United States citizens owe a debt of gratitude to first responders who put themselves in danger in the name of public safety on a daily basis. A national foundation took a small step toward repaying that debt for a 2016 Comsewogue High School graduate whose father and grandfather were first responders.
Christina Lettich is currently a freshman at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She grew up in Port Jefferson Station, where her family still lives. Her dad Michael Lettich was a member of the Suffolk County Police Department stationed in the 5th Precinct. In 2003, he was disabled in the line of duty. This month also marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Michael’s dad Thomas Lettich, and Christina’s grandfather. In 1992 he died in the line of duty while working as a New York City firefighter when Michael was just 20 years old. To honor her father’s and grandfather’s service, Lettich was one of 28 high school graduates in the nation to be awarded a scholarship from the National Law Enforcement and Firefighters Children’s Foundation in 2016. The scholarships are given out based on academic merit, financial need, community service and exceptional leadership.
“First responders have given so much to defend and protect us,” Al Kahn, NLEAFCF president and founder said in a statement. “How better to honor their commitment to all of us than to ensure that their children achieve their full potential. Helping to better pay for their college and complete their higher education is the least we can do to honor these law enforcement and firefighters’ families.”
Lettich expressed her gratitude for receiving the assistance to pay for her college education, and for the work people like her dad and grandfather do so selflessly.
“I have a great respect for civil servants,” Lettich said in an email. “It is not for everyone and not a job I think I could do. I like to make people laugh and smile.”
Lettich is an aspiring cartoonist and storyboard artist. She is studying fine arts at school and has had 60 of her own characters copyrighted to this point. Her dad recalled what it was like to hear she would receive the prestigious scholarship.
“I had known about the scholarship and asked Christina to apply for it,” he said in an email. “As she was preparing the application and asking me questions and found out more about my dad she realized how important it was to me. I was honored that she received the scholarship and made me very proud.”
“I have a great respect for civil servants. It is not for everyone and not a job I think I could do. I like to make people laugh and smile.”
— Christina Lettich
Michael Lettich said he and his wife Lisa knew from a young age Christina had talent as an artist. Lettich described herself as shy both growing up and presently, but the ability to express herself through her art, along with her time living in Manhattan and attending the School of Visual Arts has helped her break out of her shell.
“SVA is a very expensive school,” she said. “My parents never questioned if I would be able to go there. They would do anything to make it happen. I worked for Home Depot in my senior year and saved money. I am helping pay back some of my student loans and receiving this scholarship was another way that I could help my parents.”
Lettich was a member of the National Art Honor Society and drama club during high school. In her spare time she also volunteered for the Special Education Parent Teacher Association and at Studio E art school in Miller Place.
“We are proud to be a part of helping Christina achieve her academic goals,” Kahn said.