“What can I do today that will make me proud in the future?”
Erica Golin, Class of ’15, ponders that question daily, a mantra that has certainly served her well as the 23-year-old Verrazano School alumna has been accepted to the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. She will begin pursuing a Master’s of Public Administration starting in the summer.
Golin, who was a Psychology major and Sociology and Anthropology minor, currently works in the Graduate Recruitment and Admissions Office at the College of Staten Island.
While a student, she was involved in a wide variety of activities and organizations on campus, many that eventually allowed her to realize her career goals.
“It was at CSI that I found my passion for environmental issues. While I always cared about the environment, I thought I wanted to be a psychologist or psychology professor,” noted Golin, adding that her Cultural Anthropology class with City College Professor Lindsay Parme “started me on the path of ‘waking up,’ so to speak.”
Several other courses, a relevant documentary, and her membership with the CUNY Service Corps all solidified her passion about the issues facing the environment.
A General Douglas A. MacArthur High School graduate, Golin was on the CSI Student Government, Campus Activities Board, and in the Emerging Leaders Program. She also enjoyed assisting at CSI New Student Orientation and giving campus tours as a CSI Ambassador.
She is thankful to “the entire staff of Student Life, The Verrazano School, Career and Scholarship, and Recruitment and Admissions who were enormously helpful in validating my potential and encouraging me to pursue my goals.”
“I could not have had these opportunities if it weren’t for CSI!” she exclaimed.
The Westerleigh resident is the recipient of a CSI Scholarship, a Departmental Scholarship in Psychology, and a Dolphin Award for Outstanding Service and Contribution by a Currently Enrolled Student (2015).
A Brooklyn native, Golin states that her “ultimate goal is to start an institute where people can learn about resource-based economy, which offers solutions to problems such as climate change.”
As a non-native English speaker, RinZhi Go Larocque ’16 began her college experience at the College of Staten Island (CSI) by entering the CUNY Language Immersion Program (CLIP). The Program, administered through CSI’s Office of Continuing Education and Professional Development, allows students the opportunity to study English for an intensive period of time before enrolling in formal college courses.
Now, named as Valedictorian of the Class of 2016, Larocque reflects on how CSI helped her achieve her goals.
“Think of the Dolphin, our school mascot. Like dolphins that nurture their young, CSI has nurtured me,” said Larocque, who is also a Verrazano School student.
Born in Malaysia, Larocque moved to the United States in 2012. She attributes her success in academics, research and even perfecting her English, to the faculty at the College. “CSI has helped me to completely immerse myself in English, as well as American society and culture,” she said.
The Brooklyn resident has volunteered in Indonesia, Singapore, Ecuador, and her home country, Malaysia, where she was Valedictorian of the Pontian Government High School class. In 2010, Larocque was a visiting scholar and programmer for the Labyrinth Project: Jewish Homegrown History, Immigration, Identity and Intermarriage.
At CSI, Larocque has taken advantage of research opportunities in biology and computer science with CSI professors and has collaborated with scientists and engineers from The City University of New York (CUNY) Advanced Research Center to develop software and publications on algorithms for the analysis of scientific data. As a multi-disciplinary student of computer programming, biology, and business, she has learned to present her research findings to people in different fields at multiple conferences.
The determined and passionate student has also been invited to give motivational speeches at more than five College events, including the CSI Celestial Ball and the scholarship receptions at the residence of CSI President Dr. William J. Fritz. She is also a member of the CUNY Service Corps and a research assistant at the Healthy CUNY Initiative.
“Being an active college student, I am able to broaden my network of connections, locally and globally, which have helped me tremendously to serve in leadership roles on campus,” she commented, adding that being a student in The Verrazano School Honors Program has “given me a badge of prestige and pride as an honor student.”
