On the first day of the new school year here on Shelter Island, freshman Bianca Evangelista was 14 years, 8 months and 23 days old. A writer, a varsity athlete and a singer, she relates the memories and experiences she has packed into her first decade and a half with confidence and poise.
If this Island is an incubator, then Bianca is getting ready to hatch.
She has been a power-user of the Shelter Island Library since she was a toddler. “I used to go to story time with Miss Mollie and at the end I would ask her if I could read the book to the other kids,” she said.
In 4th grade, Bianca was involved in the inaugural “2Rs4Fun,” the Shelter Island Library program conceived by Mary Dwyer that pairs adult mentors with third and fourth grade students. Over her years in the program, Bianca said benefitted from great writing mentors, including Mel Mendelssohn, Roger McKeon and Lois B. Morris.
“They gave us books to read but mostly they helped with writing,” she said. “Sports, animals, family, friends … we made up our own stories. I like to write about cats. I still like to write poetry. At the end of each term they had a publication with a picture of everyone in it.”
The experience paid off for Bianca. She became a published author for the first time when she won first place in a Halloween scary-story competition sponsored by the Independent, an East End newspaper. She was in 6th grade.
In addition to writing, Bianca loves sports. When she was six, family friend Bob DeStefano, golf pro and Reporter sports columnist, gave her some golf lessons, and she has grown to love the game, which she describes as a sport that requires a stick-to-it attitude for long-term continuous improvement.
“It’s a game that teaches you manners and how to be honest with the scoring because a good golfer is honest,” she said. “The more you practice, you only get better as long as you form good habits. And you also have to love it.”
Bianca plays on the varsity golf team at school, where she is quite comfortable being the only female on the team. This year, in spite of her gender, she is “third man,” meaning the third-strongest player. “I don’t have problems with the boys on the team,” she said, “There is no ‘womens golf.’”
She has also participated in basketball and volleyball when her golf schedule allowed. In softball, she plays catcher. “When the ball comes, you have to be ready. When the runner slides, you can’t run away,” she said, displaying the grit and determination that define her.
This summer, Bianca was an intern at the library, although she admitted some of her friends wondered why. “Everyone asks, why do you work at the library? Some kids think of a library as just books,” she said. “It’s supposed to be quiet. You can’t talk. But that’s not true at all. It’s not boring. It’s really interesting.”
Bianca is as accomplished as a musician as she is a writer and athlete.
When she was four, Bianca discovered karaoke, singing “Love Me Tender” for a gathering of her dad’s friends. It was her first performance, but hardly the last. She’s a voice student now and is planning a recital in the fall at a winery in Greenport. She also plays piano, flute and is taking guitar lessons.
Asked if there is there anything she doesn’t do, she responded, laughing, “I don’t dance.”
Family is central to Bianca’s life. Her sister Sarah and brother Chris both graduated from school here.
Sarah was valedictorian in 2002 and lives in Washington, D.C. where she is getting her M.B.A. Chris graduated in 2005, distinguished himself in basketball, and Bianca recounted with pride that he scored 1,000 points during his high school career. He lives and works in Florida.
Her dad, Ray, was in the next room, deeply involved in the preparation of a massive batch of chili, and her mom, Prima, was at work.
Ever-present family members are Butterfly and Morris, two cats who came to her from the Animal Rescue Fund. When a loud crash could be heard in the vicinity of the dining room, Bianca said, “Oh, my gosh, that was my cat.”
Butterfly had attempted a leap onto the dining table but landed loudly on the floor. Bianca, calm and unflappable, said, “She’s fine. She does that all the time.”
Bianca can readily identify what makes growing up on Shelter Island special and different from any other place. “The way that I feel about my friends,” she said. “We always call each other family. You have all your friends in one place. There is so much love. There are 20 kids in my class, 11 who started with me in kindergarten. Even the kids that came later, we are all very close.”
Bianca’s plans for the future are open-ended and inspiring. If she becomes a writer or a musician, she would look to use those gifts to do something big, productive, to make the world a better place.
“I want to do something noteworthy,” she said.