating.”

Polan’s son and fellow optician, Andrew Polan, of Selden, described his father as a hard-working provider with a heart for serving others. The work they do together has allowed them to develop a “very close relationship,” Andrew said.

“I admire my father,” Andrew said. “It’s a good cause.”

One of the elder Polan’s patients, U.S. Navy veteran Gerald Busic, said he appreciates the great service Polan provides.

“He’s courteous, he’s knowledgeable, he’s professional,” Busic said. “What more could you ask for?”

Fred Sganga, executive director of the Long Island State Veterans Home, highlighted the importance and contribution of Polan’s service there.

“We’re enamored that Sheldon, who is a veteran, is actually continuing to serve veterans in terms of their health care needs, which I just think is great,” Sganga said. “I mean, we think it’s wonderful. Sheldon understands what being a veteran is all about. And who better to provide care to veterans than a veteran?”

Polan’s medical journey began after he returned safely from World War II. At first, Polan spent his time working long hours pumping gas at the biggest gas station in Brooklyn at the time, just to survive.

“I was working 80 hours a week, making good money, but there was a blizzard coming on. My kid brother came. He said: ‘What are you doing here? Are you out of your mind?’ And I said, ‘I gotta make a living, what do you mean?’ He said: ‘Why don’t you go into the field I’m in … You’re smarter than me. It’s gonna be easy for you.’ ”

Polan then returned to school at 40 years old and juggled work and school all at once.

“I used to go to work at five in the morning, work until five at night, go from six at night till 11 at night,” Polan said. “And I did that for three years.”

Later on, while he was at the same gas station, a chance bittersweet encounter with an ophthalmologist from Kings County Hospital gave him a life-changing opportunity. During a blizzard, he had an angry exchange with the doctor, who then drove off.

“About an hour and a half later, he called me and apologized,” Polan recalled. “He had just come from Kings County Hospital, where he had a difficult patient, and he’s taking it out on me.”

Their conversation continued two days later.

“I was sitting and studying for a test, and he came in, and he looked at me, and he said: ‘What are you reading?’ And I said: ‘I don’t know what your field is.’ He said: ‘Well, I’m an ophthalmologist. … If you want to learn this, if you scrub with me once or twice, you won’t need the book.’ Two days later, he picked me up. Everything started to come naturally. We became very good friends.”

That exchange led Polan to a long association with Dr. Norman Stahl and a career in eye care.

Polan’s charitable work is nothing new. He has participated in volunteer missions in Ghana and in Liberia, where he was able to meet the Liberian president.

“What you take for granted here, they haven’t got,” Polan said. “We would see patients from 6 o’clock in the morning until almost midnight the next day.”

Polan also keeps busy reading, breezing through fiction books and newspapers highlighting current events. In order to keep practicing, he had to take classes and tests online for credits.

“The worst thing you could do is stop, sit down in a chair, and do nothing,” Polan said. “If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be doing something else.”

Sganga and the veterans that Polan serves are glad he has chosen not to do something else. Sganga put it this way: “Sheldon is giving them the gift of sight.”

Parker Schug: Born leader and writer

By Chelsea Sibri
The Scholars’ Academy

From a young age, 17-year-old Blue Point native Parker Schug has had a deep admiration for the craft of writing.

“Parker has always loved reading and writing,” Parker’s mother, Stacey Schug, said. “Every time we have ever taken a trip, she would bring her composition notebook and write about the adventure we had that day. She is a great listener and thinks even an opposing view can open her eyes on her beliefs.”

Schug’s love of writing led her to decide in the eighth grade to become a journalist. She created a newspaper for her high school — Bayport-Blue Point High School — with the help of her creative writing teacher. She said that her writing skills blossomed after she started writing for her own blog and for the Paris-based magazine Grumpy. She also attended the 2017 Washington Journalism Conference at George Mason University, where she delved into political journalism.

Schug said she keeps an open mind in her search for the perfect branch of journalism for her future.

“As I learn more about journalism, I realize there is just so much to it,” Schug said. “I’m just not 100 percent certain. But I really like talking to people and learning from people through hearing their stories. So I think that I’d like to do something where I’m interviewing others.”

She also hopes to use journalism to teach herself and others about diverse groups of people.

Though she participates in several extracurricular activities, she is most proud of her skill at tennis.

“Tennis has been my favorite sport for most of my life, and it’s something that I’ve worked hard at getting better at for years,” she said.

Schug coaches tennis in her free time. Although she considered playing tennis professionally, Schug decided to place all of her focus in a journalistic career instead.

She keeps a very close connection with her family especially with her two younger brothers, Kieran and Declan, despite her hectic schedule.

“Since we were little, my brothers and I were raised to be best friends as we are,” Schug said. “At times, it’s been hard for me because some of my friends don’t understand why I want to stay in certain nights to hang out with my family, but I couldn’t be more grateful that I was raised the way I was.”

When Schug was accepted into the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists, she was most excited to get her hands on broadcasting equipment and to experience the cutthroat work demands of the program. Although she was nervous about finding areas of journalism she does not favor, she acknowledged that the field of journalism offers a wide variety of career opportunities.

“There are so many ways you could go with journalism,” she said. “My excitement overrides my nervousness.”

Stacey recalled the way her daughter’s writing helped her family heal when illness once struck her family. Shortly after Parker’s aunt was diagnosed with cancer, Parker received an assignment at school in which she was to write about a vivid memory of each year of her life. She took this as an opportunity to write about her family’s memories and hardships at the time to lift her relatives’ spirits.

After writing the piece, Parker decided to share it with her family. Stacey recalled it was a “love story to our entire family.”

“That’s the day I knew Parker should be a journalist,” Stacey said. “She kind of wrapped up our hard times and gave us all closure, and I felt like we moved forward that day.”

The Basics

Chelsea Sibri 

Our day started out with an awakening we found unusual at this time of the year. Before arriving I had yet to experience waking up before 8a.m. in the last couple of weeks, but that easily changed when breakfast was assigned at 7:30a.m. After doing the math, I would have to be awake by 6:30a.m. at the latest. And after a day of traveling, this almost seemed impossible for the first day.

Breakfast accompanied with morning news on print was something rather new to me, as I am more familiar with turning on the T.V. in the morning to listen to the news. I picked up a paper struggling to not get it in my food, but after succeeding I enjoyed the articles and pictures of the Word Cup game I hadn’t been able to watch the day prior just to attempt to replace the experience.

Our first lesson of the day took us back to some basics of journalism; and to some of us, including myself, they were rather new. Sitting at the desk hearing these small details and regulations, I would have to admit I was a little intimidated. To train my brain to acknowledge and identify every single one of these regulations seemed like a challenge, and although I love challenges, it also seemed like I would need to come across trial and error multiple times before mastering the details of journalism.

Later on in the day, we were able to receive a photography lesson from Pulitzer Prize winner and Newsday Assistant Photo Editor John Williams. I have to say it was an extremely rewarding experience. With his feedback we will definitely be able to improve tomorrow and hopefully be much more comfortable with the multiple settings and aspects of the Nikon camera.

Our day ended with similar skills, but different areas. Instead of using cameras for still photography, we used them to capture the film basics. It was interesting to hear about the little aspects of filming for news. Some of these things would have never crossed my mind while just watching T.V.

So far, my knowledge about this industry has grown a great deal. I am very excited to explore all of the other subsections of this industry and be blown away by everything I had not known up to date.