SOMERS, N.Y. - More than 200 students from schools around New York and Connecticut had their work published in the Northeast Westchester Rotary Club’s 14th edition of “On My Mind,” presented on May 15 at JFK Catholic High School. 

Local author, teacher and radio host Vin Dacquino wrote the introduction in the published book, which is a collection of writing and arts from the diverse group of students. He was also the keynote speaker at the event.

The main goal of the Rotary Club when it started fourteen years ago was to unite young able minds from diverging backgrounds, connect them through their work, and “to make a positive difference in the life of others” said John Katzenstein, who welcomed the audience to the annual book launch.

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“On My Mind 2019 includes prose, poetry and artwork (for the first time) from a record 250 students, from a record sixteen schools from urban, suburban and rural areas, from the Catskill Mountains 100 miles north of Somers to the Bronx forty miles south of Somers,” Katzenstein said. “The submissions are powerful, inspirational, meaningful and, perhaps cathartic. The published student authors eloquently expressed their emotions, their inner thoughts, their pain, their despair, their fears, their loneliness, their confusion, but also their optimistic hope for a better tomorrow.”

Many of the students who had contributed their writing and artwork to “On My Mind” were at the book launch and read aloud their stories and poems. Katy Zottoli, a senior at Somers High School, had one of her written pieces published in the book and shared her work with the audience.

Her piece was called “History’s Greatest Hits” and it had also been her college essay. The essay was about how music transcends time.

“I think the mission of this program is really important,” Zottoli said. “They are connecting a bunch of different groups of schools and students together. And it’s also really neat to say that you’re a published author.”

During his talk, Dacquino pontificated on just how powerful the written word can be, and how each of the student authors wielded their words to show their “vision for the future.”

“Literary travel has no boundaries,” Dacquino said, inspiring these newly published authors, telling them that they have the right to share their words with the world. “Writers are fighters, fighting for the right to be heard.” 

Dacquino encouraged the young authors to keep writing. In addition, he had read and edited all the individual pieces written by each student and said it was “quite the experience.”

He congratulated the writers on their accomplishment and recognized the difficulty to “open your mind” to the public.
Katzenstein said students receive a great benefit by expressing themselves and being published and, in turn, the community benefits from the gift of reading their words and from their artwork. 

“They have touched our hearts, our souls and opened our minds and we are thankful for the enlightenment,” Katzenstein said. “The cover of ‘On My Mind’ conveys the idea that the future of the world is in the hands of our students. The book launch allows us to bring the published student authors together, to be recognized, to read their works and to meet their fellow authors and artists.”

Katzenstein thanked Putnam County Savings Bank for their significant financial support in helping publish the book.
“The sense of achievement and pride  on the faces of the students, parents, teachers and administrators, at the book launch, was priceless,” Katzenstein said. “’On My Mind’ is a labor of love for the Northeast Westchester Rotary Club.”

The following local students had their work published in this year’s edition:

From Somers High School: Patrick Bridgham, Abigail Brooks, Alexa Casciano, Lauren Chan, Shannon Comiskey, Robert Dedvukaj, Jordan Faust, Lucas Fedele, Dominique Fiorini, Catherine Gardner, Emma Jones, Sydney Kahn, Gabriello Lima, Maggie Longworth, Nick Maestri, Robin Masterson, Kiley Matschke, Robert Moore, Jacob Piazza, Alex Pittman, Chloe Pittman, Evan Ritzcovan, Cameron Saks, Ryan Savino, Nitin Seshadri, Adrianna Tagayun, Lyndsey Tooma, Jalen Wilson and Fiona Youngs. 

From JFK Catholic High School: Denis Burov, Suzanne Collado, Samantha Cortes, Grace Dillon, Julia Ennis, Sophia Frantzeskos, Caroline Girolamo, Trey Green, Jasmine Henriques, Jack Howard, William Howley, Jillian Jones, Abigail Krebs, Brian Massello, Ryan Molina, Kit Mulvey, Rianne Phillips, Madeleine Smyth, Gabriella Stellwagen, Navya Thomas and Elizabeth Zuzarte. Out of these many students, Kit Mulvey and Rianne Phillips read their pieces to the crowd. Mulvey read her poem “Light”, and Phillips read her poem “Always Be With Me” about a significant parental figure.

From Westchester Exceptional Children’s School: Sasha Monet Hurley.

“It is remarkable to see all those young people from different backgrounds meet for the first time and show support and empathy for each other during their readings,” said Rotary member Stanley Herz.

The Rotary Club strives to improve the lives of people within the community and the world. Visit NEWrotaryclub.org for more information.