Staller photo exhibit gives filmgoers a new perspective

By Taylor Yon
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

and Nijha Young
Baldwin High School

Moviegoers attending the Stony Brook Film Festival this month are also in for a second visual treat. The Faces and Places: Photographs from the Kellerman Family exhibit at the Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery in the Staller Center runs parallel to the 10-day independent film festival, so attendees can visit while on campus.

The collection consists of more than 60 still photographs — in black and white and color — taken by 10 internationally renowned photographers including Walter Iooss, Kristin Capp, Ralph Gibson, and James Nachtwey. Iooss’ work features sports stars at rest and in action while Capp’s focuses on the humanity of people from around the world.

Karen Levitov, curator and director of the Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery at Stony Brook University looks at photos of the Faces and Places exhibit on Friday, July 20. The exhibit features the work of famous photographers and encourages viewers to consider different cultures. (Photo by Brianna Depra.)

“I felt that these were very strong works by some really well-known fine art and documentary photographers,” said Karen Levitov, curator and director of the Zuccaire Gallery. “I’m really compelled by the work of Kristin Capp, who is a photojournalist. She has gone to Brazil and many other places around the world, capturing the people and the places in different areas.”

Levitov added that there were a number of other photographers whose work inspires viewers to consider different cultures worldwide.

The gallery is open and admission is free during the film festival from July 19 to 28 and August 27 to September 29.

Filmgoers may find the art experience both convenient and informative. One visitor said the art gave her a new perspective on the modern world.

“It lets people see the world in a way that’s different perhaps than the speed of everything that’s happening around them in terms of crazy politics, crazy social situations,” Corinna Kirsch of Conroe, Texas said. “It allows you to step back and to be able to imagine the world differently. It’s very important.”

Photos to Stay on Campus

After the exhibit closes in September, the photographs will find their way to many departments across campus for wider viewing. The photos were donated to Stony Brook University by alumna Katherine King Kellerman, whose family collected them over many years. The Kellerman family was motivated by the thought that the pieces could be enjoyed by a much broader audience, Levitov said, adding that the artwork will be distributed throughout the campus.

“After this, we’ll take this down, repaint the walls and put up a faculty exhibition,” she said. That exhibit will feature the photographic works of the Studio Art faculty.

Dentist at your doorstep

Dr. Rhona Sherwin is the director of pediatric outreach at the Stony Brook School of Dentistry. (Photo by Jenn Cirigliano.)

By Adeishe Bagaloo
Uniondale High School

and Christian Miller
St. John the Baptist High School

For dentist Rhona Sherwin, nothing matters more than helping children.

“That’s our main goal, to make sure the children are well taken care of,” Sherwin said.

A Stony Brook University alumna, Sherwin is a clinical professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Dentistry, in the department of orthodontics and pediatric dentistry. As the director of pediatric outreach, Sherwin organizes dental care events throughout Long Island.

“Whatever the child needs, we’ll take care of it,” Sherwin said. “We don’t turn anybody away that cannot afford it.”

Among those events is Give Kids a Smile, a free dental care clinic offered by appointment for any child up to age 17. The clinic, scheduled for August 28, is sponsored by the American Dental Association. The five-hour program is expected to treat approximately 400 kids, up from 300 last year.

“We have faculty that are more than willing to volunteer,” Sherwin said. “We pair them with dental students, who work in teams.”

Xiomara Aguirre visited the dental care center Thursday with her 2-year-old daughter, Casey Flores.

“A friend recommended it to me. She’s been with them for 10 years,” Aguirre said. “It’s pretty cool. I love it.”

Sherwin’s team of dentists takes their show on the road in the dental school’s mobile office, a modified 40-foot van with room for treating three patients at a time. The van, purchased through a New York HEAL grant, enables the team to treat patients who lack transportation.

“We’ve been to homeless shelters, elementary schools, and crisis family centers,” Sherwin said.

Treating homeless patients is especially rewarding, Sherwin said.

“I think they’re very appreciative because their living situation is so difficult,” she said. “This is one other thing that they don’t have to think about, taking care of their child’s oral health.”

