Macaulay Alumna Kanika Khanna to Pursue Public Policy Master’s Degree at Brown University


Macaulay Honors College graduate Khanika Khanna is heading to Brown University.

Kanika Khanna ’13, a graduate of the College of Staten Island and the Macaulay Honors College, has always had a passion for public service. Now she’s ready to take the next step as a graduate student at Brown University, pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Policy.

She credits her positive undergraduate experience at CSI for laying the groundwork for her success. “As a Political Science major at CSI, I was fortunate to have such wonderful professors, who only want the best for their students. There were so many opportunities to get involved on campus, be it academically like undergraduate research, or in an extracurricular club or publication.”

Kanika is working this summer for the CUNY Interdisciplinary High-Performance Computing Center (HPCC), conducting Hurricane Sandy research with the support of Vice President for Information Technology and Economic Development, and Executive Director of the HPCC Dr. Michael Kress. This follows several years as a political science research assistant focusing on public opinion as it relates to the New York City mayoralty. In both cases, she has been mentored by Professor Richard Flanagan of CSI’s Department of Political Science.

She was the founder and editor-in-chief of The Macaulay Messenger online newspaper, a publication that represented the eight Macaulay schools within CUNY, and won recognition as a National Collegiate Honors Council Newsletter Contest Winner. Kanika also served in a number of functions for Macaulay, including Junior Mentor, Volunteer English and Seminar Tutor, and Student Ambassador. She also received the Laura Schwartz Memorial Award for Excellence in Political Science and the Macaulay Eportfolio Expo Judge’s Choice Award, and was a Lisa Goldberg/Revson Scholar and a member of the Pi Sigma Alpha political science honors society.

Kanika’s foray into public service began when she landed a grant-writing internship with A. Larovere Consulting, a firm that builds supportive housing for the homeless in New York. “I was able to learn about urban issues as they affect our city’s most vulnerable populations and recommend services that would keep them off the streets. There is no better feeling than giving a disabled veteran an accommodating home, or connecting a mentally ill person with the medical care they need.”

Her experience in public service led to a summer opportunity with the Harvard Kennedy Center, Latino Leadership Initiative where she received intensive training in community organizing, leadership, negotiating, and public speaking. Kanika returned to New York City and joined with her fellow cohort at CUNY to establish the John Jay Sophomore Leadership Program, which aims to improve college success rates for first-generation college students. Kanika is currently on the Board of Directors and serves as the Media Outreach Manager for this program.

Kanika’s future plans include working on alleviating problems that plague metropolitan cities, like poverty, homelessness, and access to education.

“As a CSI and Macaulay student, I’ve had countless opportunities and supportive mentors to help me reach my goals. Public service is about improving the lives of others, who may not be able to do so themselves. The challenge of public service is daunting, but the prospect of serving my community and country is worth it.”

CSI Graduate Amelia Sanchez Offers Valuable Advice During High School Graduation Keynote

CSI alumna Amelia Sanchez recently gave the keynote address at the graduation ceremony at Concord High School.

Amelia Sanchez gave the keynote address at Concord High School’s graduation ceremony this year.  What makes this an amazing story is that she graduated from the College of Staten Island only weeks earlier.

Amelia worked as a student teacher at Concord, a public transfer high school for students who have struggled in traditional high schools, while earning her degree in Adolescence English Education at CSI.

Amelia’s achievements may perhaps be the best way to highlight the importance of transfer schools and CSI’s commitment to student teaching and community outreach because not only has Amelia taught at Concord, she is also a graduate. “Amelia is a wonderful example of how teachers can give back to the communities from which they come and she has served as such a fabulous role model for the students at Concord that Principal Ron Gorsky saw it was fitting that she be the one to address the graduates,” said CSI Higher Education Associate Deirdre Armitage, commenting on the impact Sanchez has had on her students.

“Students like Amelia thrive in our supportive culture that students call their family,” added Concord High School Principal Gorsky. He also went on to discuss why he chose Amelia to be this year’s keynote speaker. “Amelia had been an inspiration to many students this year. Working individually, in small groups, and teaching whole-class lessons in her ELA classroom, she was always sharing a piece of her story. She became a role model for future success.”

