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Little Neck student wins state essay contest

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For just a little while Monday, Olympic magic transformed the gym of MS 67 with students shooting hockey pucks and trying out the luge as the school band belted out upbeat background music.

All the fuss was courtesy of Michael Wolfin, 12, of Little Neck, an MS 67 student who was one of 10 finalists in the state Lottery’s 2002 Winter Achievers essay contest.

Michael’s composition on the role sports has played in his young life not only jumped out from among the 5,600 entries, it made an impression on Lottery Director Margaret DeFrancisco, too.

DeFrancisco spoke to between 150 to 200 seventh-graders at MS 67 Monday before presenting Michael with a special medal and certificate signed by Gov. George Pataki. The Lottery official said Michael’s essay was one of the few entries she read personally.

“It was so thoughtful,” she said. Later DeFrancisco said “his essay rose to the top pretty quickly.”

The Winter Achievers program is a three-year old contest designed to showcase students’ personal experiences and achievements in athletics. Each school with a student winner hosts a winter sports clinic for its pupils, courtesy of the Olympic Regional Development Authority.

As a result of Michael’s winning essay, the state Lottery arranged Monday’s sports clinic at MS 67 and will donate $1,000 worth of computer equipment to the Marathon Parkway school. Michael also will get a laptop computer and printer and a trip to the Empire State Games’ opening ceremony later this month.

In his essay, Michael said his favorite sports lesson was that everyone makes mistakes.

“This lesson helps me in school too,” he said. “If I flunk a test, But I know I tried my best, I am not too unhappy, because even Albert Einstein flunked math and science in elementary school and look how smart he was!”

MS 67 Principal Mae Fong told the students “it’s a very special day in Little Neck, and each one of you is very lucky.”

After Michael read his essay for the audience and was presented with a special medal from DeFrancisco, the students took turns shooting hockey pucks in a game that measures the velocity of the pucks.

Many students also put on helmets and tried the luge, a small sled on wheels. Representatives from the Olympic Regional Development Authority gave the luge hopefuls a running push to send them flying across the gym floor.

Just before he was given a try on the luge, Michael said: “I feel pretty excited.”

Michael said his contest entry had slipped his mind until he was told it won.

“I forgot about it,” he said with a smile. “But sometimes that’s the best way.”

Michael’s parents, Madelyn and Steve Wolfin, and his brother, James, 8, were also on hand for the event.

“We’ve been excited for two week,” Steve Wolfin said. Madelyn Wolfin credited Michael’s English teacher with teaching him how to write well.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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