Staten Island Foundation Executive Director Betsy Dubovsky (center with flowers) and Program Officer Laura Jean Watters (third from right) recently met with CSI administrators, faculty, and students.

The Staten Island Foundation provided a $50,000 grant to the College of Staten Island’s Strategies for Success program, a service learning opportunity program designed to join College mentors with elementary and intermediate school-aged children at IS 49, PS 57, and JCC Cornerstone at Carter Center, which is administered by the Division of Student Affairs.

CSI President Dr. Tomás D. Morales recently hosted a roundtable discussion in his conference room with Staten Island Foundation Executive Director Betsy Dubovsky and Program Officer Laura Jean Watters. They were joined by CSI student/mentors, as well as members of the College Advancement team and the SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge) program.

Nada Abbass, a Political Science major at CSI who is going into her senior year, said, “I’m very grateful for the experience…I’ve been working with this program for almost three years now and it’s made me realize that law school maybe isn’t for me and I want to go down a path like psychology. I enjoy mentoring these children.”

Another student, Nicole Cruz, a first-year Master’s student in Education, emphasized the connection between her and her students. “I feel very fortunate to be a part of this program because it has been a great experience for me. I have learned so much from these students and they have encouraged me to go further in my career, and as much as I push them, they push me.”

Lana Zaza, a junior Early Childhood Education major, highlighted the profound change that the program has affected in her students. “The feedback [that the children] give me is that they’re going to be something big in the future, that they’re going to be successful. They actually have goals set, and before they didn’t have any of that…Seeing us and all the mentors from Strategies for Success really had a great impact on their lives. Grades improved and they have a great self-confidence from all the results they see.”

“Education is the major part of the Staten Island Foundation’s giving,” commented Dubovsky. “Forty percent of what we do every year goes to education; that’s over a million dollars. We have worked closely with CSI over the past ten years and CSI designed a program that matched our interest area precisely, because ten years ago, I [said] that we were interested in funding…education grants [for] schools that are providing service to low-income, low-performing schools… This program has been a win-win–the College students have benefited, some of them have decided to go into education, they’ve had the experience of succeeding and being valued. The students in the elementary and the intermediate school have role models of people from their community, who are going to college, and they don’t get to see many people who are going to college, so it’s a win for them, they love their tutors and mentors.”

SEEK Program Director Gloria Garcia and Strategies for Success Associate Director Georgia Landrum offered their appreciation to the SI Foundation for its generous gift. They were joined by Professor Emerita Roberta Vogel, who recently retired as the Deputy Director of SEEK.

“This grant allows CSI students to discover the joys of mentoring, and provides essential tools to the school-aged children,” commented Garcia. “This partnership benefits students of all ages throughout the community, and exemplifies what can be accomplished when two institutions work collaboratively for the benefit of tomorrow’s leaders. I express my sincerest thank you to the Staten Island Foundation for their generosity and their commitment to transforming lives on Staten Island.”

“I can’t say enough about the people who have overseen the program–Professor Garcia, Georgia Lundrum, Professor Vogel,” added Dubovsky. “They have been diligent in making the partnership work, not only with us but with the individual schools. It’s very impressive and we’re very proud.”

The overall goal of Strategies for Success is to promote the development and application of effective learning strategies and study skills essential to academic success within the population of economically disadvantaged college students and Title I public school children. Strategies is committed to helping the community and bringing students of different levels (college, intermediate, and elementary) together in an environment that aims to instill attitudes, feelings, and values that promote learning, critical thinking, and academic success. The program serves approximately 300 school children per year, and approximately 40 college students participate as mentors in the program each year.