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Remembering Starllie SwonYoung

Updated: Feb 2

By Belle Martinelli


 Starllie (left) in photos shared by Hudson Valley Votes (via Facebook)


Students and community members of Purchase College feel the unimaginable loss of fellow student, Starllie SwonYoung, after the 21-year-old was the victim of a fatal hit-and-run accident in her hometown of Saugerties over winter break.


Starllie was majoring in political science with a minor in legal issues and society. She was an ever-present member of her political community and an inaugural member of the Youth Corp Voters of Hudson Valley.


In a memorial Facebook post, Hudson Valley Votes wrote, “Starllie embodied the very best of the Youth Voter Corps and inspired people of all ages in our community. Concerned about climate change and active in local politics in Saugerties, Starllie took it upon herself to be a fearless advocate for our community and made us all kinder.”


A portrait of Starllie a family friend had made, with Starllie's permission, that is now a gift to her mother, Emmallyea SwonYoung (Portrait by Christina Vargo; Photo via Facebook)


A GoFundMe was organized by friends to help the family cover costs. It has now surpassed its $15,000 goal, with donations from friends, family, students, community members, and those whose lives Starllie touched.


The organizer, Sharon Penza, wrote “[Starllie] was a light, an angel, a wise, intelligent, magical and kind being who brightened the world with her presence. She is and ever will be greatly missed by anyone fortunate enough to have known her.”


The Rock Academy, a performance-based and interactive music school, located in Woodstock, shared photos of Starllie performing in the 2014 Rock Academy ZAPPA tribute at Woodstock Playhouse in memorial, as their current students prepared to take the stage that very night. “Tonight our kids play for Starllie,” they wrote.


Starllie performing on stage with The Rock Academy in Woodstock

(photo via Facebook)


Woodstock Day School held a candlelight vigil in memorial of Starllie the following Sunday, Jan. 14, on Woodstock Day School Campus.


Starllie touched not only the hearts of those in her hometown community but within the Purchase community as well.


“It’s been said that people come into your life at just the right time. That was most definitely the case with Starllie,” writes friend TJ Walker, a senior philosophy major. “There’s no shortage of kind words that apply to her. Genuine, kind, and caring come to mind. She was a true friend, even though we only knew each other briefly in the grand scheme of things."


Starllie made a lasting impact on her fellow peers and friends, and also on her professors. Professor Diana Cassells, who has had Starllie in four of her classes, said, “Initially she was shy and barely spoke, and from semester to semester I have watched her evolve into a witty, intellectually curious, and very confident young scholar. She was full of promise, and as her academic advisor I was looking forward to continue working with her as she honed her interest in Latin American politics.”


A fierce advocate for all things just, Starllie was active within the Purchase community. She was a member of the Purchase Phoenix, co-bylining a story about the community kitchen in the fall of 2022, as well as a member of the Food Recovery Network. She was a member of the FRN for many semesters, and even though her busy schedule meant she could not always attend meetings and recoveries, she would always do what she could when she could.


In a statement to The Purchase Phoenix, The Purchase College Food Recovery Network writes, “Starllie was a passionate, communicative, and vibrantly present person who committed herself fully to the things she cared about. She shared her plans to pursue law school, expressing her sincere gratitude for professors who supported her. Starllie exuded kindness and joy, and embraced social justice – including food justice.”


“She was always outspoken about what she believed in, and the political science and law major at this school will be lacking without her intelligence and warmth,” said friend Vanessa Chamorro, a junior political science major. “While her absence is a sharp pain to those who knew and loved her, her memory will be a reminder to be kind, accepting and question authority.”


Friends of Starllie will be gathering in the Multicultural Center at 6:30 Thursday, Jan. 25 to discuss how to best honor her memory.

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