In her address, Amelia, who was accepted into CSI’s fast-track program in special education for adolescence, admitted to being a “rebellious teenager who would get dropped off at school and sneak out the back door. Mom would receive a call from the school that I was missing yet again and by the time I got home I was in a world of trouble.”  She went on to talk about how she never planned on returning to high school after graduating and credited her mother for being her biggest supporter, who “never once gave up on helping me discover my full potential.”

“Concord High School not only saved me, it framed me,” she added. “I know and understand more than anyone the struggles and challenges that you have faced in making it to where you are today.  Some people have looked down on you and perhaps even lost faith in you. What is most important for you to realize is that you are here today because you have faith in yourself.”

Amelia’s own road to graduation was not straightforward. She struggled through her first semester at CSI and decided, after discussing it with her mother, that working as a full-time health aide was her best course of action. After three years of attending CSI, Amelia realized that nursing was not what she wanted to pursue. After much soul searching, she switched her major to English and decided to pursue a career in education.

“At first, I laughed at the irony of choosing education as my field,” she joked, admitting that going back to school was the last thing she expected herself to do. But, after taking her Foundation courses and reaching out to Principal Gorsky, who invited her to observe and student teach at Concord, she was grateful for “the confidence Concord gave me to succeed and believe in myself.” She is now preparing to complete her master’s degree at the College and become dual certified.

Amelia concluded her heartfelt speech by offering some advice to the graduates. “Recall a time when you thought that you would never succeed…but did. As scary as that moment in time was, you overcame it by buckling down, doing what you had to do. Think of this as you are challenged by future obstacles.”

CSI Graduate Justin Giles Prepares for a Life of Law

Recent CSI graduate Justin Giles will be studying Criminal Law at Fordham University this fall.

Justin Giles scored in the 99.7th percentile on his LSAT and is preparing to study Criminal Law at Fordham University this fall after graduating from the College of Staten Island last May.

Giles, who graduated cum laude, is one of many great success stories coming from this year’s crop of CSI graduates, explained that his current success is due in no small part to his PreProBono Fellowship during the summer of 2012. Giles put in about “30 hours a week of work, mixed between classroom meetings with the other fellows and watching explanatory videos at home.”

Justin chose Fordham Law for several reasons, not the least of which is “their dedication to serving their fellow man” which, he said, resonates very strongly with him since, “I am very interested in pursuing a career in public interest law and using my skills to help people.”

He claims that one of his reasons for studying law is that a law degree is “one of the highest academic pursuits and it grants you access to an elite club of people who argue at an incredibly high level.”  He explained that one of the things that interests him most about criminal law is that it “allows two people to view the facts of a case or a situation and create a narrative, each arguing their client’s perception (since there really is no “truth” in an objective sense, merely our perceptions) and through their argument, they come to somewhere in the middle, the closest thing to what “really” happened.”

Justin’s less “selfish” reason, as he put it, is that pursuing a career in law helps to ensure that “the truth truly does come out and it allows me to participate in shaping the outcomes of legal cases, one at a time, so that the outcome is the best for everyone involved.”

CSI will leave him with only fond memories as he said that his experience at the College was “very enjoyable. I always found the other students to be friendly and willing to help whenever I needed to get the information about a class I missed or fill me in on a reading.”

He also credits the faculty, naming Professors Katharine Goodland and Steven Monte of the English Department and Professor and Pre-Law Advisor Michael Paris, for all pushing “me to work harder to really refine my arguments” and who have each “introduced me to some of my favorite writers as well as new and exciting ideas.”

A Staten Island native who went to Tottenville High School, Justin believes that his background had a great deal in effecting his decision to study law to help others. “My mother and father are both firm believers in helping people whenever you can,” he said about his upbringing. “That attitude was instilled in me in a big way and is why I want to help the people who need it most.”

[videos, galleries] Graduates Honored at 37th Commencement

The College of Staten Island celebrated its newest graduates at the 37th Annual Commencement, last Thursday.

A very warm and sunny day greeted the College of Staten Island’s 2,345 graduates and their families, friends, and supporters from the College community and beyond last Thursday at CSI’s 37th Annual Commencement.

View the Commencement Photo Gallery and the Dolphin Awards Photo Gallery.

