CSI Nursing Alumni Serving on the Front Lines during Pandemic

Nursing alumni from CSI are working on the front lines during the pandemic.

Nursing alumni from the College of Staten Island are on the front lines with other healthcare workers working tirelessly to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recently, Janett Perez ’12 and Alexa Zuffante ‘14 have been featured in local media reports on NY1 and WABC 7, and in The Washington Post.

Dean of the CSI School of Health Sciences Marcus Tye commented on the dedication of CSI Nursing alumni during these difficult times, “I offer my heartfelt gratitude and admiration for CSI’s many thousands of Nursing alumni who are on the front lines, providing compassionate and essential clinical care at great personal risk in these most difficult of times. For each of these selfless contributions we recognize from our brave nursing, health sciences, human services, social work, and other alumni, we know there are thousands more whose sacrifices we may never hear but whose efforts have saved lives.”

By Terry Mares

Free Online English Classes with the English Language Institute

CSI’s English Language Institute is offering free English classes to people around the world.

The English Language Institute (ELI) at the College of Staten Island is offering free English classes via Facebook Live videos and Zoom meetings. These free short sessions are offered to any student around the world who may want to learn or practice English. There are even sessions explained in Spanish and English at the same time to help Spanish speakers understand the class.

Many English language centers around the world are closed and not many students will have the chance to return to face-to-face English classes or have the means to attend online instruction. According to the British Council, two billion English learners were expected for 2020, more than a quarter of the world’s population. Many students who wanted to come to the United States to learn English have canceled their plans amid the COVID-19 health crisis.

ELI switched its 2020 Spring semester to online instruction. The students who were already learning English on campus are now on Zoom classes with ELI teachers. The great benefit is that they continue to have synchronous instruction and the same courses. Every day, ELI teachers are live with students covering topics such as reading, writing, conversation, and a TOEFL preparation course. Students are from Brazil, Colombia, Chile, China, Germany, Guatemala, Israel, Ivory Coast, Japan, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, South Korea, and Ukraine.

ELI also wanted to help students who were about to arrive in New York this summer and those who had their English classes canceled in their home countries. ELI organized short classes on its Facebook page and with Zoom meetings, and the first class immediately had nearly 1,000 views. ELI teachers will cover different topics every week and for different English levels (beginner, intermediate, and advanced).

ELI Director, Gonzalo Villena, was surprised with the first class audience. “We had students watching from Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Poland, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and even different cities in the U.S.”, according to the ELI Director. “Our goal is to help everyone who wants to practice some English, help those who had their English classes canceled in their countries, or whoever wants to have a good time during quarantine at home,” he added.

Since the first class was really successful with Spanish speakers, ELI extended an additional class explained in Spanish and English simultaneously. “The classes are explained 100 per cent in English on Tuesdays and half Spanish, half English on Wednesdays,” Villena mentioned. The goal is to reach as many students as possible and provide help using online instruction.

Classes are broadcast live on the ELI Facebook page and Zoom every week at 3:00pm, New York time, but students in different time zones can watch the class any time since they are recorded and they have free access on the Facebook page. ELI is also uploading the class on its YouTube channel so anyone can enjoy the topic they want to see. The first class is already available in this YouTube link. If you want to subscribe to the YouTube channel and receive notifications of new classes, you can always go to its channel.      

ELI invites everyone to watch the next class. If you want to join from Facebook or Zoom, you just need to see the events posted on ELI Facebook, ELI Instagram, ELI Twitter, ELI LinkedIn, or on the CSI or CUNY Websites. For those who want to join with Zoom from a computer or laptop, they just need to click on the Zoom link and watch the class directly; those who join with Zoom from their cell phones need to download the app and add the meeting code number (number posted on Facebook and other social media posts).

By the English Language Institute

School of Business Alum Offering Free Marketing Clinics to Food and Beverage Businesses

Jonathan Saquicili (Photo Credit: Andre Salazar Photography)

Jonathan Saquicili ’15, an alumnus of the Lucille and Jay Chazanoff School of Business, and currently Project Manager at Merkle, an NYC-based marketing agency, has decided to use his expertise to lend desperately needed assistance to small businesses in the food and beverage industry through Volunteer Marketing Clinics.

