Superintendent’s Spotlight: Holly Purta & Elizabeth Verboys


Superintendent’s Spotlight: Holly Purta & Elizabeth Verboys

May 18, 2023

WVHS senior Elizabeth Verboys is a published children’s book author, and sophomore Holly Purta is the illustrator! The fellow Girl Scouts collaborated on the book Lee Learns a Lesson: A book about consent and boundaries for kids, which Elizabeth wrote as her Gold Award Project for Girl Scouts. The paperback became available on Amazon in April, and Elizabeth gave the first public reading of the book during an Author Talk at Albert Wisner Public Library on May 2.

“To coincide with this, for my Senior Project, I learned American sign language and how to sign my whole book, so I’m looking forward to doing that at the library tonight,” said Elizabeth. “We’ve been doing pretty good with sales, too, and a lot of people have been sending me pictures of them reading it to their kids or with their families, which is really nice.”

The book gives children and parents a place to begin conversations about consent and boundaries, and seeks to raise awareness about child sexual abuse and survivor support. The book is part of a comprehensive project of Elizabeth’s called Wisdom Wings, which makes and distributes care packages to local police stations for victims reporting their sexual abuse cases to police. You can follow Wisdom Wings on Instagram. One hundred percent of book proceeds are going back into the project. 

Elizabeth wrote the whole story and then started the search for an illustrator. That’s when Holly got involved!

“Your mom was reaching out to people and looking for someone, and I thought, ‘I’m an artist. This looks like something cool. Sure, I’ll take that on,” said Holly. “I spent my February break working on it, and it was a lot of fun.”

Holly – a regular Summa Cum Laude honor roll student and chorus and band member – is currently brainstorming ideas for her own Gold Award project, while she continues to work on the personal project she completed for her Silver Award. Happiness with Holly, which you can follow on Instagram at @happiness.with.holly, has been Holly’s way to promote positivity amongst her peers during trying times.

“It’s a peer support group that I started during COVID, when a lot of my friends were struggling,” explained Holly. “I made presentations and my friends and I would meet during lunch to talk about things that were stressful and ways to handle them. It was all to help bring a positive mindset back to the situation for people.”

Holly, like Elizabeth, is interested in the medical field, and practices art as a hobby and creative outlet. The pair met in the high school library for Elizabeth to share the story and her basic thoughts on the main character, Lee.

“All I told her, really, was that I wanted to keep Lee gender neutral, so that way any kid could relate to the book,” said Elizabeth. “Other than that, I let Holly have creative freedom with it.”

“And I tried to put a lot of creativity into it, to make it sure it was going to be appropriate for everyone who read the book,” added Holly.

When Holly and Elizabeth reconvened to review the artwork a couple weeks later, Elizabeth love them all. Holly’s teacher, Ms. Marilyn Brozycki, is looking forward to having Holly and Elizabeth visit the WVHS Book Club next year to speak about the book project and encourage young writers. Holly will be a junior, but Elizabeth will have to plan her visit, as she is committed to SUNY Cortland for the fall, where she will be majoring in psychology and minoring in exercise science.

“I’m looking to be a therapist, or in a field where I can help people find healthy coping mechanisms for mental health and stress, because physical activity is so important for the mind,” said Elizabeth.

Elizabeth said that she could see more publishing in her future alongside her professional pursuits, and Holly definitely sees her artistic hobby continuing as a way to balance her other interests and future career plans.


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