The Biology major with a minor in Business is a recipient of almost a dozen awards and scholarships, including the National Grid Scholarship (August 2015), Ernesto Malave Merit Scholarship (August 2015), Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges Honor Recipient (May 2015), The CUNY Summer Undergraduate Research Program at Advanced Science Research Center (May 2015), CSI Honors Undergraduate Research Stipend (2014-2016), Clara and Arleigh B Williamson Scholarship (2014-2015), CSI Student Government Scholarship (2014-2015), Aloha Mind Math USA Teacher Award (2013), CSI Foundation Scholarship (2013-2014), Dean’s List (2012-2015), and Winner of the CUNY Intercollegiate ESL Essay Writing Competition (2013).
While an impressive and accomplished individual in her college endeavors and beyond, Larocque says she does not forget her “humble beginnings,” which motivate her to volunteer. “My own perseverance has been indelibly instilled in me by my father, a fisherman and my principle role model. Despite rampant piracy and the destructive typhoon seasons on the Straits of Melaka, he continued to go fishing to support a family of six,” explained Larocque, adding that her mother, father, two sisters and brother all currently live in Malaysia.
The busy student just returned from volunteering in the Amazon rainforest over spring break to help forest conservation and minimize hunger “by helping the local communities to truly advance in agriculture and stand on their own feet.”
“I have learned to scrutinize how health issues intertwine with diverse cultures through many of my volunteer experiences. For instance, volunteering in Indonesia, I found out that their natives chew on raw sugarcane to whiten teeth,” said Larocque, who also works as a hospice volunteer as well as with the CUNY Language Immersion Program, helping prospective CSI students from other countries assimilate in their new society.
Adding even more breadth to the young woman’s repertoire, Larocque’s artistic training includes many years of playing the violin and piano as well as watercolor painting. She is the winner of multiple competitions in Calligraphy Writing, and has a yellow belt in Taekwando. Larocque currently serves as a tutor in the CSI Office of Academic Support, assisting students in calculus, biology, and inorganic and organic chemistry.
Already a dental assistant, medical biller, and coder with Boss Dental PC, in Brooklyn, Larocque has been accepted to several dental schools, including New York University, and will be attending the Doctor of Dental Surgery program at the University at Buffalo this summer. She plans to become an oral and maxillofacial surgeon and also a lifelong supporter of the College. “I would like to invest my faith, trust, and money in the younger generations at CSI, for the pursuit of knowledge and education, just as my scholarships donors, such as Mr. [Frank] Lombardo [Executive Advisor to the President] from National Grid, have done,” she said, adding that she would also like to continue volunteering locally and globally.
“My educational endeavors at CSI have taught me that life’s obstacles can be turned into assets if one is diligent, clever, and able to recognize opportunity,” Larocque promises.
While modern fads and trends urge people living in our fast-paced society to practice yoga, keep calm, and live life comfortably, Kellie Joseph ’16 has some unusual advice: “Get uncomfortable!” she urges.
The College of Staten Island Sociology and Anthropology major and recipient of multiple scholarships carries a 3.695 GPA, coordinates a budding not-for-profit business, and holds multiple positions on campus. Her reasons for “getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new” are simple.
“Learning something new and meeting new people helps you pick up new skills along the way, and it also opens your mind to a different way of thinking. If you don’t try something new, you won’t know if that ‘random elective’ could be the gateway to a fulfilling career,” she proclaimed, adding that she has studied subjects from the math and sciences to media and management, volunteered for different organizations, and attended a wide array of campus events.
“There is so much that is offered here at CSI through the different programs and clubs. It’s shame to let it go to waste,” said the Notre Dame Academy graduate.
Born in Trinidad, Joseph currently embarks on several mission trips a year to the Caribbean to feed the homeless. She is currently using her own resources to fund the project and is seeking donations to assist in her efforts. She is in the process of registering the business as an official 501c3 organization.
The Verrazano School student currently holds several positions on campus: a peer educator in Health and Wellness Services, a tutor and note-taker for the Center for Student Accessibility, and the star status coordinator and Vice President of Community Service, National Society of Collegiate Scholars. She was a part of the first cohort of the CUNY Service Corps (2013-2014), an alumna of CSI’s Emerging Leaders Program (2014-2015), a Dean’s List recipient since 2013, a member of Who’s Who Among College and University Students (2015), a CSI scholarship recipient, and a member of the sociology honor society Alpha Kappa Delta. In addition, she is the recipient of the Norma B. Chernok Memorial Scholarship and the College of Staten Island Student Government Scholarship.