According to Saquicili, he “started the Volunteer Marketing Clinic as a way to give back to the community. The agency I work for is helping its clients prepare for once this pandemic clears and I want to do the same for the small businesses that may not be able to afford the [marketing services of] the WPPs or Dentsus of the world. I understand that businesses need money to keep afloat, but I believe that a good marketing strategy can help them get back on their feet as well.

“The clinic,” Saquicili continued, “is made up of close friends I’ve made while working in advertising. These folks have worked on beauty, automotive, financial, travel, and entertainment clients. We offer audits, best practices, and strategies gained from our experience with our clients. Right now, we are able to consult on organic and paid social media, email marketing, content marketing, audience strategy, and advanced analytics.”

So far, Saquicili reported, the clinics are going well. “As we work to ramp up our client roster, we are seeing some positive results. One of our clients received an organic social strategy that has now had them rank in the top results for their niche. We’re even seeing engagement increase by more than 200%.”

Looking to the future of this effort, Saquicili said that “Through my @meetmeinmytummy [Instagram food] page, I am hoping that I can provide a limited number of businesses with a complimentary photo shoot to highlight their staff and menu items. I believe this will allow me to connect with local businesses and help me tell their story. The bonus here is that I am multilingual and can publish content in different languages.”

By Terry Mares

School of Business Alum Starts GoFundMe Page for 3D-Printed Facemasks

Kevin Ferger (Photo Credit: @sir.robot)

Kevin Ferger, who graduated with honors last year from the Lucille and Jay Chazanoff School of Business, has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for his company to 3D print facemasks during the COVID-19 crisis.

Ferger is the head of Marketing at Staten Island-based Solvelight Robotics, and also the founder of Maxim Blu LLC where he serves as a consultant to help high-growth firms maintain their growth strategy and overcome the obstacles associated with rapid expansion.

Ferger explained that the social entrepreneurship effort at Solvelight started when “My good friend, and also the head of Finance, at Solvelight Robotics, Ruvin Fidman, came up with the idea. He has a great knowledge of 3D printing and very quickly realized that we could convert our 3D printer inventory to equipment and start printing masks. A lot of us at Solvelight Robotics have many friends and family in the healthcare industry and so we really all felt a certain need to do what we can to help out. We pitched the idea to Richmond University Medical Center and they were on board to have their infection prevention department test our masks. They passed inspection and we began distributing.”

This is where Ferger came with GoFundMe. “We really just figured that if we wanted to help out this badly that there must be other people we could work with to make an even bigger difference. The idea was that we wanted to make it easy for anyone to help out during this crisis. So GoFundMe was perfect because people can help a lot by simply donating and we could do our part by providing expertise and labor.”

So far, fundraising has been going well with a total of almost $2K raised. Ferger stated that “We’ve been at it for a week or so and have printed over 400 face shields. We have plans to print 1-2K face shields in total but if the demand is still there after that, we will of course continue. We really hope that we don’t need to though and would like for this pandemic to pass.”

Now that Solvelight is producing the masks, Ferger said that “We make regular shipments to Richmond University Medical Center, a variety of smaller local healthcare practices on Staten Island that requested to not be named, Marbletown Fire Department, and the Wayne County Jail/Sheriff’s office. We’ll be releasing a full list on our GoFundMe page once we get permission to use the names of everyone we’ve donated to.”

Those who are interested in supporting Ferger’s efforts to keep people on the frontlines of the pandemic safe can visit his GoFundMe page.

By Terry Mares

SBDC at CSI Assists Staten Island Small Businesses during the COVID-19 Crisis

SBDC staff, from left to right: George Telmany, Angela Chuppe, Megan Ernst, Joe Muller, Joe Bottega. In back: Dean Balsamini and Ed Piszko. (Photo Credit: Jamie Love Photography)

During this Coronavirus (COVID-19) Crisis, the Staten Island Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the College of Staten Island is dedicated to the NYS Mission of providing customized solutions through advisement, education, research, and advocacy for entrepreneurs, innovators, and the small and medium enterprise community. Their team of certified advisors is experienced in Disaster Relief Counseling and they are available remotely to provide small business owners with the guidance they need in these trying times of uncertainty.

On a “normal” day, the SBDC provides counseling and advisement on writing a business plan, conducting market research, developing marketing strategies, managing financial statements, obtaining procurement opportunities, and most importantly right now, creating disaster and cyber security plans.

