Albany Times Union
Bullied child is now teen author
She’s also a successful baker who donates to anti-bully nonprofits
Isabella Sementilli was relentlessly bullied when she was in middle school. Now a junior in high school, she can still vividly recall the day a classmate took a prank a step too far, and the results would change Isabella’s life forever.
It was October 2013, when Isabella went to sit down at her desk, but the chair was pulled out from underneath her. The fifth-grader fell to the floor, and she suffered a concussion, fractured tailbone, neck and back injuries. After the incident she had daily headaches and often felt nauseous, but doctors couldn’t seem to find out what was wrong. She did have to be on home instruction from school and could no longer do many of the activities she enjoyed like playing tennis or tap dance lessons.
“So from that, everything I loved to do was gone,” Isabella said. “I always dreamed of being a Rockette, but that dream is over.”
But she was determined not to let the incident define her, and she decided to focus on other hobbies.
“I wasn’t going to let that take over me, so I started to bake,” Isabella said.
She began to bake mini sugar cookies with colorful sprinkles she calls “Iznettes.” Her cookies are based on her grandfather’s recipe from Italy, but she tweaked it a bit to make it her own. Her parents sell the cookies at Scotti’s, the Italian restaurant they own in Schenectady.
She also began to write about her experience dealing with an
EXPERIENCE COUNTS invisible disability and the effects bullying had on her. She drew pictures to go along with the rhyming story of her journey. When she was done, she called the final product, ”The Short Story of One Tough Cookie.”
She brought the book to her mother, Pola Sementilli, when she was 11 years old, and told her, “I need a publisher.” Now the children’s book is on sale in local bookstores and available on Amazon.
A portion of the proceeds from the cookie and book sales go to nonprofits
that support anti-bullying efforts and brain injury awareness. The Brain Injury Association of New York State, the Kessler Foundation, which funds research for disabilities, and the Invisible Disabilities Association are some of the recipients.
Isabella’s headaches persisted for a while and her family continued to go from doctor to doctor throughout her childhood looking for an answer. She always hoped the next visit would provide an answer but she grew more frustrated when they would return home with no clarity or diagnosis. Her mother, Pola, said it was difficult as a parent to watch her daughter hurt.
“It was awful, just heartbreaking to see,” Pola said. “We couldn’t help her.”
Eventually, a physician at Albany Medical Center Hospital was able to figure it out. Isabella was diagnosed with New Daily Persistent Headache (NDPH), a rare debilitating disorder. She also has allodynia, which makes it so even the slightest touch can cause pain.
“It wasn’t the answer we wanted to hear, but it was an end to the search,” Pola said.
Pola said despite Isabella’s condition, she is amazed how positive her daughter has remained throughout it all.
“She is amazing to deal with what she does everyday,” Pola said. “I don’t know how she does it, but she does. She lifts us up.