Sherwin and her team advertise their programs at churches, libraries, hospitals and other community partners.

“I’m very proud of where we started,” Sherwin said, “and we’re still building.”

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.”

iDentifying LEGO robotics at iD Tech

Children at the iD Tech summer camp at Stony Brook University learn about robotics and programming on Thursday, July 19, 2018. The camp exposes kids to technology-oriented learning that isn’t always available at their schools. (Photo by Emily Palazzotto.)

By Meghan Reilly
Westhampton Beach High School

The term “summer camp” usually conjures images of bonfires, cabins and s’mores. But at iD Tech, young campers create robots from scratch.

In a bright room in the Wang Center of Stony Brook University, where decals of video game characters and iD Tech slogans adorn the walls, children of different age groups learned different tasks, such as coding, game development and Lego robotics.

Nine-year-old campers at the LEGO

robotics table worked in pairs and used laptops so that they could access guides online. They followed these guides step-by-step in order to put their robots together.

“I learned how to code and build robots with Legos,” Victoria Alexander said. “I take blocks of code and put them all together.”

Matthew Marotta added, “I’ve learned how to make my robot move forwards and backwards, and today I built a crane robot.”

The camp grouped the children by age to better accommodate their interests, camp director Zara Krayem said.

“For instance, children interested in robotics will be placed in that group where they’ll learn same thing in two days that college students take a semester to pick up on,” Krayem said. “This structure is what makes us different from other tech camps.”

Campers also participated in other activities, including a field day, so that they could bond with one another.

Matthew Marotta and Kenshin Sugeinoto, both 8, learn to build a lego robot at the iD Tech summer camp at Stony Brook University on Thursday, July 20, 2018. The program teaches kids about robotics and coding. (Photo by Emily Palazzotto.)

“The way the kids learn is very dynamic and fun,” Krayem added.

Even after the end of weeklong camp, iD Tech kids can stay connected by accessing the online guides and building more robots at home. They also can return to the camp next year as long as they are still between the ages of 7 and 18.

iD Tech exposes children to a lot of possibilities that aren’t available in high school, which means they can find out what career paths interest them before they even get into college, Krayem said.

Even the youngest kids already seem to have an idea of what they want to do when they grow up. Both Victoria and Matthew want to be engineers.

“I want to be an engineer,” Victoria said, “because I think it’s fun.”

“I want to help people with their problems,” Matthew added, “and I want to build stuff.”

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.”

Sebastian Germosen: Looking beyond the Major Leagues

By Taylor Yon
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

Sebastian Germosen is devoted to journalism, but sees it as a backup career if his dream of becoming a professional baseball player falls through.

“My goal is to go to the Major Leagues as soon as possible,” said the 16-year-old junior at Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens. “It’s my dream job and it’s what my life revolves around. But my backup plan if baseball doesn’t work out is to major in journalism.”

In pursuit of his goal, Germosen plays catcher and third baseman on the his school’s baseball team. His sports role model is José Altuve, a second baseman for the Houston Astros.

Germosen’s interest in journalism was sparked by attending a lecture last fall at Stony Brook University by longtime broadcast journalist Ted Koppel.

He is a staff writer on the school’s newspaper, The Stanner. “I like the newspaper club because it allows me to speak about topics outside of the school and allows me to express my ideas and thoughts on political or world issues freely,” he said.

Germosen’s interest in journalism was also piqued by watching CNN and Fox News.

It isn’t just journalism that makes school appealing to Germosen. “I really enjoy high school, making friends and learning in general,” he said. Germosen primarily takes honors classes and is successful in earning straight A’s. For his upcoming junior year, Germosen will be taking courses including U.S. History Honors, Pre-Calculus, Spanish 3 Honors, Physics Honors, Participation in Government and Constitutional Law.

His teachers and his parents are his biggest role models. “Sebastian is an excellent student and the brains of the family,” Germosen’s mother Erica said. And “he looks out for his little brother.”

In his free time,  Germosen reads, exercises, plays video games and a lot of basketball. “I enjoy these hobbies because they let me relieve myself after stressful days,” he said.

