Great Neck’s public and private schools unite in ‘Community Harvest’

Great Neck’s public and private schools unite in ‘Community Harvest’
Students from the four public elementary schools and two private schools in Great Neck came together at the "Community Harvest" event Wednesday night, singing songs like "America the Beautiful" and "It's a Small World." (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

More than 80 students from public and private schools in Great Neck united to sing and read inspirational quotes at the “Community Harvest” on Wednesday, in an event that many called “unprecedented” and “incredibly moving.”

The UPTC-sponsored event, known as the “Community Harvest Celebration,” brought together students from the public elementary and middle schools – E.M. Baker, JFK, Lakeville, Saddle Rock, North Middle and South Middle – with Silverstein Hebrew Academy and North Shore Academy.

Michelle Ahdoot, the head of the United Parent Teacher Council, said that while the event involved students coming together to sing, it had even greater meaning.

Students from the various elementary schools in Great Neck take a bow following a moving performance. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

“Deeper than that, it’s an unprecedented event in our school system,” Ahdoot said, “and it’s a wonderful display of multicultural respect and unity.”

Together the elementary school students, led by Dr. Pamela Levy, sang “It’s a Small World” and “This Land is Your Land.”

After that, middle school students would share quotes focusing on unity and kindness, before the audience would sing “America the Beautiful” together.”

“I could not be more proud of the children that performed here this evening,” said Dr. Teresa Prendergast, the superintendent of the Great Neck Public Schools, before turning to the students. “You are the gift of Great Neck. You are the future.”

Students soon flocked over to the cafeteria, playing and talking together while they indulged in desserts provided by SHAI and the Great Neck Chinese Association, with their parents nearby.

While the UPTC had hosted events to try bringing the community together before, organizers said that the “Community Harvest” was a great opportunity for the children to come together in a new way.

“The kids play sports together, they see one another in their different houses of worship, but this was a very unique way to allow them to interact,” said Robin Fleishman, one of the two UPTC co-chairs of the event. “They really really shined.”

Pamela Levy, the director of vocal music at Great Neck North High School, guided elementary school children through an event she said was one of the highlights of her career. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Pamela Levy, who led the group of children in song, said the night showcased the “power of music and power of good will.” She said that she found it to be an “overwhelmingly moving experience” and that she hopes to conduct another “Community Harvest.”

“I would say it’s one of the highlights of my career to be involved in something like this,” Levy said, adding she was happy with how prepared and excited the children were.

Representatives from the North Shore Hebrew Academy also said they were moved by the experience and happy to have been involved.

“The students and faculty of the North Shore Hebrew Academy were incredibly proud to be a part of this wonderful event,” Rabbi Jeffrey Kobrin, head of school at the North Shore Hebrew Academy said. “Seeing our children and our neighbors unified in song and celebration of our Great Neck school community was a beautiful experience.”

“It was as if they had been singing together for years,” Abby Weiss, the school’s director of institutional development, added.

Alexa Valic, a seventh grader at South Middle School, read quotes from "Wonder" before an auditorium of parents.
Alexa Valic, a seventh grader at South Middle School, read quotes from “Wonder” before an auditorium of parents. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Alexa Valic, a seventh grader at South Middle School said the event gave her the opportunity to read quotes from “Wonder” – a book and a movie she enjoyed – and meet new people.

“It was pretty fun, actually,” Alexa said, noting that she enjoys speaking in front of others and intends to try out for the school play. “I liked being up there.”

And while it was a last minute decision, her mother Carol said, the two of them enjoyed the event.

“I’m really happy that we were here,” Carol Valic said. “It was a beautiful night.

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