By Paula Katinas
Bay Ridge — Kassenbrock Brothers Memorial Scholarship winner Daniel Witke had just graduated from Xaverian High School when he was asked to speak at another school’s graduation.
“I was asked to speak at P.S. 102’s graduation,” he said. “It was pretty inspiring.”
That ceremony took place on June 20.
Witke spent four months during his senior year at Xaverian volunteering his time as a tutor at P.S. 102.
He was also a volunteer tennis teacher at McKinley Intermediate School, which he found “very enjoyable.”
As if that isn’t enough, Witke somehow found time over the years to intern as a sports reporter for the Bay Ridge Eagle, covering basketball, baseball, track and other sports at Xaverian.
“I love sports and I love writing, so this gave me the chance to combine the two,” he said.
Witke worked under the direction of Editor-in-Chief Rick Buttacavoli.
“I’m really grateful for the opportunity the Bay Ridge Eagle gave to me. I really loved it. One of the best things about it was the reaction I got from the athletes. They would ask me for copies of the paper when I wrote stories about them,” Witke said.
Buttacavoli recalled the first time he met Witke, as a freshman who had just enrolled at his alma mater.
“Danny came to me when I was working at another paper and told me he wanted to write about sports, but not just the major ones, like basketball and football. He wanted to shine a spotlight on less publicized sports like tennis, wrestling and track. I thought that spoke volumes about his character,” Buttacavoli recalled.
When Buttacavoli left that paper to pursue other opportunities, eventually landing at the Eagle, Witke followed his mentor without hesitation.
“That showed a lot of character as well,” Buttacavoli recalled. “I really value the relationship we’ve formed over the years and I’m proud to see Danny achieving so much success as he prepares for college.”
Witke’s impressive community service credentials impressed the jury of the Kassenbrock Brothers Memorial Scholarship Fund, who awarded him a $4,000 scholarship, the second-highest prize awarded. Named after Vincent and Walter Kassenbrock, the brothers who founded the Bay Ridge Community Council, the scholarships are awarded to local high school students who excel in academics and perform admirable community service tasks.
Witke will attend Mount Saint Mary College in upstate New York. He was offered an academic scholarship to the college, but is also looking forward to playing tennis there. The idea of competing at the collegiate level excites him, he said.
“I was recruited to go and play there,” he said.
Witke’s tennis career could serve as an inspiration to late bloomers everywhere.
“I didn’t start playing tennis until I was 11. Most serious tennis players start when they are 7 or 8, so I was a late starter. But I really liked the game and I worked hard at it,” he said.
He got better and better, despite the odds against him.
“I was not the biggest kid in the world. But there was something in me that made me want to stay with it,” he said.
On the other hand, writing came naturally to him.
“I’ve always been able to do it. When I was a little kid, I wrote a lot of stories,” he said. “Writing has definitely been helpful to me in other areas. It allowed me to put my emotions and opinions on paper. It has made me more social. There’s no question it has helped me grow and succeed.”
Witke said he sees writing in his future.
“I would like to pursue a career in writing. I would love to write and produce my own TV show,” he said.
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For more on this year’s Kassenbrock Brothers Memorial Scholarship winners, keep reading the Bay Ridge Eagle!