After acknowledging the dedicated efforts of the CSI community in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Interim President Dr. William J. Fritz listed some of the characteristics that make CSI unique, like its 204-acre campus and the fact that it is the only public institution of higher learning in the Borough. He also mentioned some of the College’s recent achievements, such as the construction of the new student residence halls, the creation of new professional schools in business and education, and the forthcoming Interdisciplinary High-Performance Computing Center.

In closing, he shared his philosophy regarding the connection between alumni and their alma maters, “There are those who view colleges and universities metaphorically as living entities with the alumni forming the soul of the institution. I subscribe to this notion as well. As alumni, your achievements become our achievements. Your prominence builds upon our prominence and prestige. Your philanthropy and humanity become our contribution in kind to a better, more compassionate, and caring world.”

Download the Commencement Program [PDF].

This year, the College was honored to have two valedictorians, Christopher Bitetto and Evelyn Okeke, both graduates of The Verrazano School Honors Program.

[youtube][/youtube]In his speech, Bitetto reflected on his time at CSI “What I am most proud of as I get set to graduate is that I was a member of the CSI family. Even under the worst circumstances, like Hurricane Sandy, members of the Staten Island community came together to volunteer their time and donate their food and clothes because we all come from the same place. That’s what makes the College of Staten Island student body so special. We have arrived at a point where we see the value in giving back to others. We all have overcome obstacles, and as a group, we demonstrate that nothing shall keep us from succeeding as long as we work for it.”

[youtube][/youtube]Okeke, who is originally from the former East Germany, emphasized the role of The Verrazano School in her academic and personal path. “Being a part of the Verrazano School also fostered my college career by providing me with a family of students and caring mentors who assisted me throughout every step of my college years. When I was a scared freshman, they welcomed me to my new country and helped me adjust to the many cultural differences. Through The Verrazano School, I volunteered my time and engaged in making my community a better place to live.”

Also in attendance at the ceremony and offering their support to the graduates were U.S. Senator Charles Schumer; CUNY Vice for Facilities Planning, Construction, and Management Iris Weinshall; and CUNY Trustee Rita DiMartino.

The Commencement ceremony also bestowed honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees upon Elizabeth A. Dubovsky, Executive Director at The Staten Island Foundation, and Distinguished Professor Toyin Falola. In addition, Dr. Fritz recognized the latest recipients of the President’s Medal, Robert S. Cutrona, Sr., President of Project-One Services, Inc. and a founding Director of Victory State Bank; Norma D’Arrigo, a community leader on Staten Island; and Dr. Alfred Levine, Professor of Engineering Science and Physics and the Director of the Center for Environmental Science at the College of Staten Island.

Later in the day, the CSI Library hosted the annual Dolphin Awards ceremony, which honors outstanding contributions to the College by faculty, staff, and students.

Read the honorees bios and view the CSI Today Dolphin Awards Photo Gallery.

This year’s honorees included:

-Outstanding Scholarly Achievement by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Christina Tortora

-Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Probal Banerjee

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Full-Time Faculty: Alan Zimmerman

-Outstanding Teaching by a Member of the Adjunct Faculty: Edward Hack

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Teaching Instructional Staff in HEO Title: Carol Brower

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff in CLT and OIT Specialists Title: Victor Magnani

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff: Debbie Britton

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Non-Instructional Staff in Maintenance, Operations, Security: John Santorelli

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Member of the Part-Time, Non-Teaching Staff: Debra Lane

-Outstanding Service and Contribution to the College by a Currently Enrolled Student: Elizabeth Che

Dr. Fritz opened the Dolphin Awards ceremony by noting that “At Commencement this morning, I stated unequivocally to our graduates that the College of Staten Island was, is, and always will be a place where you can pursue all of your ambitions and achieve all of your dreams—and that with a degree from CSI, you can accomplish anything. I truly believe this. But I also know that it is the hard work, dedication, and excellence of our faculty, staff, and students, as exemplified by the Dolphin Award winners we honor here today, that turns this belief into reality for our graduates.”

College Writer/Editor Terry Mares followed Dr. Fritz, reading short biographies of each of the honorees, underscoring their contributions to the College.


[video] Meet Evelyn Okeke – 2013 Co-Valedictorian

Evelyn Okeke has been conducting research as a Biology (BS) major with a double minor in Biochemistry and Chemistry at CSI in Dr. Abdeslem El Idrissi’s lab since the summer of 2010, where she worked on a project that led to two publications. She has maintained a 4.0 GPA since she started her undergraduate studies in The Verrazano School Honors Program in 2010.

