Earlier in the Spring semester, 14 Verrazzano School students had the opportunity to try their hand at fencing, as they visited the Staten Island Fencing Center.

Verrazzano Associate Director Cheryl Craddock explained that “College is more than just classes and exams—it should be a time to explore, step outside your comfort zone, and try something new.” She added that as a result, “all Verrazzano students are required to do VELAs (Verrazzano Extracurricular Learning Activities), and we look for off-campus activities so students can do something fun and have good stories to tell.” Craddock said that she emailed David Setlow of the SIFC to arrange for the trip.

The students’ instructor, that day, was CSI alumnus Danny Assad. He graduated in 2020 with a BS in Mathematics, and is currently a Project Manager for a Telecoms company. He recalls that his favorite aspect of CSI was “the rigor and wealth of knowledge that the faculty had. No matter the question, an answer can always be found somewhere at CSI.” He also noted that the Verrazzano visit was “fantastic. All of them were wonderful and it was a pleasure.”

Assad explained that he has been fencing for a long time. “I started fencing when I was five years old. My father wanted me to participate in a combat sport but also didn’t want me getting hurt. As a five-year-old, I was thrilled to learn how to use a sword. From there, I started to compete and have been to various cities such as Saratoga Springs and Reno for different events. I have participated in tournaments all the way from small events of five people to the Junior Olympics and Summer Nationals.”

One of the participating students, Theodoro Mercado, fourth-year nursing student in his second-to-last semester at CSI, weighed in on his experience at SIFC. “I thought fencing was extremely fun and rewarding; it has always been a great exercise and a way to socialize with friends. I had fenced in high school for four years and still fence regularly, so this honors event was an excellent way to give exposure to the sport and spend time with peers.”

Mercado also discussed his time at Verrazzano, stating that it “assists its students beyond academic advising and guidance, it also gives us opportunities to try new things and connect with new people.”

As for her take on this adventure, Craddock’s response was brief and to the point. “It was a hoot, and exhausting!”

By Terry Mares