NEW ROCHELLE — Tony Apuzzi has spent much of his free time since the mid-1990s collecting sports memorabilia. He's got glossies, baseballs and footballs signed by most any New York athlete who's earned a headline in the past few decades. Boxes of the stuff.
Typically, the former teacher has put his collectibles on display in his Pelham Road apartment. At the end of last year, he found another use for them: trade them for a promising young woman's college education. When Apuzzi met Jasalle Ruiz in 2001, he was a new math teacher in the Bronx and she an unruly sixth-grader. The class he'd been hired to run at Intermediate School 181 was out of control, with students spending far more time fighting than learning. Apuzzi was their 13th teacher in as many months. Ruiz, who was raised by her grandparents in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx, was struggling to cope with the death of her grandfather, who had taught her how to read, helped her with homework and served as the father she never had.