She has recenlty presented her research at numerous conferences including the 18th International Taurine Meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco. During the summer of 2011, she worked as a research assistant in the Robinson lab at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and last summer, she completed an internship in the department of Protein Science at Merck & Co. Inc.,as well as study abroad on scholarship in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

[youtube][/youtube]Evelyn was awarded the prestigious UNCF/Merck fellowship for the academic year 2012/2013 and she received an honorable mention from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in 2012.

In the fall 2013, she will be begin her doctoral studies at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. This summer, she will go to the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands to complete a research internship in the Department of Pediatrics with a focus on neuroscience.

[video] Paying it Forward, Endowing a Scholarship

[youtube][/youtube]The 2013 Class Gift Committee seeks to endow The Class of 2013 Legacy Scholarship, an endowed scholarship that will remain in perpetuity, long after the graduates leave campus in celebration of the College’s 37th Annual Commencement ceremony.

It’s an ambitious goal that requires raising $25,000, and is a unique opportunity to leave a legacy by giving back to the next generation of CSI undergraduates. The suggested donation is $20.13, in honor of the graduation year, to help students long into the future.

“That goal is possible if each graduating student pays it forward with a donation,” notes Noorelhoda Mahmoud, one of two student speaker at this year’s Verrazano Honors Schools and a founding member of the 2013 Class Gift Committee. “Every gift is a vote of confidence and support to the value of a CSI education and degree. Establishing this scholarship will set a new precedent for a Class Gift, with the Class of 2013 leading the way and raising the bar.”

Kubra Shirazi, another Verrazano School student added “I want to be involved with raising funds for the class gift because I have received so many opportunities through different sources in the college. I also plan to continue funding for the scholarship fund after I graduate.”

Class gifts from 2011 and 2012 include much-needed benches along Alumni Walk.  This year, for a truly unique graduation gift, family, friends, faculty, and staff are encouraged to donate as a way of honoring the 2013 graduation. All donors will be entered into a raffle to win four tickets to a New York Yankees game in September.

There are three ways to donate:

  • Online: click on “Make Your Gift Online Now,” and select “2013 Class Gift” from the drop-down menu.
  • In person: Visit the Class Gift Table during Cap & Gown Distribution on May 21 and 23 in the Campus Center.
  • By Mail: Send a check or money order payable to: The CSI Foundation, 2800 Victory Boulevard, Building 1A, Room 401, Staten Island, NY 10314

For further information, please contact Jennifer Lynch in the Office of Institutional Advancement and External Affairs at 718-982-2293.

Members of the 2013 Class Gift Committee:

  • Michael Allamby, Chairperson and Student Govt. President
  • Christopher Bitetto, Verrazano School and WSIA Sports Director
  • Norelhoda Mahmoud, Verrazano School
  • Michael Trimble, Verrazano School
  • Kubra Shirazi, Verrazano School and Student Athlete
  • Michael Cicero, Verrazano School
  • Matt DiRusso, Student Government

[gallery] Fourth Annual Savor the Flavors Raises Funds for CSI Students

The Port Richmond High School Culinary Arts Program wins First Place Honors for Best Dish, Gnocci Pesto.

As in past years, the CSI Alumni Association’s Fourth Annual Savor the Flavors event, held in early April in the Center for the Arts Atrium, dazzled taste buds and raised much-needed funds for student scholarships.

The the CSI Today Photo Gallery>

The event, sponsored by Liberty Mutual, and chaired by James McBratney ’05, CSI Alumni Board Member and President of the Restaurant and Tavern Association, attracted more than 200 guests.

Besides supporting CSI students and giving attendees the chance to sample some of the Island’s best cuisine, Savor the Flavors continued the tradition of providing awards to some of the best dishes, as judged by Rob Burmeister, Eddie Canlon, and John Sierp from the Food Network’s Chopped.

