St. Joseph by-the-Sea’s Emily Aiello wins annual Robert Curatolo scholarship

By Charlie De Biase Jr Staten Island Advance

Emily Aiello could have taken the easy way out in acknowledging her hero. In fact, she gave her opinion on what the general belief of a hero is in a touching essay she recently wrote.

“Most people might describe their hero as someone who flies around in a cape or captures all the villains,” she said, matter-of-factly.

Emily Aiello, however, is not like most people. In that same essay, she poured her heart out referring to her hero, Steven Aiello, who happens to be her brother. The latter has Asperger’s Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism, as descibed by Emily Aiello.

“If Steven was not the way he is, I believe that I wouldn’t be the same person either,” said Emily Aiello, who was recently named the 13th annual Robert Curatolo Scholarship Fund (RCSF) winner, in part because of her heart-warming essay. “He has taught me a great deal about life. Coping with a sibling that is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome is not in any way easy, but it doesn’t mean that it is not rewarding. …

“He has taught me to have unending compassion for others,” the Great Kills resident continued. “It is the way you treat people that can do nothing for you that shows a sign of your true character. Steven has made me want to help those who cannot help themselves.”

Emily Aiello, who recently started classes at the University of Delaware, was a four-year softball player at Sea, including the last two seasons on varsity. The 18-year-old honors student was part of numerous clubs, including Ladies of Charity, and is an accomplished trumpet player that has performed at Carnegie Hall.

“I am completely honored to have won this award,” said the soft-spoken Aiello, who is the third straight female student and fourth overall to win the Curatolo scholarship. “To win something after a fallen hero, like Robert Curatolo, is unbelievable. I started to tear up a little when I found out.

“I appreciate that in winning this award (Robert Curatolo’s) legacy lives on and that he will never be forgotten.”

Curatolo, a lifelong Rosebank resident and New York City firefighter assigned to Ladder 16 in Manhattan, was one of the 343 firefighters who perished in the World Trade Center attacks and rescue effort [sic – 343 were killed in the attacks. More have died since from illnesses they received from working the rescue and recovery effort] on September 11, 2001. The Curtis HS grad had just ended a 24-hour shift at his midtown firehouse when he raced to the Twin Towers to aid in the rescue effort.

Curatolo played varsity baseball and basketball at Curtis and coached at the high school and grammar school levels for many years.

The scholarship is awarded annually to a high school senior who participates in baseball or softball and has a parent or guardian who is an active or retired city police officer, firefighter or NY/NJ Port Authority police officer. Candidates must be students in good academic standing, display strong personal character and plan on attending college.

The $5,000 scholarship is sent to the college admissions or bursar’s office in the name of the student recipient.

RCSF committee members Kathy Curatolo, Robert Curatolo’s sister, and Eddie Joseph said Aiello’s essay raised eyebrows.

“I appreciate the fact she wrote about her brother as her hero. It was thought out well and well-written,” said Kathy Curatolo. “(Her brother) might not seem perfect to others, he’s perfect to her.

“Her brother is challenged, but still an important part of her life because she believes he’s someone to learn from.”

“What touched me most was how genuine her essay was. You can tell it came straight from the heart,” added Joseph. “I also appreciated the fact she acknowledged her father, a city police officer, for all the sacrifices he made in his profession.”

Aiello plans to major in criminal justice at Delaware, explaining it’s one of the ways she plans to help others.

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