Samantha Heidtmann grew up on a farm in Southold where her father, Tom McGunnigle, grew potatoes and hay. It wasn’t a lavish lifestyle, but one she learned to be proud of.
Ms. Heidtmann, a Riverhead elementary school teacher who lives in Southold, relayed her story to fifth and sixth grade students during the 30th annual Say NO to Drugs March Friday morning at Pulaski Street Elementary School.
“We didn’t have a lot of money, no new cars,” she told the kids. “And I became self-conscious because I didn’t fit in. I learned to overcome that and be proud of where I came from.”
Ms. Heidtmann, who was Project Fit America’s 2014 National All-Star Teacher of the Year, served as the keynote speaker and was this year’s honored guest.
In her speech, she encouraged students to make good choices to stay safe and healthy.
The popular event celebrates the Pulaski Street School students’ completion of the two-year drug and alcohol prevention program through the Riverhead Community Awareness Program.
Ms. Heidtmann has been a physical education teacher at Roanoke Avenue Elementary School for the past 10 years. Last year she was one of only six teachers nationwide to receive the prestigious national award, which recognizes teachers who excel exceptionally well in the Project Fit America (PFA) program. The program teaches children to take responsibility for their health and embrace healthy lifestyle choices with enthusiasm. Riverhead was the first district in New York State to implement the program through grants from Peconic Bay Medical Center and the Suffolk County Lions Diabetes Education Foundation.
“Ms. Heidtmann’s energetic attitude and philosophy regarding healthy lifestyle choices fits in perfectly with CAP’s mission to keep our youth drug and alcohol free through healthy decision-making,” said Felicia Scocozza, CAP’s executive director. “We are thrilled to have her lead this year’s march.”
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