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He wrote the prize worthy words

Christopher Zito is one kid that gets attention for all the right reasons.
The seventh grader from Bayside recently won an essay contest sponsored by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. The Healthy Choice, Healthy Children essay contest included entries from children nationwide – and Zito’s stood out among all the rest.
“I told the truth,” said Zito, referring to why he won the contest. “It was crazy that I won. I really didn’t expect it at all.”
The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation’s mission is to help youth realize their potential, with the Healthy Choices, Healthy Children program being at the heart of that mission. The essay contest had kids write about vital life lessons needed to display a positive, productive and healthy lifestyle.
Zito’s essay was actually one he had written the previous year. It was his guidance counselor, Yolanda Juvan at Nathanial Hawthorne Junior High School in Bayside, that recommended he enter it into the contest.
In his candid essay, Zito wrote, “Although I am not the best student, I am not the worst. I get high scores in some subjects, I get low scores in others, but overall I do try very hard.”
Upon winning the contest, the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation flew the Zito family, all expenses paid, to Baltimore to attend the National Middle School Association conference at the Baltimore Convention Center. Cal Ripken, Jr. and his brother Billy were keynote speakers at the event, where they presented Zito with the 2010 Teammate of the Year award – the first of its kind.
“At first we were just shocked that he won,” said his mother Theresa. “We thought he would get a plaque, but we had no idea he would meet Cal and Billy in Baltimore.”
He also revealed something personal in his award-winning essay: that he had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In order to combat this disorder, Zito has to take medication everyday so that he can focus and be better organized.
“It’s hard to pay attention to teachers for a full 40 minutes,” he said. “I like to draw and art is one of my favorite classes because it’s easier to sit and draw than to sit and listen. I also like math because it’s easy and social studies because history is cool.”
His mother said that the most difficult aspect of her son’s schooling is that they cannot give him the attention and service he needs because ADHD does not fall under special education. He is, however, able to utilize the school’s resource room to help him organize schoolwork and homework.
“It’s rough because he’s not handicapped enough to get special attention, but he is handicapped enough where it affects him,” she said. “But we are very proud of him.”
Besides having an affinity for healthy living, Zito also has another thing in common with the Ripken brothers: baseball. He plays in the Bayside Little League and, even though he broke his hand midseason, he still showed up to every game in full uniform.
“I wanted to go and show support for my team,” he said. “I want to be a role model and have good work ethic like Derek Jeter – he’s the captain of his team and people look up to him.”
The field of play isn’t the only place Zito tries to show leadership qualities. Each year, at the start of the baseball season, he volunteers with his teammates and members of the community to help clean up parks and fields.
With his work ethic, leadership, smarts and healthy living, Zito exemplifies everything that the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation looks to instill in the youth of America. That is why they recognized him and that is why he is a role model among his peers.
“Try your best and get into lots of activities,” he advised other kids with ADHD. “Activities help with the ‘H’ part.”

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