Students honored for writing letters against smoking
Like many children who clearly see the logic of never putting a smelly, tar-filled, nicotine-packed, cancer-causing cigarette close to their mouths, Samantha Portagallo -- a sixth-grader at St. Charles School in Oakwood -- wrote the following in a letter
"It's heartbreaking to see you smoke because we have already lost Grandma due to the effects of this horrible habit. Being your granddaughter, who loves you unconditionally, it hurts me to watch you smoke cigarette after cigarette."
Samantha is one of 12 local students who were honored yesterday in the Third County Courthouse, Historic Richmond Town, by the Staten Island Region of the American Cancer Society for winning this year's Great American Smokeout Letter-writing Contest.
Each contestant wrote a letter to a loved one, encouraging them to quit smoking.
"The response was overwhelming -- over 2,200 letters from 42 different Staten Island public, private and parochial schools," said Wendy Cirillo, director of tobacco control for the Island chapter of the American Cancer Society.
"The entries received were intelligent and insightful -- describing how smoking affects both the smoker and the student, including discussing the dangers of secondhand smoke," said Mrs. Cirillo.
In addition to Samantha, the winners were:
Brian Anderson, a third-grader from PS 54, Willowbrook; Alana Cutrona, a fourth-grader from PS 30, Westerleigh; Andrew DeSimone, an eighth-grader from St. Joseph-St. Thomas School, Pleasant Plains; Karthiga Emmanual, a fifth-grader from PS 16, Tompkinsville; Matthew Eng, a second-grader from PS 22, Graniteville; Isabella Esposito, a first-grader from St. Teresa's School, Castleton Corners; Ciara Halloway, a second-grader from PS 19, West Brighton; Alexa Napolitano, a fourth-grader from PS 60, Graniteville; Erica Santiago, a seventh-grader from Morris Intermediate School, Brighton Heights; Nicole Stern, a seventh-grader from Paulo Intermediate School, Huguenot, and Jovanna Tannousis, a 10th-grader from St. John Villa Academy, Arrochar.
The winning letters have been made into a 2002 calendar, which will be distributed to the participating schools as well as the families of the winners.
Dr. Ann Merlino, president of the Staten Island Region of the American Cancer Society, moderated the ceremony and discussed youth tobacco use. Tracy Rosenberg, a teacher at Barnes Intermediate School, Great Kills, and her seventh-grade chorus performed holiday and patriotic songs.