Home About Us Media Kit Subscriptions Links Forum

View All Articles

Download PDF










Camps & Sports


Children’s Corner

Collected Features


Cover Stories

Distance Learning


Famous Interviews


Medical Update

Metro Beat

Movies & Theater


Music, Art & Dance

Special Education

Spotlight On Schools

Teachers of the Month


















JUNE 2004

Young Writers “Keep Smiling”
at Marymount Manhattan College
by Michelle Accorso

Mortimer Levitt’s philosophy of “keep smiling” was the theme for a recent essay contest held at Marymount Manhattan College. The now ninety-seven year old Levitt, upon current completion of his book Ninety Six Years Old and Too Busy to Die, was not only at the congratulatory ceremony to honor the winners of the contest, but along with wife Mimi, was the sole provider of the awards.

Levitt has dabbled in more than just writing. He is an art gallery owner, a former Broadway producer, responsible for providing thirty-four free summer concerts in Memorial Park and the man behind the name of Mortimer’s Restaurant on the corner of 75th and Lexington. Known throughout the city of New York as a philanthropist, Levitt spared no generosity with the essay contest winners, with prizes ranging from five hundred to five thousand dollars.

Among the winners were honorable mentions’ Jilda Caccavo, Raya Dimitrova, Gabriel Williams, Mary Leonardo, Zinasia Henry and Elena M. Ciccotelli. Third place went to Anna Ngai along with the award of five hundred dollars. Daniel Matthews received second place and one thousand dollars. The winner of first place and $5000 was Svetlana Azova from Midwood High School, whose essay is featured below.

A Woman With a Disability and a Whole Lot of Determination

Thump, thump, thump. The moment is slowly approaching. Thump, thump, thump. It’s down to two. Thump, thump, thump. Hearts are beating faster and faster. Thump, thump, thump. Adrenaline is rising. Thump, thump, thump. The suspense is too much to handle. Thump. “And the winner of the Miss America Pageant is…”

Imagine growing up knowing that you’re lacking something that everyone around you is blessed with having; being unable to do the things that others are capable of doing because you have a disability. Such was the case for an unfortunate Heather Whitestone. Heather was born in Dothan, Alabama in April of 1973. At just 18 months of age, she became severely ill and was hours before dying when the doctors decided to take a chance at trying to save her life by giving her very powerful antibiotics. These antibiotics were successful in saving her life but not without consequences. They caused nerve damage in her ears, which in turn made Heather deaf. Heather’s deafness played a big and devastating role in bringing out obstacles and hardships, which Heather and her parents had to face. One of the biggest problems for Heather’s parents was teaching their daughter to speak. After much discussion and decision-making, her parents decided to use acoupedics, which teaches deaf children to use their residual hearing to learn to speak. Heather’s hearing was improved by a hearing aid and she eventually learned to read lips and to speak. This program greatly helped Heather overcome at least one of her obstacles and provided her with an opportunity to attend public school.

As a young child, Heather developed a special love for dancing. Dance used body language, not words, to express emotion. As a child with a disability, dance was Heather’s refuge. She would turn to ballet when things were tough and when she felt disconnected with the rest of the world. Dancing was Heather’s way of expressing herself and making her feel like she had a purpose in life, despite her deafness. While struggling with school and other hardships, like her parents’ divorce, Heather was continuing to develop her talent, which she saw as a blessing from God. As her dancing talent was improving, she began entering certain contests and pageants. In 1992 and 1993, Heather was first runner-up in the Miss Alabama Pageant. Heather was devastated, knowing that she came so close but was still unable to make it all the way to the top. As she was about to give up, her perseverance stepped in and she once again competed in the Miss Alabama Pageant in 1994. This was a special year for Heather because all of her hard work and determination finally paid off when she was crowned Miss Alabama. That same year, Heather went on to compete in the Miss America Pageant. She wowed both the audience and the judges. When a decision finally had to be made…

“… Heather Whitestone!” Applause and cheering roared from the approving and excited audience. Heather’s disability prevented her from hearing this miraculous announcement. Only when the first runner-up patted her on the shoulder and pointed at her, did Heather realize that she became Miss America. Overfilled with joy and tears, she proudly accepted her crown. Heather not only became the first deaf Miss America, but also the first Miss America with any kind of disability. Through this incredible honor, Heather proved to herself and to the rest of the world that you can overcome all difficulties and obstacles to make your dreams come true. She showed everyone that all you have to do to succeed is just to believe in yourself and have a whole lot of perseverance. She also paved the way for others with a disability to follow their dreams and achieve their goals. Heather Whitestone became a worldwide icon to people with disabilities and people with all dreams because she didn’t give up and kept on smiling.#



Show email





Education Update, Inc.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2005.