The young scholar is grateful to CSI faculty and staff members for making her college experience a successful and rewarding one. “Whether it’s stopping in to chit chat about life or doing a terrifying, yet rewarding, ropes course to learning about healthier life choices, or writing a senior thesis, every time I met with them, they were happy to help, give advice, and always had a smile on their face. Most people leave college feeling like ‘just another number’ but they all made sure that wasn’t the case,” she enthusiastically explained.
Joseph is currently conducting independent research with Professor Ananya Mukherjea in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology on public health and medical sociology, and has aspirations to become a public health research scientist as well as a college professor.
Arlinda Draga ’16 is a Verrazano student studying Biology with a Biochemistry minor and took advantage of a study abroad opportunity to travel abroad to Florence, Italy, in the winter of 2016 to feast on the arts and the cuisine.
I had an amazing experience on my study abroad trip to Florence, Italy this past winter. Florence was defiantly a huge culture shock for me. I had the opportunity to live with three other students from New York on the top floor of an apartment next to Duomo di Firenze. Duomo di Firenze is the main church of Florence and is considered to be one of the largest churches in the world. Everyday my roommates and I would walk past the Duomo and get our cappuccinos before going to class. I had the privilege of taking an introductory drawing class that was taught by an Italian artist who lived in Florence.
My professor taught us many different ways to draw and made us appreciate all the famous art work of Florence. During class we would walk to museums and do sketches of famous paintings and sculptures. We also had the privilege of drawing live nude models to help us practice for our final drawings. For one of our final projects we were told to go to the top of Piazza Michelangelo and sketch a drawing of the view at the top of the hill. We were also told to go to three famous areas of Italy and complete a drawing of our view.
My roommates and I went to the leaning tower of Pisa, the Coliseum in Rome and the top of the duomo in Florence and did three separate sketches of these breathtaking views. This art class not only taught me how to draw, but it gave me the experience to travel Italy and see the real lifestyle of an Italian.
Throughout my trip, I tried some of the most amazing Tuscany dishes which included truffle pasta, T-bone steak, caprese salad, gelato and much more. Florence is definitely an experience like no other. Every other store down most of the blocks either sold wine, leather jackets or pizza.
During the night there were secret bakeries at different corners that would sell the freshest pastries. The people of Florence would tell us to find the bakeries by following the smells in the streets of the pastries being prepared. I believe that I adapted to the Italian culture very well on this trip. I’m extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to Florence at such a young age. This humbling experience not only made me more open minded to different cultures but it made me want to travel all over the world.
Veronica LaManna ’16 is a Verrazano student majoring in International Business with a business finance and a French minor. She has taken advantage of Verrazano Study Abroad scholarships on more than one occasion! She shares her latest adventure here.
If I were to build a time machine and go back in time to tell freshman Veronica that she would study abroad two times in two different countries before she graduated, freshman Veronica would think future her was crazy. Over the Winter 2016 Semester I was blessed to have a second opportunity to study abroad in Shanghai, China. Even though it was a last minute decision, I can say that this experience changed my life once again. Before studying abroad in China, I spent a semester in Nice, France. Well, France and China couldn’t be more different from each other. As I got on the plane and started my journey to the Far East, I began to question my decision and myself. Was this the right place to study abroad? Will I be able to survive without knowing the language or without Facebook for one month? (The use of Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat is banned in China.) I was expecting to be in complete culture shock as soon as I landed in China. Well my expectations were correct.
I had never experienced that much culture shock since my trip to Morocco, except it was a very different type of culture shock. As we took our stop in Japan, we began to enter what seemed like the future. Finally after twenty-four hours of traveling we finally arrived in Shanghai, or I should call it the future.
