Strategies for Success Joins Students and Mentors

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.

Strategies for Success Receives $5,000 from the Verizon Foundation

The Verizon Foundation recently presented a $5,000 grant to the College of Staten Island’s Strategies for Success program to provide awards to students in the program. John Butler, Director, Government and External Affairs at Verizon, presented the check to CSI Vice President for Student Affairs A. Ramona Brown this week.

Strategies for Success is a service learning opportunity program sponsored by the SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge) Program at the College in which CSI students are paired with elementary and intermediate school-aged children at three after-school sites in the local community.

Regarding Verizon’s contribution to this program, Butler said, “Verizon is engaged in communities and giving back for all of our customers who have different needs. We feel that literacy is one of the basic forms of understanding that we can give someone in the community and by making that one of our staple issues for improving the community, we like to support programs like Strategies for Success.”

Gloria Garcia, SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge) Program Director, commented that “By providing this grant, Verizon has an instrumental role in CSI’s commitment to partner with the Staten Island community, and offer its students an opportunity where they can learn while giving back to their community.” She was joined at the presentation by Georgia Landrum, Director of SEEK Strategies for Success.

Creating Superior Students

Three current Strategies for Success students, Nada Abbass, Mira Kim, and Crystal Rios, and one former student, Rhagina Chisolm, who now serves as a site coordinator for the program, were also in attendance at the presentation. They were all very enthusiastic about the program’s impact, not only on themselves, but on the students they mentored.

Chisolm, who recently graduated from CSI and now supervises CSI student mentors, said, “The Strategies for Success Program is important to me because it has given me the opportunity to give back to a community of children who are less fortunate. At the same time it has helped me become a positive role model and a leader, not just to the students I serve, but to the college mentors who help me serve these students.”

Abbass commented, “Strategies for Success has affected my life in many ways. It has taught me to be more responsible, confident, and more outspoken. It has made me second guess my career choice and made me realize that I love working with students. It has opened my eyes to new things and helped me see that I can really make a difference in someone’s life.”

Kim agreed that the program has transformed her, while she helped students. “The Strategies for Success Program has impacted me in developing great leadership skills. As a mentor, there is nothing more rewarding than to see a change or creating a difference in a child’s life. The program is like a family, we all gather as one team when it comes to any concerns about our students’ needs.”

Rios, a graduate student in the program, added, “The Strategies for Success Program has made a tremendous impact on my career choice and personal life. I am currently going into my fifth year with the program, and every year I am gaining the knowledge, skills, confidence, and the necessary components to be a successful educator and influence the lives of students living in underprivileged communities and circumstances. As a tutor and mentor, I am able to give back and be a part of experiences that will positively change the lives of our future generations.”

The Significance of Verizon’s Support for Strategies and Beyond

The support from the Verizon Foundation is “vital to the success of the program as they reinforce to the college students the importance of their commitment to the children and the community,” Garcia commented. “Many of our college student participants are financially challenged; therefore, this opportunity provides them with much-needed economic support in addition to a hands-on work experience beyond the classroom.”

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 which 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.

In 2009, the Verizon Foundation awarded more than $67.5 million in grants to nonprofit agencies in the U.S. and abroad. It also matched the charitable donations of Verizon employees and retirees, resulting in an additional $24.4 million in combined contributions to nonprofits. Through Verizon Volunteers, one of the nation’s largest employee volunteer programs, Verizon employees and retirees have volunteered more than five million hours of community service since 2000. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizonfoundation.org.

In addition, the Verizon Foundation supports the advancement of literacy and K-12 education through its free educational Website, www.Thinkfinity.org, and fosters awareness and prevention of domestic violence. Through this program, THINKFINITY is being introduced to teachers in both IS 49 and PS 57 as a free educational resource that will also be made available to students.

Verizon's John Butler (back row, third from right) met with students, administrators, and staff.