L-R: Monica Sibri, Tariq Tayeh (from Brooklyn College), and Monica Garay

Monica Sibri and Monica Garay participated in The City University of New York’s 2013 Model New York State Senate Session Project and soon found themselves debating bills on the floor of the New York State Senate chamber in Albany.

CUNY’s intensive seminars in the New York State government, leadership, and the legislative process provided the knowledge base necessary for these outstanding College of Staten Island students to vigorously debate the rise in the minimum wage at the 26th Annual Somos El Futuro Spring 2013 Conference, part of the the Legislative Conference of the New York State Assembly/Senate Puerto Rican Hispanic Task Force late last month.

Monica Garay in Albany. Photo by Bonnie Fritz.

“I learned a lot about not just myself but also how to work with other people and policymaking and decision making,” commented Monica Garay. “I felt empowered sitting in the same chamber where real senators sit. When I came back to campus, I found I was more motivated to get involved on campus than I was before.” Garay, a Business Management Major in her junior year with a love of writing, found new insights and confidence from participating in the program and now plans to join the CSI Emerging Leaders Program, adding “I want to take action!”

“Everyone involved with the Edward T. Rogowsky program really motivated us and gave us great ideas.” A graduate of the Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers in Brooklyn, Garay added “I learned not only about myself but also how to work with other people and make important policy decisions.  It was very exciting.”

Monica Sibri in Albany. Photo by Bonnie Fritz.

Sophomore Monica Sibri, a member of the CSI Campus Activities Board (CAB) and a current student with the CSI Emerging Leaders Program, noted that “after all the long nights of hard work, it was empowering to be at the chamber where our real Senators debate about issues that affect us all. It was even more empowering to see [Interim CSI] President Dr. William J. Fritz and his wife, Dr. Bonnie Fritz, supporting us from the stairs. Dr. Bonnie Fritz came closer and took a picture of Monica and me and wished us good luck on her and President Fritz’s behalf. Many fellow Senators felt jealous and astonished that our CSI leadership have that connection with the students.”

“I am proud that our students had the unique opportunity to develop their leadership skills in a legislative and policy-making setting, thanks to the Edward T. Rogowsky Internship Program and the CUNY Model Senate program,” commented Dr. Fritz.  “A hallmark of the educational experience at the College of Staten Island and The City University of New York includes service to the community, and through the hands-on participation in the legislative and decision-making process on the Senate floor, our students enhanced their research and public speaking skills while deepening their commitment and understanding of political and policy processes that affect our communities.”

In addition to pursuing public service education, participating students were also given the opportunity to compete for scholarship awards.

The theme of this year’s Conference in Albany was “The Time Is Now” to empower our youth, build political empowerment, create civic coalitions, shape our education system, advocate for better housing, help returning veterans, improve language access, reform the immigration system, and much more.

Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz, Chairman of the NYS Assembly/Senate Puerto Rican and Hispanic Task Force announced that this year’s Somos Conference broke all records, resulting in the most attended and successful conference in its 26-year history, saying “a record number of scholarships, internships, and apprenticeships will be awarded.” He added, “The Time Is Now to nourish Hispanic youth’s minds with the tools that will propel them into successful adults, prosperous citizens, and ultimately push them to ignite our economy.”

Issues addressed at the Somos El Futuro Spring Conference included: economy, healthcare, immigration, veterans’ affairs, policy development, project coordinators, housing, mental health, domestic violence, bilingual education, and LGBTQ issues.

The Model New York State Senate Session Project is an annual leadership development program, run by the Edward T. Rogowsky Internship Program, in collaboration with the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force of The New York State Legislature and the State University of New York.

More information is available at www.somosnewyork.org and www.ETRinternship.org.