CHESHIRE — When middle school friends Dante Strollo and Peter Feng were busy debating each other in history class, the two could never have imagined that, in a few years’ time, they would both be receiving prestigious literary awards from one of the nation’s top colleges.
Strollo and Feng no longer attend the same school — Strollo is a student at Cheshire Academy while Feng attends Cheshire High School — but the two friends found themselves among the 47 high school seniors from across the state honored with the Yale-Seton Book Award on Oct. 1 at the Davenport College.
“The day itself was really exciting,” recalled Strollo. “They didn’t tell you ahead of time if you won, so we were all just sitting there with a lot of anticipation to see what would happen.”
The winners were chosen by their teachers for their “outstanding personal character and intellectual promise,” and, along with the award itself, they received two books — one to keep for themselves and another to donate to their high school’s library. The books are chosen by the students who win the awards.
“It was a great honor to be chosen by my teachers,” mentioned Strollo. “I was very happy.”
For his choice of book, Strollo settled on “Yale’s Book of Quotations,” which has over 12 thousand famous quotes. The work Strollo decided to donate was “The Soul of The First Amendment” by Floyd Abrams, which now sits in the Cheshire Academy Library accompanied by a dedication name plate honoring Strollo for his hard work.
“I think, especially in our current political climate, that the First Amendment is incredibly important,” said Strollo. “The values outlined in the First Amendment are arguably the most important values we can have as Americans.”
For Feng, the day was full of meetings with Yale’s elite.
“It was an exciting day,” described Feng. “Meeting the First Lady of Yale, Mrs. Moret, was an honor, and Dr. Sandy Chang was very insightful on what it’s like to study STEM in college”.
Feng’s personal book of choice was “Journey of the Universe,” an in-depth look at how the universe came to be and how Earth’s inhabitants can cultivate a “vibrant Earth community.” Feng chose to donate a book entitled “The Origins of Everything in 100 Pages (More or Less),” which aims to inform the reader of roughly 13.8 billion years of Earth history in — as you’d expect — 100 pages.
When Feng and Strollo attended the ceremony, it was the first time since middle school that the two former classmates had reunited.
“Dante and I were classmates at Dodd (Middle School),” recalled Feng. “It’s unfortunate that we attended two different schools and I wasn’t able to see him again until now.”
When the day was over, the winners of the Yale-Seton Book Award had the opportunity to meet one of Yale’s most prestigious figures — Handsome Dan, the Yale bulldog.