Great Neck school celebration aims to show strength in unity

Janelle Clausen
Parent leaders and event organizers gather together for a photo in front of their unity banner with emoji signs held up. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

A little bit of drizzle couldn’t rain on the parade of parents, children and school staff on Wednesday, with hundreds of them flocking to Great Neck North High School in an event that tried to put the unity in community.

North High Principal Daniel Holtzman, North Middle School Principal Gerald Cozine and North High School Assistant Principal Daniel Krauz came together to man the grill at the community unity event. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Silver letter balloons spelling “unity” and streams of blue and orange greeted passers by, while students and others talked over free food ranging from hot dogs to salad.

Many also went to the gazebo for temporary emoji tattoos or to try making a banner spelling out “unity.”

The school’s musicians also played for attendees, their music blaring through speakers, as the school’s business club also came to help out. Student volunteers manned the food trays, as well as a popcorn stand whose proceeds would go towards hurricane relief.

Michelle Ahdoot, president of the United Parent-Teacher Council, described the event as a district-wide school year kick-off bringing everyone together. She said it was very encouraging to see so many new and familiar faces.

A boy draws at the table where others came together to try creating a “unity” banner. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

“Unity is a beautiful thing, and I want to work alongside all of you to ensure that unity is here and here to stay across all of our various groups,” Ahdoot said to the nearly 250 people gathered. “Public school, private school, preschool, if you’re out of school, we’re all united and want our gem of a district to remain a near perfect color and clarity.”

The idea to have this event emerged just after community members rallied to pass a $68.3 million bond. Proceeds of the bond  will be used to repair and upgrade critical school building infrastructure after the community rejected a larger one in February.

“Coming together as a community in times of joy is very meaningful and as important as coming together as we did for a purpose back in May,” said Bali Lerner, an active parent leader.

Shanell Baron, 17, helped run the popcorn stand with a few other classmates. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Shanell Baron, a Great Neck North High senior who worked the popcorn stand, said she came out because a neighbor and their new principal Daniel Holtsman inspired her to. She said the school has felt “more together” and that since it’s her last year, she wanted to help.

“He’s amazing,” Baron said.

Overall, school administrators said the event went well and showed that unity is indeed strength.

“We’re incredibly proud,” Great Neck Public Schools Superintendent Teresa Prendergast said.

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