Taking S.T.R.I.D.E.S. through the Community to Celebrate Strength and Resiliency
June 15, 2021
Sayville Community held a S.T.R.I.D.E.S.* Community Walk to celebrate the qualities of strength and resiliency that our 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!
The energy was positive, 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,” Sayville Superintendent Dr. John E. Stimmel 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. Strides 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, Dr. 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.” Dr. 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,” Dr. 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 cross-walks, 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 (forty pies from Sals Pizza, forty 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 Van Boxel. Students enjoyed entertainment at various activities tables that included balloon sculptures, hand-print 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 Community S.T.R.I.D.E.S. 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. Mrs. 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.
Having the Sayville community come together brought happiness and healing to all who participated in Sayville Community S.T.R.I.D.E.S. Walk. A clear demonstration of the adage, “It takes a village…” the Walk was a collaboration of multiple organizations and local business whose support was indispensable.
Dr. Stimmel and Mrs. Makris wish to express their gratitude to everyone who contributed to making this night such a great success. Sayville is truly an amazing place to learn and grow. Sayville Strong!!!
Special thanks go to the following Community organizations:
- Sayville School District
- Sayville Chamber
- Sayville Rotary
- Sayville Civic
- Great South Bay Coalition
- Community Ambulance
- COPE Division of the Fifth Precinct Police Department
- Fire Department
- EMS Community Ambulance
- Sayville Public Library
- Sal's Pizza
- Sayville Pizza
- The Ice Shack
- New Wave Graphics (Railroad Avenue)
- Balloons by Annie
- Brian Harmon from Greater Sayville
* S.T.R.I.D.E.S. (the acronym stands for Self-Esteem, Trust, Resiliency, Independence, Diversity, Empathy, Strength)