Emily Palazzotto: Combining passions for journalism and criminal law

By Laila Stevens
Benjamin N. Cardozo High School

Even as a young child, Emily Palazzotto knew how to spark emotion in readers.

“I have always been a strong writer and all my life I have been told my writing moves people,” she said.

For example, in middle school, Palazzotto, of Oakdale, wrote an essay about a personal experience that was able to bring her teacher to tears. The teacher shared the essay with all of her students and it is something she continues to do every year, said Emily’s mother, Kara.

In her freshman year at Connetquot High School, Emily recalled stumbling across journalism as a potential career that would allow her to tie in her other interests, such as dance and cheerleading.

Now 17 and an incoming senior, current events motivate Emily to write, whether it’s regarding a personal issue or something happening in the world around her. “20/20” and crime shows serve as inspiration, she said.

The most influential people in Emily’s encourage her to try new things and connect to people who work in the journalism and communications fields. They describe her as an adventurous, ambitious and caring young woman.

“Once you become a part of her life she opens her heart to you and there is nothing that she won’t do for you,” said Kara Palazzotto. “She will put herself aside to be there for someone whether it’s for the good or the bad.”

Emily’s friend, Alexa Dowling, 17, of Ronkonkoma, also sees her as a motivated writer in and outside of school.

“She always puts so much effort in everything she does, especially her school work. I know that a career in journalism will be a perfect fit for her.”

Emily said she is eager to explore different dimensions of journalism in college–including broadcasting and writing–while also combining her love for criminal law.

She intends on going into law school and travel the world.

“By traveling, I get to encounter more people and more experiences. It will give me more insight into the world and other cultures, and could only build up my character,” Emily said.

But all of Emily’s interests tie back to journalism and storytelling.

Stony Brook University’s Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists came as a surprise presented to the class by her AP English Language and Composition teacher. She said she was thrilled to be accepted and optimistic that the program would “lead to so many amazing opportunities and experiences.”

Laila Stevens: Looking at life through a lens

By Emily Palazzotto
Connetquot High School

When she was eleven, Laila Stevens received her first camera and knew photography would be a big part of her future.

“I love that you can create a whole new image, oftentimes one that we cannot see with our own eyes,” said Laila, who will be a senior at Benjamin N. Cardozo High School in Bayside, Queens, this fall.

At school, the journalism and the media studies programs are a home away from home for Laila. Since her freshman year, she has been able to explore different aspects of journalism through a series of classes. For her senior year, Laila earned a spot on what she described as the highly esteemed and extremely selective yearbook committee, which will give her the opportunity to incorporate her photography skills into her school day more than ever before.

“I realized there were so many different things to do with just a camera,” said Laila, who was first published professionally in an online magazine at the age of 13. “So many angles, qualities and colors.”

She said she strives in her photography to incorporate messages of racial equality – another one of her passions.

“Although this goal of depicting racial equality is already out there in the world of photography, I feel Laila’s work will be exceptionally unique and moving because she began dabbling in photography at such a young age,” said Laila’s best friend, Laura Morel. “She has a God-given gift.”

Laila has sharpened her skills through gigs such as modeling shoots, and she often plans photo shoots with friends.

“I enjoy spending time with my friends because I believe that it is healthy and opens the mind,” she said. “I take a lot of walks, because it encourages activity without going to the gym. Music also plays a large role in my life. I love that it is an art form that speaks to so many different audiences.”

Laila’s older sister, Amirah, describes her sibling as being determined. “As long as she has been alive, no matter what, once she has made up her mind about accomplishing something, she does it,” Amirah said.

As for college, Laila said she expects to study photojournalism. She describes the Parsons School of Design as her “dream school” but said a State University of New York campus is also a tuition-free possibility because of her eligibility for the Excelsior Scholarship.

Laila said she anticipates her week at the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists will give her more insight into a professional career in photojournalism. “I hope that I am able to learn new techniques to make my photography more realistic for the professional world,” she said.