Editor’s Note: Lakeland High School graduate Timothy Callery submitted this essay as part of his application for the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce scholarship. Callery was the salutatorian of the Class of 2018.
When thinking of what to write for this essay, it was difficult to fully realize what an impact the town of Yorktown has had on my life. I never really thought of my life as one of a Yorktown resident. I saw myself as part of the Callery family, from a small street in Shrub Oak tucked away near the Putnam border, as a student of the Lakeland Central School District, as a Boy Scout of Troop 174, and as a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. It’s funny how life sneaks up on you like that.
I never thought of myself as a resident of Yorktown, until now, when I’m about to leave for Villanova this fall and pursue my dreams elsewhere. The way I see it now, Yorktown really is the perfect “Goldilocks” town. As was the porridge and the chair in the children’s story, Yorktown combined everything that was good, and minimized the bad that comes with any suburban town. We’re situated close enough to New York City and other urban centers to have easy commutes and access to a wide variety of opportunities, yet our town remains nestled comfortably away from the noise, traffic, and light pollution of the more crowded towns. We have always been an industrious and prosperous town full of countless businesses, volunteer organizations, churches, and public institutions that never cease to serve Yorktown residents and better our community.
It’s not just Yorktown’s location that made it a perfect place to grow up. As a child, I had access to top-quality schools full of gifted and driven students, talented teachers, and state-of-the-art technology. The community is always welcoming, whether you’re attending high school sporting events, parades, street fairs, or organization functions, and there are always ways to get involved and serve others. Yorktown’s many services, public and private, provided important opportunities as a child and now as a teenager for fun, education, civic engagement, and now employment.
Scouting in Yorktown has especially been one of the most positive influences on my life up to this point. Our town’s churches, organizations, and adult volunteers have done an excellent job in maintaining a healthy and prosperous Scouting program across numerous troops throughout our town. I will always be proud to call myself an Eagle Scout of Troop 174 Yorktown. From marching in the town’s Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades, to cleaning up Gomer Street every Earth Day during the “Battle of Yorktown,” to serving residents of Mohegan Lake at St. Mary’s Food Pantry, and finally to my Eagle Project at the John C. Hart Memorial Library in Shrub Oak.
When I was a child, the library was always a constant source of learning, VHS borrowing, and summer activities when school was closed. Thanks to the library, I am proud to say that I have developed a lifelong love of reading nonfiction, especially history, current events, and economics, which, although I most certainly was not reading up on those topics when I was 6, I still owe my love for reading to the library’s countless programs. It was a no-brainer to pick the library for my Eagle Project.
This past fall I planned, designed, fundraised for, and constructed the new standing book exchange outside the library. As a wise man once told me, we don’t serve others in the community to “give back to the community.” We do it not out of some kind of debt, or transactional value. We do projects and service because we want to help people and see our actions better the lives of others. This spirit is very much alive in Yorktown residents and it was very much alive in my desire to build the book exchange for the library. My greatest satisfaction in that project was not when the box itself was placed after more than two months of work, but when I noticed that people started to use it regularly and books freely flowed in and out of it. The fact that what I built is helping neighbors, fellow parishioners, children, and other residents of Shrub Oak is the only satisfaction I need.
While Yorktown faces its challenges, such as teen drug use, raucous local politics, and student debt problems, comparatively our town is more than prepared to face the challenges of the future and will enter the next decade with a stride, not a limp. As long as our schools keep churning out engaged, driven, and intelligent students, businesses continue to prosper in our borders, and our citizens continue to participate, volunteer, and worship as they do now, Yorktown has a bright future ahead of itself.
As I stated before, it’s impossibly hard to quantify or even fully grasp how much I owe this town. My education, my Scouting experiences, my extracurricular experiences, my parish life, and a town of kind and altruistic citizens all shaped my development from childhood to now preparing to go off to college. Yet, we should not think of our successes as bring indebted to Yorktown, as again thinking of it as a transaction dispels the value of it all. My goal is to use the advantages, skills, and mindset that growing up in this exceptional town has given me in my future life at work, with my family, in my parish, and in my future community.
If I could never again live in Yorktown, I truly hope I end up residing in a town much like this one for my future children, so they grow up in a similar exceptional environment with exceptional schools, exceptional organizations, and exceptional citizens. No matter where I end up, I truly intend to always remember the idyllic image of East Main Street in spring and my street, Oriole Court, not only for their aesthetic value, but to always remember the “Goldilocks” town I grew up in and to always carry with me the spirit of Yorktown—the spirit of service, excellence, and perseverance.