Best Dish Winners:

—1st Place: Port Richmond High School Culinary Arts Program (Gnocci Pesto)

—2nd Place: PepperJack Grill (Pulled Pork Slider)

—3rd Place: Delish Dishes (Ravioli Blue Cheese)

Best Dessert honors:

—1st Place: BeerGarden (Beer Cake)

—2nd Place: Lee Sims Chocolates (Jordan Cracker)

1st Place Best Dessert - The Beer Garden
People's Choice Award - PepperJack Grill
Best Table Decor - Joe Mozz Gourmet Shop

People’s Choice Award:

—PepperJack Grill

Best Table Décor:

—Joe Mozz Gourmet Shop

Beyond the winners, other businesses that generously donated food for the event were Afternoone’s, Alfonso’s, Blue, Bridge Tavern, Canlon’s, Da Noi, Dosa Garden, Hungry Sombrero, Jimmy Maxx, Joe’s of Avenue U., Lobster House Joe, The Lake Club, Manor Restaurant, Nucci’s, Oriental Plaze, Paesano’s Pizzeria, Park Café, Pink Lady Cakes, R. Ippolito Distributing (specialty beers), Randall Manor Tavern, San Rasa Sri Lankan Cuisine, Tapas, and Vino Devino Wines.

Coca Cola provided some of the beverages for the event, Feel the Beat Productions entertained the attendees with music, and Paul Caminiti from the CSI Photography Club was the event photographer.


Marybeth Melendez named Rising Star by NYC Mayor

CSI alumna Marybeth Melendez continues her academic success as she pursues her graduate degree at the College.


Mayor Presents American Dreamer Awards to New Yorkers Improving the Lives of Immigrants

National Park Service Teams Up with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to Bring Hurricane Damaged Ellis Island Immigration Museum Programs to the Five Boroughs

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Fatima Shama today kicked off Immigrant Heritage Week at Gracie Mansion. Immigrant Heritage Week is a citywide celebration, from April 17-24, honoring the experiences and contributions of the millions of immigrants who have shaped New York City for generations. During the reception at Gracie Mansion, the Mayor announced the 2013 recipients of the American Dreamer Awards, presented to five New Yorkers dedicated to improving the lives of immigrant communities across the City. In addition, three new Rising Star Awards were presented to students that show promise as American Dreamers for their work to advance the lives of their fellow students. This year’s Immigrant Heritage Week will focus on showcasing the stories of the millions of immigrants who passed through Ellis Island to start their lives in New York City and cities across the United States. With Ellis Island closed due to damage it suffered during Hurricane Sandy, the City will work with the National Park Service to the bring the stories of immigrants from Ellis Island to communities across the City. National Park Service Rangers from the Ellis Island Immigration Museum Workshops will hold over twenty educational programs at schools, community and cultural institutions across the five boroughs during Immigrant Heritage Week. Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Shama were joined at Gracie Mansion by David Luchsinger, Superintendent of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Steve Briganti, President and CEO of the Statue of Liberty- Ellis Island Foundation and the National Park Service Rangers who will lead the programs across New York City.

“In New York City we’ve always known how important immigrants are to this country,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “That’s why we have been a leading voice in the fight to fix America’s broken immigration system. We are very optimistic that a compromise immigration reform bill has attracted bi-partisan support in Washington. This bill could give millions of hard-working people the chance to realize their American dreams and go a long way towards strengthening our economy, our democracy and our communities. Our diversity, our tolerance and our spirit of mutual respect is part of what makes this City so great. That’s what we hope to highlight during Immigrant Heritage Week and it’s the reason we our City continues to attract people from around the world looking to build a better future.”

“To celebrate the rich cultural heritage of our City, this Immigrant Heritage Week we are working with the National Park Service to feature the stories of millions of immigrants who passed through Ellis Island with dreams that are as alive in immigrants today as they were a hundred years ago,” said Commissioner Shama. “It is those dreams and commitment to success that makes New York City better every day, and it is what we continue to celebrate today as we recognize our American Dreamer Awardees.”

“We are thrilled to join Mayor Bloomberg and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs on this initiative, and to celebrate our immigrant heritage and the rich diversity our city and country enjoys,” said National Park Service Superintendent Luchsinger.

Established by Mayor Bloomberg in 2004, Immigrant Heritage Week is celebrated around April 17th, the day in 1907 when more immigrants entered through Ellis Island than any other date in the City’s history. This year, Immigrant Heritage Week will take place from April 17th – 24th. Immigrant Heritage Week was made an annual celebration by Executive Order 128, signed by Mayor Bloomberg in 2009. It is a citywide celebration honoring the experiences and contributions of the millions of immigrants who have shaped our City for generations. During Immigrant Heritage Week, the Department of Cultural Affairs’ NYCulture Calendar will feature arts and cultural organizations hosting events during the week that feature immigrant artists or international content. Events citywide can be found by visiting and searching “Immigrant Affairs.”

