Guilderland school principal unwittingly rallies community in cancer battle

October 03, 2019 05:49 PM

October is "Breast Cancer Awareness Month," but all semester long, kids at Lynnwood Elementary School in Guilderland have been learning lessons about cancer, not found in a book.

The lessons are coming from a very committed principal, Alicia Rizzo, who has unwittingly rallied a community in her fight against the disease.


Rizzo is a "girly girl," who sports necklaces and dangly earrings. However, in 2011, breast cancer stole a little of that glam - forcing her to wear a wig. She was far more private with the disease at first.

The first-year principal was not only challenged by cancer, but also by test scores - which were tanking.

Education is her first love and she was not about to give up on helping her students succeed because of cancer. She and her teachers adopted a new literacy program, worked hard, and got results.

However, cancer would try to overshadow their success. This year, it came back. Now, it was stage 4.

Rizzo was not having any of it. Now, she was an open book – answering students' questions and clearing up any misconceptions they have about the disease.

"I don't think of it as that I'm dying of cancer. I'm living with cancer," said Rizzo.

The entire school is rallying around Mrs. Rizzo. On any given day, you might find them in solidarity with their principal, wearing pink.

Nearly 400 t-shirts supporting her have been sold. Even former students are wearing them.

Hear more about how she's helping the school understand the disease and how her students are supporting her, by watching the video of Elaine Houston's story.


Elaine Houston & WNYT Staff

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