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GIVING BACK While Growing Up

The Progressive School of Long Island encourages volunteerism, healthy living and the celebration of diversity.

by Rachel Sokol

Located in the heart of Merrick is the Progressive School of Long Island (PSOLI); an institution whose core mission is to promote Neo- Humanist Education. (NHE) “NHE emphasizes creative and critical thinking, curiosity, social and moral responsibility, and respect for all living things,” says Eric Jacobson, who founded PSOLI in 1985 and currently serves as the Education Principal. “Emphasis is placed on experiential learning, service to society and our environment, and celebrating diversity.”

PSOLI may be a small school—it houses less than 200 students, ranging

from grades Kindergarten to Eighth— but its students have huge hearts of gold. For instance, the middle school- ers have a required course called Student Volunteering. “In 2006, a

22 Long Island Edition

group of students took on the idea of solar power for our new building. This idea came out of their caring for the environment, and their own personal interests. Through research and family involvement, they were able to secure two major donations: free installation,

and free architectural services,” says Jacobson. “Through holiday parties, car washes, movie nights, and donations, they were able to secure about 50% of the remaining funds required. The school put up the rest.” According to Jacobson, PSOLI’s students and alumni are devoted to community service. Recently, the 5th and 6th graders held a Math Estima- tion Carnival; a math-based initiative designed to teach them about budget- ing, estimation, and profit. “However, it also served the charity Cure Mommy’s Breast Cancer,” says Jacobson. “Also, one of our students recently completed the initiative of raising funds to restore Nunley’s Carousel in Uniondale.” This winter, the second grade was featured in Newsday for collecting and distrib- uting food to a local food bank, while integrating academic content. Last year, students raised thousands of dollars in cash and kind for Haiti earthquake victims, and even had a graduate in Haiti distributing the dona- tions. “Much of this work just happens routinely here,” explains Jacobson. Alumni also return to PSOLI to speak about fundraising ventures. For example, a PSOLI and Harvard Univer- sity graduate has been raising funds for Togo, West Africa, and will conduct a presentation of her work to the current students at PSOLI.

And, unlike most schools, all stu- dents from K-8 practice collective morn- ing exercises of yoga and meditation in an assembly format. “To tame and manage the mind and its propensities is considered a cornerstone of true educa- tion at PSOLI,” says Jacobson. “We are also tackling the topic of healthy eating in small steps. The benefits of vegetar- ian and organic foods are part of Health courses for older students.” The school even owns and operates its own snack machines, which are stocked with only natural or organic foods. PSOLI students find academic and social support from their peers and educators, but also from the community at large. “We have great support from

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