It was a night filled with food, fun and friendship as the Huntington Foundation for Excellence in Education celebrated 365 years of public education in the community at the Water’s Edge in Centerport.
A crowd of about 280 turned out for the 2022 Reach for the Stars gala. The Huntington Foundation presented longtime district Superintendent James W. Polansky and Huntington Class of 1995 member Dr. James Paci with the organization’s Spirit Award for their many years of service to the community.
The crowd included many district, building and department level administrators, teachers, parents and other community members. Several town officials were on hand as well. The evening’s events, including 48 different raffles, raised tens of thousands of dollars.
Proceeds from last week’s gala will go toward replenishing funds for two grant programs that encourage innovative programs and equipment.
Talented Huntington High School strings students entertained the crowd during the cocktail hour, which included various passed appetizers. A DJ provided music throughout the evening. Many took the opportunity to dance on the spacious floor.
The two honorees were surrounded by family members, friends and professional colleagues. A large number of alumni turned out for Dr. Paci, who played on the Blue Devil football, basketball and baseball teams before heading off to Yale University. “It is my honor and pleasure to give back to a school district that has done so much for me,” Dr. Paci said. “To stand here tonight with my family and friends something very special.”
All seven members of the Huntington Board of Education were in attendance along with teachers, PTA members and parents.
“The gala was an absolutely beautiful and well-needed community celebration following the challenges all have faced during the past two years,” Mr. Polansky said. “I am humbled by the honor and particularly pleased to share it with Dr. James Paci. My sincerest thanks go out to the dedicated Huntington Foundation folks who made the event possible and who continue to provide the utmost support for our students, staff and schools every year.”
The Huntington Foundation is led by executive board members Jennifer Stevens (president), Kristine Colleluori (vice president of development), Laura Cheshire (vice president of grants/gala co-chair), Michele Sabatino (secretary), Meghan Knieriem (chief financial officer), Tara Poli (vice president of development), Jennifer Hebert (vice president of grants) and Jennifer Tullo (public relations/marketing officer).
HFEE board members include Amy Girimonti (development), Janine Luca (grant coordination), Kim Einemann (designer), Toniann Mangan (PTA liaison), Gina Leiter (grant coordination), Jennifer Biancardo (gala co-chair) and Maryann Driscoll (marketing).
Huntington Foundation volunteers include Alice Marie Rorke, Andrea Boccard, Kelly Donovan, Meredith Shanley, Allison Von Vange, Debbie Knowles and Liz Matthews.
HFEE Youth Board members include Mary Grace Rorke (intern), Victoria Mangan (intern), Ally Kustera (video production), Charlie Girimonti and Morgan Colleluori.
Since its inception nearly 30 years ago, the Huntington Foundation has awarded more than 200 grants worth more than $1.1 million. Teachers and students in all eight schools in Huntington UFSD have benefitted from the grant programs.