The Oakdale Historical Society scholarship winner for 2022 was Connetquot 2022 graduate Zachary Palazzotto.
The Oakdale resident was chosen from nearly a dozen essays submitted for the competition because “…he exemplified the honor we have as the Oakdale community for preserving and celebrating our rich history,” said OHS president Maryann Almes.
The essays were given to the scholarship committee in a “blind” evaluation process (i.e. names and identifying information are removed from the entries).
The topic was concerned with how the abundant and inspiring history of the community, especially the vast Vanderbilt residences, affected the entrant’s outlook on life and future plans.
Almes went on to commend Palazzotto on his individual character after being announced as the winner. “He is such a polite, solid, conscientious young man who was king enough to leave me a thank-you letter for his award after being told he had won. Zachary represents the best of our community.”
On Sunday, June 26, Palazzotto and his parents came to St. John’s Historic Church to meet with the Scholarship Committee and receive his ceremonial check, an OHS medal and the actual scholarship fund.
“All of us on the Scholarship Committee were impressed with his essay and his love of Oakdale and its history,” said Almes
Palazzotto is an exemplary student who serves as president of Student Government, Science Olympiad, and Interact clubs.
In the fall, Palazzotto will be attending the University of Virginia to major in biomedical engineering.
In his winning essay, Palazzotto wrote, “There wasn’t a singular summer day where I didn’t ride my bike through the artist colony and sit on the marble steps leading down to the water behind Dowling College. I learned the history of the Vanderbilt mansion during my robotics camps within the library of Dowling. The Vanderbilts, a family of such esteemed honor that the paint on the walls had gold flakes mixed within. This deep and meaningful history has instilled lessons and respect for my community within me.”
Palazzotto wrote about Alva Vanderbilt, who lived with her husband, William K. Vanderbilt, at the Idle Hour mansion and her work as a suffragette.
A leading force in the voting rights movement of the early 1900s across the dynamic political atmosphere of New York City, Alva worked closely with other prominent suffragettes of the day advocating for the women’s right to vote.
“As president of Student Government and an executive officer of the Rho Kappa Social Studies Honor Society, I use my position to raise my voice on a pedestal. This allows me to express my concerns and advocate for underrepresented groups within the Connetquot community, just like Alva did,” wrote Palazzotto, adding, “Alva Belmont Vanderbilt represents social equity, inclusion, and passion for change-making. I am extremely grateful for the history of Oakdale and the lessons I have learned.”
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