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Students play doctor at IS 109 health fair

Instead, the event last Thursday gave students a chance to research and create professional presentations on health problems facing the community, such as obesity, diabetes, asthma and unhealthy diets.

"There are a lot of health issues and people aren't paying attention to it," said eighth-grader Tamara Brown as she manned the asthma booth. "A lot of adults came up to us asking questions. There were a lot of things they didn't know."

The fair, which ran for most of the school day, was open to students, their parents and residents of the neighborhood. In addition to the booths, the event also brought in community-based organizations to share information, with Family Health Plus addressing the plight of the uninsured and Pre-Paid Legal Services offering a solution for those who could not afford the traditional fees charged by lawyers.

It was the student presenters, however, who seemed to make the biggest impression with fairgoers.

"They answer all the questions you ask them," said Stella Harris, a crises paraprofessional at the school, located at 213-10 92nd Ave. "It's very good."

At the blood pressure table, Samuel Green Jr., a sixth-grade science teacher and registered nurse, showed students how to properly use the medical equipment on patients.

"I find these kids have an appetite for science," he said, adding that he hoped to encourage his minority students to one day fill the current nursing shortage.

The health fair was a collaboration between the science, physical education and health departments at IS 109 and was organized by Kerry Williams, the assistant principal in charge of science, and Shelley Ridloff, the gym teacher.

But the man who created the environment in which the fair could develop and flourish was Shango Blake, in his first full year as interim principal and reappointed permanently in a recent ceremony.

Before Blake arrived, IS 109 was known as a problem school, one where students fought with each other, roamed the hallways without passes and pulled fire alarms. But since his initial appointment, Blake has instituted a dress code and started extracurricular programs, providing both discipline and opportunities and turning the school around.

One of the goals of the health fair, he said, was to "increase the awareness of health, particularly in neighborhoods like Queens Village."

But IS 109 still struggles to shed its past reputation as a breeding ground for neighborhood trouble makers, Blake said, and the fair also provided one more step in addressing that image, he said.

"It will bridge the gap between the school and community," he said. "Now the school will be seen as a place where you can go get information."

Blake said he had high expectations for his students.

"We want our children to be citizens of this community."

Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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