 American Dreamer Awards

The American Dreamer Awards were created to celebrate the significant accomplishments and contributions made by an individual or organization to better the lives of immigrants and immigrant communities in New York City. The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs received over 100 nominations from community organizations, and individuals from across the five boroughs in March and five winners were selected from an outstanding group of candidates. This year, a new category was established, the Rising Star Award, to highlight students that show promise as American Dreamers for their work to advance the lives of their fellow students. The honorees are:

Ambassador Award- Seema Agnani, Executive Director of Chayya Community Development Corporation, is being honored for her role in combating the foreclosures that are threatening the South East Asian community of Queens. She founded Chayya in 2000 with the mission of creating a grassroots group that would address housing and community development issues in one of the most diverse communities in the city, Jackson Heights, Queens. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Association for Neighborhood Housing Development and the New York Immigration Coalition.

Business Leader Award- Jessamyn Rodriguez, Founder and CEO of Hot Bread Kitchen, is being honored for empowering immigrant women to build their economic security by opening pathways to professional opportunities in the food industry. Frustrated by the fact that despite the rich culinary history of immigrant women, they were still predominately cooking in people’s homes instead of fine dining establishments, she founded Hot Bread Kitchen out of her own home in 2007. She designed a program that trained and paid women in the technical skills and English fluency necessary to succeed in the food industry. Since then she has grown Hot Bread Kitchen into a nationally respected bakery and training program that has trained 41 women from 15 different countries, supported over 20 immigrant entrepreneurs in growing their own food businesses, and has hired over 60 full-time and temporary positions to their bakery in the historic La Marqueta in Spanish Harlem.

Community Builder Award- Ligia Guallpa, Executive Director of Workers Justice Project, is being honored for her role in improving worker rights for the over 3000 mainly undocumented Day Laborers in New York City who are highly vulnerable to wage and job safety abuses. She was instrumental in building hiring halls from shipping containers in Brooklyn so that Day Laborers would have a place to negotiate a fair wage with contractors. A few months after their hiring hall in Bensonhurst was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy, she was able to foster community support and rebuild as she noticed the increasing demand for Day Laborers in post-disaster cleanup.

New York’s Uniform Award- Sergeant Dhendup Chadotsang, of the 75th Precinct in Brooklyn, is being honored for his exemplary service with the Tibetan community. Tibetans in New York City tend to not speak English, lack a basic understanding of the law and are often victims of predatory practices. Dhendup volunteers with his community by guiding them through the often complicated process of living and working in New York City. He assists them with finding housing, filling out job applications, paying their electric bills and overall making the NYPD approachable to his community.

Visionary Award- Yolanny Rodriguez, Director of Teatro Las Tablas, is being honored for her work in raising awareness for women and children’s rights through her production of “The Vagina Monologues,” of which all of the proceeds go to various women’s organizations. She founded the non-profit cultural organization Teatro Las Tablas which promotes and produces Latino theater in Spanish for Upper Manhattan. Additionally, she is a tenant organizer, activist and proud drama teacher to students with Down syndrome.

Rising Star- Angelo Cabrera, Founder and President of MASA, is being recognized for his work in helping immigrant children achieve academic success and ultimately graduate high school. He founded MASA in 2001 as part of a campaign focused on attaining the rights for undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition at CUNY and SUNY schools. As part of this campaign, Angelo and several others held a hunger strike to urge CUNY’s policy of in-state tuition for undocumented students to become law. After the law passed in 2002, MASA began to focus its efforts on promoting access to higher education for students of Mexican descent living in New York. Having immigrated to the United States at the age of 15, he understands first-hand the many complex barriers Mexican youth face today. In order to serve his community better, he is pursuing a Masters in Public Administration at Baruch’s School of Public Affairs.

