The promoter of a good cause

Superintendent’s Spotlight: Traci Montelbano, Warwick Valley High School

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  • Provided photos Traci Montelbano'd role within the WVHS Empty Bowls Club is to bring the bowls in front of the buying public.

  • Members of the Warwick Valley High School's Empty Bowls Club have already raised $890 at two fund raisers.

— Traci Montelbano never really thought of herself as an artist, or at least not as a serious one, like the students who spend as much time as they can down in the art wing.

But when it comes to planning and organizing, she’s a master.

“I’m a super organizer,” says Traci, a senior at Warwick Valley High School. “I love making lists and writing emails and taking care of all the little details. I love planning.”

This school year, Traci joined the WVHS Empty Bowls Club, which is part of the Warwick Valley Empty Bowls community effort which works to alleviate hunger and food insecurity. At the high school the members are student potters, and their mission is to raise money for local food pantries and the Warwick “Backpack Snack Attack” organization, which sends needy students home with a backpack full of healthy snacks on weekends.

The students make clay bowls, which are then sold at events to raise money for the cause. Local professional potters from Empty Bowls help the young artists hone their craft, and donate bowls, too.

The fund-raising partThe one weak link in the students’ process, though, was getting their wares in front of the buying public.

Enter Traci, who was drawn to the Empty Bowls Club because it looked like the members were having a great time and she believes in its mission.

“I paint a little bit at home and I enjoy being creative,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about pottery, but I knew I could help with the fund-raising part.”

The high school Empty Bowls Club - this is its second year - and last year the club participated in the organization’s big May fund raiser.

But the students were driven to do more, so the addition of a member with a knack for planning and promotion was exactly what they needed.

“Sending an email is a nightmare for me,” said club president Molly Hamling, a junior who has been in Empty Bowls for two years. “She and I make a perfect yin and yang.”

'I get to make something'So while the rest of the members concentrated on throwing clay, Traci got busy planning their event schedule.

“Traci initiated and coordinated the Empty Bowls Club latest two events,” said art teacher Shari Blauner, who, along with science teacher Gina Buffardi, are the club advisors.

On Nov. 21 the club raised more than $450 at an area fund raiser, and last weekend, the students brought their bowls to the Warwick Valley Middle School Craft Fair, where they raised an additional $440.

“This is the second year of the club's existence and the first year we are participating in other fund-raising events. This is truly due to Traci becoming our event planner,” said Blauner. “She's amazing.”

Traci’s fellow club members have also inspired her to explore her artistic talents - she’s learned a bit about pottery, and has made some bowls, too.

“I can’t wait to come here,” she said of the art studio, where the group meets and works. “I get to make something.”

For more information about Warwick Valley Empty Bowls visit or find them on Facebook.

Each week, Warwick Valley School District Superintendent Dr. David Leach shines the “The Superintendent’s Spotlight” on one of Warwick Valley’s students. “Superintendent’s Spotlight” features students who reach goals, face challenges and are role models to their peers.

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