Rockaway Park Students Hit by Sandy Pay it Forward

Andriana Lamendola knows firsthand how hard Hurricane Sandy hit her Rockaway Beach community.

"I was home that night, so I saw all the water just rushing through the street, and the morning after being followed by mud and sand every year," said Lamendola.

The Scholars' Academy sophomore was displaced not only from her home, but her school, too. The students were relocated to a school in Brooklyn for three months after the storm. Principal Brian O'Connell says Sandy wiped out the school's entire first floor.

"Every stich of furniture, every book, just about every computer was damaged and had to be replaced," said O’Connell.

While the school was being repaired, it was looted. More than $100,000 worth of iPads and computers were stolen. But during its darkest hour, not-for-profits stepped in, replacing iPads, band equipment and countless other items lost to Sandy.

"Most of the stuff that we knew here was destroyed. We didn't really know what we were going to come back to, so knowing that we were going to have new iPads and new things, it really kind of gave us more hope," said Jake Schwartz, a freshman at Scholars' Academy.

Now, three years later, local kids who lost so much are paying it forward. The students are collecting toys for homeless children.

"So that they have something to play with something to do," said eighth-grader Sean Hilgendorf. 

"I really want them to have privileges we can have, and this is just a little step forward," said Dominic Tortorelli, a seventh-grader.

The students say even the smallest deed, like donating a toy, has the potential to make a big difference.

"It's so drastic, like, how people can just do small things to make other people happy," said Oladoyin Ogunsola, an eighth-grader.

Last year the students collected more than 700 toys for KidCare NYC, an organization that helped the school in their time of need. This year, they hope to surpass that goal.

The school also welcomes the donation of new toys from the community.

For more information, head to scholarsnyc.com.

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