Rising Star – Marybeth Melendez, Student Development Assistant for the College of Staten Island, is being recognized for her work with the immigrant community of Staten Island. She is a single mother of three who lost her eyesight to a degenerative eye disease that compelled her to retire from a promising career in a law firm. She and her seeing-eye dog Trixie have served as volunteers for three years with El Centro del Inmigrante in Staten Island by working in their soup kitchen and distributing food and supplies to home-bound immigrants in Staten Island. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, she and several classmates volunteered in Staten Island delivering food, water and clothing. Their actions prompted the Coast Guard and the FDNY to designate New Dorp as a central receiving and distribution site.

Rising Star – Denise Vivar, student at Sunset Park High School, is being recognized for her work in mobilizing her school behind the passage of the DREAM Act. After attending a presentation about the DREAM Act with two other students, she led a petition in her school and the community around Sunset Park, placed advertisements in favor of the DREAM Act in businesses and filmed a PSA about the issues affecting the passage of the bill.

Sharing Ellis Island Immigration Stories

The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the National Park Service Rangers from Ellis and Liberty Island will hold over twenty educational programs at schools, community and cultural institutions across the five boroughs during Immigrant Heritage Week. The Ellis Island Immigration Museum sustained severe damage from Hurricane Sandy and is not expected to re-open to the public this year. Through this partnership, Rangers will bring the stories of the millions of immigrants who passed through Ellis Island and whose descendants account for almost half of the American people into communities.
The programs being offered by the staff of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum are:

•“We Are Ellis Island” The Neighborhood Ranger will show the award-winning documentary “Island of Hope; Island of Tears”. The documentary chronicles the moving stories of people and families with dreams of opportunity leaving their homeland with what they could carry. The film also contains magnificent archival footage from Ellis Island when it was the primary port of entry for millions of European immigrants. The film is preceded by a 15 minute conversation led by a Park Ranger. Internet access or a DVD player and television monitor are required for this program.
•“Immigrants: Let Us Entertain You” Between 1892 and 1954, immigration officials processed over 12 million immigrants at Ellis Island. Immigrants helped build the United States of America and their efforts continue to define and enrich our nation’s and our city’s identity. Some of those passing through Ellis Island reaped a variety of riches in their adopted home. Some were honored for their contributions to variety of fields. As we celebrate this year’s Immigrant Heritage Week, we salute immigrants who entered through the doors of Ellis Island and went on to leave an indelible mark on the arts. Attendees will be able to see the ship manifest records of Bob Hope, Cary Grant, Irving Berlin and Maria Von Trapp. They will also hear about three Ellis Island immigrants who were eventually elected Mayor of New York City. In addition, participants will discuss immigrants who made significant contributions to the fields of architecture and dance, and children will enjoy hearing the story of Chef Boyardee (yes, he too arrived at Ellis Island!). Participants over the age of 12 will experience the story of Ellis Island and be provided with tips to preserve their own family stories for generations to come.
•“Punching the Ticket” As immigrants finished processing at Ellis Island, many confronted the difficulties of communicating with others in a different language. Symphonies of Italian, Russian, and a host of other languages filled the air as they made their ways to their new homes. In Punching the Ticket, the Neighborhood Ranger will explore some of the communicative challenges and other difficulties immigrants faced as they settled in their new country. The program is highly interactive and designed for recent immigrants to the United States.
•“It’s Story Time” History, liberty, democracy, immigration and citizenship are represented in American symbols explored in these colorful, small-volume story books for children in the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades. The Neighborhood Ranger will read aloud from children’s books in which children will learn about liberty, pride, freedom and themselves. The following are suggested story books: What is the Statue of Liberty? by Janice Behrens; Lily and Miss Liberty by Carla Stevens; Dreaming of America by Eve Bunting, and The Memory Coat by Elvira Woodruff.

Celebrating the Stories of Our Community Campaign with WNET/Thirteen

The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs has worked with WNET/Thirteen to create the Celebrating the Stories of our Community campaign. Currently broadcasting on WNET/Thirteen and their website, Community Stories highlights the rich cultural heritage of diverse New Yorkers. Some of the community stories include Staten Island Borough Present Molinaro, New York State Assemblyman and former Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Guillermo Linares, Suri Kasirer, and a Windows on the World restaurant worker and 9/11 survivor. Viewers are invited to share their family immigration stories by recording and uploading videos of their own that may be featured online or on television. WNET will also feature some of their immigrant-focused programming on air during Immigrant Heritage Week.