After high school, Germosen’s dream is to attend Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and major in sports management.

To keep his journalism options open, Germosen applied to the Stony Brook University’s Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists when his newspaper adviser mentioned it. “I felt relieved and excited when I learned I got accepted,” he said.

“My expectation of the program,” Germosen said, “is that it will be a wonderful program with great teammates and awesome coordinators, and I will learn a lot of new things about the journalism industry.”

Meghan Reilly: Poet, photographer and journalist

By Manoli Figetakis
Francis Lewis High School

Even as a young child, Meghan Reilly dreamed of being a journalist. The 17-year-old senior at Westhampton Beach High School has been working toward her goal.

Reilly is a member of her high school’s poetry club, Seascapes. The club’s goal is to create a literary magazine at the end of each school year.

“I also have been photographer since seventh grade,” she said.

Meghan was thrilled to find out about a Stony Brook University program called the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists. Although she was very nervous that she wasn’t going to get in, she was “super excited” when she was accepted.

“When I got the phone call, I was trying not to scream,” Meghan said. “My parents were standing next to me on speaker and very excited.”

Her parents, David and Theresa, are very proud of her. “They always wanted me to be a writer/journalist,” Meghan said.

In fact, they inspired her to develop her love for writing since she was five, when she began writing her own personal books. Later on in middle school, she joined her school paper.

“I loved every second,” Meghan said.

Being in the poetry club and attending a journalism class have helped Meghan improve her writing. She also took an English class, which turned out to be her favorite class. Her work became more organized and straight to the point, and she began to understand the different styles and techniques of writing.

Meghan was able to work for her high school newspaper and attend her poetry class. But she said she believed her journalism class and English class have helped her develop her skills in interviewing and researching  skills that are necessary to journalism.

“I developed my love for writing and taking photos and realizing that what I like doing was known as journalism,” she said.

Meghan’s journalism teacher, Mrs. Kirsten Mett, admired Meghan schoolwork. Meghan’s friends also saw that she is a great photographer and writer.

“Meghan is known as the writer in the club and in journalism class,” said her friend Kaitlyn Maschke. “If anybody needs proofreading or advice with something as a simple as an e-mail or an article piece, she’s the one to ask.”

Meghan said she is determined to study journalism in college.

“This summer will be my first time pursuing journalism and getting to know exactly what it entails,” she said of the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists. “This opportunity, I know I’ll leave having more knowledge about the field and the experience than I ever will have.”

Brianna Foster: Humanitarian and activist

By Corianna Jackson
Brentwood High School

Brianna Foster raises awareness in her community when she’s not raising quails in her basement.

The 17-year-old junior at Smithtown High School East believes that “if you want change, you have to do something about it.” Brianna is doing something about it. She joyously immerses herself in charity work, participating in causes such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the National Organization of Women, the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards and Habitat for Humanity. And when she isn’t volunteering with guide dogs or making blankets for the elderly, she’s raising endangered bobwhite quails.

The generous high schooler has been an outgoing, kind-hearted spirit ever since she was a child.

“She started talking at four months of age,” her mother, Rita Foster, recalled.

At a young age, Brianna — who lives with her mom, dad, 15-year-old sister Paula and three dogs — was thrust into volunteer work by her mother. Rita Foster, who is involved in many charitable organizations, was the one who suggested that Brianna start raising quails. Their family has been doing it for three years now, increasing the number of quails each time. They went from 12, to 16, to 21 this year.

Brianna explained that quails are important for Long Island because they eat ticks that carry Lyme disease. Two weeks after the quails hatch, she releases them at Caleb Smith State Park in Smithtown. Raising quails isn’t easy.

“They’re really annoying, and they keep trying to eat each other,” she said.

Once Brianna hit high school, she started looking into other projects and causes. She’s deeply interested in the feminist movement, and she uses journalism to share that message with her school. In her school newspaper, The Matador, Brianna wrote a piece titled “My statement starts with a period.” The piece was about the need to add free feminine products in the girls’ bathrooms at her school.

