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School Intervention and Re-Entry Program helps LI high school senior prep for college in her hospital room at Stony Brook Children’s
Long Island high school senior hasn’t missed a beat thanks to the School Intervention and Re-Entry Program team

STONY BROOK, NY, November 19, 2013 – Although Eastport South-Manor High School senior Rachel Ragone has been given a diagnosis of cancer, her dreams of entering college next Fall are becoming more and more of reality thanks to the help of the Stony Brook Children’s School Intervention and Re-entry program. 

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School Intervention and Re-entry Program’s 12th Annual Educating the Educators Conference panel: Front row:  Laura Hogan, MD, Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist, Stony Brook Children’s; Jane Shearer, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Eastern Campus of Suffolk County Community College; Christine Sussmann, Teacher, Belmont Elementary School, North Babylon School District;  Sue Simpson, RN, School Nurse, Loretta Park Elementary School, Brentwood School District; Jennifer Macioce, MEd, Director & Teacher, Discoveries Preschool, parent of a Stony Brook Children’s patients; Rachel Ragone, student, Eastport-South Manor High School, patient; Paulette Walter, MEd, CCLS, School Intervention & Re-entry Program Director and Child Life Specialist, Stony Brook Children’s. Back row: Debra Giugliano, RN, MS, CPNP, CPON®, School Intervention & Re-entry Program Director and Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurse Practitioner; Cara Giannillo, MSEd Coordinator, School Intervention & Re-Entry Program; Nicole Gutman, MS, Coordinator, School Intervention & Re-Entry Program

In March of 2013, the 17-year-old Manorville resident was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a primary bone cancer that affects mainly children and adolescents. Rachel, then a high school junior, started receiving treatments at Stony Brook in April and was required to be home-schooled until medically cleared to return to school. But as a member of the National Honor Society, English Honor Society, and World Language Honor Society, it was very important for Rachel to continue her studies and keep up her 96 grade point average.

“When Rachel was diagnosed, I panicked. I thought, she’s worked so hard for 11 years, she’s had perfect attendance, was this going to be all for nothing?” remarked her mother, Kim Ragone. “This program has really taken care of my daughter’s education. I was thrilled that she was able to keep up with her school work and do so well.”

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17-year-old Rachel Ragone studies for her Environmental Science class in her room at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. 

For children undergoing treatment for cancer, it is important to return to school as soon as medically cleared. Getting back into school offers the child and family a sense of normalcy, back to a somewhat normal routine. It also gives the child a sense of purpose and achievement, a time to transform fear into hope, and allows time to socialize with peers. And it also offers a great distraction to sometimes painful procedures and lengthy treatments.

The Stony Brook Children’s School Intervention and Re-entry Program is helping patients like Rachel in closing the gaps between academics and medical treatment. “Children with cancer face many challenges, going back to school or keeping up with their education shouldn’t be one of them.” said pediatric oncology nurse practitioner, Debra Giugliano, Co-director of the Stony Brook Children’s School Intervention and Re-entry Program. “We aid in making connections between the school, medical team and family. We are able to bridge the gap and reduce some of the obstacles the student/patient face during such a critical period in their lives.”

For Rachel, a “Locks of Love” participant who has donated her hair on three separate occasions before being diagnosed with cancer herself, this program has helped her continue pursuing her academic goals and being that much closer setting foot on a college campus next fall. Rachel still maintains a 96-GPA and is ranked 5th in her graduating class of 285 students. The program was able to move mountains for Rachel and she was able to take part of her ACT exam in her hospital room as well as some other college entry exams at home.

“I’m always doing homework while I’m in the hospital,” said Rachel. “It helps take my mind off of everything else that is going on.” She hopes to return for the rest of her senior year by March of 2014. 

This free program, available to pediatric oncology/hematology patients at Stony Brook Children’s, involves more than just working with the child to ensure that he or she does not fall behind in classwork. It also involves addressing – in a sensitive manner – the many details of the child’s illness.

Recently, the program held their 12th Annual Educating the Educators Conference. 153 teachers, school nurses, and administrators from fifteen Long Island school districts joined community organizations, out-reach programs, and medical professionals to discuss the steps needed to take to improve educational outcomes of children with cancer and blood disorders.

A panel led by Giugliano discussed the importance of support from school personnel, gave strategies on how to eliminate barriers for children dealing with cancer, and shared personal experiences that they have had with the program.    

Upon the conference’s conclusion, school nurses and social workers were awarded a certificate of completion through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s national office.  

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About Stony Brook Children’s Hospital:

Established in June 2010, Stony Brook Children's Hospital is Suffolk County’s only children’s hospital. More than 7,000 children and adolescents are admitted each year. Stony Brook Children’s operates 100 pediatric beds and has more than 140 full-time pediatric physicians and surgeons in 30 different specialties and over 200 voluntary pediatric faculty members. The hospital is the Level 4 Regional Perinatal Center for our area and has a Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It is home to the nation’s first Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis Center and also offers a Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program, Pediatric Cardiology Program, Pediatric HIV and AIDS Center, Cystic Fibrosis Center and the Cody Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities. To learn more, visit www.stonybrookchildrens.org.