The bright lights and the metro were just two things that felt like the future for us. The first time taking the metro was an experience in itself. First you are overwhelmed by the amount of people rushing to catch the train, then you are overwhelmed by the amount of futuristic vending machines selling anything from Sony Headphones to freshly squeezed orange juice, finally you are overwhelmed by the skill needed to actually get on the train without being closed in the doors. Besides my fear of the metro, the other culture shocks I experienced in Shanghai were well worth it.
Everyday the other students and I would try our best to try every type of street food Shanghai had to offer and even try to speak Chinese, or what sounded like Chinese to us, with the locals. We all felt like we were gaining about two hundred pounds but thankfully all the walking we did exploring evened it out for us. I would say the only negative side to studying abroad in Shanghai was the amount of time we had there. We wanted to do so many things but since we only had three weeks and had to attend Chinese classes every day it made it difficult to complete every adventure. Nonetheless studying abroad in Shanghai has given me not only unforgettable memories but also valuable friendships.
After we left China, some other students and I even got to take a four-day stop in Japan. I’m so grateful to have received the study abroad scholarship and the student government travel grant in order to make this experience possible. Xie Xie!
Farzeen Kanwal ’16 is completing her Bachelor’s Degree of Nursing. She decided to take advantage of the College of Staten Island’s study abroad program in her final year of school and was transformed by the experience.
From the first day of joining of the Verrazano Honors Program, I remember hearing about how important it is to study abroad. I admit I did not have a strong interest at first since it did not seem financially realistic for my family and I, but still I made sure to keep the option open. As I entered my final year of college, I thought to myself: “it is now or never, Farzeen” and I could definitely say that I am glad I took advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity.
I participated in a three week faculty led program in San Jose, Costa Rica with seventeen other CSI students and every day was a new adventure. On weekday mornings, we would wake up at about 5 am for clinical and visit various hospitals and clinics. We would interact with patients, see surgeries, and were given lectures by Costa Rican healthcare professionals. Afterwards, we would have Spanish class and explore the local neighborhood before our day had come to an end. On the weekends, we went on several trips in other cities such as ziplining, chocolate tours, hot springs, beach resorts, and national parks.Here are some memorable experiences that I would like to share:
This picture was from our very first clinical rotation in Costa Rica. We visited a senior citizen daycare called Hogar Magdala, where we were told about the history of the place as well as given information on who resides there. In the picture below, it was my first time taking blood pressure since completing the nursing associate degree program. I admit I was quite nervous at first because I was not sure how to approach them, especially considering the language barrier. The frustration disappeared when one of the patients smiled and held out her arm for a blood pressure reading. When I told her the result, she was quite happy that it was within the normal range. In future practice, I will remember not to be nervous when approaching a patient, instead I will remind myself that I am helping them reach their goals to lead a healthier lifestyle and there’s absolutely no reason to be scared about that.
This picture was taken when we visited the shaman in the mountains. I was looking forward to this the most on the trip since I have always wanted to learn more about their spiritual practices. He gave us a lecture about the indigenous population and how it was attacked by the people of Spain. He also shed light on a matter I never seemed to think about – spiritual healing is as important as medicine. This type of natural healing is very important to them. In America, we do not necessarily ignore spiritual health, we just do not give it as much consideration as we do for medicine. We tend to go after physical medicine before asking the patient about their own views on ways of healing. He gave us the advice to be open- minded about spiritual healing, and not solely rely on what we are taught.
During our last night of the farewell dinner, I decided to reflect upon what I have learned in Costa Rica. From the nursing knowledge I obtained which I could apply to future practice to the places I have seen, I am very thankful for this experience. Before coming to Costa Rica, I was honestly not sure what to expect. All I really knew about the country was that it was located in Central America. The most interesting aspect about my trip was understanding Costa Rica’s approach to healthcare. They do not have an army to fund; therefore 8% of the tax payer’s money goes to their healthcare system and education. I liked that they have primary care delivery options and how involved they are in getting to know information about the health of the community. We do not really do that here in America, but I think it is a great idea to implement. Aside from that, I thought about the lessons I have learned with the people I was able to call family in such a short period of time. We all helped each other grow in numerous ways and made so many fun memories along our journey.My advice to those thinking about traveling (whether it is to study abroad or not) would be to just do it. Immersing yourself into a new culture will help you grow as a person in ways you would not have imagined.