When she isn’t writing to bring about change, she enjoys writing opinion pieces about music and drawing political cartoons. Brianna also likes to play the piano.

Brianna applied to Stony Brook University’s Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists because she was interested in the profession and felt that the institute was “a good way to solidify it as a career choice.”

She would like to use journalism as a tool to expose corruption, raise awareness and stand up for what she believes in. Now almost a week into the program, she is surprised by all the different elements that go into publishing a story, from photography and videography to writing.

When asked how her work in the community ties in with her writing, Brianna responded that “journalism is a people activity, and my work taught me how to love people.”

Yash Kumar: Hopes of becoming a sports journalist

By Brianna Depra
Hempstead High School

Having loved sports since childhood, Yash Kumar hopes for a career as a sports journalist.

Growing up, Yash was very active because his two older brothers would take him outside to play football and basketball. The Jericho High School junior liked to watch basketball and football, especially the Super Bowl and the NBA finals. Watching the commentators gave him the idea to look into sports journalism.

“Seeing Stephen A. Smith or Skip Bayless have the ability to communicate their knowledge and predictions on certain players and teams was the career path I wanted to pursue ever since a young age,” Yash said.

Yash took a journalism elective course in his freshman year.

“We knew Yash had a passion to pursue sports journalism,” said his mother, Roma Kumar. “We pushed him to enroll in the journalism elective, as long as he worked his hardest.”

He ended up finding his niche writing about local sports for his high school newspaper. In his freshman year, he won several awards for his work and was even published in the Jericho-Syosset Tribune on multiple occasions.

“Yash’s work as a freshman was phenomenal and even surpassed some upper classmen’s work who have been enrolled in the elective for a few years,” said his teacher, Susanne Valenza. She added that by the time he graduates, “he will be able to help all journalism students with their work.”

Yash was eager to polish his writing and took an AP seminar on research and critical writing techniques.

In school, Yash is vice president of the peer tutoring club. In his spare time, he likes to play video games and to hang out with friends.

After deciding journalism was his true passion, he applied to Stony Brook University’s Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists and was accepted.

“I was surprised to get accepted as a sophomore,” he said. “I’m excited to learn more about journalism in different mediums like photo and broadcasting. It’s also a relief to get away from my parents for a week.”

Brianna Depra: A rising drama journalist

By Yash Kumar
Jericho High School

Brianna Depra’s dream of becoming a journalist started with her passion for literature at a young age.

“Every time there was a book fair at school, I would always get so excited and stock up on books,” she said.

Classics including the Goosebumps books inspired her to start writing. Brianna created stories with themes including love, mystery and horror. Brianna didn’t want to just write as a hobby; she wanted to explore careers in writing. In her freshman year, Brianna became aware of journalism as a profession and was eager to learn more about it. Unfortunately, there weren’t any journalism classes or a school newspaper at Hempstead High School.

So she began to write in another medium — plays. In her sophomore year, she became fascinated with theater. Brianna was inspired by many of Shakespeares works and wrote monologues and scripts for the drama club when she wasn’t competing on the school’s swimming team.

Brianna received much encouragement from her AP English Language teacher, Felisha Prince, who encouraged her “to step out of my comfort zone,” Brianna said.

“Not only did I write stories and monologues, I started writing poems, biographies, and experiences,” Brianna said. “She showed me how to write with purpose, showing me how powerful diction and syntax is. Because of this AP class, my writing has improved so much.”

Just when Brianna believed she wouldn’t have any journalism experience in high school, Prince helped Brianna one last time before her junior year came to a close. Her teacher informed her of the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists at Stony Brook University.

“I jumped at this opportunity,” Brianna said.

When she learned that she had been accepted into the program, her father, Ramon Depra, shared her excitement.

“When she told me about the journalism program, I knew this would be amazing for her because it will challenge her,” he said. “She is always writing, so a career in journalism is perfect for her.”

“I knew I wanted to be a part of this program because journalism is something I want to explore,” Brianna said. “Maybe I can report on plays and musicals. That’s a dream of mine.”