With active grant and loan programs being offered through the Small Business Administration and NYC for COVID-19 financial support, many small business owners are requesting guidance to navigate through the various forms and documentation required for these applications. The SI SBDC Team has handled more than 600 inquiries so far from the small business community, requesting assistance on how to keep their businesses alive and how to support their staff.

Borough business owners are happy for the SBDC’s assistance.

Dave Fazio, owner of Deville Auto on Staten Island and a client of the SBDC who was counseled by senior certified business advisor Ed Piszko, commented, “Ed has guided and channeled me through the maze of paper work involved in the application process for the various COVID-19 assistance programs. It is great to have one go-to person who is available to assist, as opposed to having to reach out to several people. With the SBDC’s assistance, I have been accepted and approved for a PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] loan from a local bank. I have a valuable relationship with the SBDC and look to maintain it.”

Josh Schneps, a longtime SBDC client, who is the CEO and Co-publisher of Schneps Media, described the value of his relationship with George Telmany, a senior certified business advisor at the SBDC with extensive disaster experience. “I am enormously grateful for your support and the support of the SBDC during this terrible time. You have been there for me to answer questions critical to our decision making and guided me with the application process which enabled me to get funding promptly. During difficult times is when you are needed most and I can’t thank you enough for all you have done and continue to do.”

The SI SBDC Team is also actively working with local resource partners and political representatives to keep the community connected with vital resources. By producing Webinars with the latest available information, including one with more than 200 attendees in partnership with the SBA, hosted by Congressman Max Rose, the SBDC remains on the forefront of this situation on behalf of small business owners throughout the 11th Congressional District. Webinar offerings will continue to expand over the next few weeks.

Considering the extent of the SBDC’s assistance during this difficult time, SBDC Director Dean Balsamini said that he “is proud of the hard work my team has been doing on behalf of small businesses during this crisis, as they have smoothly transitioned to a work at home environment.”

Funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, all services provided by the SBDC are at no cost to the small business owner.

Interested business owners may email SBDC@csi.cuny.edu or go to the SBDC Website at http://sisbdc.org/make-an-appointment/ to connect with an advisor.

As more information becomes available, updates will be circulated via email and on Facebook, as well as posted on www.sisbdc.org/covid19-assistance. For more state-wide information and to find a center nearest to you, please also visit http://nysbdc.org/covid19response.html.

By Terry Mares

CSI Dining Services Donates Much-Needed Food to Project Hospitality

Some of the food donated by Dining Services in a Project Hospitality truck (Photo Credit: Robert Kee)

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, staff from CSI’s Office of Dining Services continued to serve the College’s students and essential personal who remained on campus for as long as possible. As strict social-distancing rules, announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo, necessitated the closure of the College’s Dolphin Cove residence halls on March 27, there was a surplus of used food. Robert Kee of the Office of Student Life, who also manages the College’s food pantry, sought out SI Project Hospitality and coordinated an effort to donate the surplus to the local charitable organization.  

On Wednesday April 1, 2020 the Reverend Terry Troia and an assistant from SI Project Hospitality arrived at the College’s loading area where they were greeted by Kee and Jodi Merendino of Dining Services. SI Project Hospitality received more than 50 cases of fresh produce and dairy items from the College, which will be used to ease the growing food insecurity among community members in need.

CSI President William J. Fritz noted that “this is but one example of the College’s commitment to Borough Stewardship, one of six Strategic Priorities of CSI’s Strategic Plan, Opportunity to Ascend, in addition to possibly serving as a site that will provide medical support to the Island in the midst of this crisis. Through this pandemic and beyond, the College will continue to work tirelessly to not only provide our students with an affordable, high-quality education, but we continue to strive to bolster the economic, social, and cultural needs of all Staten Islanders.”

Merendino reports that “We will continue to remain in contact with SI Project Hospitality and will organize additional donations as they become available.”

According to its Website, “It is the mission of Project Hospitality, Inc. to reach out to community members who are hungry, homeless or otherwise in need in order to work with them to achieve their self-sufficiency — thereby enhancing the quality of life for our community. Project Hospitality seeks to realize its mission both by advocating for those in need and by establishing a comprehensive continuum of care that begins with the provision of food, clothing and shelter and extends to other services which include health care, mental health, alcohol and substance abuse treatment, HIV care, education, vocational training, legal assistance, and transitional and permanent housing.

By Terry Mares