Kashef Razi’ 18 is a Business Management and Computer Science major with a minor in Chinese. He participated in the College of Staten Island’s winter program in Shanghai, China.
I remember the first day I heard about the study abroad program. I was utterly fascinated and thought of it as an unattainable dream. I use to joke around with my friends and sister saying that I would definitely go one day but knew all too well that it was too difficult a task to accomplish, or so I thought. The program made it all too easy to take a trip across the globe; all I had to do was take the first step and so I did. It was one of the greatest achievements that I have ever accomplished and I will always look back at it and recommend it to others.
I distinctly remember the day we stepped out of that airplane and the exciting feelings I had. I knew that it was the start of an adventure and I could feel it underneath my skin. Even though we arrived at night, when most things were closed, I just wanted to explore. I wanted to see the people, the culture, the new scenery, and of course try the amazingly delicious food I have been hearing so much about. Shanghai became my new home those three weeks and I did not want to leave.
The people, the architecture, and the culture it all fascinated me. The trains were extremely crowded during rush hour, so much so that you would be cheek to cheek with someone for quite a few stops but even so, I loved it. Shanghai was extremely clean and sophisticated. I expected to see an overly populated China town but instead I entered a sophisticated and advanced metropolis. Watching people do tai chi in the morning and dance routines at night was definitely a sight worth seeing.
I’m back from China and it feels like it was only yesterday that we would grab a hot mango green tea between class breaks and travel to all different parts of Shanghai. The last week had us all feeling sad that it was almost time for us to go back and all we could say was that we would make the most of the final days that we had in Shanghai. We made sure not to waste a minute while we were there. The only regret I had was that I didn’t stay longer. Studying abroad in China was a worthwhile experience and taught me so much. It gave me a new perspective and helped guide me towards my future endeavors. I hope, and firmly recommend, that anyone who reads this has gained even a slight interest in studying abroad and all I have to say is that you will not regret it.
In order to succeed in college, Steve Arriaga ’17 has some basic advice: take advantage of all the opportunities school has to offer and be an “overachiever.”
The Verrazano School student has certainly followed his own advice. Arriaga will be graduating from the College of Staten Island (CSI) in 2017 with Bachelor of Arts in English: Linguistics and Spanish with a minor in French and a Certificate in Latin American, Caribbean, and Latina/o Studies. He has studied abroad in Europe extensively, attended a research conference in Iceland, presented at the 2015 CSI Honors Convocation, and has been a key member of several Student Life clubs, most recently chartering the Linguistics Club of which he is the President.
A conscientious peer, Arriaga now plans to run for Senior Senator in Student Government so that he can help inform all students about the many programs and scholarships available.
“There are so many great opportunities here at CSI and all students need to know about them,” said Arriaga, adding that the professors at CSI are also one of the highlights of the College.
After completing a research paper on syntax variation with Professor Christina Tortora in the Department of English, Arriaga traveled to the University of Iceland to attend the conference. “The teachers here see the potential of their students and they help students maximize that potential,” he noted.
The Brooklyn resident who graduated from the New York Harbor School on Governor’s Island has also studied in Paris, France and Florence, Italy and is going to Spain in the Winter Session of 2017.
Arriaga is currently working with Assistant Professor Jason Bishop in the Department of English to apply for the Fulbright Scholar Program with an ultimate goal of teaching abroad in South America and then pursuing a PhD in Linguistics.
In fact, Arriaga’s CSI employment also helped him solidify his career choice. “Working as a tutor at the CSI Writing Center has been one of the best experiences I’ve had at CSI this year, since it proved to me that being a future professor and teaching others is truly what I want to do as a career,” he said.
To learn more about The Verrazano School, visit their Website.